She’s met 13 of the last 14 U.S. presidents, her face has graced the currency of 33 different countries, and she’s been the subject of countless movies and TV shows, including Netflix’s Emmy-winning series “The Crown.” The late Queen Elizabeth II is arguably the most recognizable modern figurehead in the world, and even in death she has all eyes on her.
Yet as much as the Queen’s death cast a shadow of loneliness over the world amid all the “pomp and circumstance” that followed her sudden passing last Thursday and the outpouring of mourning from international leaders to everyday passers-by, it also shone a spotlight on England’s not-so-distant colonial rule.
Many took to social media after the Queen’s death to criticize Queen Elizabeth and the British Monarchy for contributing to oppression and colonialism that continue to leave lasting effects today. Those in Ireland, Asia and African countries, including those still part of the Commonwealth – a political association of nations, most of which are former British colonies – still pledge allegiance to the British monarchy.
A Twitter user replied at the Queen’s death with screenshots from the popular sitcom ‘Derry Girls,’ set during The Troubles, a 30-year conflict over British rule over Northern Ireland that has lasted from the end from the 1960s to 1998.
“If your spell had ceased to invade us for five fucking minutes, there would be a lot less to go through. You English pr*ck”, one of the characters of his English cousin in the sitcom said.
Likewise, videos of Irish to celebrate the monarch’s death has gone viral. One in particular shows a stadium psalmody “Lizzy is in a box.” In another TikTok that has had 6.7 million views, an Irish band dances to “Another One Bites the Dust” outside Buckingham Palace.
The celebratory tweets and ridicule demonstrate a historically based resentment towards British rule among many Irish people. Although England’s invasion of Ireland dates back nearly eight centuries, the monarchy’s determination to conquer and subjugate the nation fueled civil war, religious and political division, population loss and famine. To this day, the island is divided into the Republic of Ireland, a sovereign nation, and Northern Ireland, a region of the United Kingdom.
After the Queen’s death, people in countries that were once English colonies also called for the return of precious jewelry and other artifacts that had been taken from their homelands during England’s rule.
“Nations, everyone in England is distracted”, a user tweeted. “Now is the perfect time to collect your belongings from the British Museum.”
Twitter users in India and Africa have called on England to return some of their crown jewels, such as the Indian Koh-i-noor diamond and the Great Star of Africa, reminding the public of their colonial acquisition. Britain acquired the Koh-i-noor diamond, valued at around $400 million, through the Treaty of Lahore.
Another Twitter user reference Killmonger from Marvel’s Black Panther, who used African artifacts from the Museum of Britain in the film.
“How do you think your ancestors got them?” says the character in the film. “Do you think they paid full price for this?” Or did they take them like they took everything else? »
People have been asking England to repay ex-colonies and nations that have been hit by British imperialism as recently as this spring. Countries including Jamaica, Belize and the Bahamas have sought reparations for descendants of slaves under British colonialism as Prince William and Kate, Princess of Wales toured the nations in March.
“We are united in condemning the savagery of Britain in the enslavement of our ancestors, the gross indecency of colonial exploitation, the brutality of its enforcers and the lasting legacy of impoverishment and the ideologies of colonial era that have damaged and continue to damage our people, our society and our economy,” said a joint statement from the Tri-Nation Coalition following the visits of the Prince and Princess.
Many note that during the Queen’s 70-year reign, British-ruled countries like Kenya were actively dissuaded from declaring independence as revolutionaries were tortured, forced into concentration camps and killed, along with newly independent countries like Nigeria still under British influence.
A Twitter user replied to a video of a Kenyan woman seeking redress from the Queen in June for being tortured by British troops during Kenya’s struggle for independence.
“Remember that Queen Elizabeth is not a holdover from colonial times,” the tweet read. “She actively participated in colonialism. She actively tried to stop independence movements and she tried to prevent newly independent colonies from leaving the Commonwealth. The harm she did was enough.
Arguably the most striking and viral tweet after the Queen’s death comes from an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon, who references the monarchy carrying out genocide and rape.
“I heard that the chief monarch of a genocidal, thief and rapist empire is finally dying,” said Uju Anya, who is of Nigerian and Trinidadian descent. “May his pain be excruciating.”
The tweet drew a strong reaction from many people, including Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos — and has since been taken down for violating Twitter’s violence guidelines.
In light of the controversy, all reactions to the Queen’s death – whether one of grief, indifference, respect, comedy, celebration or conviction – have undoubtedly attracted more than one passing attention. They offered insight into all aspects of Her Majesty’s complicated legacy and the past of the monarchy itself.
“Black and brown people around the world who were subjected to horrific cruelty and economic deprivation under British colonialism are allowed to have feelings about Queen Elizabeth,” said Washington Post columnist Karen Attyah. said in a tweet. “After all, they were also his ‘subjects’.”