Queen Elizabeth II was not a good person.
Her death, to many people all over the world, was not a tragedy, but a cause for celebration.
This is a disrespectful thing to say. It is not particularly polite, nor is it kind to speak ill of the dead, but when a person whose very existence was the direct cause of so much global harm—politeness, kindness and respect are not owed.
Uji Anya, a linguistics professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania put out a tweet as news of the Queen’s impending death began to spread last Thursday.
“I heard the chief monarch of a thieving raping genocidal empire is finally dying,” she wrote, “May her pain be excruciating.”
The tweet was removed by Twitter for violating its policy and it received massive criticism, including from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
The British empire conquered Nigeria in the late 19th and early 20th century. Thousands of Nigerians were arrested, displaced and killed, including members of Anya’s own family. The consequences of the brutality of the British empire are still felt in Nigeria and in more parts of the world than they are not.
You can draw a direct line from European colonization of the Americas to the genocide of Indigenous peoples in Canada, the consequences of which still devastate communities to this day.
Elizabeth II did not carry out these brutal acts, but she presided over them and her very existence permitted them to happen. Every piece of wealth that the British Royal family has was taken from someone else. As people in 2022 struggle to decide whether to feed their families or pay their heating bills, the British Royal family hoards 28 billion dollars in assets. Elizabeth II on her own had 500 million dollars in assets. Having that much wealth in and of itself is something to be considered reprehensible. The Queen herself lobbied for laws to be changed in order to hide just how much wealth she actually had.
It is said that there were fireworks in Ireland in light of the Queen’s death. According to social media, people chanted in the streets, honked horns and waved flags as if they had just won the World Cup. Elizabeth II’s death was something not to be mourned, but rather something to be actively celebrated.
The Queen was on the throne for all 30 years of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Though Ireland was independent, Northern Ireland remained under British rule, and Irish Catholic communities complained of discrimination by a largely Protestant police force. Police forces attempted to squash protests, engaged in gross acts of police brutality and in 1972, when protesters marched to protest the British internment policy for suspected members of the IRA, the military was called in and eventually opened fire with rubber bullets, followed by real bullets. 13 were killed and 17 were wounded in what is now regarded as the tragedy of Bloody Sunday.
It would take hours and hundreds of pages to detail every act of colonial violence that was committed in the name of Britain, in the name of the Queen while she sat on a golden throne, wearing stolen jewels. Making crass jokes about her death is mild in comparison.
There is no obligation to mourn Elizabeth II. Perhaps it is disrespectful to celebrate her passing, but respect is earned, not given. We do not have to respect the royal family simply because they are royal, especially not when they have disrespected so many already.
Death does not absolve someone of the harm that they committed in their life, no matter who they were.