Queen Elizabeth II has died at the age of 96, and I for one am horrified by how many people seemed to have no problem making this a political event. On what planet is the death of a monarch, hand-picked by God herself to be the political head of the United Kingdom and 14 other sovereign states such as Canada, whose constitution enshrines that monarch as the leader of the country such that it is nearly impossible for the country to ever NOT be a monarchy, on what planet is that “political?” Oh hold on, I guess…this planet. Earth. It’s…it’s obviously political.
There are certainly good arguments for and against a country being “ruled” by a monarch in the year of our lord 2022: on the “pro” side, I”ve heard Brits argue that the Royal Family are good for tourism and the important commemorative plate market. On the “con” side I’ve heard marginalized people in countries that have been devastated by the British monarchy’s colonialism, which raped, murdered, pillaged, and enslaved millions of people in countries like Barbados, Jamaica, India, Ireland, and Kenya, say “fuck the commemorative plate market.” Both good arguments, I’d say.
Just to pick one of those, let’s talk a little about Kenya. Since the late 19th century, the British monarchy used the British armed forces to occupy Kenya, declaring it a colony in 1920 despite the protests of the people who actually lived there. Within months of Queen Elizabeth II ascending the throne in 1952, British forces put down a Kenyan rebellion by using “castration, systematic beatings, rape and sexual assault with bottles; all of which…were known about and sanctioned at the top levels of the British government.” They put thousands of civilians in internment camps where dozens of them were massacred. All of this was revealed by the colonialists’ own records, which forced the British government to pay about 5,000 survivors nearly 20 million pounds in 2012.
So yeah, when people talk about the history of colonialism that Elizabeth and her family symbolize, they’re not JUST talking about ancient history (like when Elizabeth I funded the earliest slave traders around 1600 or when Charles II established the Royal African Company in 1660 to begin capturing Africans, branding them, and transporting them to Barbados to be sold as slaves. They’re ALSO talking about RECENT history, atrocities that happened within the memory of living people, massacres that occurred while Elizabeth II was head of state and de facto leader of the forces who were hammering innocent people to death.
Now, you may think that the Queen was always just a SYMBOL: a SYMBOL of a powerful monarch, a symbol of vast wealth, a symbol of horrific colonialism. She could only remain “queen” provided that she stay politically neutral. Yes, she reserved the right to review every bill passed by parliament, but that was just a formality! She would never reject a bill. She would ALWAYS give her consent, because to do otherwise would upset the delicate balance that allows England to remain functionally democratic while still allowing her to be “Queen” and for her and her family to collect millions of pounds from taxpayers each year, which they don’t necessarily pay taxes on.
This is the argument that inspired me to make this video, in fact: because following her death, my first thought was “Oh lord, now we get King Charles III. Fuck.” Because the former Prince Charles is just an enormous clown, as many old school skeptics like myself know. He has made no secret of his love of pseudoscientific bunk like homeopathy. Homeopathy is the stupidest of alternative medicine snake oil, in that it relies on the idea that water “remembers” something you put in it which is no longer there, and that you can cure pretty much any ailment by putting in and then removing things that cause the disease you’re suffering from. So for instance, if you have itchy skin maybe you can cure it by dunking a poison ivy leaf in a glass of water, throwing that glass of water in a swimming pool of water, taking a glass of THAT water out, throwing it in the Pacific Ocean, and then taking a glass of that water out and drinking it. I’m not making this up, that is what homeopathy is.
Charles was so enamored with homeopathy that in 2019 he became the official patron of the “Faculty of Homeopathy,” a British group that promotes the snake oil in question. He also has publicly expressed fears about “nanotechnology,” asking the Royal Society to investigate the risk of tiny machines reproducing to infinity and swallowing the universe. And, obviously, he thinks genetically modified crops are an environmental disaster. Note that in that case, he also said some things I think are correct, like “What we should be talking about is food security, not food production.” It’s true that for the most part the world makes enough food for everyone, but for some reason not everyone gets food. I wonder what that reason could be? No way to know, I guess. We’ll just have to trust that Charles is correct that “India’s Punjab,” which fell under British rule after the Sikh empire was violently defeated by the East India Company in the Battle of Gujrat, was horrifically damaged by, let’s see here, ah yes, “excessive approaches to modern forms of agriculture.”
But I digress. I, and many other critics of the former Prince’s loony beliefs, worried that now as King he has an even greater platform from which to institute those beliefs, which is why I’ve heard so much in recent days about the purely symbolic, apolitical “formality” in which the monarchy simply stands aside and allows democracy to progress as it will. And honestly I’m a little surprised to hear those arguments from people who live in England itself, because it makes me wonder if they read their nation’s newspapers.
