Few families will not have been affected in some way by the loss of a loved one. Friends and acquaintances of a departed person will also feel varying forms of sadness. And it is also perfectly human to lament the loss of public figures we have never met.
But while not unreasonable, in the latter sense, for people to feel natural sympathy over the Queen’s passing, how much of that public ‘grieving’ is conditioned by a lifetime of establishment messaging?
From the BBC’s sombre announcement to its blanket effusions over the life of the Queen, and coming of the King, we’re seeing not just the media marking of monarchs, but the mass inculcation of elite ideology.
Or, as Media Lens more aptly put it, “imposed insanity”:
“…it is no accident that corporate editors and journalists are united now in expressing deep affection for the late Queen. When everyone clearly feels obliged to say the same thing, it means they are deferring to a key requirement of elite control.”
And what a system of hierarchical power she has been the head of:
“The Queen sat atop this unjust system of extreme inequality, just as her eldest son, King Charles, does now. She was the figurehead of an unhealthy and divided British society, corrupted by hereditary wealth, degraded by the racist and exploitative legacy of Empire, and scarred by a highly-stratified class structure in which most people are struggling to obtain a decent standard of living.”
This passing is not just about ‘honouring’ the long life of a famous old lady. It’s about what’s being passed on of that old lady’s life.
It’s about the transferring of high titles, major power and vast wealth. And, whatever one might feel for the late Mrs Windsor, it’s this kind of passing that should be commanding our most critical attention.
Most of those queueing subjects and others wishing to ‘honour’ the Queen won’t likely be swayed in their views. There’s no doubting the genuine depth of royal feeling. Yet this shouldn’t preclude others from more rational observance.
As one such observer affirms:
“there is nothing of this distorted masquerade of 18th-century feudal entitlement that can be considered reasonable. […This] is about much more than an eccentric pageantry of death. Much of it is about reinforcing the Union and along with it the idea that unearned privilege and wealth is normal and that influence can be assumed rather than earned.”
It may be deemed ‘constitutional’, but the hasty accession of Charles as King, inheriting his mother’s staggering wealth, and passing his own prized estate to his son, while families struggle to feed and heat themselves, has revealed not only the grotesque nature of undemocratic class power in Britain, but the cloying servility of a Palace-affiliated media in failing to call it out.
One can but wonder at the level of conformity required of journalists – some still, perhaps, harbouring a degree of anti-royal feeling – to dutifully partake in the charade.
Comparisons with North Korea are weirdly relevant here.
Many have called protests around the process of the Queen’s death and accession of Charles ‘disrespectful’.
But this is to avoid the all-vital context over what we should be prepared to respect. If her passing, remembrance and funeral had been made a purely private family affair, there would be no such demonstrations.
But given what’s really being played out here – mass political propaganda in overt promotion of the monarchy – people have a moral duty, as well as every civil right, to express their open opposition and disrespect.
As Jonathan Cook observes:
“There are reasons a critical gaze is needed right now, as the British public is corralled into reverential mourning. The wall-to-wall eulogies are intended to fill our nostrils with the perfume of nostalgia to cover the stench of a rotting institution, one at the heart of the very establishment doing the eulogising. The demand is that everyone shows respect for the Queen and her family and that now is not the time for criticism or even analysis. Indeed, the Royal Family have every right to be left in peace to grieve. But privacy is not what they, or the establishment they belong to, crave.”
The arrests and ‘moving on’ of those peacefully protesting this establishment deceit is a deeply disturbing threat to civil liberties, and an omen of even deeper authoritarian purges to come.
Likewise, beyond all the emotionalism over the Queen’s passing in, and apparent love of, Scotland, it’s clear that her dying, cortège procession and palace/church resting there has been used as the most blatant political promotion of continuity Unionism.
And, yes, the Queen surely did love Balmoral. She owned it!
Tom Nairn’s definitive book The Enchanted Glass: Britain and its Monarchy shows how royalty entrenches its authority and populist hold through the faux mystification of atavistic ritual. It’s a potent account of Ruritarian-themed ‘Ukania’, all too familiar now in the media’s cringing death gaze and fixations on archaic royalism.
This will be a new, modified monarchy, the courtiers and media scribes now attest. But, as the whole proclamation and accession panoply has shown, it’s still a medieval institution fit for the 11th rather than 21st century.
For historian Mark Curtis:
“The ‘tradition’ and rituals are important because the system can’t rationally explain to people why they should accept an absurd, undemocratic, privileged oligarchical system that works against their interests. It has to appeal to the mystical, connections to something bigger.”
The ending of this old person’s life on earth has, in this sense, become something of a ‘higher accession’, a kind of media deification, with BBC live-streaming of Westminster Hall, ‘The Queue’ and its miles-long line of devotees all discussed in adulatory tones as a process of almost divine consecration.
The disjunction between this veneration of a ‘higher royal entity’ and the ‘ordinary’ old human grandmother we’ve been told to love and cherish couldn’t be more stark.
Yet while much of the ‘royal enigma’ was shattered by various scandals and crises during Elizabeth’s latter reign, the BBC shibboleths of ‘service’, ‘duty’ and ‘continuity’ still prevail.
All the narrative buzzwords, ‘resilient‘, ‘selflessness‘ and ‘constant’ now being trotted out have been repeated consistently in public comments. Indeed, as peddled by court ‘journalists’ like Nicholas Witchell, these have been the BBC’s working lexicon in mitigating and rehabilitating the damaged Windsor family.
