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The death of the world’s longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, reignited the debate over colonialism. However, while many have mourned the death of the Empress, the Empire and its legacy left many wounds, especially in South Asian and African countries that were on the receiving ends of the monarchy.
The British Royal Family has been associated with the colonization of many countries around the world, including India. The colonial empire for the “subjects” under the rule was a period of oppression, forced labor and slavery.
Elizabeth II was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom in 1952, just five years after India and Pakistan gained independence from British colonial rule. By the time young Elizabeth was told she would be crowned queen, she was in Kenya, another “subject” of colonial rule.
At the time she headed the monarchy, it was already in a downward phase with many countries like India seeking independent rule. She inherited and supported an imperial monarchy by assuming the title of head of the Commonwealth.
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Despite the decline of the empire, the Commonwealth became a common space for almost all British-ruled nations outside the UK.
The British government considers a commonwealth to be an empire of countries with the Queen as monarch. There are 14 Commonwealth Realms besides the UK. Initially, Commonwealth countries were not considered foreign to each other as their citizens were considered British subjects.
In one of her 1959 addresses to Canada, Queen Elizabeth II said that on July 1, 1867, the Confederation of Canada was the birth of the “first independent country within the British Empire”. She stated, “So it also marks the beginning of that free association of independent states now known as the Commonwealth of Nations.”
It was originally established as the British Commonwealth of Nations, but with the increasing decolonization of the British Empire through greater self-government of its territories, the Commonwealth established the member states as “free and equal”.
Today it is a political association of 56 member states, the vast majority of which are former territories of the British Empire. The current Commonwealth of Nations was formally established by the London Declaration in 1949.
After the death of Elizabeth II, the office of head of the Commonwealth is held by Charles III. He is the head of state of 15 member states known as the Commonwealth realms while 36 other members are republics and 5 others have different monarchs.
Queen and colonial past
Just days before the Queen’s death, India renamed ‘Rajpath’, a major road whose name can be translated as ‘Kingsway’ as Kartavya Path (duty road). The road was previously named after the former British Emperor of India, George V. While renaming the road, Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of Independent India, said another “symbol of slavery has been blotted out forever.”
Like India, many countries are still recovering from their colonial past and find it difficult to mourn the loss of the Empress. Many academics shed light on the colonial past of the British Empire. Many also questioned the role of the British Empire in today’s world problems.
We’d better brace ourselves for empire nostalgia and pro-colonialism, eh? I just think of all the millions of people who died and suffered at the hands of the brutalizing empire through the ages, yet fought it nonetheless. Rest in power, dear ancestors everywhere.✊🏼
— Farhana Sultana, Ph.D. (@Prof_FSultana) September 8, 2022
If anyone expects me to express anything but contempt for the monarch who oversaw a government that supported the genocide that massacred and expelled half of my family and whose current people are still trying to overcome the consequences, you can keep wishing for a star.
— Uju Anya (@UjuAnya) September 8, 2022
Accusations against the British Empire
Beyond the past, it was also claimed in the present world that the British Empire had tried to halt independence movements and prevent newly independent colonies from leaving the Commonwealth.
Buckingham Palace had no official response to the murder of George Floyd and the global Black Lives Matter movement – both very recent issues raising voices against violence against people of color. Meghan Markel, who is also married to the Queen’s grandson in an interview, claimed that there were discussions about her child’s skin color during her pregnancy. Markel did not reveal any names, however.
Although the Queen took charge after India and Pakistan liberated themselves from colonial rule, Elizabeth ruled as the “Queen of Pakistan” for the first four years of the country’s independence. The monarchy was abolished on March 23, 1956, when Pakistan became a republic within the Commonwealth with a president as head of state. Despite her close cooperation, the Queen has not resolved or publicly intervened in the Kashmir issue, which still continues as a struggle between India and Pakistan.
During her reign, the Queen witnessed the dissolution of almost the entire British Empire into some 50 independent states. The monarchy ruled over an ever-growing list of crown colonies, including Hong Kong (1842), India (1858), and Jamaica (1866).
To learn about other topics taught in school, explained by News18, here is a list of other classes with News18: Questions Related to Election Chapters | Gender vs. Gender | Cryptocurrency | Economy & Banks | How to become President of India | Post independence struggle | How India adopted its flag | Formation of States and United India | Tipu Sultan | Indian Teacher’s Day different from the rest of the world | Queen Elizabeth and colonialism |
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