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Queen Elizabeth, A Colonial Demise in the Decolonial Era

Queen Elizabeth II, the monarch of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realm, passed away yesterday on the 8th of September 2022, at 18:30 BST.

Why am I writing about this when her life or death means nothing to me? And my studies of post-colonialism and decoloniality have trained me to understand the implication of the various dynasties in Europe and their contribution to global despair.

My first thought when I found out about her demise was that this was not the mere end of a century but the end of an era. She was ninety-six years old and ruled for 70 years. However, people are naive and ignorant to say that we don’t care or should not bother. It is for the simple reason that the political developments in an economically developed country create a ripple effect worldwide.

Sir Maulvi Rafiuddin Ahmad- Queen Victoria’s special envoy to Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II.

I distinctly remember how people in India discussed the US elections in 2017. Some did ask why we are even interested in it. Some were interested because it is cool, while others looked into the possible consequences of Trump’s victory.

Even as a postcolonial subject, we cannot divorce ourselves from the events in England due to political, economic, and cultural reasons. The world that had seen King George VI is almost dead. The past few generations have seen Queen Elizabeth II and her family. We have witnessed her children being born and married and then their children.

The global population has been fed with the image of an entity larger than life that is so realistic that its existence is inevitable. Whatever happens to them is known globally, so how can people not be expected to give a reaction or feel anything at her death?

Photograph by: Cecil Beaton; 1953. Official portrait of the royal coronation
Photograph by: Cecil Beaton; 1953. Official portrait of the royal coronation

It is not what people feel about her, for the royal family faces criticism and opposition for valid reasons. It is about what she stands for. She was a living symbol of the colonial era and the culture it has created, which cannot be ignored in post-colonialism debates and has not yet been erased by decoloniality.

Her legacy is indeed controversial. Her empire is given credit for being responsible for extracting trillions of dollars from its colonies, profiting from the transatlantic slave trade, building concentration camps in Kenya, and preserving racism within the palace walls, such as the prohibition of colored immigrants from working in the palace and the royal family’s sordid connections with sex trafficking rings in the more recent years.

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The controversial knighthood of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Israeli President late Shimon Peres by Queen Elizabeth II has sparked debate among critics and supporters. On the 20th of November, 2008, the Queen knighted Israel’s ninth president, late Shimon Peres, who then ran for prime minister and ordered the massacre of Palestinians in a refugee camp in Qana, South Lebanon, claiming the lives of 106 people, half of whom were children.

Currently, the monarchy’s supposedly more free-thinking diplomatic and philanthropic relationship with the Commonwealth facilitates a soft hegemony of British Imperialism, whereby Britain can extract resources from postcolonial nations on hugely favorable economic terms.

Decoloniality is a long journey, and being elitist about a particular public reaction to Her Majesty’s death for their lack of understanding of global affairs reflects unawareness of people’s lived experiences.

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Khadiza Naufa Fatin

Khadiza Naufa Fatin is a History graduate from Jamia Millia Islamia and is currently pursuing her Master's from University of Delhi. She is also part of The Madrasa Discourses project, developed at Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs USA, under its Contending Modernities Program.