Continuing to reflect on legacy of Queen Elizabeth II: continuity or colonialism?

Lily Yost, News Editor

The death of Queen Elizabeth II has sparked conversation around the world about Great Britain’s role as a world power. The majority of the media and politicians have been celebrating her reign, while others have recognized the history of colonialism connected to her rule.  

The Washington Post’s obituary commemorated the queen’s sense of immortality. The obituary described her as “the seemingly external monarch who became a bright but inscrutable beacon of continuity in the United Kingdom during more than seven decades of rule.”

Operation London Bridge is the code name used to refer to the chain of events that followed the queen’s death. It describes how the United Kingdom would pay respects to her death and how Charles III would attain his new title, King Charles III. 

King Charles III, age 73, is the oldest British monarch to take the throne. He became the heir to the throne in 1952 at age 3 when the queen assumed power.

At age 27, Elizabeth learned of her father’s death while she was on an official tour of Kenya in 1952. Within months of Queen Elizabeth II inheriting her new royal title, the British monarchy had set in place the systematic torture, rape, castration and killing of tens of thousands of Kenyans in detention camps. 

Professor and English Department Chair Gaurav Majumdar teaches British and postcolonial literature and has expansive knowledge of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.

“Various obituaries for Elizabeth II have celebrated her dignity and restraint as her ‘unchanging’ qualities. The royal inertia of those attributes expanded an easy silence about British colonial and imperialist brutality in Kenya, Yemen, Northern Ireland and other parts of the world during her reign,” Majumdar said. “It fed cultural amnesia about the British state’s violence on the dignity of others.”

The Economic Freedom Fighters, a South African political party, released a statement after the Queen’s passing expressing why they would refrain from paying respects to her death.

“Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952, reigning for 70 years as a head of an institution built up, sustained and living off a brutal legacy of dehumanization of millions of people across the world,” reads the statement. 

Despite the brutal history of English rule in Kenya, India, Hong Kong and many other territories and countries subject to British imperialism, the presidents of Kenya and Ghana ordered their flags to be lowered to half-staff following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. This incited criticism on social media. 

Professor of Religion and Anthropology Daniel Schultz commented on the controversy of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.

“On the one hand, her reign witnessed the systematic dismantling of the empire—something which was underway before she acceded to the throne, but which accelerated greatly in the era of national liberation struggles,” Schultz said. “On the other hand, she expertly reconsolidated the symbols of benevolent imperial sovereignty.”

Schultz noted that up until her death, the Queen was still the Head of State in numerous Commonwealth countries. He also criticized the Euro-American West’s rhetoric surrounding the Queen’s death.

 “The bloody legacies in the colonies have been papered over in the Euro-American West through the mobilization of moral discourse (her duty, her constancy, her restraint, her propriety, etc.),” Schultz said.

The Queen’s death is raising prospects of heightened independence for nations subject to British colonization. Countries like New Zealand, Australia and Antigua and Barbuda are discussing potential changes to their status as members of the British Commonwealth.