In April 1947, celebrating her twenty-first birthday, the then Princess Elizabeth promised from Cape Town (South Africa), in a statement broadcast halfway around the world by the BBC, that she would dedicate her entire life “to the service of the great imperial family to the that we all belong.” Four months later, his father, George VI, solemnly renounced the title of Emperor of India, and was preparing to lead a new invention called the Commonwealth (Community of Nations), to preserve as much as possible the ties of a crumbling Empire. . The death of Elizabeth II marks, in historical terms, the end point of the British 20th century. From her Disappears with her the last vestige of a past that has continued to feed in the United Kingdom to this day an innocent nostalgia, at best, and a divisive and isolating nationalism at worst. Carlos III inherits a country fragmented by territorial tensions, and with a significantly reduced influence in the world due to Brexit.
“His death has been the second act of a national realignment. The first was the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union. Historical periods seldom obey the strict discipline of the calendar, and, in future, Britain’s long 20th century will be said to end in 2022. The death of such a long-lived monarch leaves behind a nation unsure of its place in the world. ”, he has written in New Statesman Phil Collins, a brilliant political analyst, once the author of some of former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s best speeches.
The establishment Briton hastened to shout god save the king and ensure a quick and smooth succession process. The success of the new reign would be the guarantee, desired with good will by many, that things do not work as badly as some critics insist on pointing out. “He is a very intelligent man, with a very human streak and an enormous sense of duty. His first speech suggests that he has understood the challenges he faces, and I am confident that he will successfully overcome them, “says EL PAÍS Jonathan Sumption, a former Supreme Court justice and a voice to which the British media lend always attention. “He does not have the advantage of youth, which was essential when Elizabeth II became queen in 1952 [tenía entonces 25 años], and many will never forgive him for his separation from Diana Spencer, something unfair but inevitable. And of course she is going to have to abandon some of her favorite causes, especially climate change, which have come to spark more political debate recently, ”says the jurist.
The problem for Carlos III is that his new status as king forces him to do precisely what his mother earned the respect of all citizens with: nothing. Isabel II was the fixed point of a country that history subjected to innumerable changes. And it was precisely her neutrality and her silence that led many Britons to believe that they saw in her the best qualities of her country. Winston Churchill, the prime minister with whom her reign began, has already explained that when a battle is lost the people shout “Down with the Government”, and when it wins, “Long live the Queen”.
Elizabeth II grew older at the same rate as the country she ruled. She wore a uniform during World War II, and she shared – in the symbolic way that members of monarchies do these things – the poverty of the population during those days. He lived through post-war scarcity, the rebirth of the United Kingdom and its economic and cultural influence throughout the world ―The Beatles, the Stones, also the Sex Pistols…―, the entry into what was then called the European Economic Community, and the evolution of many of the countries of the empire to which he did not stop visiting during his reign. Nelson Mandela, with whom she had a very special relationship, called her motlalepula (“the one that comes with the rain”), for that visit in 1995 in which he was already president of South Africa and the country experienced the best rainy season in years.
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And he did all this while transmitting an image of a very homey person, familiar, almost bored in his hobbies and customs, in his love of the countryside, horses and dogs. “To be both ordinary and extraordinary. The queen she seemed like one of us although she, objectively and obviously, she was not even remotely like us ”, she described in The Enchanted Mirrorhis masterful work on the relationship between the British and the monarchy, Tom Nairn, the political essayist so close to Scottish independence.
It is relevant that the nationalist leaders of that British territory, with the chief minister, Nicola Sturgeon, at the head, until now saw their desire for independence as perfectly compatible with the fact that they continue to have Elizabeth II as queen. It is not so clear that Charles III is so accepted by all the young Scots most attached to the idea of secession.
Danny Dorling, the author of one of the most brilliant books on the nostalgia behind Brexit, Rule Britannia, prefers not to express his opinion in times of mourning, but advises taking a look at the latest polls. Especially to the YouGovwhich indicates how only 24% of those between 18 and 24 years old believe that the institution of the monarchy is good for the country, compared to 67% of those between 50 and 64 years old.
Carlos III comes to the throne at the age of 73 and his hands are tied to try to change the reality of a country divided from within and alienated from Europe due to Brexit; threatened with serious fractures in the Union, ranging from Scotland’s desire for independence to tension in Northern Ireland, where reunification with the Republic of Ireland is increasingly closer.
Elizabeth II in the world
Although the internal impact is the most significant and evident, the death of Elizabeth II also has international consequences. Time will clarify the intensity of it.
To begin with, London loses the asset of the soft power embodied by the long-lived monarch. The concept is discussed, and it is difficult to quantify the tangible benefits that it can bring in general, or in this specific case. But it is reasonable to think that the world stature of Elizabeth II allowed the United Kingdom a special projection of influence thanks to the personal relationships of the monarch. Her historical trajectory placed her in an almost unparalleled position to arouse respect, attraction and good disposition. So much so that, in the midst of a brutal confrontation between the United Kingdom and Russia such as the one that has been exacerbating for years, even Vladimir Putin sent an attentive letter of condolences. This of course has to do with the apolitical role of the monarch, but also with the way in which she knew how to interpret it.
Beyond the leaders, at the level of public opinion, Elizabeth II’s considerable global popularity represented an image asset for the United Kingdom. Her figure acquired pop features, largely due to factors external to her will, but also thanks to some very well-designed communication strategies developed by Buckingham Palace. The cinematic montage that saw James Bond fly the queen to London’s Olympic Stadium in a helicopter in 2012 and parachute with her during the opening ceremony wowed a global audience of hundreds of millions of viewers.
The personal credit of the monarch has also probably been an important factor in the continued exercise of head of state in 14 other Commonwealth countries. One of them, Australia, is the scene of London’s greatest global success since Brexit: the establishment of the Aukus alliance, together with the US, with important military and industrial aspects. It cannot be ruled out that the lower prestige of the heir gives wings in some of these countries to movements that question that status, for example in Canada.
Beyond the United Kingdom and its international relations, the death of Elizabeth II also represents a loss for the constitutional monarchies, who had in her their most universal symbol. She was, in a sense, the flag bearer of the club of countries with that form of state. Among them, some of the most advanced democracies in the world stand out, such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Holland or Japan, but no monarch has the global projection that Isabel II had, and in several cases -such as the Spanish- they are registered in the royal houses scandals that erode the image of the model.
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