Because first of all, the former Prince Charles has a long history of attempting to use his position as the son of the Queen to influence society: pestering the Royal Academy about nanobots is one thing, but the there’s also the fact that in 2005 he commissioned a report that called for the National Health Service to offer coverage for osteopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy and herbal medicine. The report was not written by a doctor, but by an economist named Christopher Smallwood, and the editor of the Lancet called it “dangerous nonsense.” Edzard Ernst, who at the time was the director of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter’s Peninsula Medical School, was critical of the report and said “its conclusions were written before the authors had searched for evidence that might match them.” This led Charles’ secretary to file a complaint against Ernst with the University, and then according to Reuters “Ernst’s complementary medicine research unit at Exeter’s Peninsula School of Medicine had been threatened with outright closure, but the university has now offered it a reprieve and says it is seeking a successor to Ernst to lead it.
“It looked as though I had to go, and that was the price for the unit to continue,” Ernst said. “I pay the price gladly as it is a small price to pay for the unit to continue.””
The Prince claimed he had nothing to do with Ernst stepping down.
In 2014, the BBC revealed that Charles had been outright lobbying the Welsh government to add alternative medicine pseudoscience to their health services. Peter Hain, a former cabinet minister, told the BBC “When I was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in 2005-07, he was delighted when I told him that since I was running the place I could more or less do what I wanted to do.
“I was able to introduce a trial for complementary medicine on the NHS, and it had spectacularly good results, that people’s well-being and health was vastly improved.
“And when he learnt about this he was really enthusiastic and tried to persuade the Welsh government to do the same thing and the government in Whitehall to do the same thing for England, but not successfully,” added Mr Hain.”
Other politicians have said the same: according to the Daily Fail, “Former environment minister Michael Meacher said he and the Prince ‘would consort together quietly’ to affect policy on climate change and genetically modified crops.
‘I knew that he largely agreed with me and he knew that I largely agreed with him,’ said Mr Meacher.
‘We were together in trying to persuade Tony Blair to change course.’”
Labour MP David Blunkett said Charles tried to convince him to open more grammar schools, and even though that wasn’t to be, Blunkett said he didn’t really mind because “If you are waiting to be the king of the United Kingdom, and you’ve waited a very long time, you genuinely have to engage with something or you’d go spare.” That really rings true to me, I mean, I got bored the other day and was considering a replay of Skyrim or taking up some knitting but instead I got on the phone and tried to influence important policy decisions that would affect millions of lives.
Despite this, many people remain convinced that now that PRINCE Charles is now KING Charles III, and presumably no longer at risk of “going spare,” he will keep his trap shut and remain apolitical just like his beloved departed mother.
Except…she didn’t do that. Last year, the Guardian revealed that they had evidence showing that Queen Elizabeth II lobbied the government to change at least four laws over the past several decades. First, they found that the Queen used a formality known as “the Queen’s consent” to hide her own wealth: by British law, Parliament must inform the monarch of any legislation that might affect the monarch before it passes. In November of 1973, the Queen was informed that a new law would reveal how much money she has, and so she sent her private lawyer to inform MPs that this would be “embarrassing” for the royal family, and it would be equally embarrassing if the bill included a specific carve-out for them because then people would KNOW they were trying to hide something embarrassing. And so, the Queen’s lawyer and the MPs rewrote the bill to allow the government the ability to exempt certain companies from disclosing their finances, and then the government created a shell corporation to hold the Queen’s wealth, and then they exempted that company. And THAT is why all the articles you see about how much money Charles is inheriting are only guessing at the exact number.
Soon after publishing these findings, the Guardian tossed out a few more examples of the Queen being very, very political: in 1982, she withheld consent for a bill that would protect national monuments because it would take over a royal commission, meaning that Parliament couldn’t even debate the bill. In 1968 she withheld consent for a new traffic safety bill until it was amended so that a key clause didn’t apply to her estates, which otherwise would have been included (in fact that was the entire point of the bill) because the public had access to drive on them. And in 1975 the Queen’s private lawyers cornered civil servants and warned them that if they didn’t make changes to a new land leasing bill, they would escalate their complaints to a senior minister. That’s right, it was a real Queen Karen moment. “Oh, you want to restrict our ability to lease land for development? I’m going to need to speak to your manager.”
These are just the incidents in which a major newspaper found the evidence of the Queen’s meddling in politics and had the ability to publish them. What has she done that is still tucked away in the shadows of history? And what might King Charles III do now that he has the same ability?
Look, I’m not suggesting that Brits start investing in guillotines. But I am going to point out that just last year, Barbados removed Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state and installed Rihanna in her place. Well, I mean, TECHNICALLY they made their governor general a “prime minister” and then declared Rihanna a “national hero” but it’s all the same. Here’s hoping more former “colonies” like Jamaica follow their lead now that a somewhat likable but still extremely problematic monarch has been replaced with, well, a guy who was recorded telling his love affair partner that he was going to be reincarnated as her tampon. Maybe it’s a good time to reconsider those constitutions and national anthems and such?