Queen Elizabeth II passed away on Thursday Sept. 8, 2022. Around the world mourning began for a beloved queen who had reigned over the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth for 70 years. Queen Elizabeth II inherited the throne at age 25 on Feb. 6, 1952, after her father King Edward IV succumbed to cancer. Her son, King Charles II ascended the throne following her death at Balmoral Palace in Scotland. As soon as Buckingham Palace made the official proclamation that the queen had died, social media ignited a conversation that was engaging, enlightening and educational. While world leaders made tributes of condolence and respect to the family, some of their constituents offered other sentiments.
Twitter users in Ireland and other territories of the commonwealth such as is Africa let it be known that there was no love lost and no sympathy for the queen’s passing. Some may say that the outbursts of sheer indifference and downright bitterness expressed on social media was rude, extreme and showed a lack of human empathy. While that inference may be accurate, the strong reactions sparked such a discussion about colonialism and imperialism that if one was truly paying attention, a world history course was being presented in real time on social media.
At one time, the British Empire owned more than 25 percent of the world. This included the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia. The saying “The sun never sets on the British Empire” was accurate. The British did not dominate those continents and territories by being nice. The British dominated by terrorism. The brutality of their military, which in the 17th and 18th centuries would be defined by their brilliant “red coats,” helped maintain the empire’s firm and strangling hold on its subjects by any means necessary. Having the best and most capable naval military ever assembled in history, the empire was able to effectively navigate strategic battles on the ocean that led to the conquering of land, trade, and the establishment of British colonialism. The colonization of India, Australia, North and South America, and Africa had long-lasting detrimental effects on the Indigenous peoples and tribes that were native to those lands. For neighboring countries Ireland and Scotland, the hatred for Great Britain goes deep.
The empire is guilty of the genocide of millions of its Irish subjects, turning a blind eye to the massive starvation from blight which led to the potato famine that was accelerated by the House of Lords and the crown’s refusal to lower taxes, send aid, and cease the exportation of food stuffs to Britain. Millions starved to death. Those who were able began the great migration to North America.
Though Queen Elizabeth II could trace her royal blood to Scotland, the British Empire and Scotland have a bloody past of brutal dominance and genocide that goes all the way back to the Jacobite rebellion that culminated at the Battle of Culloden at Inverness in 1746 which thereafter saw the murders of Scottish clans and the extinction of the Highlander culture. The fight for independence from the crown has been an ongoing one even after a proposal for independence in 2014 was defeated by voters. The Scottish National Party (SNP) independence movement hopes that in the coming months despite Scotland’s fierce loyalty to the queen, maybe the hearts of its people will move away from King Charles III and break from the monarchy and the political side of Britain. According to critics of the SNP independence movement, this is unlikely.
Here stateside, the reaction to the death of Queen Elizabeth II has been mixed. The media has shied away from criticism of the crown, and ongoing news coverage has been overwhelmingly sympathetic to the royal family’s loss. The reality is that while the queen did not have the constitutional powers or authority that her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria or King George III exercised, she was the direct link connected the empire’s sordid past with the present. A figurehead who has been romanticized on film and television, Queen Elizabeth II to many White Americans is the personification of America’s fictionalized grandmother archetype even though the placenta between America and Great Britain was sliced during the Revolutionary War.
The truth of the matter is that British colonialism continues to be felt hundreds of years after the colonies declared their independence in North America and abroad, and that is why so many people feel some kind of way regarding eulogizing Queen Elizabeth II in loyalist sentiments that have a tendency of white-washing the implications and aftermath of the brutal dominance that the crown once ruled with. It’s been a centuries-long struggle to shrug off colonialism, especially in Africa where the last vestiges can be seen in the English-styled powdered wigs and regalia of judges and solicitors (lawyers) in the justice systems of Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal. In our own Florida backyard, Gov. Ron DeSantis signs colonist-inspired legislation that seeks to dominate the narrative of how bloody colonialism kidnapped Africans and forced these into a type of enslavement that sought to breed and subjugate generations of Black bodies classified as “3/5ths” of a human being while creating an entire nation on their backs. Segregation and racism, the tools to maintain power, are used in this country to prop up the myth of White supremacy, which is nothing but another leftover from British colonialism. So-called “patriots” who stormed Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021, to overthrow U.S. democracy were hoping to force America back to something that resembles a more modern colonial America, as their leader, embattled former president Donald J. Trump, attempted to “Make America Great Again.”
It is unfortunate that Prince William, Prince Harry, and the other grandchildren and great grandchildren of the late Queen Elizabeth II will not be able to mourn their grandmother without somehow hearing the displeasure many have regarding what the crown has represented for 400 or so years, as that nagging background noise that won’t go away. The monarchy is responsible for the systemic genocide and residual societal erosion due to the perpetuation of and dominance of one race of people over another. That is their one enduring legacy.