Brexit and the Tudor turn
Philippa Gregory’s narratives of national grievance
in The road to Brexit
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The decade preceding the EU referendum saw intensifying debate on the nature of Englishness, shaped by an anxiety about the loss of national and cultural identity. Links between nationalism and shared perceptions of history are well-documented, and recent years have seen a popular turn to imagined national pasts, one frequently visited period being the reign of Henry VIII. In order to explore the intersection of historical fiction and contemporary English identity, this chapter reads two novels with a Tudor setting, published in 2014 and 2015 by the best-selling author Philippa Gregory. The texts are found to be expressions of England’s ‘postcolonial melancholia’ (Gilroy, 2004). Ostensibly concerned with the ruptures of Henry’s reign, they are preoccupied with change and loss, lamenting the loss of privilege and portraying the emerging modernity as an invading force that threatens ancient birth-right. A picture of English grievance emerges which sheds some light on the visions of a prelapsarian England that help to shape the contemporary nation as it searches for a sovereignty it imagines itself to have lost.

The road to Brexit

A cultural perspective on British attitudes to Europe

Editor: Ina Habermann

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