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How did the Queen’s death spark debates about colonialism and imperialism?

Alycia considers how the death of Queen Elizabeth II sparked a newfound focus on the actions of the British Empire…

At the time of the Queen’s death, social media became divisive. Many wanted to pay their respects to the Queen and mourn her loss, while many others felt that her death brought a time for reflection on the British Empire.

Some were angry stating that the Queen had overseen colonialism and imperialism. Colonialism is defined as ‘the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with setters and exploiting it economically’. Imperialism is defined as ‘a policy of extending a country’s power and influence through colonisation, use of military force, or other means’.

Reporters considered Britain’s ‘legacy’ as the Queen had became a symbol of the British Empire which had used violence and exploited people to survive. Others considered the idea of the commonwealth – seen by many as the most clear link to Britain’s past. This became tied up with debates surrounding Meghan Markle and how she had such potential to bring a new era to the commonwealth – a possibility which quickly came to an unreasonable end.

'the Queen had became a symbol of the British Empire'

The death of Queen Elizabeth had a global reaction with these debates coming to light across the world. People were astounded that during her long reign as Queen, she never acknowledged the actions of the British Empire despite the atrocities being common knowledge. Through analysing the responses of different age demographics to the Queen’s death, it became clear that much of the older generations who had grown up with Queen Elizabeth did not see her death as linked to these debates. While the younger generations showed a high level of engagement, inherently connecting the monarch to decades of unacceptable events.

'Many saw the time as too sensitive to discuss Britain’s haunting past'

The question is, did this lead to any change? Despite a renewed discourse on this topic through the means of social media and a few subsequent articles, it largely did not gain attention in the mass media. Many saw the time as too sensitive to discuss Britain’s haunting past and some were criticised for being disrespectful to a largely well regarded and highly treasured monarch who has provided years of devotion to her country. Having complicated feelings about a monarch who was involved in colonialism and imperialism but who was also a figure of stability and patriotism for many is okay… as long as you recognise the dual elements of her leadership.

Going forward, many are hoping that the monarchy will recognise its past and seek to educate and be open about its history.


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