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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
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Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

The Death of A Monarch


Discussing the reaction the Queen’s death

On Sept. 8, Buckingham Palaceannounced that the queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II, had died peacefully. She was 96 years old and in failing health, so her death was not surprising. What was surprising was the spectrum of reactions to her death, especially those expressed on social media. The mainstream news coverage coming out of Great Britain was obviously somber, and the United States seemed to follow with the same mournful approach. However, on the internet, the tone was very different.

I first heard of the queen’s precarious state, and then death, through Twitter. My timeline was full of jokes about her possibly dying, and once her death was announced, “SHE’S DEAD” began trending. At first, the jokes seemed like our generation’s general habit of online dark humor, but I soon realized it was because of Great Britain’s history of imperialism, both before and during the queen’s reign.

All the mainstream news coverage emphasized the queen’s great sense of duty and grace as they mourned her loss, yet there was not any mention of the role she played in the ongoing oppression due to Great Britain’s colonialism. Most of the conversation about this seemed to be arising from a younger generation of people on the internet.

While some people might think the imperialist actions of Great Britain ended in the 19th century, that isn’t the truth. Shortly after Elizabeth II became queen in 1952, the Mau Mau uprising began in Kenya. As CNN explains, during this time, the colonial administration “carried out extreme acts of torture, including castration and sexual assault, in detainment camps where as many as 150,000 Kenyans were held.” It is for actions like these that people don’t have sympathy for the death of a queen who they hold responsible for Britain’s actions during that time. This is only one example of atrocities committed by Great Britain during the queen’s reign. Other places I’ve seen mentioned in the calling out of the queen’s reign include Nigeria, which suffered from colonization and a civil war under the British Empire, the Caribbean, India and Ireland.

Those sharing jokes, memes or excitement about the queen’s death have been called “disrespectful” for celebrating the death of someone’s mother and grandmother. Yet, for those who have lost their own family members due to British imperialism, that argument falls flat. It seems our generation feels much more comfortable than previous generations in calling out the queen for her involvement in the atrocious actions of the British Empire. We certainly have less of an attachment to her, as we don’t have sentimentality from living through her 70-year reign, and we are more resistant to the mantra “don’t speak ill of the dead.” While we have no problem idolizing our share of celebrities, most of us also understand that people in power need to be held accountable for their actions, especially when they are connected to horrible acts of violence, such as those committed in colonization. The discussion of someone’s wrongdoings shouldn’t be shut down once someone has died, and we shouldn’t be discouraging those who have been greatly harmed by the queen’s leadership from speaking up. I am proud that our generation feels comfortable going against the mainstream praise of the queen to bring to light how her actions and inactions may have caused such deep suffering for many people. It’s important for us to know that past wrong-doings don’t disappear when the person responsible is no longer alive. For something as substantial as the death of millions under British imperialism, this is especially important to remember. The queen has died, but that doesn’t mean the pursuit to hold Great Britain accountable for its actions should die with her.

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