The Queen's Platinum Jubilee evokes mixed feelingsPIXABAY

The shadowy parts of our national history are difficult to ignore this weekend. The Queen’s 70-year reign over the UK and the Commonwealth is quite remarkable. I’m not unsympathetic; it must suck to be stuck in the same dead-end job for seventy years with no hope of promotion. But regardless of the salary and job security, her ability to preside over the devastation effected by the UK across the planet, with no expectation of owning up to her involvement, is staggering. 70 years is a long, long time to do anything. Surely it would be an agonisingly long time to feel guilt and not say sorry?

Perhaps the Queen is not to blame, after all, she’s just a figurehead. But do we really feel like an immensely wealthy and superfluous exemplar of nepotism is the figurehead we want to have? The monarchy is inseparable from the empire in the eyes of so much of the world, and it is getting harder and harder to pretend that it still has a place in our global society. This can clearly be seen in the reception of royals nowadays. The widespread protests and calls for reparations spurred by William and Kate’s visit to the Caribbean just a few months ago contrasts sharply with the Queen’s inaugural tour of the Commonwealth 70 years ago. I needn’t remind you that the call of the Bahamas government for “a full and formal apology for their crimes against humanity” has been ignored by the Palace.

“Coming to terms with our history does not mean feeling shame for it”

I believe that it is neither constructive nor logical to be ashamed of crimes committed before our births, but it most definitely is shameful to continue glorifying those responsible. Even more so by turning a blind eye to the continuing effects imperialism has on its victims, whether this is psychologically, emotionally, or economically.

Coming to terms with our history does not mean feeling shame for it. I know this perhaps more than most; I come from a long line of colonialists. At the very same time that my ancestor was commander-in-chief of the British Army in India, my boyfriend’s ancestors were plantation workers in Kerala. The irony is not lost on us.

It isn’t only the younger generations who are outraged by the abuses of power of those before us. The necessity to hold the powerful to account for their words and actions has never felt more vital. Yet, it is the trademark trait of our Queen to maintain a dignified, unflinching silence. There was a time when this was the correct response, when to do otherwise would impinge upon the freedom of the elected government and inappropriately influence the public. But silence is no longer appropriate.

“In this country, the elevation of one family above the rest of us has helped to deeply ingrain classism”

There is nothing dignified about pretending that the Bengal famine was not our fault. There is nothing dignified about ignoring the centuries-long occupation of the Caribbean. Dignity needs to be replaced with humility. Even if the monarch does not have the autonomy to make reparations to all the nations of the erstwhile empire, an apology would be nice. An acknowledgement of the harm that has been perpetrated in her name would be a start.


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The damage caused by the empire continues today, from internalised racism and white-dominated media to economic turmoil and dependence on foreign aid due to destruction of manufacturing and trade systems. And in this country, the elevation of one family above the rest of us has helped to deeply ingrain classism. This may be due more to the sycophantic hero-worship of the tabloids than the fault of the royals themselves, but the perpetuation of our exclusionary class system can only be damaging.

The lack of respect shown for the people of the empire by those in power has been stitched into our national consciousness and is replicated in the way our politics and media treat ‘our own’ poor and vulnerable. At a time when the cost-of-living crisis has reached a genuinely terrifying level, it feels wildly inappropriate to be celebrating the career of one of the wealthiest people in the country. Maybe it is time to rethink not only the adulation, but the public spending as well.

This weekend, it is a little embarrassing to be presenting an image of the nation waving flags and eating cake, while the government’s vicious new immigrant relocation plan has been ignored, the Good Friday agreement has been torn up and burnt, and more and more Brits are now living in poverty.

We don’t have to feel guilty, but it’s hard to feel proud right now. Instead of using her wide-reaching voice to heal the wounds of the past, the Queen continues to choose silence. Instead of stepping down and allowing progress into the future, we remain clinging to the memory of the days when Britain ruled the waves.