Queen Elizabeth II: 1926-2022
by Annie Bober (she/her) and Nora Lounibos (she/her)
On Sept. 8, 2022, the world lost its longest reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, she ruled England for 70 years and was the head of state for all 54 countries of the commonwealth, including Australia, Canada and India. The Queen was mother to four, grandmother to eight, and great-grandmother to twelve. She was also a patron to over 600 “charities, military associations, professional bodies, and public service organizations in the United Kingdom,” according to the official U.K. royal family website.
To show her devotion to the role she would later play, then-Princess Elizabeth stated on her twenty-first birthday: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” Through her remarkable seventy-plus years of service, Elizabeth’s passion and commitment to her royal position was clear until the day of her death.
The Queen assumed the throne at age 27 after her father, who only became king when his brother Edward VIII abdicated the throne, died of lung cancer. Her line was not actually supposed to rule. Elizabeth’s coronation was the first ever to be televised and was watched by over 27 million people in the United Kingdom alone, as well as many more around the world.
Elizabeth II was vital in forming England’s new role in the world, as the empire’s power waned and more countries declared independence. Queen Elizabeth’s role as a diplomat became even more important and her visits to China and the Republic of Ireland were especially key.
In 1986, the queen became the first British monarch to visit the mainland of China, which signified a strengthening of relations between the two countries. In 2011, Elizabeth II visited the Republic of Ireland by invitation from the president. This was the first visit to the Republic of Ireland by a British monarch in over 100 years, at which she stated her sympathies for those affected by the Anglo-Irish conflict. The event was celebrated as a new era of friendship.
Another one of the Queen’s accomplishments was the famous “walkabout.” While on a tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1970, Elizabeth defied tradition and strolled along the crowds of people and greeted them, rather than just waving from a protected distance. This practice is used by many current monarchs today, but it was Queen Elizabeth II who initiated the greeting tradition.
Although she had many successes throughout her career, the queen also experienced great hardships. In her self-proclaimed “Annus Horribilis” (Latin for “a horrible year”) in 1992, her eldest son Charles and his wife, Diana, had a very public and messy divorce. Prince Andrew, the queen’s second son, separated from his wife, Sarah Ferguson, while the Queen’s daughter, Anne, also got a divorce. On top of that, a large fire broke out at Windsor Castle, destroying over 100 rooms.
In 2022, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Platinum Jubilee, signifying 70 years on the throne. She watched the celebration from the balcony of Buckingham Palace and was joined by three generations of heirs: her son Charles, grandson William and great-grandson George.
A World in Mourning
by Annie Bober (she/her)
Queen Elizabeth II passed away peacefully in her sleep at 96 on Sept. 8, after leading the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth for 70 years and 214 days, making her the oldest reigning monarch. She passed away at Balmoral Castle, her favorite place in Scotland. Her death was a significant loss to the Commonwealth, especially the Royal Family. She was buried alongside her beloved late husband and parents in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
During the ten-day mourning period filled with traditions, mourners lined up for over 24 hours to walk past her casket and pay their respects. After the Queen’s passing, her son King Charles III was proclaimed king. He took this spot to continue with his mother’s legacy. “The death of my beloved mother, Her Majesty The Queen, is a moment of greatest sadness for me and all members of my family,” Charles said.
The Queen’s Funeral began at Westminster Abbey in London. Many celebrities and world leaders attended to mourn the death and to support the Royal Family through this loss.
Although many are still grieving over the loss of Queen Elizabeth, one of her famous quotes holds true for many: “Grief is the price we pay for love.”
Controversy in the Commonwealth
by Nora Lounibos (she/her)
Queen Elizabeth II of England passed away on Sept. 8, leading many supporters worldwide to mourn her death and, with it, the changes in the British monarchy. However, some feel differently, particularly those in countries currently or formerly in the British Commonwealth.
Many overseas commonwealth countries are reacting to the Queen’s death with mixed emotions. In Kenya, which Britain ruled from 1920 to 1963, politicians paid tributes to the Queen, while other citizens remembered darker times. In 1952, when Elizabeth II visited Kenya as a princess, the Mau Mau Rebellion was beginning. Britain reportedly spent £55 million to suppress this uprising and to carry out civilian massacres, forcing hundreds of thousands of Kenyans into concentration camps and suspending civil liberties in cities.
Kikonde Mwamburi, a Kenyan citizen, stated in the wake of the Queen’s death that “Death should not be used to sanitize [the Queen’s] brutal legacy. I’m glad this obtuse culture is being questioned by younger generations.” In many countries, like Kenya, it is clear that the younger generation is not mourning the death of this famous figurehead of over 70 years.
With similar sentiments, Jah Mickey Bowe, vice chair of the House of Rastafari in the Bahamas, which has been controlled by the British since 1718, said, “We don’t see how the celebration of our oppressors helps us any; the royal family should apologise for slavery and bring reparations to all of the Commonwealth countries,” after the contentious visit from William, the Prince of Wales, and his wife Kate, to the Bahamas. During the colonization of the Bahamas, British settlers brought enslaved Africans and established plantations. Though the Bahamas gained their independence during the reign of Elizabeth II, many still believe that she represents the people who oppressed them for many years.
Similarly, the Economic Freedom Fighters, a South African political party that advocates for economic emancipation, said in a statement after the Queen’s death, “We do not mourn the death of Elizabeth because to us her death is a reminder of a very tragic period in this country and Africa’s history.”
Though members of the modern royal family have condemned slavery, they stopped short of apologizing for it, much less offering reparations. The Queen herself never mentioned it at all. It will be interesting to see their next steps, especially King Charles III, in entering a new age of the British monarchy.