Queen Elizabeth II: A Moderniser Who Steered the British Monarchy into the 21st Century

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Yves here. As an American who grew up during the anti-Establishment era, the significance of a figure like Queen Elizabeth II and an institution like the British Monarchy is hard to grasp. While America has a class system that is getting stronger over time, it’s never been as overt as the UK’s, with not just the remnants of a titled aristocracy, but fine shadings of public-school-acquired accents telegraphing social position. So system which put the Queen at the apex still has very deep roots.

This article effectively argues that Queen Elizabeth’s careful management of her role extended its shelf life as neoliberalism became dominant and fetishized illusions of meritocracy.

And even though the Royal Family by design enjoys enormous privileges, they also ave duties, like being expected to show up in countryside England at hospital openings and cut ribbons and look like they enjoy being there. By all accounts, Lady Di not only was very good at her formal obligations but she really enjoyed them. By contrast, my Hollywood-savvy friend are highly confident that it was these regular required appearances in nowhere England, having to rattle around in big, drafty, and not updated houses, not having a private jet and not hanging with billionaires was what drove Meghan to claw her way out of the Royal family. She didn’t understand the job, and there really was a job in there along with the titles and the trappings.

By Sean Lang, Senior Lecturer in History, Anglia Ruskin University. Originally published at The Conversation

When the late historian Sir Ben Pimlott embarked on his 1996 biography, his colleagues expressed surprise that he should consider Queen Elizabeth II worthy of serious study at all. Yet Pimlott’s judgement proved sound and, if few academics have followed his lead, the political role of the monarchy has received thoughtful treatment in the creative arts.

Stephen Frears’s 2006 film, The Queen, showed her dilemma after the death of Princess Diana; Peter Morgan’s stage play The Audience showed the monarch’s weekly meetings with her prime ministers. And she has been shown in a generally positive and sympathetic light by both Netflix’s acclaimed drama series The Crown and even in Mike Bartlett’s speculative play King Charles III, about the difficulty her heir would have in filling her shoes.

Elizabeth’s reign was a delayed result of the abdication crisis of 1936, the defining royal event of the 20th century. Edward VIII’s unexpected abdication thrust his shy, stammering younger brother Albert onto the throne as King George VI. Shortly thereafter he was thrust into the role of figurehead for the nation through the second world war.

The second world war was an important formative experience for the future queen, seen here with family celebrating VE Day in 1945. Kathy deWitt/Alamy Stock Photo

The war was the most important formative experience for his elder daughter, Princess Elizabeth. Her experience as a car mechanic with the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service – the women’s army service) meant that she could legitimately claim to have participated in what has been called “the people’s war”.

The experience gave her a more naturally common touch than any of her predecessors had displayed. When, in 1947, she married Philip Mountbatten – who became Duke of Edinburgh (and died in April 2021 at the age of 99) – her wedding was seized on as an opportunity to brighten a national life still in the grip of post-war austerity and rationing.

God Save the Queen: Elizabeth II is crowned in Westminster Abbey, June 2 1952.

Elizabeth II inherited a monarchy whose political power had been steadily ebbing away since the 18th century but whose role in the public life of the nation seemed, if anything, to have grown ever more important. Monarchs in the 20th century were expected both to perform ceremonial duties with appropriate gravity and to lighten up enough to share and enjoy the tastes and interests of ordinary people.

The Queen’s elaborate coronation in 1953 achieved a balance of both these roles. The ancient ceremony could be traced to the monarchy’s Saxon origins, while her decision to allow it to be televised brought it into the living rooms of ordinary people with the latest modern technology. Royal ceremonial was henceforth to be democratically visible, ironically becoming much better choreographed and more formal than it had ever been before.

The Queen went on to revolutionise public perceptions of the monarchy when, at the urging of Lord Mountbatten and his son-in-law, the television producer Lord Brabourne, she consented to the 1969 BBC film Royal Family. It was a remarkably intimate portrayal of her home life, showing her at breakfast, having a barbecue at Balmoral and popping down to the local shops.

The Queen’s silver jubilee in 1977 was a high point in the middle of her reign. Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Alamy Stock Photo

Prince Charles’s investiture as Prince of Wales the same year, another royal television event, was followed in 1970 by the Queen’s decision during a visit to Australia and New Zealand to break with protocol and mix directly with the crowds who had come out to see her. These “walkabouts” soon became a central part of any royal visit.

The highpoint of the Queen’s mid-reign popularity came with the 1977 Silver Jubilee celebrations, which saw the country festooned in red, white and blue at VE Day-style street parties. It was followed in 1981 by the enormous popularity of the wedding at St Paul’s Cathedral of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer.

Testing Times

The following decades proved much more testing. Controversy in the early 1990s about the Queen’s exemption from income taxforced the Crown to change its financial arrangements so it paid like everyone else. Gossip and scandal surrounding the younger royals turned into divorces for Prince Andrew, Princess Anne and – most damagingly of all – Prince Charles. The Queen referred to 1992 – the height of the scandals – as her “annus horribilis”.

Happy family? The marriage of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer put pressures on the House of Windsor. Ron Bell/PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

The revelations about the misery Princess Diana had endured in her marriage presented the public with a much harder, less sympathetic image of the royal family, which seemed vindicated when the Queen uncharacteristically miscalculated the public mood after Diana’s death in 1997. Her instinct was to follow protocol and precedent, staying at Balmoral and keeping her grandchildren with her.

