I found this interesting this morning. I had just completed reading a history of Europe an Britain during the 17th and 18th centuries, when monarchs were most often the cause and instigators of war and conquest. This essay, in brief, fills in some of the history of the 19th and 20th century Britain. I’m sure others on here have more in depth knowledge.
Robin Artisson (www.robinartisson.com)
Jesus F Christ on a Bicycle. The English Monarchy was dissolved in 1649 with the actual beheading of the King. After a brief and volatile time, the monarchy was restored in 1660- only to fall again (and for the final time) in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
After that, and ever since then, it hasn't been monarchs primarily calling any shots in England or Britain; it has been powerful oligarchs and political ministers. From 1688 till now, the social and political influence of the monarchy was waning, until they became what they are now: almost pure figureheads.
In 1600, a corporation was formed in England called The East India Company. In the years between 1600 and 1874, it became one of the first truly massively powerful international corporations. At its height, it commanded more naval and military forces than the actual English government. It's influence spanned the globe.
It was the East India Company (and other, lesser companies) and a wide network of English (and later Britain-wide) oligarchs and politicians who, stirring with the energy of the newly-born movement of Capitalism, decided to monetize the colonies in the New World, and accelerate the co-opting of Africa, the colonization of India, and who decided to go after "all the tea in China."
This is how Capital Evil hides itself: in ranks of faceless ministers and powerful, rich families. And all of these men who, for the last 400 years, were actually responsible for the colonialist and imperialistic evils coming out of England are thanking everyone today who decided to blame all their evil on the old English grandma-queen who just died.
No, Elizabeth II did not "colonize" anywhere. No, she never declared war on any nation (the last Monarch to do that was her father, who declared war on Nazi Germany). Even if English monarchs declare war, they cannot actually wage war; Prime Ministers and other politicians and officers alone can do that. The monarchical power of declaring war is nothing but ceremony.
No one ever said that the Windsor family was the nicest family ever. To be fair, they aren't really Windsors; they belong to the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha family; they changed their name to "Windsor" because let's face it: "Windsor" sounds like people who like high tea and are well-mannered; Saxe-Coburg and Gotha sound like people who impale their political enemies on rusty spikes over breakfast.
Also, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha sounds as German as bratwurst, and that's not a cool name to have when all the young men in your country are dying fighting the Germans in WWI.
Either way, no one said they were the greatest family ever, but Elizabeth didn't choose what family she was born into. She came rather late in history and did (I believe) the best she could balancing the forces of tradition, history, and the demands of culture, society, and family. She cultivated a kind of pro-social neutrality for her people, realizing as she did that she was the ceremonial and symbolic Queen for all her (ceremonial) subjects.
How can any of us know if we would have done any better, had we been in her place? One thing is certain: Elizabeth could not reverse the power of 400 years of predatory corporate capitalism. Her family cannot reverse that, even if they somehow wanted to. There are historical forces here operating that are much larger than any one rich family, even the family that has the (dubious?) honor of being the figurehead royal family.
I write these things for my friends outside of the UK who might not be so aware of the history. A lot of people seem intent on pinning the last 400 years of colonial evil on Queen Elizabeth, or on her son (now king) Charles. I don't think this is coherent or historically supportable. Your enemy- the thing that actually colonized or murdered people, or exploited people- is Capitalism.
And Capital is not one family, or even a collection of families; it is a terrible evil that disperses itself into every corner of life. It is primarily a very large international group of rich families and heads of corporations, yes- but it's much more than that, too.
Perhaps being blamed for centuries of evil that there's no way a person could have done anything about (or reversed) is one of the risks that comes with becoming a head of state or a figurehead. In the United States, we ignore the actual power brokers of Capital and blame everything on the President, who is actually quite limited in his own power to affect much systemic change. Perhaps this is just human; we want a face and a name to hate and blame.
Taking shelter in such simplistic tactics will not heal us or help to fix any problems in the world. Emotions run high (and I believe that humans are primarily emotional creatures, more than anything else) but a point comes when we must temporarily stop indulging in such things and become more strategic about how we consider and work against the real evils in the world. If we care about actual justice or peace, I mean.
So, damn. No, the Queen didn't sail over to the New World and preside over massacres, and neither did her family, which didn't even come into power in England until 1901. No, she didn't sit around sipping blood and laughing in some approving way about the evils of the British Empire. She actually presided (again as a figurehead) over the dissolution of England's overseas empire.
I'm sure she wasn't some portrait of "progressivism" as it is known today, but it is beyond any charitable or reasonable appraisal to imagine she was the genocide-loving reptile that half my feed seems to think she was. She was a woman of her times, and we are all people of our times, even though most of us are too arrogant or short-sighted to see it.
In centuries when we are dust, people of the future will not look kindly on many of the things we thought were so normal or even good. So, if you believe in an afterlife, brace yourselves.
I have been very public about not liking rich and obscenely wealthy families, because they're entirely unlikeable. And I don't give the Queen's family any special pass just because of who they are; but let's separate the sharks from the guppies, when we can. And read more history: the key to everything is there.
I think that one of the underestimated actual achievements of her Majesty the Queen (to give her her full title) was her tireless work promoting the commonwealth. Often looked at as the biggest ex-wives club in the world. it is far more than that.
The Queen did not make the empire but she did preside over much of its dissolution. Not in any governing part but as its standard bearer. As such, the commonwealth will be her legacy. The sense of duty that she brought to the head of the commonwealth will be hard to equal.
Diplomacy is a job that you don't know it's been done at all if it's done well. The extra avenue for dialogue and closer ties is not to be sniffed at.