Like many around the world, I have been thinking quite a bit about the passing of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II over the past few days. Being an American, the actions of the Royal Family have minimal effect on my day to day life, but I must confess that I have a bit more than a passing interest in what goes on in the United Kingdom.
Firstly, I do try to keep up with major world events, even if it’s just to go online and skim the headlines. When I do watch reported news I usually find myself watching PBS shows, and the BBC World Service that follows. I even have BBC News programmed into my Sirius XM satellite radio presets. As you can imagine, the news of Queen Elizabeth’s passing has taken up the majority of air time this week.
Secondly, I am a bit of an Anglophile. Which means that I’m one of those annoying Americans who likes to watch British movies and television shows, listen to British rock bands, read Nick Hornby books, subscribe to the “Lost In The Pond” YouTube channel, and feel like I know a little bit about how things work over in England specifically, and the U.K. at large. It is admittedly a narrow and possibly skewed view, but one I am always eager to expand nonetheless.
This is also how I have formed my image of the Queen. I have seen her lampooned on a few comedy shows, and critiqued, vilified, and ridiculed in punk rock music. I have also seen her staunchly defended, idolized, and loved by her subjects. Sometimes, the very same people who are the loudest naysayers are also quick to claim that they like the Royal Family just fine, really.
So how to process all this? Well, it seems to me that one has to look at the person more than the title. Having never had a sovereign in my lifetime I can’t pretend to know what that experience is like or how it affects one’s life. We do have career politicians over here though, but that’s not exactly the same thing. All I can do then, is try to be as objective as possible when considering the death of the Queen and what it means.
Look, all governments do bad things. All of them. Sometimes they are done in what they truly believe is for the good of the country, sometimes not. It seems to me that in modern times, the Queen’s role was more of a mediator, or an influencer than one of any real practical power. As I understand it, most of the political power lies in Parliament and not with the Queen.
Can blame be put at her feet for some of the atrocities committed during the early years of her reign, particularly since most of these offences were begun before she officially took power? Yes, to a degree, but how many world leaders have hands that are not stained red in some way?
As far as the Royal Family itself goes, yeah, there have been some problems. The Queen did not get along with her daughter in law Lady Diana, or her granddaughter in law, Duchess Meghan. That is unfortunate, and it happens. It’s just that in this case, it happened while the world’s eyes were watching. Besides, us normal folk love to watch the drama unfold and we love to sit in judgement of those who are considered “better” or “more special” than we are. We shouldn’t be that way, but we are.
Now, this is the part where I can hear many of you yelling at your screens about classism or racism being the culprit in these particular family feuds. Maybe you’re right, I don’t know. None of us do. Perhaps it was all just multiple generations clashing. Any article you read on these subjects is likely to be highly biased in either direction and as the band Extreme said in the early 90’s, “there are three sided to every story: Yours, Mine, and Monday Morning’s.” All families bicker and fight. All families have at least one or two people that everyone else gossips about and are looked down upon in private. trouble is, when you are a Royal there is no privacy.
Which brings us to the ugly story of Prince Andrew. He’s been a very naughty man. He got caught. Look, I’m not going to go into details here, I try to keep things clean around here. Google it if you don’t know, but be warned, it’s not pretty.
Of course you can’t hold one man’s actions against the rest of the family, but you can blame the privilege his position allows. He was stripped of his rank within the Royal Family, but it took a little too long to do so. Theory states that Elizabeth was the one allowing him to stay. Perhaps. If so, then yes, she was wrong, but she did do the right thing eventually. Let’s face it though, folks, it’s hard to find out someone you love is up to some shady stuff-and I can understand why they didn’t want that info getting out. It’s a difficult situation, and one I hope to never find anyone from my family in-and I hope the same for yours too.
I do wonder about the future of the Royals. Things seem to be splintering apart. The case can certainly be made that the monarchy is an antiquated idea that has no room in the modern world, and that the money spent on Royal things could do greater good for the working classes and the poor than to be spent on pageantry. These are worthwhile points of discussion, but they are ones best left for Britain to decide for itself. A lot of Americans have an opinion, though, and there is probably just as much Anti-Royal sentiment as there is Pro.
Which I really don’t understand. As Americans we really don’t really have a say. Well, not for a few hundred years, we haven’t. Besides, we’re all still trying to figure out what’s going on with our own rich family with political power to worry about anyone else right now.
So with all that said, I can say that I am sorry to see her go. Queen Elizabeth was thrown into power at an early age, before she should have been, really. She has seen the world change immensely during her reign. As a figurehead she has needed to steer England from the “stiff upper lip” attitude of old to a more modernized, humanitarian era. She wasn’t perfect, but I think she did extraordinarily well all things considered. She presented herself with a certain stoic grace, but always seemed to let her humanity show through. Her life and her lot were certainly not easy. Through all the negatives however, I have heard countless stories of people who encountered the Queen and were treated not like inferior subjects, but like people. Queen Elizabeth made the people she encountered feel like she cared. That quality alone makes for a great leader, figurehead or otherwise.
May she rest in peace.