Monarch unfolds around one night when the injured Henry VIII arrives at a manor house closed for the season. Henry is without the power of his throne. He is vulnerable to those around him and to his own mental issues. He had left England financially and morally bankrupt; his collection of enemies became his only constant. The film is set in just one night. In an interview John Walsh said “Often you can find out more about someone in a small time frame rather than you can if the two-hour film spans their whole life. Most bio-pics become little more than a montage of facts. If you confine a character to that time frame you can find out more about them.”
King Henry VIII (b. 1491-1547) reigned for 38 years until his death at age 56. Young handsome, and open handed the new king seemed the antithesis of his careful and suspicious father and he lost no time in making his Court the most colourful and extravagant in Europe. Yet this glamorous exterior only partly disguised the unpredictable and savagely ruthless nature of the King. His obsession to father a legitimate male heir led him through six marriages, to make himself Supreme Head of the English Church and to cut down those who stood in his way, or who failed to carry out his wishes. Monarch is part fact, part fiction and unfolds around one night in the life of a hated king susceptible to assassination, and paranoid with the thought of his own mortality. Recent research into original documents throws new light on the character of Henry. By the time of his death Henry left a country behind both financially and morally bankrupt, with his collection of enemies his only constant. Even today there is a question mark surrounding his eventual burial and possible exhumation.
T. P. McKenna plays Henry VIII, while Jean Marsh plays an amalgamation of his ex-wives. Monarch unfolds one night in the year of Henry's death, 1547. Former Doctor Who actor Peter Miles played a key role in the drama as a courtier to King Henry.
Principal photography commenced in October 1996 at Charlton House in south London. This Jacobean building served as the main location for the film. It was shot on 35mm Kodak 5287 stock using Arriflex cameras. Filming took place both inside and outside the house. The gardens were the backdrop for the opening title sequence. The Grand Salon and the Long Gallery featured heavily for the film’s dramatic scenes with Henry VIII. The clock tower of the house was also utilised as the hiding place for Will the Ground Keepers on, who hid from the men who break into the house. Although set at night much of the filming took place during the day and black drapes were hung outside of the building to create a night effect.
Many of the cast were connected to the classic British television science fiction series Doctor Who.
T. P. McKenna appeared in the 1989 four part story The Greatest Show in the Galaxy playing the part of British explorer, navigator and cartographer, Captain Cook
Jean Marsh appeared several times in the BBC series Doctor Who. She first appeared alongside William Hartnell in the 1965 serial The Crusade as Lady Joanna, the sister of Richard I (The Lionheart). She returned later that year as companion Sara Kingdom in the 12-part serial The Daleks' Master Plan. Marsh reprised the role in the audio plays Home Truths (2008), The Drowned World (2009), The Guardian of the Solar System (2010), The Five Companions (2011), The Anachronauts (2012), An Ordinary Life (2014) and The Sontarans (2016). She also appeared in the 1989 television serial Battlefield as Morgana Le Fay, as well as the 2007 audio play The Wishing Beast. She made an un-billed cameo appearance in the 2013 docudrama about Doctor Who, An Adventure in Space and Time. She was married to future Doctor Who actor Jon Pertwee from 1955 until their divorce in 1960. She has had relationships with Albert Finney, Kenneth Haigh, and film director Michael Lindsay-Hogg.
James Coombes appeared as Paroli in the 1984 story Warriors of the Deep and provided the voice of the Krargs in Shada.
Peter Miles appeared in three serials, as Dr. Lawrence in Doctor Who and the Silurians (1970), Professor Whitaker in Invasion of the Dinosaurs (1974) and Nyder in Genesis of the Daleks (1975). He played Sheikh Hamad in The Sandbaggers in 1978. He also performed in the BBC Radio 5 Doctor Who audio drama The Paradise of Death in 1993, playing the villain Tragan. Miles contributed to several other Doctor Who spinoffs, including the independent video production More Than a Messiah and the audio dramas Zygons: Absolution and Prosperity Island, all produced by BBV. For the licensed audio drama producers Big Finish Productions, he appeared in Whispers of Terror in 1999 and Sarah Jane Smith: Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre in 2002. He has reprised his role as Nyder three times; in the 1993 and 2005 productions of the stage play The Trial of Davros, and in the 2006 Big Finish audio drama I, Davros: Guilt. For Magic Bullet Productions, he appeared in five of the Kaldor City SF audio dramas, in the role of scheming politician Landerchild. He has also appeared in the second volume of The True History of Faction Paradox, The Ship of a Billion Years, as the Egyptian deity Anhur. He played Lord Straxus in the Bernice Summerfield Season 9 episode The Adventure of the Diogenes Damsel.
Peter Sowerbutts recorded the audio dramas , The Holy Terror (audio drama), Innocence, Purity, Mission of the Viyrans, The Bride of Peladon and I, Davros: Innocence.
In 2014 a remastered version of Monarch was released. The original negative for the film had been lost and was the subject of various newspaper reports. This subsequently led to cinema showings starting at the Tricycle Theatre in London. He discussed the issues around finding the lost negatives for Monarch and other lost projects with BBC Radio 2 Janice Long.
Restoration was completed at Premier. The film scanning and restoration team worked closely with director John Walsh, re-mastering from the original 35mm colour camera negative after it was recently discovered in a vault almost 20 years after it was originally filmed. In an interview about the project for the BBC, John Walsh explained: "When we located the project we found more than we bargained for with over 52 cans of various footage from film trims, cutting copies and work prints. We didn't know if the original camera negative would be amongst all of this haul. After a close examination we were delighted to find all of the original camera negative was there and in good shape for its age." Every frame of film was scanned in high definition at Premier and had more than 10,000 particles removed by hand by the restoration team. A new sound mix was also created from the original elements in Premier’s in-house audio department.
The film received strong reviews on its re-release in 2014 more so than on its initial one in 2000. In 2014 the BBC Radio Times film critic Jeremy Aspinall called it "a fascinating, haunting little gem, with a richly nuanced performance from McKenna". The film's realistic approach was noted by the BBFC who certified it a 15 on the basis that it "contains strong bloody violence". DVD Compared said "The film features an extraordinary British cast, is well written, and is perfectly paced.". The film received positive reviews, with a score of 8.1 on IMDb.
Monarch was released for the first time on DVD on 7 April 2014 by FremantleMedia. It included extras on the making of the film and the restoration process. A high definition version is also available to view on iTunes.