The Queen is dead. Surprisingly it’s no surprise. She was 96. An age colonised Indigenous women will never reach. The Queen never had to worry about ACAT assessments. Or super. She didn’t have her family choose a nursing home. She didn’t have to line up at Aldi for a wheely walker or a shower chair. She didn’t experience her young woman power diminish as she aged. She rocked the cradle of her castle until the end. An undisputedly massive life that saw her with a following bigger than the Kardashians. It preceded Insta; it’s called the Empire. And we’re not followers, we’re subjects. It’s a weird word, but let’s not forget what it means. It is one who owes loyalty to a monarch. One who is under the authority or control of another.
Even in a constitutional monarchy that has meaning. It says we are ‘less than’. Even if only ideologically. So as we mourn the passing of Queen Elizabeth, let’s not confuse our affection for the Queen with the idea the Monarchy is some kindly benign system. It’s not. The Monarchy has blood on its hands, and other people’s jewels and bones in its pockets.
That’s how you amass wealth. You take it from other people. You build castles that largely remain empty, that people pay entry to wander through and observe obscene privilege and unimaginable wealth from behind a rope. These shiny riches are built from a long history of cultural violence. Over the Kenyans. The Nigerians. The Indians. The Irish. The Indigenous. There is no other way to create dominion. You take. You break. And then you rule. And then you charge an entry fee to a museum so they can visit what was once theirs.
Empires aren’t created by accident. Succession is not democratic. You don’t earn it. You can’t study for it. You are born into it. Surely, with what we know about unchecked privilege, about bloody history and about the devastating impacts of the trauma of colonisation across the globe, we have to question this tenuous thread of legitimacy? Is lineage an ethical way to head hunt for the top job? You’re in charge because you got born first? We might as well appoint leaders through a game of scissors, paper, rock. Just be thankful it’s not Prince Andrew who is our new king. Otherwise we’d be revisiting the ethos of ‘lock up your daughters’.
And as Charles is sworn in as King of Australia (ironically the Irish will pronounce him ‘King Charles the Turd’), the baton is handed to another monarch in the continuance of an outdated cruel system whose foundations have always been built on the oppression and sublimation of indigenous peoples.
Historically it’s a big moment. The Queen is on our currency. She’s on the lids of cake tins. She’s on the wall of every hall, RSL, and bowling club in this country. She’s on tea towels and calendars. It’s the end of an era. We’ve changed. I don’t think we’re about to start making Charles tins for our biscuits. As bowling club ladies stretch on ladders to respectfully take their dead Queen down, maybe we don’t just replace it with the bloke with big ears who happened to be next.
This is a significant time. And yes, it’s time for grief. For a Queen, for what we have become. For what we have let happen. For what don’t admit. For what we need to change and haven’t. Right now we have the opportunity to lay the foundations for who we will be in the future. To do that you have to make peace with your past. As someone once said, insanity is repeating the same thing and expecting different results. Perhaps what we are mourning now isn’t just the death of Queen Elizabeth; it’s the end of an archaic and outdated system. Nostalgia.
When I teach memoir writing so many people are scared to tell their stories until their parents are dead. They hold their tongue and wait. There is a freedom in the passing of the old. The Queen is dead. It’s time to make the break.
This is a time for truth telling.
And a reimagining of the kind of country where there are no shrines to empty wealth.
And the only castle where we must step with reverence and respect is the forest. And there everyone is welcome. No entry fee required.