Jonathan Cook Media Criticism Queen Elizabeth II

The Queen and Her Legacy: 21st Century Britain Has Never Looked So Medieval

In this moment there is no public room for ambivalence or indifference, for reticence, for critical thinking...The British establishment expects every man, woman, and child to do their duty by lowering their head.
Illustration by MintPress News

By Jonathan Cook / MintPress News

Anyone in the UK who imagined they lived in a representative democracy – one in which leaders are elected and accountable to the people – will be in for a rude awakening over the next days and weeks.

TV schedules have been swept aside. Presenters must wear black and talk in hushed tones. Front pages are uniformly somber. Britain’s media speak with a single, respectful voice about the Queen and her unimpeachable legacy.

Westminster, meanwhile, has been stripped of left and right. The Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour parties have set aside politics to grieve as one. Even the Scottish nationalists – supposedly trying to rid themselves of the yoke of centuries of English rule presided over by the monarch – appear to be in effusive mourning.

The world’s urgent problems – from the war in Europe to a looming climate catastrophe – are no longer of interest or relevance. They can wait till Britons emerge from a more pressing national trauma.

Domestically, the BBC has told those facing a long winter in which they will not be able to afford to heat their homes that their suffering is “insignificant” compared to that of the family of a 96-year-old woman who died peacefully in the lap of luxury. They can wait too.

In this moment there is no public room for ambivalence or indifference, for reticence, for critical thinking – and most certainly not for Republicanism, even if nearly a third of the public, mostly the young, desire the monarchy’s abolition. The British establishment expects every man, woman, and child to do their duty by lowering their head.

Twenty-first-century Britain never felt so medieval.

Wall-to-wall Eulogies

There are reasons a critical gaze is needed right now, as the British public is corralled into reverential mourning.

The wall-to-wall eulogies are intended to fill our nostrils with the perfume of nostalgia to cover the stench of a rotting institution, one at the heart of the very establishment doing the eulogising.

The demand is that everyone shows respect for the Queen and her family and that now is not the time for criticism or even analysis.

Indeed, the Royal Family have every right to be left in peace to grieve. But privacy is not what they, or the establishment they belong to, crave.

The Royals’ loss is public in every sense. There will be a lavish state funeral, paid for by the taxpayer. There will be an equally lavish coronation of her son, Charles, also paid for by the taxpayer.

And in the meantime, the British public will be force-fed the same official messages by every TV channel – not neutrally, impartially or objectively, but as state propaganda – paid for, once again, by the British taxpayer.

Reverence and veneration are the only types of coverage of the Queen and her family that is now allowed.

But there is a deeper sense in which the Royals are public figures – more so even than those thrust into the spotlight by their celebrity or talent for accumulating money.

The British public has entirely footed the bill for the Royals’ lives of privilege and pampered luxury. Like the kings of old, they have given themselves the right to enclose vast tracts of the British Isles as their private dominion. The Queen’s death, for example, means the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have just added the whole of Cornwall to their estate.

If anyone is public property, it is the British Royals. They have no right to claim an exemption from scrutiny just when scrutiny is most needed – as the anti-democratic privileges of monarchy pass from one set of hands to another.

The demand for silence is not a politically neutral act. It is a demand that we collude in a corrupt system of establishment rule and hierarchical privilege.

The establishment has a vested interest in enforcing silence and obedience until the public’s attention has moved on to other matters. Anyone who complies leaves the terrain open over the coming weeks for the establishment to reinforce and deepen the public’s deference to elite privilege.

Continuity of Rule

Undoubtedly, the Queen carried out her duties supremely well during her 70 years on the throne. As BBC pundits keep telling us, she helped maintain social “stability” and ensured “continuity” of rule.

The start of her reign in 1952 coincided with her government ordering the suppression of the Mau Mau independence uprising in Kenya. Much of the population were put in concentration camps and used as slave labour – if they weren’t murdered by British soldiers.

At the height of her rule, 20 years later, British troops were given a green light to massacre 14 civilians in Northern Ireland on a protest march against Britain’s policy of jailing Catholics without trial. Those shot and killed were fleeing or tending the wounded. The British establishment oversaw cover-up inquiries into what became known as “Bloody Sunday”.

