The Queen. Smokes & Mirrors.
I had every intention of writing a scathing review of both the queen’s reign over the last seventy years, and what is to follow for the future of the British monarchy. But over the past days, I’ve softened toward the queen herself but hardened toward the institution and the media following it.
How could people champion her as a great leader and a feminist when her biggest claim to fame is that no one knew her opinion on anything of substance for seventy years? Her entire career was based on form, not substance, I thought angrily as I watched it all unfold.
Then I heard a speech she gave for what reason I don’t know:
Never give up; never despair. When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat. Instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future. For it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change.
OK, I hear in it Winston Churchill’s famous, never, never, never give up, and, of course, the also famous Theodore Roosevelt quote about the importance of being in the arena rather than on the sidelines. Then I watched it on YouTube. It was her wooden delivery, without any visible empathy or passion, that made me sad, not angry anymore, and I had a sudden realization. She, like so many women of her generation (my mother comes to mind), weren’t raised to do anything but water-ski through their lives on a preset course of obligation and expected behaviors. She is, in my mind, perhaps a victim. And she did not change with the times. She could have, perhaps, but she was surrounded by old, white men who kept her in line since the time she took the throne. Throne? Seriously? Should there even be such a thing?
I also watched the following scene between the characters of the queen and Margaret Thatcher on “The Crown.”
When you watch it, you’ll notice that her destiny was cemented in tradition and a desire to preserve the status quo. I like to think that if she were ascending to the throne today (seriously, we must change this language), she would do what should be done: atone for the terrible history of England’s colonization, as I think we, too, must do for our terrible history of slavery. She could make changes to help elevate those whom her people crushed, and do so with the power she held — and let’s face it: she had plenty of power.
Should I talk about Charles and his tantrum over a leaky pen? What, pray tell, will he do when faced with authentically stressful situations that lay ahead? And should I speak to my countryfolk, whose press gave us more coverage on the matter than Britain received from their press? Seriously? I have two words: tea party! We fought to free ourselves, and here we are again?
But the worst of the worst is in this picture: Who served two terms on the front lines in Afghanistan? You guessed it: Harry, who was not allowed to wear his uniform to honor his grandmother, who openly called him her favorite. And then Anne, who never served a day in her life in the military, marched in lockstep with the men adorned with tons of shiny medals they never earned on the battlefield but that were designed to appear otherwise. And Andrew, the disgraced friend of Jeffrey Epstein, was allowed to wear his medals as well.
Lastly, poor little Charlotte, who was seen around the world telling her older brother (who may one day have the right to send her to the Tower of London — OK, that’s not true, but still) to bow. She is just seven years old, and for hours, she stood without a smile, occasionally flipping her hair under her hat to make sure it looked the way it was supposed to. And everyone in line and in the media sang the praises of those two young children who’d lost their grandmother and were paraded around like the marionettes they are learning to be. Did no one learn from Harry’s (and William’s) description of their need for privacy following the death of their mother? Call it what it is: using children for the optics of the royal path forward.
As I watched no more than one hour of coverage in dribs and drabs, all I saw was a sea of white men — on the way to the church, inside the church, and pretty much everywhere else. It made me realize how the queen, even in death, was still surrounded by old, white men who were invested in making sure she toed the line. Where are the women and people of color? Not one, not one single commentator mentioned it.
Oh, what is to become of us all? How we view things seems to me to be through a lens that needs to be reevaluated and replaced. Put aside the indoctrination that’s part of our shared history, and ask yourself what you are seeing really tells you rather than how they want you to perceive it. And, for God’s sake, leave those children alone to be children.