He was born and brought up in Kendal, and studied at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge and the London School of Economics. He claimed to be an "excessively enthusiastic advocate of promiscuity", liberating himself from his mother's intensity; she strongly disapproved of his homosexuality.
As an historian, he has a particular interest in, and enthusiasm for, the Tudors, and has present television documentaries on this period.
In the 1990s he was chairman of TORCHE, the Tory Campaign for Homosexual Equality.
- "The Tudor expert made it to No 4 last year, but in 2010 his notorious acid tongue finally obscured all academic prowess, with ex-culture secretary Ben Bradshaw ("The French take culture seriously. We have Ben Bradshaw") and female historians (writers of "historical Mills and Boon") among those on the receiving end."
- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/3669985/David-Starkey-A-man-with-a-past.html John Preston "David Starkey: A man with a past" Daily Telegraph 16 December 2007
- http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4156/is_20030323/ai_n12581365 Peter Ross, "Rude; Wealth; David Starkey is famous for being rich, gay and, well," The Sunday Herald, hosted at findarticles.com 23 March 2003