The controversial legacy of Queen Elizabeth

Yesterday, September 19, 2022, traffic came to a standstill, bagpipes and hushed drums roared dark notes in the air, the roads of Westminster Abbey, London, the gothic splendor of the Lady’s Chapel stripped of all objects moving except for the Royal Navy pulling the gun carriage with the Queen’s remains. Kings and queens from distant kingdoms were present, presidents, prime ministers and various heads of government from around the world came to pay their last respects to a unique figure, Queen Elizabeth II, for more than 70 years the queen and leader of state in Britain, as well as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and a number of former colonies which retain a commitment to the British constitutional monarchy. Elizabeth ascended the throne aged 25 in 1952, following the sudden death of her father, King George VI, aged 56. Shortly after being crowned queen, she won people into her affections by vowing to devote her whole life, “whether short or long”, to the service of “the Empire” as Britain still considered itself. at the time. She threw herself into the role quite happily, some would say, effortlessly.

It is often said that the monarchy does not meddle in politics. That the royal family is neutral in the struggle for political power. That the queen or the king is outside, or “above, politics”. It is nothing more than a figment of the citizens’ imagination. The monarchy, by definition, is a conservative and class institution. The Queen has devoted herself throughout her life to preserving the status quo, although she is, by virtue of her position, already on one side of the political divide – the privileged few. The “successful” period of Her Majesty’s long reign could only be such if seen through the prism of aristocracy. Any monarch who manages to get the people to applaud and adore while preserving the essentials of the status quo for some time, if not more than 70 years, should be hailed as a resounding success. This is precisely what is at the heart of the late Queen Elizabeth’s Midas touch. She played and exaggerated her desire to be among “her people” at home and abroad. She kept emphasizing the “shared values” that bind Britain to the rest of the Commonwealth nations. The Commonwealth, a community of former British colonial subjects, was referred to as a “family” with the Queen at its head. It was apple pie and motherhood stuff.

What is often overlooked in commentary on the monarchy is the fact that the royal family is indeed a family but it is also a business or a “firm” as it is called in royal circles. It’s run by a group of extremely knowledgeable and neat “helpers” spanning marketing, accounting, real estate, politics, economics, international business and, of course, the media. Their job is to take the monarchy out of the limelight when it is not wanted and to also direct it into the limelight when it is needed. In other words, the Queen’s acclaimed skillful touch to the throne is, in large part, due to the intelligence expertise and dedication of many people working diligently behind the scenes all these years. They are the ones who have skillfully managed to keep the ultimate symbol of class division in British society safe from any diplomatic missteps, international polemics or internal rebellion. Queen Elizabeth II behaved with grace and dignity, yes, but that’s not all. Anyone sitting on a family fortune worth billions of dollars in perpetuity should have little difficulty keeping their “stiff upper lip”; the classic central English code for self-control. The sympathy for his family at his death and the outpouring of emotions even from former colonies and former colonial “subjects” only mask the gaping wound inflicted in his name on the innocent victims of his country’s once insatiable thirst for strength. brute as the weapon of choice. divide, colonize and establish dominion over entire swaths of other people’s land. Nigeria is one such victim of British imperial rule. The British, at one time, dominated over a quarter of the world’s population. The Queen has never ceased to trumpet “our common values” to Commonwealth leaders in Africa and around the world. What common values ​​have forced territories of disparate ethnic nationalities, such as northern and southern Nigeria, to become one? The British valor of exploitation, expropriation, extortion and plunder perpetrated in Nigeria and across Africa was neither shared by Nigerians nor hastily forgivable.

Divide and rule was the main political strategy deployed by imperial viceroys, viscounts and other representatives of the monarchy around the world. The consequences of this political strategy are still with us today in Nigeria. Nigeria is a product of the British Monarchy, created and supported solely for its bloodthirsty interests. A similar scenario played out in Ghana, Egypt, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and, of course, South Africa, where the white minority was aided and abridged by British imperialism for more than two centuries. What common value is there in one race (whites) feeling entitled to subjugate another (blacks) with the active support of Her Majesty’s government for so long? What about the genocidal involvement of Her Majesty’s Government in the lynching of Kenyan nationalist fighters? the “mau-mau” in the 1950s because they demanded the same access to Paine’s “human rights” that inspired the French Revolution in 1789? Common European values ​​that have never been deemed worthy of being extended to Africans. When did the Queen suddenly realize that the Commonwealth group of nations shared common values?

So how should we in this part of the world react to the death of the Queen? The answer is a bit more complex than it seems, but whatever we do, it shouldn’t be with nostalgic admiration for the institution or person who personifies the monarchy. No nation, no citizen should be subject to hereditary or divine rule in the modern era. No one should have the privilege of ascending to a seat of power or influence by mere chance of birth, as Prince Charles (now King Charles) just did and as his son William will also do. in the fullness of time. Privilege should never be granted; you always have to earn it.

Nigeria also has pockets of traditional monarchy institutions and legacy stools everywhere. Many of them are doing a good job quietly behind the scenes. Their influence is reduced by their lack of political power, but it is precisely this lack of political power that gives them moral authority. The British monarchy has endured because of its ability to navigate the world of political power and moral suasion with cunning, skill and sometimes panache. Other monarchies, like Japan and Thailand, endure because people regard them as divine. Lese-Majeste bears the brunt of public condemnation in such environments like no other. In the Arab world, the monarchy is a curious combination of heredity, divinity and brute force. It is a region steeped in history, but also a region tainted by blind loyalty and bloodshed. All in all, Queen Elizabeth has been on the throne a bit too long, but that, ironically, is an argument for stability and continuity. Nevertheless, it is also an argument in favor of sterility and inertia. In ancient Rome, her son is said to have staged a bloody coup to dethrone his mother. Our sympathy must go to poor Charles, who had to wait until he was 73 to get a real job.

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