Queen Elizabeth II of England has died at the age of 96. Born in 1926, the Queen was the world's longest-serving monarch, rising to the throne at the age of 25 after the death of her father, George VI. She celebrated the 70th anniversary of her throne this year. Whether that is good or bad, she is a woman who has lived for a century, has gone through many significant periods in history, and the news of her death really made us feel like we have reached the end of an era. After Queen Elizabeth's death, Prince Charles, who lived almost his entire life as the crown prince, replaced her and became king. Meanwhile, discussions on the existence and abolition of the royal family continue, and many countries are showing signs of leaving the Commonwealth. The Queen, on the other hand, was a symbol of the constitutional monarchy that remained throughout the world beyond England. ST hopes that the British royal family, whose centripetal point has disappeared, can continue its course as it is now, and hopes that Soongsilians can think about it after reading this article ...........................Ed
On September 8, 2022, Elizabeth II died at the age of 96. Her death shook the world. She was given a British state funeral. It was the first state funeral held in 57 years since former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who saved Britain against Nazi Germany in World War II. Leaders from around the world, including Korea‘s President Yoon Suk-yeol, attended in person to express their condolences over the death of Elizabeth II. Before the funeral, Elizabeth II‘s coffin was unveiled for four days. A long line spanning nearly 8 kilometers was formed as citizens flocked to say their final greetings to her. Many leaders of the former British colonies were also seen publicly honoring the Queen.
However, not all countries are on the same page. Some recalled the history of colonial rule with the death of Elizabeth II. South Africa‘s opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said it would not mourn. ”We have never acknowledged crimes committed by both countries and the British royal family around the world for 70 years, but rather was a proud symbol of the brutal past,” the party said in a statement. There are various reactions to the death of Elizabeth II. ST will look at her position in the United Kingdom (UK) and what the UK would be like without her.
The Life of Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II was born on April 21, 1926. In 1936, her grandfather, George V, died and her unc le, Prince Edward, ascended to the throne. However, in late 1936, the throne was transferred to his younger brother, Prince Albert, when Prince Edward decided to marry Wallis Simpson. Meanwhile, Elizabeth II became the first heir to the throne and began to receive public attention. At the end of World War II in 1945, Elizabeth II joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), a female unit of the British Army, and operated supply vehicles. In 1947, when Elizabeth II was a princess, she visited South Africa with her family. Here, Elizabeth II declared in a speech to the nation on her birthday, ”I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” In 1952, five years after giving this speech, at the age of 26, she became the queen and tried to keep her word. Elizabeth II was the oldest and longest-serving leader in the world. She was also the longest-serving monarch in British history. The British monarch is nominally head of state, commander- in-chief, and head of the Church of England. Therefore, it has the right to declare war on other countries, the right to appoint priests of the National Church, the right to convene and dissolve parliament, and the right to finally grant consent to enact laws. Thus, the royal family also has a pivotal role in national affairs. Also, at the time of Elizabeth II‘s accession, the royal family had a mystical image. However, Elizabeth II made an unconventional move. The coronation ceremony was broadcast live on TV for the first time in history as part of a bid to break the mysterious image of the royal family. This was opposed by then Prime Minister Winston Churchill at that time. As a result, Elizabeth II received keen attention from the British people.
The cost of maintaining the British royal family was enormous and was criticized by the people as a waste of taxpayers’ money. When controversy erupted over the British government‘s attempt to cover the high cost of reconstruction with taxes after the original castle fire in 1992, Elizabeth II declared, ”The royal family will also pay taxes.” Furthermore, Buckingham Palace was open for a certain period and began to make profits from admission fees. It also contributed to the British economy with an annual income of about 1.8 billion pounds, including derivatives of royal assets, tourism, the media industry, and various royalties.
Above all, Elizabeth II maintained the status of the British Federation by making overseas trips for more than 70 years during her reign. In 2011, she visited Ireland, which has a deep conflict with Britain, and bowed to those who were victims of the independence war.
The Difference between Elizabeth II and Charles III
Previous British Prime minister Liz Truss called Elizabeth II, ”A rock that was the foundation of modern Britain.” Charles III succeeded her to the throne. ST found out Charles III was different from Elizabeth II. Charles III is the eldest son of Elizabeth II and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. He succeeded at an early age, and was the crown prince for about 70 years. After the death of Elizabeth II, he was newly crowned king of the British and Commonwealth kingdoms, and became the oldest British king ever to be crowned king.
Compared to Elizabeth II, Charles III showed a distinctly different image and behavior even before his enthronement. Elizabeth II saw restrained neutrality as an act to many, following the adage, ”Never whine. Never complain. Never make excuses.” She has maintained this neutrality by continuing her closed manner and silence. However, Charles III used to express his opinions on some issues he considered important. In 2015, it was revealed that he sent several letters to ministers to express his concerns over various issues, such as finance and the military. He also frequently expressed his opinions and support for the agricultural sector he was interested in.
However, despite this relatively active external activity, Charles III was one of the least popular members of the British royal family even before his enthronement. Charles‘s popularity fell to its worst after the scandal of divorcing his first wife Princess Diana, and marrying Camilla, with whom he had an affair. After all, according to a 2016 survey, Charles had a lower approval rating than his son William, as well as his younger grandson George. He is different from Elizabeth II, who was loved by many. Then, can Charles III‘s attitude and popularity change?
