By Antonio Salgado Borge
Lhe overwhelming reaction on the part of the British people to the death of Elizabeth II has been harshly criticized in some Mexican circles.
Those groups made up of journalists or politicians identified with the left stand out. Two explanations for these impressive displays of affection have been repeatedly repeated in these circles.
The first is that, despite their economic and social development, the British suffer from a kind of ‘false consciousness’ or collective blindness that leads them to worship their oppressor. In this reading, there is no other way to understand the tribute to a character who is fundamentally seen as a parasite of the treasury dedicated to the pomp, celebrations and social life that characterize some monarchs.
The second is that the almost unanimous displays of affection are evidence that the majority of the population in the United Kingdom continues to yearn for the times of the bloody British empire; a time of conquest, domination and exploitation of other peoples, supposedly embodied in the figure of Elizabeth II.
It is undeniable that both explanations contain a grain of truth.
It is an indisputable fact that Isabel II, like her predecessors and successors, lived surrounded by luxuries that extended to her family.
It is also true that the fall of the empire was traumatic at the time and that for decades there have been a handful of outdated people, mainly radical conservatives, who dream of a morally undesirable and factually impossible restoration.
However, both explanations, being simplistic and uninformed, end up being shots that are very far from the target.
To understand the massive affection for Isabel II, it is necessary to consider that while monarchs in other places, such as Spain, sank into irrelevance or disrepute, this queen managed to become a benchmark.
It seems to me that three main factors help to explain this phenomenon.
The first is the role of the queen in the constitution of the national identity of the British of this time.
Much has been said that for anyone under the age of 75 it is impossible to remember their life without the figure of Elizabeth II present. People alive today have all lived under what is known as the second Elizabethan period.
To put it another way, for practically the entire population of the United Kingdom Elizabeth II is not ‘a queen’ but ‘the queen’.
The image of the queen, the seal of belonging to this era, is palpable in different areas of life in the United Kingdom. Isabel II was present before people through her continuous official messages on radio and television. For decades, her presence was also physical, through tours and charity events. In the United Kingdom, there is much comment that there is a significant percentage of the population that has ever seen in person whoever was the queen of her.
Elizabeth II appeared in the political arena through her weekly work meetings with the prime minister in office. To this we must add that her image is stamped on banknotes, coins and endless public spaces.
For most Britons, their deceased monarch was not then a rich lady locked up in a palace. Her queen was an integral part of being British as it is currently understood by virtually the entire population of the countries that make up the United Kingdom.
The second factor that helps explain the almost unanimous respect for the deceased monarch has to do with the way in which she faced her responsibilities.
Despite being a constant presence for 70 years, very few ideas or aspects of Elizabeth II’s personality are known to the public. The fact that this is the case is largely due to the fact that this monarch made, from the beginning of her reign, when she was barely 25 years old, a radical decision that she sustained throughout her existence: the role that she had to play in life was more important than his development as an individual. Thus, at the moment of ascending the throne, she said goodbye to Isabel, her person, and she dedicated her life to being Isabel II, the monarch.
In a sense, this decision contrasts with the idea, so popular in our times, that the personality of the leader is more important than the functions that correspond to the position he occupies.
It also breaks sharply with the excessive individualistic emphasis of contemporary capitalist society. Very few people today think that the contribution they make to society with their work is more important than their individuality. That is, very few people conceive of themselves first as a constituent of a society and then as an individual.
For the purposes of this analysis, the important thing is that the fact that the almost unanimous respect between the right-wing and left-wing press in the United Kingdom for Elizabeth II cannot be understood without considering that this monarch demonstrated for 70 years her total dedication to her role. and their willingness to put aside their individuality, opinions or preferences in order to fully comply with it.
The third and last factor to consider, closely linked to the previous one, is that Isabel II sought and managed to become an element of unity above political or partisan divisions.
This monarch dealt with 16 prime ministers from different parties: from Winston Churchill to Elizabeth Truss. Despite not being technically sentenced, she at no time expressed her preference for any or tried, in the least, to tip the scales using his enormous political capital.
Of course, in a sense, this neutrality can be infuriating. A clear example of this is Brexit. But in another sense, Elizabeth II understood that intervening in political affairs would have exceeded, and therefore damaged, her role as a constitutional monarch and the importance that this has for the people of the United Kingdom.
The truth is that, by placing the Crown beyond the political dispute, Elizabeth II managed to maintain the respect and approval, essential for her legitimacy, by all the political parties in the United Kingdom.
Easy to say, but with the UK on the verge of disintegration, even those who fight for independence, such as the admirable Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, have expressed their unreserved respect for that queen.
Yet few speeches have captured this as well as that of Keir Stammer, leader of the largest left-wing party in the UK:
“When everything is spinning, our nation requires a fixed point. When times are complicated, it requires comfort. And when direction is hard to find, it requires leadership. The loss of our queen has robbed this country of its most fixed point, of its greatest consolation, precisely at the moment when it needs you most. But our queen’s commitment to us, her life of public service to her, was underpinned by a crucial understanding: that the country she came to symbolize is greater than any individual or institution.”
To understand, as Mexicans, the almost unanimous respect in the United Kingdom for Elizabeth II, it is not necessary then to defend the monarchy as an institution. Nor is it necessary to be a reactionary representative of the conservatism of two centuries ago, as seems to be the case among some far-right Mexican legislators or commentators.
Personally, I firmly believe, like many other people in our country, that the idea that certain individuals or their lineage have been chosen by some god to rule over a people is anachronistic and insulting.
Moreover, it is not even necessary to pretend that the British monarchy or Elizabeth II herself are faultless. For example, some members of the royal family of that country, started by Prince Andrew, have been characterized by their abuse. just this week, New York Times documented that Carlos III, the new king and an intelligent and enlightened man, has made a fortune with businesses that have benefited from tax relief and has no problem accepting donations from unpresentable characters for his foundations.
The intention of this article has been to show that those who think that the impressive displays of affection that Elizabeth II has received, which extend throughout the United Kingdom and the British political spectrum, are due to a kind of ‘false consciousness’ are wrong. or imperial yearnings.
Here I have argued that the impressive respect that the British people have for their deceased monarch can only be understood by appealing to the facts. And the facts are that by taking her role with extraordinary seriousness and adapting it to contemporary society, Elizabeth II managed to become a standard bearer of national identity, of the role of each individual in a society and of a unity that transcends ideological or partisan divisions.
It is an open question whether those who succeed him will be able to keep the road open through the second Elizabethan period. And consequently, it is also uncertain how much longer the time of the British constitutional monarchy can be extended.
*Phd. in Philosophy. Associate Lecturer at the University of St. Andrews
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