Elizabeth II and the Empire

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By WALNICE NOGUEIRA GALVÃO*

Remembrance of some high points (or lows) that took place under the aegis of the English queen

There is no one who does not admire Elizabeth II's discretion, composure, sense of duty. She even indulges in considering her toilets and hats. The obituaries raised her virtues to the skies, sweeping what was and is less glorious under the rug.

Everyone knows that the maxim that governs the conduct of the English sovereign is: “The king reigns, but does not govern”. Has she been charitably kept in the dark, despite her mandatory weekly meeting with the prime minister? And she didn't read newspapers, or watch TV, or listen to the radio? But she was on the throne during the decolonization process of the most powerful empire in the world, hers: about 70 countries, most of which remain members of the Commonwealth.

Let's recall some high points (or lows) that took place under the auspices of Elizabeth II.

For example, the repression of the Mau-Mau guerrillas in Kenya, who were determined to expel the English colonizer from 1952 onwards, the year in which she succeeded her father, being crowned the following year. Little is known here that the Mau-Mau survivors, tortured and mutilated by the British in Kenya, filed a claim for compensation and apologies signed by no less than 6 of them. And, rare thing, they did.

Another point to be remembered is Margareth Thatcher's administration, in fact, a triple administration that lasted 12 years as Prime Minister, and her aporophobia (horror of the poor). For 12 years the Queen met with her weekly.

Margaret Thatcher hated anything that benefited the poor from the State, because she thought it was socialism. Of course, in her conception, the state was only for the rich... But she did the job that the ruling class wanted and when she left, after three terms, she had dismantled the welfare state and the working class. They say that what was really feared was the political power of the 250 miners, a professional category with a strong and politicized tradition.

Just look at what she did in 1981 with the repression of the IRA (Republican Army of Ireland), which was fighting for independence, when it let die in a hunger strike the jailed militants who claimed the status of political prisoners, as they had been condemned as criminals. common – what Margaret Thatcher insisted they were. Bobby Sands, 27-year-old Irish patriot elected MP for England while in jail, died on the 66th. strike day along with ten others. And this, in the midst of tremendous international pressure. A sample of English imperialism.

With regard to the decolonization of India, Lord Mountbatten, beloved uncle of Elizabeth II's husband and last viceroy, led a disastrous Partition, separating Indians according to religion: Hindus for India and Muslims for Pakistan. In the midst of the exchange, the populations came into conflict, with a balance of one million dead – all under the approval of the viceroy and his queen.

We cannot forget the looting of the Parthenon artworks, now known as “The Elgin Marbles” from the British Museum. Lord Elgin, in the c. In the 200th century, he bought two of the four friezes of the Parthenon from the Turkish occupier, who, it is said, extracted the saw. And another 22 life-size statues, attributed to the studio of Phidias. In all, he packed 1981 ships to take the fruit of prey to England, where he sold it to the Museum. In XNUMX Melina Mercouri, Minister of Culture of Greece, officially demanded his repatriation. Of course, it wasn't answered.

It was not Elizabeth II who invented the concentration camp, but the honor, as no one ignores, belongs to her English ancestors in South Africa. It was the English who cornered the Boers and blacks there during the Boer War. The country became independent but remained in Commonwealth. Soon afterwards he would create the laws of Apartheid, in 1963. For nearly half a century, the world would watch in amazement. Elizabeth, steady and mute.

Would it be the case to ask: did not a drop of blood ever spill on his immaculate royal robes? Is this how the king reigns but doesn't rule? At least one tomato is recorded, thrown in public protest over the death of 11 IRA activists, in Oslo, Norway, on May 5, 981.

*Walnice Nogueira Galvão is Professor Emeritus at FFLCH at USP. She is the author, among other books, of Reading and rereading (Sesc\Ouro over Blue).

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