Charles III has previously expressed his position, saying, ”The view that my actions before and after becoming king will be the same in some way is wrong.” Britain will also move in a new direction, and prepare to move forward through Charles III‘s new leadership. Constitutional expert Vernon Bogdanor said that being a monarch has different roles and rules. Professor Bogdanor said Charles III knew he had to change his style since he was young. He also predicted that Charles III would pursue a more diverse Britain in terms of culture and faith. He said he would make integration his driving force and support, making visible efforts to embrace ethnic and socially disadvantaged groups.
Some say that Charles III is likely to emphasize a small and core royal family. Royal critic Victoria Murphy also said that the most important message in Charles III‘s reign would be continuity and stability. She said Charles III would act very carefully and added not to expect huge and violent differences and changes.
On the other hand, discussions on whether the royal family should exist or not have continued. ST examined different positions on this issue.
Republicanism in Great Britain
One of the topics that once again became relevant after the death of Elizabeth II is the topic of Republicanism. The idea that the English monarchy should be abolished has been around since the Victorian times. However, such an idea has been unpopular until recently. Since the start of the 20th century, although there have been outspoken republicans among the political class, there has not been a relevant political party that has held a republican position. The last time the assembly heard the motion to end the monarchy, during the 1936 abdication of Edward VIII, the motion was dismissed 5 to 403.
However, since the turn of the century, the support for the monarchy has been on a downward trend, especially among the young people in the country. According to the polling service YouGov, the support for the monarchy has dropped from 75% in 2011 to 62% in 2022, and the support among the 18 to 24 age group has catapulted down to 33%, from 59% in the same period. Then, why is republicanism becoming more popular, especially among the youth, and what issues are relevant to republicans?
Financial Cost of the Royal Family
Since the beginning of British Republicanism, one of the core criticisms of the monarchy was the financial cost of the monarchy. Outspoken republicans have often emphasized the monarchy’s cost to the British taxpayer, and such criticism has recently hit home more and more for the working-class citizens, who have suffered from the decline of the economy and lowering wages the most. News of the cost of Elizabeth II’s funeral has attracted the ire of many. For Britain faced one of the worst economic disasters the country. Besides the cost of the 2017 renovation of the Buckingham Palace, which was slated to cost over 500 million pounds and is ever climbing higher, has one of the hot issues for some of the British people. Then, what is the actual cost of the monarchy to the British public?
First, the royal family receives 25% of the revenue from the Crown Estate, a publicly owned real estate portfolio worth 14.1 billion pounds. In 2018, this amounted to 80 million pounds a year. Moreover, the cost of the royal family’s security expenses, as well as travel expenses, are borne by the government. Finally, the government can grant additional expenses such as the cost of renovation of Buckingham Palace. In total, the royal family has received 120 million pounds from the government in 2021.
However, the above-mentioned figures are only part of what is known publicly. In addition to funds received from the government, certain members of the royal family, like the crown prince and the king, each own the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall, and privatize all revenue generated from those areas. In total, the republican organization Republic estimates the total cost to the British taxpayer to be around 345 million pounds per year.
Changing Values and Scandals
Another thing that is leading to the decline of support for the royal family is that the values of the royal family and the British public are moving farther and farther from each other. A good example is the Princess Diana factor. Princess Diana entered the royal family through her marriage to Charles, the then-crown prince and now monarch. Due to her charm and active personality, which was against the traditions of the royal family, she was much beloved by the British public. When she divorced Charles after a tumultuous marriage, the British public was very much on her side. And when she died in a car crash in 1997, the approval rating for Charles and the royal family plummeted to the lowest it had ever been, with rumors circulating that the royal family had arranged for her to be assassinated. In short, the British public preferred the active and independent Diana over the closed off and traditional royal family, and it showed in the aftermath of such an incident.
However, the royal family’s scandals do not simply remain in the realm of values and rumors, like in the case of Princess Diana. Prince Andrew was accused, and civilly sued for having sexual relations with Ms. Virginia Roberts in 2001, who was a minor at that time. Furthermore, Ms. Roberts was introduced to Andrew and was coerced into “doing whatever he wanted” by one Jeffery Epstein, a close acquaintance of Andrew and a convicted sex trafficker. After a period of denial and attacking the character of the victim, Andrew eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of donation to Ms. Robert’s charity to support victims of sexual violence in 2022. During this process, the Crown not only protected Andrew and paid his legal fees, but aided in his PR efforts and publicly included him in official events as if nothing had happened, spitting in the face of the victim and the British public.
The Royal Family and Imperialism
Many young Brits do not view Britain’s imperialist past as a positive, and the royal family, in particular Elizabeth II, cannot escape criticism as a symbol of imperialism. Elizabeth II, who ascended to the throne in 1936, oversaw the final years of the British Empire, and was silent on the issue of the people who suffered under the imperialist boot of Britain. Moreover, she had often offered tacit support toward such actions with her actions and words in the formerly colonial nations. This did not sit well with not only the people of the formerly colonized nations, who still suffer from past colonialism as well as current neocolonial actions of Western nations, but also to the members of the British public that are against its imperialist past. It is why the Crown is seen to be complicit.
The British royal family is not under an immediate existential threat. As of today, though the support for the Crown is at a historical low, more people are rooting for the monarchy than against it. However, that is not to say that the monarchy is not in need of change. Young people are against the institution of monarchy more than ever, with an admittedly slim majority against it. If the institution of the monarchy is to survive, then the royal family must change to fit the people’s wants. The first steps toward such an action should involve becoming more transparent and open, and addressing issues raised by the public.
Jeon Min-young (News Editor)
Min Jeong-ung (ST Reporter)