OPINION: The bad parts of Queen Elizabeth’s rule can’t be overlooked

Thomas Gravely, Staff Writer

On September 8, 2022, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain passed away, bringing an end to the longest rule of any British monarch to date. She was honored around the globe as a pillar of unwavering stability in turbulent times, and a sort of “mother of the world.” For many, her death is a great loss and will be felt deeply for years to come.


But not everyone met her passing with sorrow; a huge portion of people, particularly those from ex-colonies of the British empire, have responded with complete indifference, if not celebration. But why have so many responded this way, when she has been revered for so long? Surely no one deserves to have their death celebrated?


The reality is that the queen has left behind a complicated legacy, and it’s important to understand the impacts of her imperial rule before glorifying her. To ignore these facts would be to downplay the global impact of the empire the queen has come to represent.


One of the biggest imprints of British colonialism was its regime in Kenya from 1895 to 1963. The empire claimed large amounts of Kenyan land for white settlers, of which native Kenyans had no tenancy rights. Britain retained its grasp on Kenya for decades, but not without resistance. Shortly before Elizabeth became queen, the Mau Mau movement gained traction, with the goal of reclaiming the freedom they had lost.


In an effort to suppress the growing rebellion, the British government instituted forced labor camps across Kenya, detaining more than 160,000 native people. The conditions in these camps were likened to those of Nazi Germany in a memo sent by the attorney general of the Kenyan colonial administration. Mau Mau suspects were allegedly “rehabilitated” via torture including castration, electrocution, and rape. By this point, Elizabeth had been queen for four years.


But what was her role in all of this? The queen may not have personally carried out these atrocities, but the fact remains that she serves as a figurehead for the institution that did. When Elizabeth came to power, she ruled over 70 colonies worldwide. For many citizens of these former colonies, the queen has become inseparable from the empire she inherited. She represents the government that has cost so many lives. “We’d rather mourn the loss of our freedom fighters,” said Devishankar Shukla, a clothing store worker in New Delhi.


Queen Elizabeth II’s death symbolizes the end of an era. The vast majority will remember her as a benign grandmother that was a beacon of stability. But this reputation serves as a double-edged sword; was it stability, or cold indifference amidst war crimes committed by the government she supervised? “The only thing I noted about the queen’s passing is that she died and never apologized for slavery,” said Nadeen Spence, a Jamaican activist. “She should’ve apologized.”