This article seeks to redress a contemporary critical trend amongst social historians concerned to date the dawn of nationalism on our Western political horizons from the twilight period of empire at the end of the eighteenth century. It does so by examining the interplay between empire and nationhood in the rhetoric of royalist pamphlets written by Richard Morison in 1536 and Nicholas Bodrugan in 1548. Both these writers respond to crises in the English body politic under the absolute headship of the Tudor imperial crown. Both uphold Tudor pretensions to empire – and the precedents of the 'old authentic histories and chronicles' upon which these pretensions were originally based – through the use of rhetorical tropes that attempt to instil a sense of national identity in the members of the divided political communities for which they write. The rhetoric of these two Reformation pamphlets demands that we revise the commonplace critical exclusion of the nation from the imperial age of Reformation.