Queen Elizabeth II passed away last Thursday, 8 September, and in the following days we have seen a public demonstration of sorrow that gives no signs of abating. The state funeral scheduled for Monday 19 will mark a climax and put a formal end to the second Elizabethan era, though it is still to be seen whether future historians will refer to the period 1952-2022 as such.

            In the days since Elizabeth Windsor died, I have been waiting for signs of increasing republican unrest but by now it is obvious that these are feeble and that the Queen’s passing may even have increased pro-monarchic feeling. The new King, Charles III, has already shown in two of his official appearances that he has a rather short temper, but despite this so far his popularity is increasing. Not even the many tweets celebrating the late Princess Diana as the real Queen, instead of Queen Consort Camilla, seem to have dented that popularity; suggestions that Prince William should be crowned instead of his father are nowhere to be found. Only Prince Andrew, heckled by a disgruntled Scotsman as a ‘dirty old man’ (because of his association with Jeffrey Epstein) during the Edinburgh funeral procession, has attracted some negative feeling, tiny as this appears to be.

            While I remain appalled by Prof. Uju Anya’s infamous tweet (“I heard the chief monarch of a thieving and raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating”) for its ugliness and cruelty, it is certainly the case that this is what Elizabeth II was. BIPOC persons both in the United Kingdom and in the former colonies have much to rejoice in the end of her reign, though attacks against an elderly dying person seem to me in very poor taste. The images of her weeping subjects are not universally white, but this is the right time to start an overdue conversation about the participation of the British monarchy in slavery, the horrifying effects of colonialism and imperialism all over the world, and the abnormal situation by which King Charles III will still be formally the head of state of fourteen former colonies. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinta Arden has made it known that the nation she leads is in no hurry to proclaim itself a republic, which astonishes me, but we’ll see what happens when Australia takes that path, as it will soon enough (though possibly after the Caribbean nations still subjected to British monarchy). Let’s hope for a domino effect.

            Apart from Twitter and other social media, where at any rate the flood of condolences, mourning, and tears overwhelms the negative response, the more progressive British media have truly disappointed me. And, yes, I mean The Guardian. Only yesterday, five days after the Queen’s demise, did this newspaper start publishing opinion columns and cartoons questioning the events surrounding this death, from the mindboggling display of totally outdated ceremony and pageantry, to the issue of Elizabeth’s colonial legacy, perpetuated through the fantasy that somehow the Commonwealth would go on and become an alternative to the European Union.

            A mantra that has been invoked in the media and the social media is that now is not the time to raise delicate political issues, as the United Kingdom is in mourning and the late Queen deserves respect for her long service to the nation. I don’t agree. This is indeed the time, though I understand that any conversation is complicated by the memory of the sweet-looking granny that Elizabeth Windsor had become in recent years. If, excuse me, the funeral were that of the far less popular and far less nice-looking Charles, matters would be very different. I find it, additionally, both unfortunate and controversial that he will reign as Charles III, reminding everyone that whereas the first Charles was executed to ease the inauguration of the only British republic so far, the second Charles restored monarchy for good. I believe Charles III is warning the world that he is the kind of monarch that stays put, not the kind that is deposed. He could have chosen to reign as King Arthur I, think about it, using one of his first names (the others are Phillip and George).

            Discussing these matters with my family, one of my brothers argued that, on the whole, obnoxious as the ideas of monarchy and inherited power are, he does not believe for a moment that a republican president and his family are cheaper to maintain. He is possibly right, but beyond the matter of the cost and the ridiculousness of having a random child named heir to the throne the moment s/he is born to a certain family regardless of public consent, the case of the British (and the Spanish) monarchy connects now uncomfortably closely with politics. You might think that the whole point of the monarchy is political but since monarchs have no power and are now representative figures, their links in Britain and Spain to the appalling politics of the recent past make them deeply questionable in terms of national representation.

            King Juan Carlos I, as we know, had to abdicate because of the many financial and personal scandals he has been involved in, but the main scandal is that he was dictator Franco’s chosen heir and, as such, he did nothing for long years to bring in democracy. Elizabeth II has never been attached to any personal scandals (excepting how poorly she reacted to Charles’s ill-treatment of Diana, or that she bought the silence of her son Andrew’s victim of sexual abuse), but she did nothing personally to acknowledge the crimes committed by the British Empire. Many more voices need to dispute her silence, and Charles III needs to be forced to acknowledge those crimes, much as it would be necessary that Felipe VI does the same regarding the ugly occupation of Central and South America.