This seemed hard and uncaring to a public hungry for open displays of emotion that would have been unthinkable in the Queen’s younger days. “Where is our Queen?” demanded The Sun, while the Daily Express called on her to “Show us you care!” insisting that she break with protocol and fly the Union Jack at half-mast over Buckingham Palace. Never since the abdication had the popularity of the monarchy sunk so low.

Caught briefly on the back foot by this remarkable change in British public behaviour, the Queen soon regained the initiative, addressing the nation on television and bowing her head to Diana’s funeral cortege during a cleverly conceived and choreographed televised service.

The extent to which she quickly regained public support was shown by the enormous, if unexpected, success of her 2002 Golden Jubilee, which was ushered in by the extraordinary sight of Brian May performing a guitar solo on the roof of Buckingham Palace. By the time London hosted the Olympics in 2012 she was sufficiently confident of her position to agree to appear in a memorable tongue-in-cheek cameo in the opening ceremony, when she appeared to parachute down into the arena from a helicopter in the company of James Bond.

Political Sphere

Queen Elizabeth kept the crown above party politics, but she was always fully engaged with the political world. A firm believer in the Commonwealth, even when her own prime ministers had long lost faith in it, as its head she mediated in disputes between member states and provided support and guidance even to Commonwealth leaders who were strongly opposed to her own UK government.

Her prime ministers often paid tribute to her political wisdom and knowledge. These were the result both of her years of experience and of her diligence in reading state papers. Harold Wilson remarked that to attend the weekly audience unprepared was like being caught at school not having done your homework. It was widely believed that she found relations with Margaret Thatcher difficult.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh sometimes objected to the political use to which governments put them. In 1978 they were unhappy to be forced by the then foreign secretary, David Owen, to receive the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife as guests at Buckingham Palace.

The Queen could act to very positive effect in international relations, often providing the ceremonial and public affirmation of the work of her ministers. She established a good rapport with a string of American presidents, particularly Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, and her successful 2011 state visit to the Republic of Ireland, in which she astonished her hosts by addressing them in Gaelic, remains a model of the positive impact a state visit can have.

She was even able to put aside her personal feelings about the 1979 murder of Lord Mountbatten to offer a cordial welcome to the former IRA commander Martin McGuinness, when he took office in 2007 as deputy first minister of Northern Ireland.

Only very occasionally and briefly did the Queen allow her own political views to surface. On a visit to the London Stock Exchange after the 2008 financial crash she asked sharply why nobody had seen it coming.

In 2014, her carefully worded appeal to Scots to think carefully about their vote in the Independence Referendum was widely – and clearly rightly – interpreted as an intervention on behalf of the Union. And in the run-up to the 2021 UN COP26 conference in Glasgow, from which she had to pull out on medical advice, she was overheard expressing irritation at the lack of political action on the climate change emergency.

Final Years

As she approached her tenth decade, she finally began to slow down, delegating more of her official duties to other members of the royal family – even the annual laying of her wreath at the cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, while in May 2022 she delegated her most important ceremonial duty, the reading of the Speech from the Throne at the State Opening of Parliament, to Prince Charles.

She retained her ability to rise to a crisis, however. In 2020, as the COVID pandemic descended, the Queen, in sharp contrast to her prime minister, addressed the nation from lockdown at Windsor in a calm, well-judged message. Her short address combined solidarity with her people with the reassurance that, in a conscious reference to Vera Lynn’s wartime hit, “We will meet again.”

The decade also brought sadness. Her grandson, Prince Harry, and his wife Meghan Markle withdrew completely from royal duties, causing deep hurt to the royal family. This hurt was compounded when the Sussexes accused the royal family, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey which was watched around the world, of treating them with cruelty, disdain and even racism.

The shock of the interview was followed quickly by the death of Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years, a few months short of his 100th birthday. At his funeral, which was reduced in scale to meet the requirements of COVID regulations, the Queen cut an unusually lonely figure, small, masked and sitting alone. As her health declined in the months following his death, the deep impact of his loss became all too apparent.

The pain of the Sussexes’ estrangement from the royal family was heavily compounded by the disgrace soon afterwards of Prince Andrew, her second and, it was often suggested, her favourite son. His close involvement with the convicted American paedophile, Jeffrey Epstein, led to the unedifying spectacle of a senior member of the royal family being accused in an American court of underage sex; he made his own position immeasurably worse by agreeing to a disastrous interview on the BBC current affairs programme Newsnight.

The Queen responded to the scandal with remarkable decisiveness: she stripped her son of all his royal and military titles, including the cherished “HRH”, and reduced him, in effect, to the status of a private citizen. Even her closest family were not to be allowed to undermine all she had done to protect and preserve the monarchy.

The remarkable success of her 2022 Platinum Jubilee was a sign of just how much she had retained the affections of her people; a particularly well-received highlight was a charming cameo performance showing her having tea with the children’s television character, Paddington Bear.

Apart from in dreams, in which she was often popularly supposed to appear, the Queen’s most regular contact with her subjects was in her annual Christmas message on television and radio. This not only reflected her work and engagements over the previous year, but it reaffirmed, with greater frankness and clarity than many of her ministers seemed able to summon, her deeply held Christian faith.

