On September 8, 2022, British monarch Queen Elizabeth II passed away in her Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands, ending her role as Britain’s longest-ruling monarch.
In February of 2022, Great Britain celebrated the monarch’s Platinum Jubilee, as Queen Elizabeth reigned in 70 years of leadership over the Commonwealth. Her reign began February 6, 1952, when the then-25 year old Elizabeth succeeded her father, King George VI, following his death due to worsening illness.
Queen Elizabeth II during her 2020 Christmas Message, an annual tradition that Britons look forward to.
During her reign, the fabric of the Western World changed dramatically. She took over the throne shortly after the end of World War II and was tasked with handling the transition of the British Empire into the Commonwealth of Nations, as Britain’s colonies around the globe resisted and overthrew the monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II has been praised for her grace in leadership through tumultuous political circumstances, including the Cold War, both Gulf Wars, and an unprecedented pandemic.
Queen Elizabeth II in the Crown Jewels for her Coronation, 1953.
In her lifetime, the world saw the emergence of never-before-seen technology, from nuclear warfare to antibiotics to the internet. In her death, Britain not only mourns the loss of their head-of-state, but also the loss of a valued part of modern history.
While beloved by many members of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II was also under constant scrutiny due to her high position in the public sphere. Many Britons criticize the monarchical institution for its role in colonialism and the perpetuation of racism. Recently, the Royal Family experienced backlash following former-Prince Harry’s announcement to abdicate his royal titles due to the racist treatment of his wife, Meghan Markle, by members of the family.
The monarchy has also come under fire for the actions of its members, including the to-be-king Charles Windsor, Queen Elizabeth’s eldest son. On the eve of her Platinum Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth II announced her support for Charles in the role of king, with his wife Camilla to be known as the Queen Consort. This support comes decades after the most dramatic scandal that now-King Charles was involved in: his relationship with Princess Diana.
Married in July 1981, Charles and Diana had an infamous relationship that eventually culminated in their divorce in August 1996, due to the infidelity of Prince Charles. Less than a year later, Diana died in a car crash in Paris. The scandal surrounding Prince Charles in the 1980s and 1990s led to a worse perception of the monarchy in Great Britain, both in the nation and around the world, as many criticized the family for a lack of sympathy for Diana.
More recently, King Charles has been investigated for contributing financially to the $9 million settlement that former-Prince Andrew, Charles’ brother, had to pay to Virginia Giuffre after she sued the Duke of York for sexually assaulting her. In the lawsuit, Giuffre accused Andrew of assaulting her while she was 17 and a victim of known sex-offender Jeffrey Epstein’s trafficking ring. The Royal Family has not commented on the veracity of these allegations, but Prince Charles underwent criticism for his contribution to Andrew’s settlement and in January of 2022, Andrew was stripped of all royal titles.
Despite scandals, divorces, and heavy criticism, King Charles has assumed the throne and taken over as king of the Commonwealth. His success as king will be dependent on his ability to successfully engage with both members of his own government, such as the newly-appointed Prime Minister Liz Truss, and the heads of state of other nations around the globe. Should Prince Charles ever abdicate, the next in line for the crown is Charles’ eldest son, Prince William.
The newly-appointed King Charles, formerly Prince Charles of Wales.
In the coming weeks, Britain and the rest of the Commonwealth will mourn the death of an instrumental monarch who acted as a symbol of constancy in a rapidly-changing world. Her legacy remains as the longest reigning monarch, leaving large shoes to fill for her heir, Charles. As the world awaits the funeral of a beloved leader and the coronation of a new king, both monarchists and critics alike wait to see what the new era brings to Great Britain.