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People and Planet: The legacy of Queen Elizabeth is complex

On Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, Queen Elizabeth II of England passed away at the age of 96.

Soon after the end of World War II and following the relatively early death of her father, King George VI, Elizabeth took power at just 25.

Elizabeth played a crucial role in providing calmness and stability in the post-war nation and acted as an unflappable figurehead for her people all throughout her reign despite her minimal legal power. Her loss is a tragic one for the United Kingdom.

Reconciling the kindly grandmother figure that the Queen has become with all the plight and suffering the Empire has caused is a difficult task. In modern conversations about racism and the ongoing impacts of colonialism and slavery, we find a contradictorily unwavering, nostalgic interest in the descendants of the British Empire, which has been oppressive by nature to its various colonies over the years. 

Many will say it was in the past and thus not her responsibility, but 14 British colonies still exist today, not counting Barbados, whose people only became free from British rule in December 2021. Alongside the current colonies also sit the ghosts of those colonies that broke free, still dealing with the cultural and economic ramifications of colonization.

Then there’s The Troubles of Northern Ireland, which spanned from the late 1960s to 1998 as the predominantly Catholic Ireland struggled against the religious and economic oppression of Protestant England. Elizabeth’s reign encompassed this entire time.

That being said, Elizabeth was the first British ruler to visit Ireland following its independence from England, even laying wreaths at the graves of those who died fighting the British. This was an extraordinarily impactful moment in history and a healing one for the Irish people, from the Prime Minister to the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party, which played a major role in the fight for Irish independence.

Elizabeth also made attempts at healing the relationship between England and India, a far cry from the days of the British raj in which England repeatedly and undeniably abused India and eventually went on to take over direct rule of the country.

The colonization of India led directly to the Bengal Famine of 1943 to 1944, during which over three million Indians died of starvation and millions more fell into deep poverty only years before she would come into power.

Although generally tight-lipped on most issues, one of the boldest moves the Queen made was stripping her son, Prince Andrew, of his military affiliations and royal patronage following his involvement with Jeffrey Epstein and sex abuse allegations. 

It may seem like common sense for most to exile somebody so close to such a monster especially, after being accused of rape (with photographic evidence that he had met his accuser), yet the dynamics of any powerful family can be different. Elizabeth taking such a strong stance against her own son speaks volumes about her character.

As the world reflects on the complex life and legacy of Elizabeth II, it is imperative that we not forget that she is still a symbol of unimaginable exploitation, murder and poverty to countless individuals. She was, after all, a longstanding figurehead of one of the most widespread imperial regimes in history. Nevertheless, she was a resilient leader who took strides towards mending unthinkably broken ties between England and the countries that suffered at the English hand.

Meg Diehl is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Meg by tweeting her at @irlbug.

Meg Diehl

Assistant Opinion Editor

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