Izzy McIntyre discusses how we are able to have anti-monarchist ideologies during a period of national grief, and why it is so important to remember the archaism and corruption that is at the heart of Britain’s collective identity.
If you hadn’t already noticed, the death of Queen Elizabeth II last month commenced a national mourning period that saw football matches cancelled, flights delayed, and food banks closed over the course of 12 days of collective grief. However, a huge outpouring of pro-monarchy sentiment has endured much longer than the official public mourning period. A quick glance on social media in the weeks following the Queen’s passing would reveal innumerable heartfelt Twitter tributes to Her Majesty and countless TikTok edits of the royal family at the funeral.
On the one hand, I have a lot of respect for the Queen’s lifelong dedication to her duty and I understand completely why many people around the world feel bereaved: it is undeniable that she offered a constant presence in the national imagination given that she reigned longer than most of the country has been alive and represented a connection to a bygone era. The news was bound to impact people.
However, I for one was surprised at the extent and intensity of this sudden royalist frenzy. It seems treasonable to express any other emotion than profound grief at the death of someone most of us have never even met. And there are plenty of good reasons to be critical of the royal family. For me, the monarchy represents the worst aspects of British culture and history rather than the best, and has absolutely no place in a democratic and egalitarian society.
Should we be proud of a person who happily fronts an institution which promotes the classist idea that an accident of birth entitles certain individuals to a lifetime of unimaginable privilege, wealth, and political influence? And yes, despite the myth that the royals are merely ceremonial figureheads, the unelected and unqualified sovereigns do indeed exercise huge power over the running of the country. Even if the monarchy was purely symbolic, it is what they symbolize that is the issue. They represent an imperial legacy where exploitation, racism, and colonialism were the order of the day. It would be more understandable if the individuals were likeable. Yet, scandal after scandal has proven that these people are corrupt to their core and use their position of power for all the wrong ends.
Of course, I am completely respectful of other people’s views and feelings at this time. However, I will not stand for the ardent repression of criticism of the monarchy or any other opinion that goes against the state-sanctioned grieving. Not to mention the fact that the ridiculous extent of the mourning procedures is taking away from, debatably, more important news.
With the muting of other channels and programmes ‘out of respect’, pressing issues facing the country such as the cost-of-living crisis, climate change, and a new Prime Minister are also being silenced. An eerily dystopian slip up on Sky News even resulted in protests for Chris Kaba, the 24-year-old fatally shot by the police just days before the Queen died, being wrongly described as crowds of royal mourners. The televised mistake symbolises quite plainly how the reporting of the mourning period took primacy over the social unrest brewing in the country.
For me, the aftermath of the Queen’s death has reinforced just how archaic and feudal the entire monarchic system is. Whilst hundreds of British citizens are dying of cold and hunger due to rising energy bills and massive inflation, one woman’s passing (who lived very long and well due to her privileged life) took priority over the people of the UK. It even cost them! Royal commentators currently estimate the cost of the funeral to be between £8m and £20m, to be paid by the taxpayer of course.
The leading republican activist group ‘Republic’ are advocating laying low and waiting for public grief to subside before acting. However, this statement is not the one that has rang true with anti-monarchists around the world. Rather, it is the protestors with placards and signs that are going viral, complete with slogans such as ‘Not My King’ in reference to Charles’ accession. I think free speech and protest are rights that should be protected, and it scares me how opposing views are being repressed so harshly. In fact, several protestors were arrested for disruption during the Queen’s procession. Whilst the use of police force in these incidents has been condemned by humanitarian and civil liberty groups, it is still deeply concerning that our country appears stuck in the past: the tradition of silencing traitors, of arresting and beheading those who commit treasons, simply continues in new forms.
Contrary to the propagandist messages in the media, I believe that there has never been a better time to stand up for your values – and namely the fact that a family of paedophiles, adulterers and multi-billionaires don’t represent them. Talk to your friends, family, classmates, have those uncomfortable conversations round the dinner table and join those activist groups. It is so important to stay true to your own beliefs, whilst being respectful of others, even when current public opinion might make you feel in the minority. With the heightened public focus on the monarchy, now is the perfect time to act.