September 29, 2022
Motorcades. Marmalade sandwiches. Teddy bears. Boeing C-17s. The world’s grieving of the longest reigning monarch appears to have no bounds.
On September eighth, the royal family released a statement conveying that Queen Elizabeth II had died peacefully at the age of 96. Soon after her death, world leaders rushed to proclaim their respect and admiration for her. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, proclaimed September 19th (the day of the Queen’s funeral) a federal holiday and delivered an emotional speech calling her, “one of my favourite people in the world.” President Joe Biden said that, “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was more than a monarch. She defined an era.”
Biden’s statement rings especially true. Queen Elizabeth II reigned during the post-World War II period, the fall of the Berlin wall, during Margaret Thatcher’s years as the first female Prime Minister, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and when the Civil Rights Act was passed. The Queen saw the moon landing, the effects of the Chernobyl disaster, the end of Apartheid and the rise of Nelson Mandela as the first Black South African president, the inauguration of Barack Obama as the first Black American president, Princess Diana’s death, 9/11, Brexit, the COVID pandemic and the death of her husband, Prince Phillip. As Micah Rao, a junior at Atholton, phrased it, “I think it [Queen Elizabeth’s death] is really sad, but also kind of crazy to think she lived through so many different events.”
Following her death on the eighth, the United Kingdom began a 12 day period of mourning. On September 9, the day after she died, the Accession Council met to proclaim Charles Winsdor III as King. It was strictly a formality, as the crown is automatically passed down following the death of any monarch. On the tenth, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish parliaments made similar announcements recognizing Charles’ legitimacy. On September 15th, the Queen was flown from Edinburgh, Scotland to Westminster on a Boeing Globemaster (C-17). She laid in state until the funeral on the 19th.
During this period of mourning, grievers in London left marmalade sandwiches and teddy bears at various memorial sites, honoring the Queen’s scene in the movie Paddington Bear. Eventually, the Royal Parks Service asked mourners to stop leaving marmalade sandwiches because of their negative impact on the environment. Grievers also left flowers outside Buckingham Palace and English consulates in honor of the late Queen. American flags have been flown at half staff. The Eiffel Tower turned off its lights at midnight on September eighth. The Sydney Opera House lit their sails, and the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil was illuminated using red, white, and blue.
Others, however, have mixed feelings on the Queen’s death. The Queen’s reign oversaw the end of colonialism when over 55 countries gained independence from the British government. Many still see the monarchy’s role as anti-democratic and historically exploitative of Commonwealth countries. The Royal family famously stole the Koh-i-Noor diamond from India. Lucy Worsley, the chief curator of Historic Royal Palaces, traced the roots of the Royal family’s properties and wealth back to slavery, stating that their various properties all have an, “element of money derived from slavery.” Anti-monocracy protesters also cite the family’s notorious 0% inheritance tax rate compared to the public’s 40% tax rate. Protesters also cite the royal family’s infamous wealth as the Queen alone had an estimated net worth of $426 million. Anti-royal protesters have been arrested for broad charges like, “disturbing the peace,” and many local civil rights activists are speaking out against what they perceive to be a violation of civil liberties. Kalina Cochran, a junior at Atholton, summarized some of the anti-monocracy feelings, stating, “I don’t love to see anyone dead, but the royal family doesn’t do anything but suck up resources. It’s a remnant from Britain’s past and a constant reminder of all the atrocities the Brits committed in pursuit of power.”
The memorial service itself required a significant amount of resources. The funeral was estimated at a cost of 10 million pounds. 142 Royal Navy sailors pulled the Queen’s coffin in a 123 year old gun carriage last used for the funeral of her father, King George VI, from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. Members of the Royal Family followed closely behind while members of the Royal Air Force, the Gurkhas (Nepalese soldiers who joined the British Army), Scottish and Irish regiments and the Royal Marines Band led the proceedings. Dean of Westminster David Hoyle conducted the memorial service, which was followed by a two-minute moment of silence in honor of the Queen. The Queen’s bagpipe player performed the national anthem and a lament to end the service.
Royal Canadian Mountain Police then joined the proceedings, helping to transport the Queen’s coffin to Wellington Arch. From Wellington Arch, the Queen’s coffin was placed in a hearse and moved to Winsdor castle. The Queen’s burial took place at King George VI’s memorial palace. The Crown Jeweller then separated her specter and her orb from the crown. After the last hymn was sung, King Charles III placed the Grenadier Guard (the British ceremonial guard famous for their bearskin hats) around her coffin. The funeral ended as her coffin was lowered into the ground and her piper played a blessing and God Save the King.
The Queen remains in her followers’ hearts, and at the forefront of 20th and 21st-century history with all the nuances that come with the throne. She offers a lesson in grace, cooperation, and diplomacy, but also a reminder of the colonialism the British throne stood for. She was, to quote what James Baldwin said about himself, “what time, circumstance, history made of me, certainly, but I am so much more than that. So are we all.”