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By David Bachelor, PhD
It has not happened in 70 years, so the death of the British monarch was a newsworthy event. Every aspect of Queen Elizabeth II’s final days were commented on by the British press and the media of the international community. Within hours of her passing, the focus of many articles considered whether there should be two funerals in Westminster Abbey: One for Queen Elizabeth; and the other for British monarchy. The headlines on this topic provide much material for reflection.
On September 8th, the day Queen Elizabeth died, the New York Times had an opinion piece entitled, “Queen Elizabeth Embodied the Myth of the Good Monarch.” The article contrasted the queen’s faithfulness to the vow to serve her country she made as a 21-year old, with the peccadilloes of the other members of her family. The author put to his readers, “…the question of whether anyone else can ever again share Queen Elizabeth’s innate appreciation of the mystique of the monarch, her natural royal dignity.”
The same day, The Smithsonian’s headline was, “Elizabeth II Was an Enduring Emblem of the Waning British Empire.” The article provided a timeline of key points in Elizabeth’s life along with events in the empire. The author acknowledged the close ties between the queen and the Smithsonian. This familiarity did not hinder the magazine from stating, “At its apex just a few years before Elizabeth’s birth, the British Empire claimed roughly a quarter of all land on Earth.. . [M]embers of the royal family enriched themselves through the enslavement of African and Indigenous people and the appropriation and exploitation of colonies’ resources.”
On Saturday Al Jazeera had the headline, “Queen Elizabeth Seemed Sweet, the Monarchy Isn’t.” After a few polite remarks on Queen Elizabeth’s determination to serve even as her body failed her, the author switched to the second part of his headline. The article claimed it was, “an egregious mistake to avoid acknowledging that the imperial institution Queen Elizabeth II led has caused indelible harm and suffering to so many people, in so many places.” King Charles III was censored for his insipid acknowledgement of the empire’s past sins, but the real poster child of royal misbehavior was Prince Andrew. Reminding readers that Andrew was stripped of his official titles and duties because of his involvement in Jeffrey Epstein’s child sex operation, “Prince Andrew . . . exposed every odious aspect of the royal family: entitlement, impunity, and the smug satisfaction of knowing that deference will always be paid to blue-bloods.” The article suggests Barbados’ exit from the Commonwealth as the cure to the House of Windsor: “[T]he wise people of Barbados are testament to the power of good sense and imagination.”
The Bible offers a warning about monarchy. When the people of Israel wanted a king (instead of a prophet) the prophet Samuel delivered to them a message from God. “Samuel said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses. Some he will assign as military officers. Other children from your families will plow the king’s ground and reap his crops. Still others will make weapons of war and military equipment. The king will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of what you have and give it to his cronies.. . You yourselves will become his slaves” (1 Sam 8:11-17). The warning did no good. The people insisted God place a king over them and everything predicted came to pass.
The Declaration of Independence listed the many excesses of the British monarchy upon the colonies. Yet, there were military officers who felt George Washington should be king. The proposal had no attraction for Washington or the new republic. Since the election of 2020, some media sources believe there is a new movement in America to install a “king” (though this will not be the title for the autocrat). To such sympathies let us remember what God told the Israelites, “When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day” (1 Sam 8:18). Lightning never strikes twice and there will never be another queen like Elizabeth.