            As a Catalan, perhaps the part I understand less of all the servile homage surrounding the passing away of the Queen is the situation in Scotland. Catalan independentism is on the wane, despite the claims of the Assemblea Nacional de Catalunya, but it has managed to increase the already palpable anti-monarchic, republican feeling in Catalonia. No member of the current Royal Family would think of keeping a residence like Balmoral in Catalonia, and their stays are limited to as short a time as possible, and no doubt private visits we know nothing about. If, God helps us, King Juan Carlos I or King Felipe died in Catalonia, it would be just a very bad idea to parade the body all along Catalonia as it has been done with Elizabeth II in Scotland. There would be protests, if not riots, and I’m sure that the body should have to be swiftly flown to Madrid. The funeral procession along Eastern Scotland and Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and the lying-in-state at St. Giles Cathedral are just incomprehensible to me, as I expected a strong independentist reaction and protests.

            I was amazed to learn that former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond wanted Queen Elizabeth to remain head of state supposing Scotland became independent, for I always assumed, as it is assumed in Catalonia, that independence passes necessarily through the declaration of a republic. Somehow, I felt humiliated by proxy by the presence of Elizabeth II’s body in Edinburgh, even though I don’t call myself an independentist. Funnily, King Charles III vowed to protect the freedom of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland during his proclamation last Saturday, as he needs to do as Head of the Anglican Church, but nothing was said of the right to their freedom of the current British nations. I extend my perplexity about Scotland, of course, to (Northern) Ireland and Wales. The Welsh, if you recall, have been told that William and Kate are now Prince and Princess of Wales, whether they like it or not.

            One word about the late Diana, Princess of Wales. As it is well known, thanks to the series The Crown, even though young Charles was deeply in love with Camilla Shand, she was not considered adequate to marry him, for reasons that had to do with her lifestyle and not being aristocratic enough. In a horrid exercise of manipulation and hypocrisy, and once Camilla had married someone else tired of waiting, Charles proposed (or was told to propose) to 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer, a woman naïve enough to believe he loved her. What followed was the stuff of major scandal: Charles and Camilla eventually started an affair, Diana started many others in retaliation, the couple divorced and Lady Di died tragically aged 36, now 25 years ago, in a car crash provoked by the paparazzi chasing her. Charles married finally Camilla after her own divorce and, protected by the late Queen, the King’s former mistress is about to be crowned Queen Consort. I can’t help thinking what William and Harry must be feeling, but it is perhaps good for the cause of republicanism that Camilla and not Diana is crowned Queen. With the attractive, extremely popular Diana by her side, in an imaginary happy marriage, King Charles III would be invincible. With the far less glamorous Camilla, excuse my sexist remark, he is not, for she may be loved (to my surprise) but is not revered as Diana was, no matter how inexplicable that reverence might be.

            London Bridge has fallen down, as the secret code to name Elizabeth II’s passing read, but London stands still as the seat of the British monarchy. Since only persons of 96 years or more have known a world without Queen Elizabeth, perhaps what we are seeing now in her sentimental public mourning is a certain fear that things may change even for the worse. Which is, in many ways, funny. In the 70 years of her long reign, let’s recall, Britain has seen the loss of its Empire and of its influence over Europe with Brexit, and it has faced several major economic crises, of which the one now looming on the horizon might be one of the worst. Elizabeth Windsor’s presence created a false illusion that things were stable and business as usual but 1952, the year when she was crowned, is now a very distant memory of a world hardly connected with ours.            

As I have noted, her persona as the nation’s sweet granny has become a magnet for national mourning in ways the late Queen would not have been had she died in, for instance, her sixties. In that sense, Charles has nothing to offer, not being at all a beloved grandfatherly figure or just an appealing man. Perhaps his selfishness shows best in his having never considered passing the crown to his much younger heir, but, then, I assume that being finally King justifies his whole life. May that life be very long and free from sorrow, but may Britons are given the chance to decide how long his reign should be, a feeling I share as a frustrated republican seeing monarchy inexplicably survive all over Europe.