Bhardwaj: God save (us from) The Queen

Divya Bhardwaj, Assistant Opinion Editor

On Feb. 6, Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate her Platinum Jubilee, commemorating seven decades spent on the throne. 

According to Buckingham Palace, the anniversary of her accession date marks her “70 years of service to the people of the United Kingdom, the Realms and the Commonwealth.” To me, the milestone underscores the bizarre disconnect between a world hoping to abolish racism, elitism, colonialism and an outdated monarchy dragging society into the past.

While there may be a level of service Queen Elizabeth provides for UK citizens that I, as an American, do not recognize personally, I find it difficult to quantify the “service” the Royal Family provides people of the Commonwealth. Before all else, the mere concept of a Commonwealth is a disgraceful relic of imperialism. Why should countries who resisted for decades before finally managing to break free from oppressive British rule still be in any way associated with the United Kingdom?

The Royal Family will emphasize how wonderful they are for paying visits to formerly colonized countries and hosting extravagant events for people of Commonwealth nations, but they will never acknowledge the role the monarchy has played in slavery, colonization and numerous other human rights violations. The atrocities of the British Empire are not as distant as the Royal Family’s public relations team would like us to believe. Even today, there are ongoing border disputes caused by their oppressive rule, jewels, artwork and cultural artifacts they have yet to return and blood money that forms their livelihoods.

Younger royals, particularly former working royals Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex (Communication ‘03), have attempted to prove the Royal Family’s social and historical awareness by highlighting their commitment to humanitarianism and to Commonwealth nations. In fact, they have remained involved with the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust even after their move to California. 

However, I find their efforts hollow at best and patronizing at worst. Harry and Meghan have virtually zero expertise on climate change, COVID-19 vaccines, the influence of social media or any other topics they are fond of speaking about — they only get a platform due to their prior roles in the British Royal Family. We commoners are supposed to listen to them lecture on topics they know little more than a layperson about simply due to the family they were born or married into, just as we are supposed to listen to the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William and the rest of the royals. 

While Harry and Meghan have gone to great lengths to distance themselves from the Royal Family, the role they hope to occupy today is painfully similar to the role they left behind as working royals — just another iteration of the elite preaching to everyday citizens.

Ahead of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, it’s clear that there is no way for royal family members — current and former — to truly separate themselves from the racist and elitist institution that supports them all, unless they choose to face their history head-on instead of turning a blind eye. 

For their sake, I hope they can.  

Divya Bhardwaj is a Medill freshman. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.