Empire and colonialism—the brutality of monarchy
We shouldn’t grieve for a dead queen. We should remember the victims of her empire.
Murder, rape, pillage, famine, partition and exploitation. These are the legacy of the British Empire that the late queen Elizabeth II ruled over.
And, it’s thanks to these horrors that the Royal Family live in exuberant wealth—their reign built on the backs of those they enslaved and colonised. Britain ruled the waves with economic deprivation and repressive penal codes that stripped native people of any rights. And the echoes of this rule shape the world today.
The empire grew mighty on stealing jewels, cultural and historic items, land and people from over a quarter of the world for hundreds of years. These crimes have not been atoned for.
The legacy of slavery thrives across Britain. The £80 billion made from the suffering of 3.5 million people transported from Africa was used to build vast estates, cities and companies that still function today.
The monarchy has blood dripping from it. Under our new king’s grandfather King George VI, famine in Bengal, India, in 1943, killed over 1.5 million and some 3 million others from disease.
British officials stepped over dead children to make it to their 17-course meals in a restaurant. India, the “Jewel in the Crown” of the British Empire, had billions of pounds plundered from it, while rebel fighters were launched out of canons.
Muthoni Mathenge is a Kenyan women tortured by British troops during the 1952 Mau Mau uprising—the year the queen took the throne. Muthoni’s leg was hacked with axes.
She told DW News in June that the queen should give her “what belongs to me”. “Let her give me a just compensation, because she is the ruler,” she said.
Her husband, a Mau Mau fighter, was murdered with over 100,000 others for rebelling against British rule. Muthoni was kept in detention camps with one million others, who were subject to disease, rape, castration and more unimaginable torture.
War waged in Britain’s oldest colony—Ireland—for 45 years of Elizabeth’s 70-year reign until 1997. In Oceania, colonisation meant massacre, violence, disease and loss among indigenous populations. The racism stretched into the 1900’s with indigenous people banned from many state schools, businesses, housing and sport facilities, such as swimming pools.
Whether it’s carving up Palestine, or decimating the native population in North America, racism kept the heart of the empire pumping. Meanwhile the royals’ apologies have been thin and largely absent.
The bloody legacy of the British Empire, which at its height controlled over 531 million people, should never be separated from the institution of the monarchy. We shouldn’t grieve for a dead queen. We should remember the victims of her empire.