As head of the Church of England she was herself a Christian leader and she never forgot it. The Christmas message adapted over the years to new technology, but it was unchanging in style and content, reflecting the monarchy as she shaped it.

Under Elizabeth II, the British monarchy survived by changing its outward appearance without changing its public role. Republican critics of monarchy had long given up demanding its immediate abolition and accepted that the Queen’s personal popularity rendered their aim impracticable while she was still alive.

Elizabeth II, whose 70-year reign makes her the longest reigning monarch in British history, leaves her successor with a sort of British monarchical republic, in which the proportions of its ingredients of mystique, ceremony, populism and openness have been constantly changed in order to keep it essentially the same. It has long been acknowledged by political leaders and commentators all over the world that the Queen handled her often difficult and delicate constitutional role with grace and remarkable, even formidable, political skill.

Her wisdom and unceasing sense of duty meant she was widely viewed with a combination of respect, esteem, awe and affection, which transcended nations, classes and generations. She was immensely proud of Britain and its people, yet in the end she belonged to the world, and the world will mourn her passing.

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89 comments

  1. Wukchumni

    QEII reminds me of my mom who was born in 1925 and saw monumental changes during her long life, albeit with no offspring having dalliances with the Epstein crowd.

    Most of the colonies were granted independence during her reign, and peace largely prevailed for 70 years, that’s saying something.

    Reply
    1. ChiGal

      the manner in which they “granted independence” to both Palestine and India was brutal and the wound still festers. Not sure that’s down to the queen however but her uncle by marriage certainly had a lot to do with it.

      Reply
      1. Oh

        I agree. The British had no choice in the Independence of India. The British looters raped and pillaged India and Gandhi forced them to leave. For a complete description of how the East India Company and the “Crown” destroyed India’s wealth, a good book to read is “The Anarchy” by William Dalrymple, a well researched and written book.

        Reply
        1. Michaelmas

          The British had no choice in the Independence of India … Gandhi forced them to leave

          The rebellion of the British working and middle classe servicemen on RAF bases in India and the Middle East in 1946 after WWII, may have had more to do with it — and Gandhi less — than you imagine.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Air_Force_strikes_of_1946

          “…declassified reports have shown that British troops were deliberately retained in India to control possible unrest from the independence movement … the grievances of the RAF men may have also included significant political views and sympathy with the communist Party of India.”

          The RAF mutinies then triggered …

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Indian_Navy_mutiny

          ” …Lord Wavell, Viceroy of India, commented … “I am afraid that the example of the Royal Air Force, who got away with what was really a mutiny, has some responsibility for the present situation.”

          The Attlee Labour government, which held power in the UK at the time, would have been less brutally repressive than a government headed by by that old imperialist monster Churchill. But repress revolt and Indian independence the Attlee government would have. They didn’t have the means because of the mutinies at RAF bases.

          Reply
    2. Michael Ismoe

      peace largely prevailed for 70 years

      She was the queen, not the Prime Minister. The people in Suez, the Falklands, Afghanistan and Iraq may have a different view of those 70 “peaceful” years. Good Lord, she was a figurehead who was replaced two seconds after she died. Who cares?

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        Its all pomp & circumstance until somebody gets hurt by an adverb, would mostly be more to your liking?

        And yeah, royalty is somebody else’s concept. Luckily here in estados unidos, nepotism was wiped out and no way elites can perpetuate their wealth & power.

        Reply
        1. Pat

          Yup there are no legacy hires in America, everyone earned their positions just ask Nancy Pelosi, Lisa Murkowski, GHWB, and so on.

          And dare I say that seventy years of Elizabeth were more useful and far less damaging than 50+ years of Joe Biden. Just one example that our systems suffer from much greater and more damaging rot than a figurehead monarchy.

          Reply
        2. Michael Ismoe

          They replaced Aunt Jemima even though she was a market leader for 50 years. Liz is the Aunt Jemima of Britain. No one will notice that the box has changed.

          Reply
      2. Anthony G Stegman

        Humans have a great ability to compartmentalize things in their brains. The Queen was never viewed as a hostile person, despite the British Empire (reduced to fragments these days) perpetrating horrible acts. In the US most people have completely repressed all of the godawful things its government has done around the world. It should not be surprising that so many people had great love and affection for the Queen.

        Reply
      3. Eric Blair Kagwa

        This article praises her shrewdness, judgement etc so how is she just a figurehead? This is nauseating fawning for the head of a brutal exploitation machine. All this pomp and circumstance is bathed in blood worst part people deemed as not people George Orwell described that even the graves of colonial subjects were nothing. This blog crows about it’s logic and high standards but this is drivel and insulting to those who’ve tasted the “real politics” that support the wealth of the west ie the blood of we Africans and other non whites.

        Reply
        1. Basil Pesto

          This was not written by the bloggers.It was

          By Sean Lang, Senior Lecturer in History, Anglia Ruskin University. Originally published at The Conversation

          A crosspost by another writer on another website. The blog sometimes posts things it doesn’t necessarily agree with, and they are often picked apart or debated in the commemts

          Reply
    3. Wukchumni

      Just got off the phone with mom, who has a fabulous memory and told me of her and other schoolchildren being given small UK union jacks to wave @ the royals when they drove through Calgary on their Royal Tour a few days before her 14th birthday in 1939, and she remembered a meet & greet with a royal about her age, and was it Elizabeth?

