The Queen is dead. She was the latest iteration of queenship: a ceremonial position that through existing should have helped her nation hold itself together by giving it a common identity. Now not only the Commonwealth nations will need to grapple with her passing, but so will citizens of the world.
Public support for monarchy has declined for years, particularly outside the United Kingdom. From the Viking and Norman invasions to the Glorious Revolution, the sentiment is becoming increasingly popular that the British “Crown” is nothing more than a shiny hat people have killed and destroyed each other to possess. Its arbitrariness is surpassed only by its longevity, as it has survived for hundreds of years as an idea in the minds of billions simply because people have continued on insisting that it must be passed on.
In essence, the Crown is a paradox between antiquity and high fashion, from courtly dress to passports, as the British monarch today has practically free reign (literally) to travel beyond the boundaries of their kingdom; thus, they are a tool for commonality among the diverse British population, but they themself have more access than any normal citizen.
The crown may be farcical, but the problem with “down with the monarchy” is that the monarchy today is infinitely different from the monarchy even decades ago. The statement is too broad; it either implies agreement with the idea that society must be rid of all kinds of monarchy, in every exacting iteration, including Aragorn and Burger King, or that we need to draw a distinction between monarchies so close together in time that historiography itself begins to forget the long and bloody history of British imperialism.
Since the death of Princess Diana, the British royal family has refashioned its image again—the latest in a series of historical compromises. The royal family is still insular, but recent scandals have proven its vulnerability to global dialogue. It relies on social media and live television to disseminate its orders and, thus, its shining, golden power. It is in bondage to the media, when previously radio and earlier messengers on horseback would have sufficed, but it wields considerable influence over the media as well. So, should one particularly wealthy, well-connected family be able to cast such a large shadow on the global stage? The question is ironic. Plenty of families do this; there is no reason to point specifically at the Royals. The better question is, in this media age, where all publicity is good publicity, is the image of the Crown going up or going down?
Things seem to change whether we choose to act or not. The Queen’s death seems to have aroused questions of global identity. The end of an era? Of course. But these questions have been in the air since before she took the throne. Whose side do we pick, the state or the people? If we live in a nation-state, can we have free will at all?
Historical compromise is a veil behind which the line between change and stagnation blurs. Careful observers take years to notice historical patterns because old words take on new meanings. It is ridiculous! Who are we, even, if forces whisper of change that we cannot perceive?
The situation is very tense. Monarchy defies democratic ideals so casually, it shoots itself in the foot for all to see. Meanwhile, many of Concord Academy’s present generation are also mourning the security that the Queen’s existence seemed to bring about. We think we can know the past. We can never know the future.
Immediately after the news broke at Concord Academy last month, there seemed in the air a tremendous sense of loss, as well as a mad fervor. Of course it is mad. We are playing poker with our futures, roulette with our politics, and it is even harder because we are young, and this symbol of our youth and our connection to “tradition” has vanished in one breath. It is insanity; still, we are playing.
Right now, every citizen is forced to compromise between the earth-shaking gravity of world events, their desire to impact this world, and their emotional needs. We may not know the ramifications of how we choose to react in this moment, but we must react nonetheless, picking blindly in the dark. We will not know if we have won, probably, in our lifetimes.