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On the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II and her Monarchy

by Ian Sturak

Thirteen years ago now, the Guardian released an article revealing that the Queen had petitioned Parliament for the ability to spend money earmarked for poverty funds in the UK to heat Buckingham palace - a small PR disaster to be sure, but an unsettlingly definitive event of the difficult-to-categorize legacy which Elizabeth II engendered from her coronation in 1953 to her to death earlier this year.

She, during her time, saw the world through the lens of the second-longest reigning monarch ever, through political divides, and through the impressions of a public image uniquely hers. It wasn’t that of a head of state, but neither was it that of a simple celebrity. She was a figurehead in many ways, and one that bore the brunt both of leading a country - not just through political machinations, but also through the incredible influence of her endorsements - and of being under the scrutiny that inevitably comes with being the most prominent monarch in a world that has largely transitioned to democracy.

Though not much time has passed since America somewhat radically cast away the British monarch in a declaration of the human rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the preconception of much of the democratic world is, overwhelmingly, that a government must be representative of the people. Monarchy, in theory, stands in direct opposition to this concept, being a specialized form of the absolute power wielded by despotism. This form of authority comes with the notion that the monarch is specially chosen to wield their power, most often by God, who rather irrationally coincides his specified predecessors with the descendents of a ruling lineage. One would think that in a modernized world this system would have long since been cast off, but the British monarchy survived through an odd quirk - they already had a representative system: the British Parliament. In theory, Parliament served as a way for each borough to be represented in legislative government. Regardless of the actual representation provided by this system, Britain contented itself in a relatively liberal fashion - not by breaking the yoke of oppression but, rather, by setting the monarch’s power on a decline compared to Parliament and letting the government serve the will of the people. The monarch remained, not as a sole ruler of divine right, but as a uniquely British custom. And the vast majority of Britons find this custom delightful. The Queen served as a moral and ethical sticking point for the United Kingdom, both through the inherent reverence her people gave her and the longevity with which she was able to acquire wisdom to rule - if just as a guide for her people, not a legal administrator. The Queen was, overwhelmingly, a positive force for Britain in the public eye.

However, with the beloved Elizabeth II gone, one questions her legacy. Her perseverance and that which she gave her country is undeniable, but her fallibility - especially with interfamily conflict - has increasingly been readily apparent. Some would also say that in failing to become an advocate for several causes, she misrepresented her own ethical duty to her country; she was never an open supporter of the LGBTQ+ rights movement, and has been accused of racial prejudice due to comments made by Meghan Markle, the former Duchess of Sussex, about how she was treated by the royal family. And while the Queen’s individual legacy can be said to be irrelevant compared to her contributions to England as a head of state, the legacy of a monarchy that descends from rulers far before the time of Elizabeth II is hardly so mired in doubt.

The English monarchy harkens back to true tyranny - of one man enforcing his might upon others, of caste systems broken down to cement the oppression of the laborers, of brutal feudal systems and starving peasants. It’s never gone - despite its current state of reduced power, the monarchy that rules now is the same that at one time killed and impoverished millions. It’s these unsettling events that reemerge when the Queen would wish to use budgets for the poor to heat her own palace.

Even defanged, the monarchy remains a vestige of oppression. Elizabeth II was the last monarch that will serve the crucial purpose of holding Britain together - without her in its place, the seat of the monarchy loses its last valuable trait, that of a guiding force, and merely resigns itself to serve as an eternal reminder of a tyrant’s throne. Elizabeth II can be said to have served her country well despite several flaws, but, with her gone, the monarchy must finally leave as well.


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