      Reply
    4. Gilles de Rais

      I was appalled that she didn’t throw Andrew to court and let him be jailed for his paedophilia. That would have given them some credibility instead of another royal family with perversion problems and total disregard of the value of common people’s value.
      Now he was punished by cancelling his birthday party and some titles. WTF is that?

      Reply
  2. digi_owl

    Humans crave stability. It is how we feel safe. Change triggers a fear response.

    Having the same face appear on newspapers and TV at the same time each year, decade after decade, help build such a feeling of stability even as each year delivered plenty of change.

    Reply
      1. CitizenSissy

        Completely agree. I think the monarchy is a ridculous anachronism, but was very much saddened by news of her death. I don’t think it’ll survive through Charles’s reign.

        Reply
  3. Tristan

    Black, Irish, and Desi Twitter are having an absolute field day celebrating her death. This article fails to even hint at the damage the monarchy – during her reign – did around the world and the fact that her wealth was supported by theft and violence. Entire nations are still handicapped by the financial and physical damage done in the name of Britain. Any praise of her is support for colonialism.

    Reply
  4. Pat

    Beyond it being a somewhat grueling job, there were other rules that Markle really couldn’t accept. And some of it involved ego gratification she desperately craved. She was meant to be hanging with hoi polloi and being showered with favors for her attention not doing the equivalent of mall appearances six days a week.

    One of the perks in Hollywood when you make the big time is famous people showering you with attention and gifts. Hell everybody showering you with gifts. The Royals not only spend a lot of time with not so famous people, there are huge rules on gifts. Outside of nosegays you largely cannot accept, keep and certainly not solicit them. Most gifts are returned, given to the State or donated. Nor do you promote items personally. Having to actually pay for her wardrobe was a major bone of contention. One of the most telling moments of just not getting it or of Markle going screw this was her flying off to New York on a private jet for a star powered baby shower that was what she expected from being married to a Prince. It was attended by household name people she hardly knew (and who wouldn’t have attended a shower for her while she was married to her previous husband). They gave her hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of expensive baby geegaws. This after the Palace scuttled the shower she had originally planned and explained to her repeatedly that since the family could easily afford to provide everything for their babies it was considered bad form to have a shower.

    Reply
    1. Angie Neer

      Hi Pat, I agree with the substance of your comment, but the pedant in me insists on pointing out that hoi polloi refers to common people, not the elite.

      Reply
      1. johnherbiehancock

        thanks… I read that and was confused by the reference as well.

        I know someone who is a former sorority sister of hers, and happened across a blog post she wrote on social media fawning all over Megan and claiming they (her sorority) all knew she was a star destined for greatness way back then.

        I threw up in my mouth a bit. I know she meant it as a compliment, but I understand it as admitting Megan’s always been a star chaser, seeking to distance herself FROM the hoi polloi, not relish in their company.

        Reply
    2. timotheus

      Reminds me of the Undine Spragg character in Wharton’s Custom of the Country who snags a French aristo at one point and then realizes she has to sit around endlessly with his uber-snob relatives. She quickly decamps. The book is a little known marvel.

      Reply
  5. Daniel Raphael

    To the extent the Queen had real power, UK democracy is revealed as the pretense, the bric a brac, overtop the reality: Meetings in Council sent the wretched Chagos Islanders to their doom, and all this in secret, entirely apart from Parliament–and of course, with the full awareness and approval of the Queen. She was an ultra-wealthy parasite in a nation where food banks and privation are a daily and growing reality, noted by the UN. I think this article in Jacobin today does accurately tell the tale:
    https://jacobin.com/2022/09/queen-elizabeth-ii-glamorize-britain-obituary-royal-monarchy

    Reply
    1. Paleobotanist

      One of the things I am curious about is the Queen’s role in the creation and protection of offshore tax havens. She owed the Channel Islands as a feudal apanage, she was the landlord and were her personal property. The British Channel Islands were of course among the first tax havens. The Channel Islands were able to do this because of their ambiguous position as her property, and not really part of the UK, nor subject to UK law. I suspect that she could have shut them down at anytime, but she didn’t. She was known to have protected their status. Given the role of offshore tax havens in gutting national governments’ powers, revenues and abilities to care for their citizens, this is very harmful to ordinary people. She doesn’t seem to me to be such a nice old lady.

      Colonel Smithers or anyone else more knowledgeable care to comment?

      Reply
      1. Paleobotanist

        I really recommend Nicolas Shaxson’s “Treasure Islands” about offshore tax havens, including the crown dependencies. I have waded into the murky legal status of Jersey, Guernsey and the Island of Mann this evening and its over my head. They are separate from the UK proper. The Crown’s role is now reduced from what it was in the past and the islands are locally governed mostly. I do remember reading a detailed nuanced article somewhere that the Crown remains having a large amount of “influence” on these islands, probably because they are just so small in terms of population and technical expertise. The article did discuss the royal family under the past queen taking advantage of this in protecting the existence of the offshore tax havens. It was not an over the top “the Queen is really a lizard” type of article, but well referenced and subtile. I am very sorry that I can’t remember enough to track the article down. I apologize for not quite meeting NC’s rigorous reference standards here due to a memory lapse. I hope that someone from the UK finance community can comment more.

