Peter Shokeir | [email protected]
We’re living in chaotic times where history is constantly being made, so the death of a British monarch may not rank too high on a list of notable events for some.
Still, Queen Elizabeth II’s reign of 70 years was the longest of any British monarch, a feat probably achieved by avoiding smoking and a few emotional support Corgis.
While prime ministers and presidents came and went, she was a constant presence in British life, always setting an example but never intruding into political matters.
She embodied many qualities that the British respect, such as keeping your opinions to yourself and maintaining a stiff upper lip, qualities that are sorely lacking in modern discourse.
And with such a long reign, it’s rather remarkable that the Queen avoided any serious personal scandals of her own. (Her family is a different matter.)
Her passing has been met with a general feeling of sadness, a feeling that a central pillar of stability has crumbled away, raising questions about the future of the monarchy.
I have mixed feelings about the institution, considering it not too harmful but also believing that its benefits are overstated.
Defenders will say a figurehead monarch helps keep politicians humble and separates the head of state from the head of government, preventing all the pageantry and leader worship from being heaped on the person with the actual power, as is unfortunately the case with the U.S. president.
Even if all that could be proven true, isn’t the real issue that leader worship is a thing at all? Can’t we strive to teach children not to mindlessly idolize elites, or are we so pessimistic that we think this antiquated institution is necessary just to safely channel our primate instincts?
Actor Stephen Fry did once note that even some of the most strident anti-monarchists want to take selfies with the royals, so perhaps there is a cause for pessimism.
Ultimately, the fate of the monarchy will likely depend on the royals themselves.
Will they be able to maintain their dignity and decorum, or will they end up becoming Instagram celebrities like Meghan Markle or pariahs like Prince Andrew?
King Charles III has made his political opinions known in the past and still bears a reputational stain from the Diana affair, but his recent speech was well received enough to assume that he has the chops to keep the monarchy going for the foreseeable future.
Let’s just see if he can stay above the fray, because most of us can't these days.