TRUE OPINION: The richly nuanced life of Queen Elizabeth II deserves a nuanced obituary, writes Joanna Psaros.
The past 70 years have seen the House of Windsor weather many storms. The splintering of the British Empire. The bloody Troubles of Northern Ireland. That time Prince Harry went on a Flavor of Love-style reality dating show. But through it all, the reign of Queen Elizabeth II has been a constant. Until just a few days ago.
The Queen’s glorious rule came to a startling, if not surprising, end last Thursday afternoon British time, when the monarch died peacefully at her Scottish estate. World leaders have rushed to pay their tributes, and bouquets of flowers pile up at the gates of Buckingham PaIace.
Here in Australia, it’s been a devastating time for the many monarchists, traditionalists, and conservatives who hold the royals in such high regard. But it’s not all good news.
Queen Elizabeth was more than just a figurehead. She was a role model to many. A devoted wife to the late Prince Philip. A mother who loved her children fiercely- even the ones that turned out to be deeply unpleasant. A relatable heroine of our time.
She was also an undisputed trend setter. Not only did Queen Lizzie get around the grounds of Balmoral in rubber gum boots well before all those hipsters started wearing them to Glastonbury, but in 1954 she became the first reigning British monarch to visit Australia where an estimated nine million citizens turned out to see her. The awkward overseas celebrity cameo at daggy Australian events would go on to be a time-honoured national tradition, practiced every Logie Awards season and Big Brother VIP premiere.
Thrust into a life of duty after the unexpected abdication of her uncle and death of her father, Queen Elizabeth’s life was not without its challenges, both professional and personal. Somehow, it seemed she always knew the right way to respond and did so with the utmost grace.
Plagued by rumours of her husband’s infidelity? She maintained a dignified silence. When a voicemail of Prince Charles (surely history’s greatest dirty-talker) declaring he’d like to be “a tampon inside Camilla” leaked? Again, a dignified silence. Wayward grandson married a B-list actress who mouthed off about the family? She maintained a dignified silence … while showing her inner petty bitch and excluding the couple’s photo from the background of her televised Christmas address. When Prince Andrew was said to be involved in Jeffrey Epstein’s worldwide child sex trafficking network and not at Pizza Express as he had claimed? Again, nothing to say … apart from a big bundle of cash to silence the alleged victim. Truly, she was a woman of many layers.
Above all, we remember Queen Elizabeth for her undeniable wholesomeness. Whether she was cuddling her grandchildren (that is, the ones without that unfortunate half-Black heritage), or just getting excited over some cows, in her later years the monarch exuded such a sweet, grandmotherly air it was easy to forget that this woman was still, at least officially, the most powerful woman in Britain and commander of an entire empire built on centuries of power, service, and tradition. Oh yeah, and slavery. Lots and lots of slavery.
But is that power to make us forget not the very purpose of the royal family after all? On some level, do we not need the bland respectability of Will and Kate, the cherubic antics of young Prince Louis, and Harry and Meghan’s modern fairy-tale wedding (before that particular ship sailed off course for the Windsor clan) to distract us from our era’s social disrepair, growing racism, and shadowy child abuse rings? And that’s just within the Windsor family!
Monarchist or Republican, royalist or Team Meghan + Harry (and Oprah). We can all agree that Queen Elizabeth II will be sorely missed. Especially now that her f*ckwit son’s in charge.
God save the Queen.