        Reply
    1. Swamp Yankee

      Alice X — I have been linking this and listening to it, as well. I think that is one of Chumbawamba’s greatest and most incisive songs. British sung political satire at its best. The left wing of the music hall.

      Reply
  6. David

    Looking through the news feeds this morning, I think that, in spite of the obligatory sneering and sarcasm from certain quarters, the cold realisation is dawning that the one obstacle to the complete Uberisation of Britain by the Johnson incarnation of the Tory Party isn’t the Labour Party, or the Courts, or “civil society,,” whatever that is. It’s the hope that a 73-year old man will continue his 96-year old mothers role in keeping the faintest echoes of ideas like duty and service alive, in the face of an orthodoxy based on nothing but egotism and asset-stripping.

    I’ve been a republican for longer than many of the late Queen’s critics have been alive. It should be the effing Labour Party out there, promoting ideas of service to the community and duty to one’s fellow citizens. I never thought that I would wind up seeing the Royal Family, with all its faults, keeping ideas alive that the Johnsonistas have to look up on Wikipedia.

    You can, of course, perfectly well have a sense of duty, responsibility and service in a republic as well. The trouble is that in general you don’t. The French media have been overdosing on the Queen’s death, and the real but unstated reason for that is disgust with the President who was grudgingly elected in April. Even the Macron-friendly media is obliged to mumble a little bit about duty and service, and the difference is painfully obvious.

    Reply
    1. flora

      Thank you. The answer to your question about Charles III may be hinted at wrt his connection to WEF. Will he give up or maintain that patronage? His past speeches at the WEF Davos meetings sound keen on the Great Reset. My 2 cents.

      Reply
      1. flora

        adding: in addition to hoping a 73-year old man will continue his mother’s role in keeping the ideas of duty and service alive, I hope he also has his mother’s shrewdness in dealing with powerful entities. From the distance of the US, it always seemed to me his mother maintained both a shrewd assessment of what was happening as well as a sense of humor. My two cents.

        Reply
        1. lovevt

          Flora, I agree the monarchy keeping the ideas of duty and service alive. Too bad it doesn’t seemed to be practiced by our own government leaders in America.

          Reply
        2. Alex Cox

          Regarding Prince/King Chuck, it used to be necessary, to attend Oxford and Cambridge, to pass an examination in Latin. No kidding.

          As recently at the 1970s Latin was taught at all English private schools, and state grammar schools. I went to one of the latter.

          As an elite, of course Chuck was guaranteed a place at either Oxford or Cambridge. But there was a problem. He couldn’t handle the Latin. This suggested to me, then and now, that he wasn’t very bright: it isn’t very hard to learn Latin, though it is mostly useless. So what happened? The Royals leaned on the two universities. Oxford refused to drop the Latin requirement. Cambridge caved, and dropped it. And Chuckie went to Cambridge.

          A few years later I passed my Latin test and went to the other place. Oxford dropped the requirement a couple of years later.

          So we have to thank one-and-a-half-buck Chuck for something, I suppose.

          Reply
            1. paul

              you might get a charles profile emoji on your state monitored transaction*

              *in association with anyone dealing with cash in poly bags

              sort of like the queens head on the quasi royal mail, but different.

              Reply
    2. paul

      I find this hard to agree with.

      The royal family were largely disinterested in anything that did not affect them.
      They have always been more mindful of their exceptions than others deprivations.

      If you can offer one example of their active goodwill towards their subjects that was not a PR job, I will be surprised, but hardly impressed.

      Their overriding sense of duty and service was to the institution of monarchy itself.

      The royal household being exempted from money laundering, environmental legislation and of course,bonny prince andrew’s strong friendship with j epstein, leaves me cold.

      You can decorate a parasite with a lot of stolen jewellery,but they are still the same thing.

      Reply
      1. hazelbrew

        too soon, insensitive, misinformed and disrespectful – along with all your comments on this blog today.

        ad hominen attacks on a person not yet 24 hours dead? Cheap points scoring? on someone mourned by millions of people, with 70+ years of duty to a country just out of war when she came to the throne. Way to go champ.
        I thought we had a better class of commenter on this blog.

        Reply
        1. semper loquitur

          Duty? What duty exactly? What services did she render to Britain? How much help did she offer to the hungry and homeless? How much of the blood money her family stole did she return? She was a parasite. You demand she should be treated humanely yet her entire existence was predicated on dehumanizing others.

          Reply
    3. digi_owl

      The royal duty is perhaps the last remnant of manorial life.

      In that the manor lord had a duty to keep the serfs safe, and in return the serfs had a duty to tend the land.

      All this went out the window with industrialization and the corporations, where the only corporate “duty” is to pay the worker the agreed upon sum for their work and beyond that the workers are on their own.

      Reply
    4. Aumua

      Oh yeah, at least the Republicans have some idea about the monarchian principles of service, and duty unlike these Democrats who are just awful.

      Reply
      1. JTMcPhee

        “Devoir” vs. “Droits” de Seigneur: Looks to me like folks standing up for the monarchy have a bit of a hard time pointing to anything but “duty toward their famiglia and ever so slightly toward their class,” but ruthless exercise of their “Divine Rights” to first fruits and the rest.