And in the twilight years of her rule, her government rode roughshod over international law, invading Iraq on the pretext of destroying non-existent weapons of mass destruction. During the long years of a joint British and US occupation, it is likely that more than a million Iraqis died and millions more were driven from their homes.

The Queen, of course, was not personally responsible for any of those events – nor the many others that occurred while she maintained a dignified silence.

But she did provide regal cover for those crimes – in life, just as she is now being recruited to do in death.

It was her Royal Armed Forces that killed Johnny Foreigner.

It was her Commonwealth that repackaged the jackbooted British empire as a new, more media-savvy form of colonialism.

It was the Union Jacks, Beefeaters, black cabs, bowler hats – the ludicrous paraphernalia somehow associated with the Royals in the rest of the world’s mind – that the new power across the Atlantic regularly relied on from its sidekick to add a veneer of supposed civility to its ugly imperial designs.

Paradoxically, given US history, the special-ness of the special relationship hinged on having a much-beloved, esteemed Queen providing “continuity” as the British and US governments went about tearing up the rulebook on the laws of war in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

Teflon Queen

And therein lies the rub. The Queen is dead. Long live the King!

But King Charles III is not Queen Elizabeth II.

The Queen had the advantage of ascending to the throne in a very different era, when the media avoided Royal scandals unless they were entirely unavoidable, such as when Edward VIII caused a constitutional crisis in 1936 by announcing his plan to marry an American “commoner”.

With the arrival of 24-hour rolling news in the 1980s and the later advent of digital media, the Royals became just another celebrity family like the Kardashians. They were fair game for the paparazzi. Their scandals sold newspapers. Their indiscretions and feuds chimed with the period’s ever more salacious and incendiary soap opera plots on TV.

But none of that dirt stuck to the Queen, even when recently it was revealed – to no consequence – that her officials had secretly and regularly rigged legislation to exempt her from the rules that applied to everyone else, under a principle known as Queen’s Consent. An apartheid system benefiting the Royal Family alone.

By remaining above the fray, she offered “continuity”. Even the recent revelation that her son, Prince Andrew, consorted with young girls alongside the late Jeffrey Epstein, and kept up the friendship even after Epstein was convicted of paedophilia, did nothing to harm the Teflon Monarch.

Charles III, by contrast, is best remembered – at least by the older half of the population – for screwing up his marriage to a fairy-tale princess, Diana, killed in tragic circumstances. In preferring Camilla, Charles traded Cinderella for the evil stepmother, Lady Tremaine.

If the monarch is the narrative glue holding society and empire together, Charles could represent the moment when that project starts to come unstuck.

Which is why the black suits, hushed tones, and air of reverence are needed so desperately right now. The establishment is in frantic holding mode as they prepare to begin the difficult task of reinventing Charles and Camilla in the public imagination. Charles must now do the heavy lifting for the establishment that the Queen managed for so long, even as she grew increasingly frail physically.

The outlines of that plan have been visible for a while. Charles will be rechristened the King of the Green New Deal. He will symbolise Britain’s global leadership against the climate crisis.

If the Queen’s job was to rebrand empire as Commonwealth, transmuting the Mau Mau massacre into gold medals for Kenyan long-distance runners, Charles’ job will be to rebrand as a Green Renewal the death march led by transnational corporations.

Which is why now is no time for silence or obedience. Now is precisely the moment – as the mask slips, as the establishment needs time to refortify its claim to deference – to go on the attack.

Jonathan Cook
Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook is a MintPress contributor. Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

21 comments

  1. One of the most important considerations in People’s lives is certainly. This is the significance of the British Monarchy and the 70 years of Her Majesty’S reign.

    1. Nonsense. How did knowing that a rich woman continued to sit on the throne contribute to a family’s well-being?

  2. The promulgation of the orthodox line is being strictly adhered to here in Australia as well.
    Every past PM is having their anecdotes of meeting with the Queen published in the corporate press.
    Feel good stories abound, the Guardian has not opened its comments section for public comment – largely, I suspect, because many Australians really couldn’t give a damn.
    (No surprise that the Guardian upholds the orthodox conservative view. And any attempts to slip in a comment are promptly expunged).

