Re-examining the British monarchy in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death

Illustration by Vivian Trinh

Ishaan Nandwani, Opinions Editor

Headlines buzzed across the world on Sept. 8 as the United Kingdom’s longest reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, died at 96 years of age.

The reactions to her death were as wide ranging as the U.K.’s history of conquest: shock, sadness, apathy and even joy.

While many civilians were desolate at the loss of their queen, who has been an enduring symbol of leadership throughout their lives, others began to call into question the history of the monarchy and what it represents: colonization, white privilege and elitism. 

One Twitter user went so far as to say that although the establishment wants us to believe that the monarchy represents the “best of Britain,” it is actually the “enduring embodiment of the worst of Britain.”

I express my condolences to all those who mourn the queen, but I also concur with the sentiment of the many individuals who criticize the monarchy’s lasting presence in the U.K. — it’s time for a change. 

While the outright eradication of a system that has prevailed for centuries may be out of reach, at the very least, the monarchy must be held accountable for their past grievances and strive to uplift the communities it has historically harmed.

Gone are the days in which the royal family held any real legislative power; today, that belongs to the prime minister and parliament. However, with the continued tradition of succession in the U.K., many consider it unfair that the royal family still holds a considerable amount of wealth and influence throughout the world.

Today, the monarchy adds little value to British society outside of celebrity culture. Since the inception of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign in 1952, many former colonies have gained their independence, and Britain’s global power has declined. 

The queen’s stable presence as a leader was a reason that many supported her, despite the political impracticality of the monarchy. She has lived through important historical events, such as World War II, and has seen 15 different prime ministers of the U.K.

There is no reason to further the monarchy’s tradition after the queen’s death. 

The incumbent King Charles III does not possess the same charisma or experience as his mother. He will take the throne at 73 years old — the oldest person to do so in the history of the House of Windsor.

While the monarchy’s lack of contemporary purpose warrants its removal, it’s naive to believe that it’s going anywhere anytime soon. The royal family is deeply entrenched into the social and cultural fabric of the U.K., and has been for since 1603.

It may be futile to get rid of a system that has been exalted for generations. In this case, the conversation should center on how those in power can use their influence to impact social change.

The monarchy may never be able to completely rectify their past, but it can certainly do better. The royal family has been notably silent on movements like Black Lives Matter, and Queen Elizabeth II has never apologized for the monarchy’s link to the slave trade. In 2021, Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex came forward about experiencing racism within the royal family and alleged concerns about the dark skin color of her son.

The royal family’s accountability for their past racism has been sorely lacking, but they must take responsibility. They should use their platforms to amplify movements supporting underrepresented communities and have open conversations about subjects that they have avoided talking about, such as race and imperialism.

There are certainly nuances to the royal family’s rule in the U.K. that I haven’t explored, and I acknowledge that it hasn’t been all bad. I admire the charitable efforts that they’ve engaged in over the years, and the national pride it ensues in British people. 

However, if the monarchy is to endure, it must redefine its narrative and become a force for social good.

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