        I’m scratching my balding head trying to come up with benefits to the ordinary people from any “modernization” that the Queen directed or imposed. Anyone?

        And what a laugh, to describe the totally anti-democratic, anti-republican British system of government as a “sort of monarchical republic.” “You will own nothing, and you will be happy.”

        Reply
  7. Arizona Slim

    During the summer of 1977, I visited family in County Cornwall. My hosts were staunch members of the Conservative Party and also were quite fond of the Queen.

    Well, then came that TV news show that included coverage of the Silver Jubilee. Seems that some parts of the British Isles weren’t too happy about this event. The show had a clip from, I think, Northern Ireland, that showed wall graffiti saying “Stuff The Jubilee.”

    Suffice it to say that Cousin Bettie and Cousin Bryan were appalled.

    Me? I couldn’t quite understand what all the fuss was about. I guess I was too much of an American to get worked up about royalty.

    And you know how we Americans are. We badmouth our leaders all the time.

    Reply
    1. Brunches with Cats

      > We badmouth our leaders all the time.

      Sadly, not all the time. And depends on who you mean by “we.” E.g., I recall that in the aftermath of 9/11, criticizing Dubya suddenly became “unpatriotic” or worse. For some, the self-censorship was a fleeting lapse in judgment; however, just as now, with public opinion firmly in the “get those evil Russkies once and for all” camp, few back then dared openly oppose taking out Saddam, and Shrub got his moment of macho glory.

      Reply ↓

      Reply
  8. Carolinian

    The Crown is a great show even if its fly on the wall premise led some to claim bits of it were fanciful. It makes these seemingly stuffy people interesting and entertaining and they should have been be flattered to be portrayed by attractive movie stars. The show takes a balanced positives and negatives view of the royals whereas the recent Diana preferred them as villains (except of course Diana).

    It’s all anthropology for us Yanks of course.

    Reply
    1. Terry Flynn

      The Crown pretty much single-handedly allowed half of twitter to know QE2 had died before it was announced. Everyone followed up links so knew “operation London Bridge”….. LOADS of randoms at Broadcasting House tweeted that all the reporters had quickly switched to black attire around 2pm BST.

      I told my parents she was dead hours before 18:30 BST when the BBC announced it. (Plus I didn’t even need knowledge of that – almost certainly unemployable now – intern who tweeted it early).

      I’m not trying to be snarky or disrespectful but British “rules” are woefully behind the times in the social media age…… Just like super injunctions are a joke.

      Reply
        1. Terry Flynn

          I never said it was bad across the board.
          in fact it was amusing seeing my fellow Brits learn of Prince William’s peccadillos when I knew it all from being half aussie and learning it all out there years ago.

          Note – what he’s into really isn’t a big deal IMHO….. It’s just funny that they didn’t realise their attempts to keep it secret were doomed

          Reply
  9. Terry Flynn

    Interesting that Charles III has made Prince William the new Prince of Wales. Aussie media reported this (INCORRECTLY) earlier. This title is NOT hereditary and is the gift of the monarch. Indeed I told friends there might be a significant chance that the position (which became vacant upon Charles’s elevation) might be left vacant until William takes the throne (to avoid a much larger version of the small independence demonstrations when Charles was given the position).

    The UK has gone for SIGNIFICANT periods with no Prince of Wales. I guessed we would enter another. Charlie has already sprung a surprise. Wonder how this will play out what with devolution?

    Reply
    1. LifelongLib

      Making William Prince of Wales and Camilla Queen Consort sure makes it look like Charles intends to push ahead as King. I guess he can abdicate later if he wants to…

      Reply
      1. Terry Flynn

        He won’t abdicate ever. His mother’s statement on this subject means it’ll be a century before abdication becomes conceivable again.

        I think he’s a placeholder…. He’s 73! I doubt anything of substance in terms of constitution will happen. We have a decade or so before we get William.

        Reply
        1. Skk

          With Charlie, Bill and Georgie porgie all in line, for the next 70 or so years,
          , As someone on Twitter said: ” it’s reigning men! “

          Reply
  10. Terry Flynn

    Am I the only one who thought that the coverage of the current and former Prime Ministers in the House of Commons showed one thing: the more recent the PM the crapper, the more stilted and less “personal” the speech?

    I never liked Theresa May but her speech was a real belter – respectful yet made everyone give a real genuine gut laugh when she recounted when she messed up and was caught by the late Queen. Classy speech.

    Reply
  11. Lex

    With no love for the British empire or the idea of monarchy, I still feel compelled to say that Elizabeth was a competent and serious person. Whether that came from her not really wanting the job and responding to it by taking it seriously or some other reason (or combination of reasons), I can’t say. But the fact remains that competent, serious people in positions of power are a rarity these days and it’s problematic.

    We may all be surprised, but Charles has never struck me as a serious or competent person. While Elizabeth’s children have carried on the ceremonial drudgery of their responsibilities, they all seem to have rebelled against more significant requirements of their privilege. We can feel bad for Charles marrying out of duty rather than love or whatever reason he has, but a man with the mettle to be king of a great empire in the modern age would have found a different way to manage an unhappy marriage. Andrew is almost a canonical definition of failson. The royal family seems to exemplify the saying that hard times create strong people, strong people create good times, good times create weak people, and weak people create hard times. Charles looks like weak people.