    Australian parliaments – federal and state – are being suspended for a fortnight out of ‘respect’, 90 gun salutes, sporting events put-back; even regional/rural newspapers are serving up the saccharine.

    And the line being repeated ad nauseam is how devastated ‘we’ are as a country – never do politicians show more contempt for citizens than when they presume to speak on ‘our’ behalf.

    But try and find in online Australian media outlets the comments of Dr Uju Anya – mother was born in Trinidad and her father is from Nigeria, – and you’ll be lucky.
    “If anyone expects me to express anything but disdain for the monarch who supervised a government that sponsored the genocide that massacred and displaced half my family and the consequences of which those alive today are still trying to overcome, you can keep wishing upon a star,” she tweeted.

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/uju-anya-carnegie-mellon-university-queen-b2163324.html

  3. This is such a refreshing and envigorating article and reflects my views entirely. Although now back in the UK, I lived for more than 20 years in New Zealand. It was bizarre to be in a British Commonwealth country, along with many others, which has a Public Holiday for the Queen’s birthday, when the UK itself does not. It was surreal and shocking, that part of the ceremony when I became an NZ citizen, was being locked in concert hall for several hours and having to swear alleigance to the Queen and her heirs and at the finale, having to sing the national anthem, first in English then a second time in Maori. It was crazy and galling, but the only way to become a citizen of my adopted country. We even had escorts when we wanted to leave the room to go to the toilet, just to make sure we didn’t make a run for it before the bitter end. NZ is a great place by the way and I hope to return to live there, but like a lot of he Commonwealth, can outbid the UK on the Medieval royalty theme. The time to declare a Republic is way overdue.

  4. Amid all the accolades, finally we read a realistic assessment of a monarch. Why do so many who profess to being democrats blindly tread the earth in praising the reign of one of the the exploitative class.

  5. Balderdash ! I don’t care if she was the Queen or your favorite Auntie, being respectful upon the passing of someone dear to others isn’t politics, it’s merely
    good manners.

    1. You obviously totally miss the point of this article. This is not your mother who died, this is someone of immense power and influence representing an institution whose pernicious effect on world affairs has been completely mis-represented for centuries. It’s more about the institution she represents than about her.

      This is the best time to highlight the reality of the British monarchy with an eye towards eliminating it, something long overdue.

  6. THE QUEEN WAS A GREAT HOOD ORNAMENT
    I was born in Britain and lived there until I was 34. The Queen was a woman who was born into extreme wealth and all that implies for her entire life. It was her presence that perpetuated the class system world-wide, for her greatest achievement. She was an untouchable who did very little for her people but be a figure head of her wealth and her superiority over us little people.
    I never liked royalty, their obvious posh accent and right to be treated like gods is ridiculous.
    The queen can trace back the Windsors to their german lineage to the 9th century, 1,209 years and 37 generations. The Windsors have a good deal of confirmed ancestors who got all the money and property. The monarchs are all descendants of King Alfred the Great, the sovereign back in 871.AD He was king as many others were in the deep past, not because god made him king but because kings and queens use vast military violence against those others who wanted to be royalty and get their money. How many thousands of people have been killed by this family’s ancestors? The property, money and wealth they have was ripped off someone else in violent wars of the past. Royalty never reached out and helped anyone, they are too posh and too important in their own minds to care.
    I never saw any them acting with love for regular citizens except Dianna (DEAD) and Harry (EXILE) who although wealthy met with ordinary people /. They are the real royalty of being.
    The royal family and their fabulous endless wealth was created by many violent ancestors over the hundreds of years of ruling with an iron glove of royal entitlement giving to no one but their loyal courtiers. How many regular people died for royalty’s extreme wealth? They kept all their money and never stood up for their own citizens The queen read speeches, performed ceremonies. She was a hood ornament for Britain
    Now she is dead Charles is King and he wont help the citizens of Britain other than for filling duties the king must fill.
    ROYALTY manufactures CLASS DIVISION and SEPARATION BY CLASS. They do nothing but support their own position to keep up some bullshit idea of their superiority is alive. One day the blind stupid british public will wake up to the feudalism perpetuated by royalty and their stolen wealth. Till then, Charles in a new hood ornament for Britain

