David goes back to a mon­u­men­tal oc­ca­sion

Macclesfield Express - - TVWEEK -

Cross swords with David Starkey at your peril – to say he doesn’t suf­fer fools gladly is some­thing of an un­der­state­ment. If he doesn’t agree with some­thing you say or do, chances are he will pull no punches in telling you about it. His re­fusal to com­pro­mise has, how­ever, turned him into a smallscreen star. He’s now one of the most re­spected his­to­ri­ans around – which is per­haps why those who love the sub­ject can’t wait for his views on the Magna Carta in David Starkey’s Magna Carta, Mon­day, BBC2, 9pm. TV pro­gramme-mak­ers seem to love noth­ing more than an an­niver­sary – it gives them an ex­cuse to turn on their cam­eras and pro­duce a new project. Last year, the start of the First World War grabbed their imag­i­na­tion, while at the mo­ment, the lib­er­a­tion of Auschwitz in 1945 is be­ing marked. The Magna Carta, or ‘Great Char­ter’, was first is­sued in June 1215 by King John of Eng­land at Run­nymede near Wind­sor. That means that this year, it’s 800 years old, and as a re­sult, Starkey is about to talk us through its im­por­tance as part of the BBC’s Tak­ing Lib­er­ties – The Democ­racy sea­son. “Magna Carta is one of our coun­try’s most im­por­tant ex­ports,” said Tony Hall, the BBC Di­rec­tor Gen­eral, at the sea­son’s launch. “It is an iconic doc­u­ment which helped build the foun­da­tions of democ­racy and the rule of law in Bri­tain and abroad. “We’ll be mark­ing its 800th an­niver­sary across tele­vi­sion, ra­dio and on­line. Our sea­son will of­fer ev­ery­one the chance to un­der­stand what is be­ing com­mem­o­rated and why. Above all, we will demon­strate what is per­haps Magna Carta’s great­est legacy: our free­dom of speech and our right to ques­tion, to chal­lenge and to hold up a mir­ror to the peo­ple and in­sti­tu­tions which rep­re­sent us.” Most view­ers have prob­a­bly stud­ied the doc­u­ment at school, but Starkey has a knack of be­ing able to breathe new life into musty old sub­jects, so you can bet his take on the sub­ject will be far more in­trigu­ing than any­thing you heard in a class­room many moons ago. Here he re­veals how the Magna Carta was de­vised to check the abuses of King John – and that it almost fell flat be­fore it had a chance to make its mark. Starkey has prob­a­bly ben­e­fited as much as any­body from the char­ter’s ideals – after all, where would he be with­out the free­dom to ex­press his opin­ions? It’s some­thing he’s been do­ing on the small screen since 1977, when he was asked to take part in a fic­tional trial of Richard III on the ITV show Be­haveYour­self. Once again, Starkey is on fine form here – he may even turn a few view­ers into am­a­teur his­to­ri­ans in the process.

Look­ing back David ex­am­ines the ori­gins of the doc­u­ment

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