Rule Britannia – published in 1972
Following the Referendum and Britain’s majority vote to leave the European Union much has been said and, as we are all very aware, the current political situation continues to be hotly discussed. This is not the place to discuss such matters but it is interesting to note how many times there has been reference to Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rule Britannia in the lead up to the Referendum and since. Certainly it feels as if Rule Britannia is one of those novels that predicted a future that we now seem to have reached. Hopefully we will not need to become part of USUK to resolve the situation!
Richard Kelly - in his superb literary criticism/biography Daphne du Maurier, published by Twayne, Boston, USA, in 1987 – had this to say about Rule Britannia:
In the future world of this novel England’s participation in the Common Market has failed. Prices have risen nearly fifty percent, and a general election reveals the country to be divided about what course of action to take. The coalition government, pressured by American financiers, prepares to accept as a solution a union of the two countries named USUK (United States United Kingdom). The acronym, when pronounced - “You Suck” - reveals du Maurier’s bitter satirical tone in this novel.
In Margaret Forster’s biography of Daphne du Maurier she suggests that Daphne thought she was writing ‘a fast and funny piece of satire’.
At Bookends of Fowey we have sold more copies of Rule Britannia than usual over the last few weeks and it has been suggested to me that perhaps we should have a copy of it in the shop window.
It a letter published in The Times this week (1st July 2016) Mr Robert Stiby said:
Sir, in 1972, well before the first EU referendum, Daphne du Maurier wrote a remarkably prescient novel, Rule Britannia. It was her last novel, set some time in the future when the UK has voted to leave Europe after a referendum. Great uncertainty follows, a general election is called and a coalition government formed. With high unemployment, rising prices, social unrest and a breakdown in European relations, a state of emergency is declared. This is followed by a “friendly” armed invasion of an impoverished and beleaguered country by the all-powerful United States. A new country is formed, USUK, with the Queen and the US president as joint heads of state. Chaos ensues.
Perhaps the best thing we can all do at the moment is go out and buy a copy of Rule Britannia and read it while drinking a nice cup of tea or a glass of wine...