Around noon on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, it was announced Queen Elizabeth II had passed away. There was a notification earlier in the day that the queen was in critical condition and that many royal members were rushing to get to her. I did not think much of the news. We have always gotten information about the queen getting sick before. No one, including me, had expected the queen to pass away only hours later. She was one of those timeless legends, who despite being older, felt immortal.
I remember the moment I found out that the queen had passed away. I remember walking to my next class, and everyone had their faces buried in their phones. There were gasps and murmurs of surprise. But with the news of her death I was stunned, but not entirely sad.
Mourning is a process that is different for everyone. People have different ways of displaying and handling their emotions. It is crazy to think about how profound and wide-stretching one death could be. How could one person’s passing rattle the entire world? With the recent passing of Queen Elizabeth II, many people have been dealing with a variety of emotions. Her bloodline has had a deep and complicated hold on history, which has affected many people in a number of ways. In correlation, as some people are grieving her passing, a number of people are celebrating. I do not think people should be shamed into mourning her. As prominent of a figure she was, her presence could not have positively touched every person’s life. To someone, her memory brings up joyful feelings, while to another, her memory is a painful reminder.
As an African–American woman myself, I felt no real ties to the queen. I did not get emotional when I received the notification of her death. She was not a real person to me. She was always a spectacle. She was an image. I knew her from big events on the news, Netflix’s “The Crown” and the occasional episode of “The Simpsons.” To me, her life seemed full of escalating drama and I felt like a spectator, wanting to know more about her. But from what I could gather she was a very private person who rarely showed much emotion as was tradition and royal protocol. Helen Mirren portrayed her in the 2006 Oscar winning picture “The Queen,” which focuses on the repercussions of Princess Diana’s death. She mentioned in an interview that her portrayal of the queen was merely based on imagination.
In fact, many actresses confess that it is difficult playing the queen because she is so reserved. We can only shape her personality through the praise of her admirers. Many mention, including former President Barack Obama, that the queen had a kind heart. She was thoughtful, considerate and had a youthful sense of humor.
Elton John gave tribute to the late queen, describing her personality.
“She was an inspiring presence to be around, and lead the country through some of our greatest and darkest moments with grace, decency and a genuine, caring warmth,” John said.
From the information we consume, we can try and piece together what we thought she was like, but we will never know for sure.
I do not fully endorse the monarchy. I understand they are a symbol to the people of Great Britain, and keeping up with tradition is very important to their culture. At times, I feel sympathy for the royals, because they can’t live a normal life. Everything they say or do is being watched, dissected, shared and judged with the world. I can understand why the Duke and Duchess of Sussex decided to step away from this continuous pressure and occasional scrutiny.
In return I have respect for the royals for doing a job no one else has to do. The queen was crowned at age 25, which is a huge responsibility for any young woman in 1953. My respect comes from her ability to gauge and handle the immense responsibility that she inherited from a long line of men. Being a royal comes with a long list of rules and protocols that need to be followed. To have spent your whole life abiding by these rules makes me respect her commitment. Royal protocol affects how one must dress, how they sit, who walks first and how to hold utensils. There is even a rule that bans royals from playing the game Monopoly.
As the news focuses on the positive side to her 70-year reign, many people are speaking out about the pain the monarchy has inflicted on multiple countries. Her death has re-sparked a conversation about the consequences of Great Britain’s colonization. Many began to criticize the crown for building its riches off the backs of others. When the queen began her reign, Great Britain had acquired about 70 countries. To this day, 15 countries recognize the monarchy as the head of their state. As of her death, many of those countries such as Jamaica, Australia and New Zealand, are reconsidering their future with the crown.
Although the list of countries under British authority is smaller today, many cannot let go of the past. This past includes displacing thousands of people, selling and distributing slaves and benefiting from other countries’ natural resources. In fact, after the queen’s death, many people from India and Africa are asking for their diamonds back that were placed in her crown. I do not think these requests are completely unreasonable. The monarchy has left scars on many countries socially, politically and religiously. These shortcomings do not deserve to be forgotten. Even if the queen did not physically inflict pain upon these people, these memories can easily sway how people feel about the monarchy.
I will not miss the queen because she never did or said anything that truly affected me. Despite this, I do respect her and her commitment to her family and her duty as monarch. Both feelings are valid. All feelings should be accepted. No one should ever have to feel pressured into feeling a certain way about a subject. In fact, there are ongoing protests among English citizens that call for the abolishing of the monarchy. People have been holding signs that read, “Not my King.” People are entitled to their opinions.
History is often difficult to tell, especially when there are many painful truths. I believe that the most important thing about history is that it deserves to be told. People should not shy away from it. That is the only way we as a society can learn and move on. That is the only way the next monarch, King Charles III, can aim to serve better for his subjects. Nothing should ever be sugar coated or brushed under the rug.
My personal opinion of the monarchy does not reflect what I think of the queen as a person. According to the accounts from the people who knew her, she was a person who was serious about her service to her country and its people. Despite all of the protocols, she kept her kindness and her sense of humor. She loved her family and her many corgis. Everyone has the right to mourn the figure in their own way.