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Her rule was a link for a country still in the twilight of the empire.

Princess Elizabeth turned 21 in April 1947 and gave a radio address from Cape Town on her 21st birthday. Today it is known as a canonical expression of a sense of duty that will reflect the importance of her rule: “I declare before all of you that my whole life, whether long or short, is in your service and service to the Empire.” To our great royal family to which we all belong.” But it is also an artifact from a distant world in which the heir to the British throne can make such a dedication to “our great royal family” that, as she said, “the whole empire is listening” and pleads that the empire still remains. is alive and breathing to save itself after winning the global battle.”


Queen's death marks the final break with royal Britain

Even then that truth was starting to slip away. At the time Elizabeth was the daughter of the Emperor of India, her father had given up a title upon the declaration of Indian and Pakistani independence in August of the same year. As historian David Edgerton writes in his The Rise and Fall of the British Nation, “by the time she was crowned in 1953, the vested unitary empire was already gone”. Elizabeth II ascended the throne as an increasingly imperial queen.

Yet for the duration of her reign, as long as this proved, the Queen would remain a human link with that old imperial Britain – original global Britain – and the real and imaginary qualities and principles of that country and its empire. Her death is a dissolution: the dissolution of that last living connection with a reality that has long been together and yet continues to define Britain today and the uncertainties of its future in the world. Those uncertainties will undoubtedly take on a new sharpness as the country approaches the end of the second Elizabethan era and what lies ahead.

The exact details of the Queen’s funeral are yet to be publicly confirmed, but it is expected that the gun carriage carrying her coffin at Westminster Abbey will be pulled by Royal Navy sailors. This has been the tradition at royal funerals since Victoria in 1901, a tradition that affirms the close ties between the monarchy, navy, and empire at the center of British history since the First Elizabethan era.

It was in that transitional era when, between the loss of England’s last continental occupation (in Calais, 1558) and the foundation of its first permanent colony in the New World (Jamestown in 1607), the English state adopted a two-part strategy. Which would define it, and later the United Kingdom, for the next centuries. First, the European powers playoff against each other to prevent the emergence of a continental hegemony with the power to cross the Channel; And second, use the peace and stability that the first strategy guarantees a turn to the oceans, and the acquisition of the naval supremacy needed to establish a global merchant empire and maintain control.

It was the UK in which Elizabeth was born in April 1926, only five years after the British Empire had reached its territorial zenith, which was dominated by imperialist capitalism, trading ports and networks spread across the world, and the web of imperial power, military force, which But these networks depended, had a country defined by.

Her grandfather ascended the throne as George V, “by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the British Dominion behind the King of the Seas, Keeper of the Faith, Emperor of India”. At the table of Stanley Baldwin’s cabinet, the prime minister sat not only a foreign secretary but also the secretary of state for India and the secretary of state for the colonies. British naval bases razed the world map from Malta, Bermuda, and Cape Town to Aden, Bombay (now Mumbai), and Singapore.

That year, in 1926, British gunmen crossed the Yangtze River and opened fire on the city of Wanxien (now Wanzhou) during a trade dispute. It was also the year that George Orwell, four years into his service as a royal police officer in British-controlled Burma (now Myanmar), moved to Moulmein where he later recalled, “I hated a large number of people. – the only time in my life I’ve been significant enough for this to happen to me”.

The following year Admiral G.A. Ballard’s book Ruler of the Indian Ocean was published, which stated that “it would be helpful to the continued progress of civilization in the Eastern Hemisphere that [the British naval power in the Indian Ocean] continued to dominate.” . remain effective”.

While much of the British colony was fading away by the time Elizabeth II ascended the throne in 1952 at the age of 25, it is striking how well it fared in the first years of her reign.

At the time of her coronation the following year, most of the western coast of the Indian Ocean still belonged to the British Empire: from what is now the United Arab Emirates through Oman and Yemen to Somalia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

In Africa, one could travel by land from the Sahara to the Cape without leaving the British colonies and dominions. The empire still included colonies such as Malaya (now Malaysia and Singapore), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Cyprus, Malta, and Nigeria. Most of these became independent in the 1960s.

The Queen’s early reign was marked by radically Victorian and Edwardian figures, who were heirs to royal Britain. Winston Churchill, their first prime minister, was born in 1874 and not during World War I or the Boer War, but as a journalist covering the Mohmand Rebellion (an ancestor of today’s Taliban) on the North-West Frontier in 1897. I had experienced war.

What was British India at that time? Alan “Tommy” Lascelles, the Queen’s first private secretary, was born in 1887 and served as aide-de-camp to the Governor of Bombay. Their first Australian prime minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was born in 1894 and proudly described himself as “British for bootstraps“.

Even in economic matters, the old imperial Britain was not yet gone. Europe is still cleaning up the wreckage of the war, the country relied on its old imperial network for much of its trade. British commercial capitalism remained, as Edgerton puts it, “one of the world’s three main capitalisms at least into the 1960s”.

