Last Thursday, Queen Elizabeth II died and the flags in our university’s quad were lowered to half-mast. With her, the Elizabethan age comes to a close, and with it also come very different responses to the life and work of the late monarch.
For example, the Nova Scotia provincial government, to its stupefying shame, joined the federal government’s response by declaring that next Monday, September 19, will be a provincial holiday, or day of mourning.
Though we all know that the Queen and the office that she bore were, no doubt, an inflammatory and controversy laden topic, some people were surprised and expressed disappointment at the fact that, instead of grief and inconsolation, the death of the Queen was met by many with defiance and humor.
Some people are taken aback by this lack of feudal veneration, or even respect, at the death of the Queen and have made a point of arguing that the event should not be politicized. They underline the idea that the funeral rites deserve our solemn deference by virtue of the Queen having been a mother, a grandmother, and a great grandmother.
By all means, the Windsor family is welcome to mourn their beloved member. However, the Queen was not just a mother, or even a person, to her subjects. She was dehumanized by her office. What some people fail to understand, though, is that she was not the victim of this nasty case of aesthetic casuistry, but a perpetrator of it.
It troubles me not at all to say that Queen Elizabeth was an impressive and serious human being, but she insisted on being monarch and on being treated as such. In desiring to become more than human, Elizabeth Windsor – and, as far as I’m concerned, all monarchs – surrender their humanity. If you insist on being a symbol in life, you will be treated as such after you die. As a symbol, she represented the oppression of peoples, the erasure of languages, and the economic and political deprivation of many of her subjects. For that, she deserves our contempt.
Had it not been for the harm committed during her queenship by her government and the nation she insisted on embodying and had her reign been entirely benign, she would still have to answer to the charge of monarchy itself.
The very idea of a monarch is insulting to human dignity and intellect. The face of the monarch in your currency is a reminder of boorish national pride, as it is a reminder of your humiliation and symbolic submission to an unexceptional and complacent family. This family, who would have you believe in the meek and mild disposition of their service, nevertheless are usurpers and charlatans by virtue of their office and their title.
Of course, everyone knows the monarchy has no actual power. Here, in Canada, a subject’s submission is, in a sense, voluntary. If you wanted to, you could get rid of the monarchical system. It can be done. Yet, both this country and the United Kingdom maintain that the royal family must be held hostage to a future of grim and useless service, and that you, their subjects, must remain appropriately patronized.
The house of Windsor is a lamentable remnant of the feudal, the colonial, and of empire. Elizabeth Windsor was the vestigial limb of an unfortunate series of at best deluded, and at worst malicious, human beings who were indistinguishable from us and whose cardinal sin against their countries was pretending they were anything more than that.
I believe that in politics the means are the same as the ends and that by employing questionable means to achieve a noble aim, we taint the end and render it corrupt. Which means that even if the Queen wished to serve her country, she did so in a frivolous and unprincipled way. By opposing the provincial holiday, and monarchy at large, our generation can take a step towards making Canada’s means what we already pretend to be her ends.