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  • Lucy Osborne

The Death of Queen Elizabeth II and The Chasm Left Behind

News editor Lucy Osborne discusses the impact of Queen Elizabeth II's recent death and the significant yet controversial legacy she's left behind:

Artwork by Kate Granholm (IG: @Katesartthings).

On the 8th September the news broke that none of us quite believed would ever come. The death of Queen Elizabeth II has rocked the United Kingdom, sending shock waves across the world. There has been more discourse online over the past two weeks discussing colonialism and the murky actions of the monarchy. It is a hard tightrope to tread, paying respects to the death of a grandma, a mother and a monarch whilst still recognising the atrocities committed under her reign.

Whilst we live in an ultimately ‘United’ Kingdom, it is interesting watching reports of The Queen’s death acting as a peaceful hand between Scotland and England amidst speculation of a second independence referendum for Scotland. The significance of the death occurring at Balmoral and Queen Elizabeth II’s love of Scotland is not something to be dismissed. Whilst we can ruminate in jubilation of the public’s mutual grieving between England and Scotland, the reception in Edinburgh has been far from civil. Boo’s were heard amongst the thousands gathered as King Charles III was announced as king. A University of Edinburgh student displaying a sign calling for the monarchy’s abolition was arrested as The Queen’s coffin arrived at St Giles Cathedral. This has now been charged as a criminal offense; undermining our ability for freedom of speech and execution of protesting. Arguably this act jeopardizes the principle of free speech. It’s a challenging tightrope to tread, managing the respect required during the current mourning period whilst also ensuring that the establishment remains held accountable for their treacherous colonial acts. Further arrests have followed in London, perhaps amongst fear of unrest as a new monarch is crowned.

It makes us ponder what the public's reaction will be as Prince Andrew inches his clammy claws closer to the crown. Without the protection of Queen Elizabeth II, we are left wondering if he will finally be forced to answer to the law. The sensationalized interview with Prince Andrew on ‘Newsnight’ in 2019 was the ultimate blow to the monarchies popularity amongst younger generations. The only crown Prince Andrew has received thus far is the least popular royal award– it seems ‘generation Z’ is less willing to excuse the acts of a prolific pedophile and his cronies.

The icy tension between Prince Harry and Prince William the past two years has started to thaw, once again bonding in their grief. The recent anniversary of their mother’s death, Princess Diana, parallels their public mourning at a teeteringly young age twenty five years ago. They are again bearing their hearts on their sleeve in the withering judgment of the public eye - now with two powerful women in their wake. This chasm of pain is mirrored in Meghan Markle and the Princess of Wales (Kate Middleton) stilted interactions. A family once united in apparent perfection has shown its cracks with Prince Harry’s move abroad. It cannot be disputed however, that whilst tabloids and gossip columns slam Meghan and Kate in competition with each other they behaved with dignity and respect; both to each other and to the public. Their compassion was met with gentle smiles and kind eyes.

Despite this unification between siblings, it would be an insult to write about the death of any monarch without acknowledging the lives lost under their influence and the generational, systemic racism and classism enforced. Queen Elizabeth II’s death has served as a harsh reminder of the atrocities committed within the British Empire, perpetuated by the royal institution. The negation of any acknowledgment of, or reparations for, the lives lost in the suppression of rebellions against the British colonial regime of Mau Mau in Kenya, poignantly exemplifies the monarchy’s blatant disregard to accept the inhumane crimes committed. During this time as King Charles III makes his ascension to the throne, there has been hope for a shift and a progression in the royal family. He will be met with a divided nation. Cries for the abolition of the Royal Family are clanging through the streets, quieted by those clinging onto its familiarity and quaint celebration of Britishness. Rather like Edinburgh, it is a stark dichotomy between the new town and the old.

During her reign, there has been a stark degree of social mobility: from the legalisation of Gay Marriage to the political turmoil of losing three prime ministers to resignation and scandal. Yet, the Royal Family has remained. Such an archaic institution whilst respected, should still be held accountable for their history and the outrageous ramifications of British colonial powers. In this world of constant change, it is perhaps time to instill a swift motion of mobility within the Royal Family, honoring those who have been vilified and targeted for generations. This is not meant to condemn the Royal Family, but rather invite them to educate themselves and the nation on the mistakes of their history and ensure the future is paved to be a tranquil and equal place.

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