    Reply
    1. Terry Flynn

      Thanks. I mostly agree. She lived her early years NEVER thinking she would be monarch. Maybe that’s the “key”.

      Don’t reward people who think they deserve the leadership ;-)

      Reply
      1. norm de plume

        The best leaders are the ones that don’t want or expect to lead… eg, John Snow.

        Elizabeth’s father (the stutterer) falls into the same category. He too had no say in being born royal, did not expect the mantle himself and didn’t much want it. Both made a good fist of a difficult job.

        Former Australian PM Paul Keating, a card-carrying Labor republican of Irish stock, was vilified by the UK (and much of the Australian) press when he (innocuously, and even gallantly) put his hand on the Queen’s back at some do or other, as he introduced her to various notables, and then his wife failed to curtsey… twice! He might not be expected to harbour much warmth toward the monarch, but from all reports they got on very well indeed, and yesterday he released a statement, which said in part:

        ‘She was an exemplar of public leadership, married for a lifetime to political restraint, remaining always, the constitutional monarch’

        Reply
    2. paul

      Where was she demanded to show competence or seriousness?

      If so, how did she do it?

      Despite living in the grandest of social housing and being the greatest beneficiary of government handouts and healthcare, I have never been aware of her solidarity with those in similar but far less generous circumstances.

      Reply
      1. Lex

        Dude, I’m not a fan and have spent most of my time in reaction to her death laughing at memes. I’m most aligned with the Argentinians celebrating her death on TV and former colonial subjects expressing “good riddance and rot in hell” opinions. I didn’t say I agree with anything she did, simply that she was competent and took her role seriously. That in and of itself made her a stabilizing influence in British and world politics. It was stabilizing in a way I personally disagree with, but my disagreement doesn’t change reality. And my larger point was that the West sorely lacks any degree of seriousness or competency in leadership which is why it stands out that a formally ceremonial position has it.

        Reply
    3. digi_owl

      Well, lets not forget how Elizabeth found herself on the throne in the first place.

      Her uncle Edward abdicated in order to marry his love, resulting in her father, George, being suddenly elevated to king.

      Never mind that she herself was on her honeymoon trip when she got the news of her fathers death. And thus found herself crowned queen in her 20s!

      Reply
      1. Terry Flynn

        The Crown dramatises it well in this instance – the media knew but she didn’t….. Her PPS was desperate to track her down in Africa to tell her before some dreadful reporter found her and told her first….

        Twitter of the 1950s

        Reply
      2. Jeff W

        “…she herself was on her honeymoon trip when she got the news of her fathers death.”

        Princess Elizabeth was not on her honeymoon trip when she got the news of her father’s death. She and Philip were married in November, 1947, and went on their honeymoon just after that. Her father died in February, 1952, and the Princess and her husband were on a state visit to Kenya at that time.

        Reply
        1. Eric Blair Kagwa

          The natives were so touched by her majesty’s selflessness, sense of duty and decency that they duly launched the Mau Mau rebellion. No one got a honeymoon that year.

          Reply
      3. Fatzke

        Wait, wasn’t there the problem of Uncle’s a little TOO blatant and obvious Nazi sympathies?

        Including giving the Germans info that would have gotten someone not king shot for treason?

        Isn’t Edward on record for boasting that he would return as Fuhrer (by the grace of Hitler) if Britons didn’t want him as their king?

        Reply
  12. Alice X

    Sometime ago when the movie The King’s Speech came out, a friend prevailed upon me to go with her and see it. It came to the speech (at the outbreak of WWII), and to the part where he said something like: we will resist might makes right. I nudged my friend and said: why isn’t the audience laughing uproariously, this is a guy whose antecedents gassed, tortured and killed untold thousands of brown people in the name of Empire and might makes right?

    Crikey!

    Reply
  13. Skk

    As an incorrigible republican, very much “orf wiv their eads” brigade, over the 60 years of my life in and then association with the UK, I definitely mellowed towards her, latterly as “she’s an old woman, let her be”. Just her, mind, the rest of the scroungers can go off to celebrity land along with Harry and Meghan

    Reply
      1. Pat

        Gosh, I think of that as one of her finest moments.

        It was a question that should have been being asked by everyone in any place of power even if it was just having a podium. And it should have been answered. Her look at the garbled non response was pretty magnificent as well. Yeah nobody ever did answer it. And it was important Because regardless of her loss that debacle was pretty damn destructive to people at all economic levels.

        And also for the record nobody should have been “mellow” about it. I wonder why it bugs you so much.

        Reply
  14. Michael King

    Thank you for posting this. Canadian Republican here but I always had the greatest respect for her, not the institution of monarchy. She was a person of great integrity and her devotion to duty never flagged in 70 years. Like many, her presence was a constant for my entire life as I was a few weeks old when she was crowned. There will be a big hole this Christmas Day as I never missed her annual message. Now that she has passed, time for Canada to become a republic.

