By Ziena El-Gewely
On September 8th, 2022, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom passed peacefully. After a 70-year-long reign, many across the states in the Commonwealth mourned Her Majesty's death. For some, Queen Elizabeth was a strong political figure who entered the political landscape when it was still uncommon for women to be taken seriously in legislative discussions. However, for the majority of the world, the Queen symbolized a long history of colonialism. Throughout her lifetime, the place of the monarchy has been questioned. Now, after her death, her legacy will face the same scrutiny.
Queen Elizabeth was never meant to rule, and neither was her father, but when King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in favour of marrying divorcee Wallace Simpson, he was forced to become King George VI. The new family took this unexpected transition with grace and honour. Elizabeth and her younger sister, Margaret, were charming and garnered national recognition and appreciation. During World War II, Elizabeth took on responsibilities to improve morale, and towards the end of the war, Elizabeth and Margaret joined their nation in the fight as well. The royals had a reputation for their down-to-earth and loyal nature, refusing to send the royal princesses to safety in Canada. Throughout the reign of King George VI, many colonies of the United Kingdom declared independence. King George VI took this transition again with grace, solidifying the image of a reasonable and pleasant ruler.
After the unexpected loss of King George VI in 1952, Elizabeth was sworn in as Queen Elizabeth II. At the beginning of her reign, she was quite popular. Like her namesake, Queen Elizabeth I, she was doubted by the public and many figures in British politics simply due to her gender. At the time of her ascension, women had rarely been so prominent in politics, and thus her position as Queen helped solidify women's roles in positions of power. Elizabeth's reign saw the first woman prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, and also the second wave of feminism, where women began to enter the workforce. The longevity of her reign made the Queen a hallmark of British identity for many years. She was the second longest reigning monarch of all time, and much of the world struggles to remember a time when she wasn’t Queen. Her death was certainly the end of an era.
However, the reign of Queen Elizabeth II was never completely positive. Globally, she was viewed as the face of colonialism. Despite the fact, much of the British Empire had declared independence by her ascension. Her place as monarch inescapably tied her to a long, dark past of colonialism. The British had colonized and pillaged much of the world, and although many former colonies were independent, many of the horrors they faced attributed to the British Empire were never recognized, apologized for, or even had reparations sent. The Queen continued to wear stolen jewels long after the independence of India from the British. The Queen faced scrutiny at home, as well. Her warm and thoughtful personality was often perceived as cold and avoidant after a number of incidents in her later years which garnered little reaction. For example, a Welsh mining disaster in 1966, Aberfan, killed an entire generation of school children. The Queen avoided visiting, supposedly in fear of distracting from the devastation of Aberfan. However, many took her silence as disrespectful; she later referred to this as one of her greatest regrets of her reign. Arguably the most notable controversy the Queen faced was in regards to her daughter-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales. It took nearly a week for her to make a statement addressing the tragedy.
Queen Elizabeth II experienced a long and rocky reign. One thing is for certain, though, her son, King Charles III will not be as well-liked as she was. His public adultery and subsequent divorce from beloved “Peoples Princess” has left a sour taste in many mouths. His reputation has been permanently tarnished from this incident. Even outside of this, though, it is clear that the death of the Queen was seen as the end of an era for many who may have been rethinking the monarchies' place in society today.