  7. Re: Courageous speech by one African, Julius Malema, who knows the truth.
    As one coffin closes on the British Empire, the lid of Pandora’s box is courageously lifted, and the cruelties perpetrated against humanity, by inhumanity, during the course of an horrendous, ignominious span of history, are finally revealed.
    If truth be told, why not by those who were directly impacted; suffering the slavery, rape and pillage; and perishing by the brutal genocidal acts inflicted upon them, without conscience.
    If not now, when?

    1. And here’s that perspective, given by the man himself, from southern Africa, on “YouTube” this past Saturday.

  8. I find the Queen’s death at this time both symbolic and prophetic.

    We enter a new dark age.

  9. I agree with the general tone of this, but it is not correct to say that the Duchy of Cornwall owns Cornwall. They do own large areas of land, but most of Cornwall is not theirs. Likewise the Crown Estate is a large landowner but doesn’t own all of the land in the UK! The comment above is not even a correct reading of the article referenced.
    (Incidentally, you may be interested to know that Crown land is not subject to the laws that apply everywhere else.)

  10. Many criticism by Cook and others but the Monarchy provided a steadiness for the Empire. However the Empire deserves its accusations of wrong doings over the centuries. The most important achievement was that King George 6, was the strongest force that kept GB from falling apart and surrender to Nazi. Churchill could not by himself keep the nation together but with the Royal family, they united the Brits. If UK fell, Western Europe would never have been invaded from England by American /Canadians. The central Asians would have swept into all of western Europe, maybe the USSR would not have collapsed. And Nazi’s could have kept a strong hold on the British islands.

    1. That the monarchy provided “a steadiness for the empire” is exactly the problem with it. Your empire was long past its sell-by date and needed to be dismantled. The monarchy was desperately trying to hold it together (along with Churchill).

      In WW1, the name “Windsor” was adopted to hide your royal family’s German heritage. Britain was at war with the country from which most of your royals came from. There is so much inbreeding in all the European royal families that they have to go to other royalty outside the country to find fresh blood.