    Reply
  15. JTMcPhee

    For those who think of Britain as a “republic” or a “democracy” of any sort, here’s an article that reviews the bidding on how the string of Looter Leaders has risen to Prime Minister and other high offices and positions of influence: “ More About UK’s Dictatorship: QE-II’s Perfidy,” https://theduran.com/more-about-uks-dictatorship-qe-iis-perfidy/ Includes the Queen’s role in acting against tradition to appoint BoJo as PM even though tradition held that the PM had to represent “a majority of the House of Commons,” which he pretty clearly did not at the time. (Perfidy of elites in the Labour Party has somewhat expanded the ground held by the Looters, since then — much like the US Democrat Private Club…)

    This piece has a bit of a flavor of what gets nattered about as “conspiracy theory,” but read for yourself how it can sort of be said that the Great American Revolution against the British Rent Seeking Aristocracy has been torqued around pretty sharply.

    These are Not Nice People, up and down the flag pole…

    Reply
  16. skippy

    Some ponder too understand the claim to authority by the remnants of the RCC holy families is based on linage to the son of the creator, not that most were pagan heraldic war lords prior, and switched belief systems because of political ramifications and not fervent belief. You see as a pagan the environment was lord over all, of which humans lived in, the sky and terra were filled with gods which had to be respected or humans would suffer.

    Then came the singularity from the eastern cradle of life post the last ice age, a rewarming of Sumerian mythos [actually older] which peculated not only in antiquarian Judea, but down to Egypt and even further south. This is why some like Hudson has taken the effort to examine the bedrock of so much laws that now shape our reality, but yet most can’t remember or have no idea of their fathers face.

    Anywho the point is these pagan heraldic war lords switched spirituality just on the premise that it made them, secured them, authority in perpetuity till the end of time, because they were direct descendants of the creators son aka my word is law.

    All that said I’ll give you this … as a human being born onto her life Elizabeth did better than most and had a keen sense of duty and in her role, she had no choice in, largely stayed out of politics, but attempted to be a steady moral example for her people, then kids got in the way. At least she had the balls to rock up to the London stock exchange post GFC and ask how no one saw the writing on the wall, heck back in the day heads would roll, can’t say I don’t completly disagree with that prospect because in might focus some minds about the greater good or social responsibilities that come with the advantage of position over others.

    Skippy … any more dishevelment and I’ll go pop …

    Yves .. Roxy Music – Avalon – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpA_5a0miWk&list=RDMM&index=17

    My pick for a Jackpot back track …

    Reply
  17. Savita

    Eric Blair Kagwa I appreciate your comments. I suspect none of us have any idea the depth of toxicity and dysfunction that exists behind the gloss of that family.
    Australian here. This article is far below the standard I’ve come to appreciate from NC. A quick overview of some highlights pertinent to the public eye, fair enough, but fawning and more suitable for a celebrity magazine. So, we are supposed to think the Queen was a nice person? Ask Diana how she might have felt about that. Direct comments in interviews point other wise.
    ( I’ve read some very well researched books by journalists, with the credible hypothesis that not only was Diana murdered by M15 but with the approval and support of the royals family. But that’s veering off topic)

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      As you should hopefully know by now, we put up articles to foster discussion, not necessarily because we endorse or agree with them.

      And as for Diana, since when do wives get on with their mothers in law? Quite honestly, as much as I’m not into royalty, as I made clear in the intro, the family dynamics strike me as unimportant. I’m not at all wild about Elizabeth, because the British monarchy is a weird hypertropied anachronism, but if she got on well with and kept staff, that’s all the nice she had to be to do her job.

      Reply
  18. Savita

    Terry Flynn

    You’re saying what Andrew was ‘ into’ wasn’t such a big deal in your humble opinion? Can you clarify what you mean.
    Also interested, what did you learn in Australia years ago about Andrew?

    As for the Prince of Wales. Well Welsh friends tell me Charles was held with scorn and contempt. Because that public identity was thrust upon the country, and they didn’t ask for it. ‘He’s not *our* Prince’ the Welsh say. There was a bit more complexity to this scenario, I think to do with land that he acquired and possibly also renamed, that formerly had significance to the native Welsh. Of course adding further to the disdain for the man. This is just what was described to me directly by a native, I’m sorry I can’t recall more specifics.

    Reply
  19. Old Sovietologist

    Thanks for posting Yves.

    I have to confess I have known Sean for a number of years and he’s an excellent academic. I’m biased of course but I think its the best piece I have seen written on the subject over the last couple of days.

    Reply
  20. PaulArt

    Regarding the ‘Royal Duties’, do we care about the work the wives of our Plutocrats engage in on their charitable boards? Aren’t they all engaged in several charities? I used to be an Anglophile once. Wodehouse was my favorite author. Now when I look back, my anglophile-ism seems silly and naive – even after I had read ‘Freedom at Midnight – Larry Collins, Dominique La Pierre’ twice. The utter greed of the British monarchy took some time to sink in as my hair acquired silver over the years. Forgive me for using strong words but I despise the ‘Royal’ family, hell I despise ‘Royals’ anywhere. To me, they represent the ever living proof the despicable side of human nature – the propensity to enslave others to one’s own benefit in God’s (or Darwin’s) earth.

    Reply
  21. Valerie from Australia

    Give it a rest! All this Queen Bashing is beneath the Commentariat. How spiteful can you be? The woman was given a role – and she managed it the best she knew how. Sure, she was privileged and rich by our standards, but she spent her life between a rock and a hard place. From what I have read, the only thing she did wrong was allow tax havens – which is, of course, wrong – but honestly, to rejoice over the death of a woman who did her best is just mean-spirited.

    Reply

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