Dr David Starkey, the constitutional historian and radio and television presenter, spoke to Benenden History students, parents and guests in Benenden School’s Theatre.
His talk, entitled ‘Henry VIII: The First Brexiteer’, focused on Henry’s reign and its parallels with current affairs.
“The break with Rome – the first Brexit, as I call it – is the most important event in English history,” he said.
“Henry is the turning point in English history. England after Henry is the necessary precondition for what we are now and what we have done and what we are doing with Brexit.”
Dr Starkey said that breaking from the Catholic Church in the 1530s came down to two of the same issues as the UK leaving the European Union – agreeing the size of the divorce bill and how many of Rome’s rules affect England.
“Dates are not invented just to torture the young. If you don’t get chronology right you can’t establish cause and consequence.’
He went on to say that when negotiations failed, it was “exactly the position we find ourselves in when Cameron was defeated in the referendum: we have no (Prime) Minister and no policy”.
The split from Rome, Dr Starkey said, was “fought with the same language, with the same words and with the same Parliamentary devices that we are used to now”.
Dr Starkey concluded his talk on the parallels between the split from Rome and the 2016 referendum on the EU by declaring: “There really is a direct link from Henry VIII to Nigel Farage.”
In his hour-long talk, Dr Starkey also stressed to the pupils in the audience the importance of learning the correct order of historic events, saying: “Dates are not invented just to torture the young. If you don’t get chronology right you can’t establish cause and consequence. Causes have to happen before consequence.”
A former teacher, Dr Starkey moved into radio work and is perhaps best known for presenting the television shows ‘Monarchy’ and ‘Henry: Mind of A Tyrant’.
Benenden Headmistress Samantha Price said: “We are proud to be able to attract high-profile speakers to Benenden and David Starkey upheld this fine tradition. He was incredibly entertaining, informative and thought-provoking.”