  11. Another one bites the dust: shrivelled Lizzie drops off her perch

    By Eric Arthur Blair
    9 September 2022

    The Queen is dead. I am not referring to the demise of Freddie Mercury. That was ancient history, although Freddie’s passing certainly represented the premature tragic loss of an immense talent and deserved to be mourned. No, I am referring of course to the demise yesterday of an extremely old, extremely rich and extremely privileged lady who, as far as we knew, lacked any talent, apart from doing what she was told to do and saying what she was told to say. I suppose you could call that a talent of sorts, if pulled off convincingly. Could someone with no initiative, no imagination and no original thought, who did what she was told to do, and said what she was told to say, be termed a “ruler” or a “leader”? Or is “dutiful establishment puppet” a more accurate description? Would Lizzie have amounted to anything if she had not been born into the Saxe-Coburg family? Of course not.
    That paragraph above is bound to raise the ire of all foaming-at-the-mouth Monarchists and knuckle-dragging Imperialists everywhere. However those words were entirely based on known facts and reasoned analysis. Unfortunately however, those words could earn me a place on the fatwah kill list of rabid Britannic jihadists.
    Until they or their UkroNazi proxies successfully car-bomb me, I will insist, resist and persist. So here goes.
    QE2’s demise at age 96 is the biggest pseudo-news and biggest NON-event in the world today. I daresay that the Pakistanis who lost their families, friends and worldly possessions in the recent horrific floods, have other things on their minds. I daresay that the Yemenis and Palestinians being bombed and shot at daily, have other things on their minds. I daresay that the Afghans who had their bank deposits stolen by the USA and are now starving, have other things on their minds. My view regarding Lizzie’s departure, after yawning repeatedly, is that everyone should instead focus, laser-like, on the existential concerns facing humanity: conflicts manufactured by the USA now raising our real risk of Nuclear Armageddon, catastrophic climate change, impending collapse of industrial civilisation from petroleum depletion, ecosystem devastation and rampant pollution, all which threaten to bring about our Near Term Extinction.
    Meanwhile in the Western media, we are bombarded with “bread and circuses”, with time and energy wasting distractions. Yesterday it was the size of Kim Kardashian’s bum, today it is the news that shrivelled old Lizzie fell off her perch. What an unexpected shock, oh me, oh my.
    A potentially bigger News distraction would be this: the size of shrivelled Lizzie’s cadaveric bum.
    No doubt there will be gnashing of teeth, tearing out of hair and loud agonised wailing echoing down the corridors of British Imperialism everywhere.
    We will be inundated with nauseating puff-pieces, the fawning media presstitutes of Old Empire all trying to out-compete each other for the most heartfelt hagiography, written with copious tears streaming down their cheeks, abruptly short circuiting their keyboards. The best pieces will earn hefty paychecks. That is how the commercial media work.
    Politicians too will join the frenzied contest for “bestest Liz loving speechification” the winner being the one that most poignantly pulls at everyone’s heartstrings. I can envision Peter Dutton, that rabidly fanatical Imperialistic armchair warmonger, viewing this as a golden opportunity to re-fashion his public image. After ensuring that all cameras are trained on him, he would dramatically tear his hair out, demonstrating his inconsolable grief. Oh, wait…never mind, maybe he has hair elsewhere that he can tear out. And I don’t mean eyebrows, which he already creepily seems to lack.
    It is long past time that Australia should cast loose from anything resembling Imperial control. Of course, alert individuals will recognise that Australia in years past had quietly transitioned from being a Colony of Britain to being a Neo-Colony of the USA. We now know beyond any reasonable doubt that the removal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam from office was a soft coup orchestrated by the CIA, collaborating with MI6, who used the figureheads of the Queen and Governor General to overthrow a democratically elected leader of a (nominally) sovereign country, Australia.
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/23/gough-whitlam-1975-coup-ended-australian-independence
    https://johnmenadue.com/alex-mitchell-gough-whitlams-dismissal-and-the-cia/
    So much for independence. So much for attempting socialist reform to benefit ordinary hardworking people.
    So who were those shadowy people who told Liz what to do and what to say? Certainly MI6, in collaboration with the CIA (and we now know for sure that the CIA, along with the FBI, orchestrated JFK’s assassination – because he had too much initiative, too much imagination, too much original thought. Conspiracy theory is now conspiracy fact. Any who dispute this reality must watch Oliver Stone’s “JFK revisited”). Who are the other puppet masters? You know very well who: the usual Wunch of Bankers, the Military-Industrial-Complex Oligarchs, the Corporatists (especially Big Oil), the commercial media moguls such as Rabid Maddog (and his heir Loco Maddog) etc. You know who the 0.1% are. Everyone must focus, laser-like, on the psychopaths who actually pull the strings, who control ventriloquist dummies like Joe Biden or his equivalent “Republican” wannabe and who also control bonnie Prince Charlie (now the King…of wishful thinking). The mouthpieces and marionettes change but the propaganda remains the same.
    Here is one possible inscription for Lizzie’s tombstone:

    Here lies a non-entity
    who did what she was told to do
    and said what she was told to say.

    She was a dutiful establishment puppet.

    PS: her corpse had a small bum

    1. Interesting that the people that disagree with your theories, are knuckle draggers who foam at the mouth…

      Mind you, said in such an authoritative manner, it must be true.

      D… Head.

      I do not like royalty, but I despise politicians…

      All of them.

  12. Agree with the sentiment, but… aren’t you showboating, just a tad, from the shoulders of an influential name, who preceded you?

    1. Above EAB piece was a repost of the feature article on the saker site. edwardi’s comment:
      Incredibly entertaining deciphering of events, every comment a bullseye. Some of this is funny as heck at the same time being deadly serious and alarming. Thanks to the author for putting some serious fun into my morning reading, great job.

  13. petty narcissism for peasants—anglos prefer to obsess about monarchy Hollywood celebrities emperor gates—but they despise freedom and justice, celebrate imperialism and ignore social forces

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: