By Sophie Reaville
While ordinary Britons are facing a 10% inflation rate and a growing energy and cost of living crisis, we, the British taxpayer, will be footing the estimated 10 million pound bill for her late Majesty’s funeral, whose family itself is worth 28 million pounds.
While one cannot dispute that the death of Queen Elizabeth II is destabilising for the United Kingdom and upsetting for those close to her, we must ask ourselves how politicians will justify the money spent on this funeral, especially in light of the current economic context of the UK and the difficulties many ordinary Britons are facing today. However, it’s not just the finances that should alarm us.
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We must take into account the political tool of her Majesty’s death as a complete distraction from arguably more important events taking place at home and in other parts of the world; not to mention as a distraction from the family’s own personal scandals, such as that of Prince Andrew’s alleged sexual assault of a minor and friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The British Monarchy has always been a veil of distraction despite its ability to rally Britons together in some sort of false sense of patriotism and community. This funeral and the attention brought upon it by world media shows this, and makes of it a total and utter glorification of a deeply flawed institution that has committed horrific crimes over the last few centuries and during the late Queen’s reign.
While the country is heading towards a deep recession in the coming months, the government and a large majority of the British public seem totally preoccupied by the passing of the Queen. According to the 2022 Poverty report, published by the JRF, more than 1 in 5 of the UK population live in poverty after housing costs.
14.5 million people to be precise, 22% of the population. Of those 14.5 million, 4.3 million are children, and the number is rising. The perfect illustration of this crisis: there are now more food banks in the UK than there are McDonald’s branches. How can the UK justify an estimated 10 million pounds of expenditure on this state funeral while public services are at breaking point and thousands of Britons will go cold and hungry this winter?
Not only is this a complete distraction from the struggles we are facing at home, but there are harrowing and urgent events happening elsewhere that everyone seems to have forgotten: the war in Ukraine, deadly Pakistan floods, the Armenia and Azerbaijan conflict, the apartheid in Palestine, famine in Afghanistan and Yemen; to mention a few. Hundreds of people have died over the last few days, in horrific circumstances, but our attention must be put on hold for the death of a monarch that is but a social and institutional construct in itself?
Furthermore, behind this institution lie some terrible truths that have remained unacknowledged for centuries and linger under the carpet of the Royal institution like a foul stench, those of colonialism and the British Empire. According to an Independent article from 2016, 44% of Britons are proud of our colonial history, despite the millions of people killed under empirical rule.
In the early 20th century, during the Boer War, the British concentration camps that inspired the Nazis, imprisoned over 100,000 people, most of them women and children; and killed 28,000 alongside an unconfirmed number of Africans.
In Kenya between 1951 and 1960, under Queen Elizabeth’s reign, 200,000 Kenyans of the Mau Mau tribe were also contained in concentration camps where they were systematically tortured and suffered serious sexual assault. An estimated 100,000 Kenyans were killed during this period.
Between 12-29 million Indians died of starvation under British Imperial Rule while Britain diverted wheat exports from India to the UK. Talking about the Bengal Famine in 1943, Churchill said: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”
These are just a handful of examples of atrocities committed by the British Empire under Royal rule; atrocities that are so easily brushed away in the hope to uphold a false sense of belonging that the fallacious institution of monarchy provides.
The Queen’s death will understandably impact British society, but it should not distract from more concerning events happening at home and all over the world and it certainly should not become the very symbol of inequality as the government chooses to spend such a decadent amount on the state funeral in the midst of a very serious cost of living crisis and rising poverty in the sixth richest nation in the word. This distraction also allows a completely exaggerated glorification of an institution and Empire that oversaw and killed millions.
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