Remembering Queen Elizabeth II

Who She Was and Why She Mattered

The death of Queen Elizabeth II touched millions of lives across the world. Her Majesty peacefully passed away at the age of 96 on September 8, 2022, at the Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Exceeding the record for the longest reign on the British throne, she fulfilled her ceremonial duty by demonstrating calmness and compassion, but also prudence and courage in times of warfare. 


Influential figures were quick to comment on her passing and legacy. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made emotional remarks in response to the news, saying that “Canada is in mourning,” as he remembers her for showing Canada “strength and wisdom.” Liz Truss, the Prime Minister of the U.K., called the Queen “the very spirit of Great Britain.” Keir Starmer, the leader of the British Labour Party, deemed her death “the passing of an era.” 


At her funeral service on September 19, Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury remarks, “Those who serve will be loved and remembered when those who cling to power and privileges are long forgotten.” In this statement, Welby references a key principle of the British throne that serves as a good reminder: The Queen does not rule, but she reigns. 


In addition to these leaders, the Queen’s death triggered a plethora of responses from the public and the media, many of which paid tribute to and honoured her accomplishments. Nevertheless, amid the praises from global media outlets, it may be difficult to understand why Christian Canadian university students in the twenty-first century need to join in with the crowd and echo the loud acclaims for Queen Elizabeth II. As effective critical thinkers, the first question we should ask is, are these leaders and journalists ignoring the dark chapters in the story of her seven-decade reign?


Not everyone was immediately distressed when they heard the news of the Queen’s passing. Journalists from Al Jazeera, Global News, and the Washington Post have all suggested questioning instead of mourning when responding to the Queen’s death. Indeed, the Queen was in power during Britain’s long and painful colonial era, where countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia suffered from exploitation and death and continue to suffer from the abuse of their British colonizers. 


It goes without saying that mourning her death is essential, but the journalists do have a point in saying that excessive glorification of the Queen’s life overlooks the injustice of oppression and colonialism. 


But is this the account of all colonized peoples throughout history? Nelson Mandela, former South African president, a champion of human rights, and a man who suffered greatly under British rule, writes, “while I aboard the notion of British imperialism, I never rejected the trappings of British style and manners.” It may be valuable to take a page out of Mandela’s notebook and know that we can acknowledge both the institutional sin of the Royal Family and the admirable impact they created around the globe. 


Yet, the problem for the Redeemer body is not that they fail to understand a balanced approach when reflecting on the Queen’s past, or even to understand that the Queen left an important legacy for them. The problem is that not all Redeemer students know the extent of the Queen’s power and show a lack of interest in the Queen’s activity. This is not surprising, as a recent study showed that “Canadians over the age of 55 were also more likely to hold positive views or attachments to the Queen and Crown, which Bourque said is a sign that when it comes to younger people, the monarchy is ‘losing its relevance in Canada.’”


When asked about how they were impacted by the Queen’s death, 7% felt very much impacted, 36% felt somewhat impacted, 61% felt very little impact, and 25% felt no impact at all. Additionally, only 2 out of the 40 students watched the Queen’s funeral service. 78% of these students felt Canada needed to keep its monarchical ties with the Royal Family. 50% did not know that the queen had more than symbolic power. Lastly, 47% felt that the Queen left a”very positive” legacy in history, while 53% said she left a “somewhat positive” legacy. 


Indeed, the Queen did not hold much political power in comparison to a prime minister or commander-in-chief, but she still had power–not often used–and many responsibilities on her plate. In her lifetime, she travelled to 117 countries, administered meetings, and instructed her subjects with wisdom and compassion. 


As the leader of the Commonwealth of Nations–an association of 54 countries, some of which were never under British imperialism–she bore the task of uniting these nations through trade and travel, despite their religious and cultural differences. 


As head of state, she possessed the power to appoint or dismiss ministers, summon a parliamentary assembly, and even veto bills passed by Parliament. Also, if the prime minister is reluctant to resign, she had been given the power to dissolve him or her.


How has the Queen’s death impacted Canada? Despite one Canadian commentator from “the Line” calling the British monarchy a “fancy prison” for not allowing their descendants to leave, most are mourning alongside Trudeau and many other politicians who have appreciated her legacy. In the political realm, Canada’s politics will not change after the Queen’s death, as suggested by Jonathan Malloy, professor of political science at Carleton University.


Although we may admit the unusual unfree elements of the British monarchy and its no-more-than-symbolic impact on Canada, her legacy for Canada highlights a critical difference between our nation and our neighbours to the south. Historically, there is more evidence of a stronger social fabric and economic prosperity within a constitutional monarchy than in a constitutional republic. In addition to Canada, other telling examples include Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Obviously, there are other factors to consider, but there is no doubt that monarchies have a significant role to play in conveying stability, and the Queen can no doubt be credited for that achievement. 


But a more important aspect of her legacy for Redeemer students to consider is the impact of her faith in executing her royal duties. In 1953, at her coronation ceremony, she promised her constituents worldwide to serve as a “defender of the faith,” which she continued to fulfill in her later years as an advocate of religious freedom. In response to the 9/11 attacks, she delivered a speech at St. Paul’s Cathedral that referenced Romans 12:19, a verse that presents valuable messages of the gospel, to resist vengeance against our enemies and to trust in the will of the Lord. 


Looking ahead, the Queen’s eldest son King Charles III is now heir to the throne and will continue to serve in the place of the head monarch as his mother before him. After Charles’ reign, 40-year-old Prince William will inherit the throne, whose eldest son is 8-year-old Prince George. 


Three important things to note about the incoming succession to the throne. First, many political commentators think that a monarchy led by King Charles would resemble more of the Scandinavian monarchs and aim to be more informal. Second, our generation will most likely never see a female monarch again in our lifetime, which may urge us to appreciate the impact of women in leadership. Third, the kings in line have much more preparation than when the Queen took the throne at 25 years old or any elected official in politics. This provides Canada with a strong degree of trust, as their leadership has been anticipated long in the making. 


We can only hope and pray that in the limited responsibility and symbolic power of the British monarch, they may continue to instill stability in Canadian society and remain faithful to God in their service.