Queen Elizabeth II cannot be separated from the dark side of British history


The Bible, often the repository of wisdom, got it right. Hebrew 9:27 says: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement.”

For most men and women this judgement can be hard. It is hard for Queen Elizabeth II, who died recently after seventy years on the British throne.  To some she was a competent and kindly Head of State who solidified constitutional democracy in Britain and gave continuity and leadership to a Commonwealth of nations, consisting of diverse peoples and governments.

Western Heads of State and those of other governments have lauded her reign, even those who have decided to remove her as Head of State of their governments. Heads of State and governments who have interacted with her have spoken of her quiet wisdom and dignity. The many Prime Ministers who served her have heaped praise on Her Majesty.

We know also that she cannot be separated from Britain’s long history that has been characterized by periods of great achievements, such as the Elizabethan Age, great scientists, great economists, such as Maynard Keynes, and writers and Artists of great brilliance.  But regrettable as it is we enter a discordant note.

Elizabeth II cannot be separated from the dark side of that history.

This is an era of greater and more extensive knowledge of the global colonial and imperial systems and the resulting deleterious effects on many citizens across the globe. The world finds it difficult to forget that British politicians and business people got involved in slavery, still the greatest crime against the human race,  engineered famines in India, participated in the division of Africa and helped to perfect an economic system which has generated underdevelopment in important parts of the globe, among other things. Yet It is this same system which caused misery for some while it was also the source of British wealth.

Flourishing capitalism led to the creation of an Empire and British domination in many parts of the world. This happened at the expense of supposedly lesser peoples and governments. The British and its relevant historical personalities must be accountable for these deviations from civilization.

The Queen Elizabeth is seen by many as the incarnation of the British nation and this system which was responsible for the aforementioned atrocities. She, like the nation, must be held accountable. The Queen has never hinted at these or other wrongs or implied a degree of accountability, even as various organizations have called for an apology from the British government and its representatives. No apology has come from this able constitutional Monarch or representatives of her government. Now is therefore the time to do the right thing.

Hatred is not the aim of this column. Justice is its preferred objective. It is therefore necessary to say that the death of the Queen presents a unique opportunity for her government, her family and British society to apologise for the historical wrongs done across the globe.  Such an apology will be a noble gesture and will align with the civilized aims of British society and remove the dark cloud which hangs over its splendid achievements in other areas of human endeavor.