Whilst we rightly spend these days remembering how many people were brutally murdered under her sovereign command, spare a thought for those mourning the fact that they’ll never get to see Elizabeth’s head on top of a spike.
This stupid island has basically been on a downward spiral ever since crocodiles inhabited Islington and now it’s come to a discursive standstill.
I’m sure a lot of people across the political spectrum have either fantasised about or outright planned the Queen’s death. Every union flag salesman (and I have checked, they’re all men) has been waiting for this moment, Wetherspoons is braced for a lull in profits as their core demographic goes into formal mourning, and Jarvis Cocker has had a special bottle of something saved for this very day. But nobody was more prepared than the British state.
Since her coronation in 1953, a dedicated huddle of experts have been carefully predicting how the nation will behave when she dies. This is their time to shine, Operation London Bridge is finally being rolled out.
There will be reams of Labour leftists huddled outside The Lexington analysing precisely what will happen next while their partners ponder the lives they could have been living had they instead chosen to get off with someone more interesting during freshers week.
The SOAS JCR will be hosting an absolutely raging party, late license and unbearable discourse confirmed. A few civil servants will be forlornly remembering their radical SOAS past as they once again agree to stay late to copy and paste some policy paper which never needed doing in the first place because they fucking hate the Queen but they wouldn’t want to risk getting caught at a not-at-all-politically-neutral party.
The Novara Media team will have called an emergency meeting at The Salisbury to urgently critique the reaction of every figurehead of popular culture. The clever folks at Jacobin will be ready to pen a long read about why nobody ever talks about the fact that the Queen was worse than Stalin. G-A-Y will roll out a series of Princess Diana themed nights with a lot of Queen jokes which suddenly don’t seem that subversive when you remember how problematic the club owner is. Oxford Street will simply continue to be a swirling chaotic pit filled with people whose immediate priority is buying a novelty Queen-shaped bong. Meanwhile the Tube will be fucking unbearable as everyone will be fucking talking to each other.
Someone will be out there calling her an empowering woman, the ultimate #girlboss. Taylor Swift will probably have a tasteful Instagram post lined up with the Queen wearing a flower crown and something about “hard work”. A small gang of pink pussy hats may stage a candlelit vigil outside the palace. Some enlightened man will say rejoicing over the Queen’s death is a step backward for women’s rights. Someone, somewhere is probably baking some vagina cupcakes for the Queen.
The Tories will usher through an immediate motion to blow the entire country’s budget on a series of massive Union Jack flags. What’s left of the NHS will be finally dismantled out of respect for the Queen whose life could not be saved. And as a symbolic gesture of mourning they’ll switch off the national grid for 24 hours, but only in the north, because it’s pretty dark there anyway and most of them can’t afford electricity.
The embodiments of the Daily Mail comments section will be out ruining everyone else’s night at the pub by shaking their fists at anyone who isn’t weeping over her now rotting corpse. The Defend Freedom of Speech brigade will be performing citizens arrests for anyone committing petty treason tonight. The two national mottos of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth are at war tonight. Are you team Keep Calm and Carry On? Or team Sob Uncontrollably and beat up anyone who smiles on a day like today.
Radio stations will have been issued a long list of songs they’re prohibited from playing (Kerrang will publish this as an ironic playlist in a few weeks). The Guardian’s deputy editor has had a long list of stories prepared. The Times supposedly already had 11 days of coverage ready to go. Sky News and ITN, have rehearsed her death for years, using “Mrs Robinson” as a code name. Royal experts have already signed exclusive contracts to each channel. Radio stations have pre-set “sombre music” to switch to in the event of sudden national mourning. Everyone on your screens will be wearing black but not in a cool way.
At least she didn’t die in November, a relief for the poppy shaggers whose annual ritual of wanking over the arms trade won’t suddenly clash with the colour scheme for national mourning of the Commander-in-Chief. And our sincerest thoughts and prayers go out to The Sun correspondent who gets an erection every time he talks about the Queen, today will be a hard day for him.
On the other side of the electorate we will be hounded with threads and infographics about precisely how many people she killed, displaced, or tortured during her reign. We should expect a lot of potted histories of the damage already done and we’ll applaud those who speak out against the mass mourning of a woman who forced net losses upon the entire world. Some will go so far as to celebrate this day and I’ll see you there. But I’ll also envy their optimism.
Her death, really, means fuck all. She’s the tip of a dark and twisted iceberg.
What would Zygmunt Bauman say?
Packaging complex political processes into human figureheads can make us lose sight of the system that allows for concepts like The Queen. If we keep telling history through the prisms of these posterboy individuals we’ll obscure the huge historical failures which allow them to exist.
(I’m about to lose that online arguments rule by comparing Queen Elizabeth to Hitler but it’s also a fair comparison in many ways.)
Bauman (the actual Queen) looked at how we collectively retell the history of the Holocaust in a way which obscures the systemic roots of what happened. Not even the roots, he wrote that such a thing as the Holocaust has to be understood as an intrinsic part of the modern society it occurred within.
But we remember it and write about it as if it were a temporary, barbaric lapse in the modern, rational, logical society we know and trust; the same model of society that we would later rely upon to prevent a Holocaust ever happening again.
Bauman says it is written into the system. All the apparatus required to carry out the Holocaust were those which made modern society successful.
Teaching that era of history as the result of a monstrous madman is an easy and convenient narrative, but it’s not true. That story stops us thinking about all the other factors which led to the Holocaust, allowed it to happen, let it go on for so long, and then the magnitude of genocides which have punctuated modern Europe.
So the fact that we learn about the holocaust being some sort of mad evil crazy Hitler monster means that we are able to ignore how genocide was sewn into the fabric of modern society. We don’t want to think about that because we still live in a continent configured incredibly similarly.
Am I comparing the Queen to Hitler? (Yes and not for the first time). Because in the same way that we celebrated Hitler’s death, or Thatcher’s, or Churchill’s, the more left-leaning among us would at best be passive toward her passing, or actively delighting in it (shout-out SOAS), and as anarchists we would certainly be partying with the latter.
But the Royal Family is like one of those shit pointless glass pecking birds with the long necks and silly little fragile glass bodies that are really hard to transport anywhere, practically useless, fucking tediously repetitive, criminally overpriced, and exist only to look mildly impressive to visitors, and yet they’re still everywhere, we all fucking hate them and they’re somehow embedded into our society.
The Royal Family are there to maintain a system set in stone; one dies and the next picks up their mantle. This Queen dies and one of her Nazi offspring will step up to continue decades of bloodshed in our names. Whoever is next in the Royal pecking order will also live a long life and die a peaceful, natural death. Fucking bleak.
So maybe it’s comforting to know that although she died a natural death (possibly surrounded by her loved ones) and nobody ever got to raise her head on a spike, it’d take a lot more to unsettle the hardened British class system than to get rid of the person at the top. Rest in peace to almost a century of money, energy, and words which have been wasted on the Queen.
Image: Si Tex