You will not, on the other hand, hear a BBC correspondent talking about the resilience and continuity of undemocratic royal power and enduring class privilege. It’s as if being a ‘continuity Queen’ could never have been about the self-serving, continuous preservation of her own family, wealth and power.
To see the King, his siblings and son (Harry being granted ‘special dispensation‘ at another vigil) march in full uniformed, sword-swinging regalia behind the Queen’s gun carriage coffin is another potent reminder of how bonded the monarchy is with British militarism, both accorded the same sacrosanct deference by the establishment BBC.
How much of the spectacle-gazing public will be aware of this same King’s active part over the years in engaging despotic sheiks and torture regimes on behalf of arms companies?
Again, the BBC will never mention, even in passing, just how much the ‘ceremonial’ royals “are key to the UK propping up dictators and promoting arms exports.”
Nor should we forget that the Queen bestowed her highest personal honour on mass warmonger Tony Blair, directly responsible for the deaths of over 1 million souls and systematic carnage in Iraq.
As with the UK/West’s proxy war against Russia in Ukraine, the BBC’s approval and promotion of imperialist militarism and monarchism is taken as one and the same endeavour.
And while the widely-felt strength of public indifference and antagonism over the passing Queen across ex-colonial and Commonwealth lands may get a passing nod from the BBC, it remains ever selective in its deferential commentary, and ultra-careful never to lay out the multiple imperialist crimes carried out under her reign.
Another kind of passing here concerns the media ignoring of widespread republican feeling in Britain.
The campaign group Republic have called the unelected accession of Charles “an affront to democracy”.
At least a quarter of the UK public want the monarchy abolished. That figure rises to around two thirds for 18-24 year-olds. Support for the monarchy in Scotland, just prior to the Queen’s passing, stood at a lowly 45 per cent. It’s hard to see that climbing now with an even less popular monarch.
A clear majority of young people in the UK want to ditch the monarchy. That entire demographic, along with a sizeable section of older people, calling for a republic has been effectively cancelled by the BBC. Amid the great mourn-fest, you will search in vain for any such proportionate viewpoint.
Think about the dark implications of this deliberate exclusion. Why are this legitimate set of opinions being denied fair media exposure? In passing over that notable section of public sentiment, the BBC is abrogating its own proclaimed codes of impartiality and balance. And no BBC or other ‘mainstream’ journalist seems prepared to question it.
Obedient subservience and establishment ‘decorum’ must be maintained. The daily workings of an entire country have been unnecessarily disrupted, from the cancelling of football matches and closure of shops to the shutting down of hospital departments and cancellation of cancer surgeries. Again, it’s considered ‘disrespectful, even ‘contemptible’, to reject the ‘mourning guidance‘ or refuse to conform.
We are in the grip of an hysterical social policing, feeding an already infantilised political culture, an irrationalism intended to keep the populace politically subdued, enslaved subjects rather than true citizens. It’s actually darkly fascinating to watch how the passing of one human soul can foster so much deception.
But it’s in another great passing, the brazen passing of wealth and riches, that we get to glimpse a further concealed face of the monarchy. As a penetrating assessment by Laura Clancy shows, it also exists as a major corporate entity:
“A crucially overlooked way to understand the monarchy, though, is as a corporation: the Firm, out to maximise profit and maintain its global corporate empire. The monarchy is often dismissed as a traditional, out-of-touch, backwards-looking institution with no place in contemporary Britain. This, however, is to fundamentally misunderstand the way that monarchical power works. Rather than an aristocratic relic of a pre-bourgeois era, the British monarchy has worked its traditional privileges into the heart of British capitalism.”
Like other corporations, much of its ‘assets’ are of the ‘off-shore’ kind, and even more privileged in its tax exemptions:
“One of the most telling examples of the royals’ entanglement with modern financial capitalism lies within the Paradise Papers. Alongside other global corporations like Apple and Nike, the Duchy of Lancaster (the British sovereign’s private estate) was found to have investments in two offshore financial centres: the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. Despite legally being a common law corporation, the crown is exempt from much taxation. The sovereign grant, which funds some of the monarchy’s activity, is exempt from income tax. The crown is also liberated from inheritance tax on ‘sovereign to sovereign bequests’, meaning assets can pass down the bloodline without alteration or loss of wealth.”
The Duchy of Cornwall, passed by Charles to his son and heir William, now provides a cash-cow revenue for the new Prince of Wales. In another revealing piece at the NYT, Clancy calculates:
“The conglomerate’s holdings are valued at roughly $1.4 billion, compared with around $949 million in the late queen’s private portfolio. These two estates represent a small fraction of the royal family’s estimated $28 billion fortune. On top of that, the family has personal wealth that remains a closely guarded secret.”
Behind all the charity-raising, the environment-championing facade, the Royal Family, ‘The Firm’, is actually a major business, a firm in the most literal sense, deeply-embedded in the profit-driven world of corporate capitalism.
Again, it’s ‘testament’ to the establishment’s grip and influence over public discourse that the holding of so much wealth can be permitted, and defiantly hidden, by this family while so many other families across the land have to choose between freezing and hunger.
And, as the food-banks close in dutiful observance of the Queen’s funeral, we can be sure that the huge, wasteful bill for it won’t be coming from those bulging royal bank accounts.
Jonathan Cook has made a timely ‘proclamation’ of his own for urgent opposition to the enforced grieving, hurried accession, and all this blatantly undemocratic passing of power.
In the same vein, he asserts, this is no less an urgent time to be defending our own sacrosanct free speech and assembly.
Because, if we’re not careful, it won’t be long before we see the remainder of our own elementary rights passing away.