This was the period before deindustrialization when northern cities such as Liverpool were still strongholds of the Conservative Party, which returned to power at the national level under Churchill in 1951 on a manifesto pledge: “To promote commerce within the Empire, we Will retain the royal preference. Empire Producer will be second only to Home Producer in our domestic market.

These early years of the Second Elizabethan era coincided with the first move on the continent towards becoming the European Union with the foundation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1951. 1957. Britain did this not because of any passionate protest, but out of a sober, almost default assumption that this continental initiative was nothing for maritime, imperial Britain. (“Every time we have to choose between Europe and the open sea, we will always choose the open sea,” as Churchill put it to Charles de Gaulle on the eve of D-Day in 1944). Hugo Young’s history of Britain’s place in Europe after the war, This Blessed Plot, describes how the 1950 decision not to join the ECSC the following year had “barely caused a shudder in British body politics”.

This trend – and indeed Churchill’s bid – would upset Britain when it sought membership in the EEC. In 1963 now-President de Gaulle opposed the country’s application on the grounds that it was the land of merchants, not farmers, “the most diverse and often most diverse by island, sea and its exchanges, its markets, and its supply routes”. far-flung nations”. If rather snide, it was an apt description, though it was better suited to Britain at the time of the coronation than the country after the Empire, the rapidly changing ten years of Elizabeth II’s reign.

The Queen was not a political figure. The central feat of her rule was the steely discipline with which she strictly adhered to Britain’s constitutional system during seven decades of turbulent transition. But she was a symbol with political resonance, above all as an anchor connecting a country that was developing far and wide from the early 1950s to the time that came before.

To be sure, the old royal world lived and lived in certain aspects of British life. The experience of the maritime empire shaped the fabric of the country, much of which remains today.

To a foreigner with fresh eyes, perhaps the most immediately obvious thing about Britain is the fundamental and distinctly Victorian-Edwardian-interwar character of its cities, buildings, and institutions.

In his excellent book The Great British Dream Factory, historian Dominic Sandbrook demonstrates how many personalities and tropes of British popular culture are rooted in the imagery of old imperial Britain (James Bond is essentially a Victorian adventurer in the Flashman mold, Harry Potter Tom). Brown’s school days, Dr Who is a long tribute to HG Wells).

 This old Britain shaped how the British viewed themselves and their national traits, and how some outsiders saw them as well. Writing about the deep roots of Britain’s complex relationship with continental Europe in 2015, veteran German foreign correspondent Thomas Killinger said: “Great Britain is, by maritime history, deeply ingrained in the country’s DNA.

Laws on land differ from those on the high seas, requiring adaptability and flexibility to constantly changing wind and weather conditions. The Queen’s stoic and restrained manner made her a better personification of such aspects of the country’s image and self-image. The cultural, linguistic, and historical ties to the former territories of the empire embodied by the monarchy probably helped Britain to adapt to a diverse, multi-ethnic population – which included a large number of arrivals from those former colonies – that were similar to those of other better than Western nations.

Yet the longer the Second Elizabethan Age lasted, the older Britain and the Old World it inhabited. Colonies won their independence, countries integrated with the European continent, empire-era industries gave way to services and new socio-economic divisions, and a rigid maritime national demeanor gave way to something more individualistic and raucous.

The old imperial economic network proved to be of relatively minor commercial use (India today imports more from Britain than Belgium). The progressive social change called into question long-whitened narratives about the British Empire and the many dark chapters in its history.

Brexit, an expression of that specificity identified by Keelinger and de Gaulle, has yet to generate the national renewal promised at the time of the 2016 referendum. National identity and sub-identity, including the future of the same federation that built Britain as a global power, have come under new stress as the threat of fragmentation.

As the country has changed, the appeal and uniqueness of a national figure are still rooted in past certainties. It is perhaps no surprise that the public showed the greatest ambition towards the Queen in the 1990s, the decade of the perceived end of history and the shape of a new post-Thatcher, Kool-Britannia (and it turns out, hubristic) national Explode trust yourself.

It is likewise logical that as the turmoil of the 2000s, 2010s, and early 2020s would roar back to their popularity, the country would be relegated not to nostalgia, but to the question of where it came from. What used to be and what should happen now. Elizabeth II was the ultimate defense against a type of nation-level, post-imperialist phantom limb syndrome, in which the sensation experienced in parts of the body no longer attached.

Now she is gone and her rule, a major part of the present for most of Britain’s current population, has gone into the history books. One last surviving link, with the Britain of Churchill and Baldwin, Lascelles and Orwell, with the country’s late and immediate post-imperialist past, no longer exists.

It seems almost too obvious to note that her death is particularly concerned with the profound uncertainty and uncertainty surrounding the country’s place in the world, its economic model, its identity and future constitution, and indeed the future of the monarchy itself (already faltering). ) coincides with the period. in some of its last remaining territories) and the Commonwealth.

Then the end of an era. But it is also a confirmation of the passing of an era that largely took place decades ago. The moment will be formally marked in the coming days in tribute and celebration of the upcoming funeral and coronation. Once this is passed, however, and the reign of King Charles III is firmly underway, the time for national reparations and readjustments certainly looms.

Article credit-  By Jeremy Cliffe

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