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CWA # 785, 9 September 2022

NIAS Europe Studies
Queen Elizabeth: End of an era

  Padmashree Anandhan

On 08 September, UK’s Queen Elizabeth II who took the throne in 1952 passed away at the age of 96 in Balmoral Castle, Scotland. With the passing of the Queen, the next in line King Charles III has become the next monarch of the UK. As the head of the state for UK, 14 countries including Australia and Canada, she has reigned from the period of Winston Churchill till the appointment of Prime Minister Liz Truss, marking 70 years. Her role included “opening the new session of Parliament, granting Royal Assent to legislation, and approving Orders and Proclamations through the Privy Council.” She had a specific role in the UK parliament, through audience with Prime Ministers, advice to the government and had the right to consult, encourage and warn during the audience.

From a princess to the Queen: The Elizabethan era
Queen Elizabeth was born in central London on 21 April 1926, who was only a young princess until the eldest son Edward VIII of King George V renounced the title, making her father George VI the King. Her famous lines during the first overseas tour to South Africa in 1947: “My whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and to the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” In late 1951, during her tour to East Africa, Kenya which was a British Colony was where she immediatly became Queen Elizabeth after the death of King George VI from cancer. After the coronation in 1953 which was televised for the first time, was symbolled as the post war recovery. Her tour from Bermuda to Australia as Queen was seen as a historical moment with Ghana becoming independent and India turned 10 years in 1957.

With the British empire shrinking, in 1965 Zimbabwe challenged the Queen and declared independence, followed by economic turbulence which struck the UK in 1970’s. This shook the reputation and image of the monarchy, showing it as more aggressive, vulnerable to stresses. After from the economic shock, the Queen faced criticism over the personal exemption from paying income taxes. Next set of criticism arose over the split of Prince Charles and Diana in 1992, her death in 1997, followed by Charles’s reveal of his relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles. But through the difficult economic situations, and family diversions, the Queen continued to perform her duties, which became evident in 2002 with the celebration of 50 years of her reign. By 2015, Queen Elizabeth became the longest ruling monarch exceeding the period of Queen Victoria and commemorated her platinum jubilee in 2022.

Eight major decisions
First, the 1956 Suez crisis. When Israel invaded Egypt in 1956 in the interest to capture the Western part of Suez Canal and Egypt President General Nasser nationalised one of the busiest shipping routes to free Egypt from Britain’s influence. Britain and France along with Israel launched attacks as it was an important trade route to transit to its empires and a source for oil. Queen’s stance on the intervention was not pro-Suez and Britain’s move was reported to be disapproved.

Second, in 1965 her first visit to Western Germany after the second world war for forming an understanding, and mend ties between Britain and Germany for the losses from the war. She also joined the Women's Auxiliary Territory Service.

Third, the dress-downs in opening of new UK Parliament. The Queen who wears the robe, comes in golden carriage, imperial state crown and a traditional Queen speech during the opening of new parliament, has so far dressed down twice. One, where former Prime Minister Edward Heath was defeated in a snap election by the labour leader, Harold Wilson in 1974. Two, after 43 years, when former Prime Minister Theresa May called for snap elections in 2017.

Fourth, the 1998 abolition of By-Elections for hereditary peers. In the 1998 speech, Queen announced the removal of traditional rights of 700 hereditary peers in the House of Lords.The hereditary members of the house were initially replaced upon death, resignation, and expulsion through “By-Elections.” Upon the new bill such replacements were abolished, allowing vacancies to lapse. 

Fifth, in 1999 the Queen opened the national assembly in Wales and Scottish Parliament. Despite the advice from the Home Office to the Queen in opening the Welsh Assembly, as it felt the absence of “a clear political direction” the Queen went strong to open the Assembly. Similarly recognizing Scotland’s politic and laws, the Queen opened the Scottish Parliament giving it the law-making powers.

Sixth, Queen’s first visit to Ireland in 2011 since its independence in 1921 was marked historic. The hand shake was seen as new step to Anglo-Irish relations, breaking through the old past of death of Lord Mountbatten, who was killed by McGuinness party member. It marked the triumph of peace process, winning all the critics over monarchy.

Seven, another important shift in the royal accession rulebook was the relaxing of gender norm and Catholic factor in 2013. The changes were, regardless of the gender, the eldest daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge can become the Queen. Next, was the removing of the law over the marriage of future monarch from any faith, and not being specifically Catholic.

Eight, the Queen’s last appointment of new Prime Minister Liz Truss replacing Boris Johnson takes place in Balmoral Castle on 06 September instead of Buckingham Palace upon doctor’s suggestion to rest.


About the Author

Padmashree Anandhan is a Research Associate at the School of Conflict and Security Studies, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore. She is currently working on the essay on Europe in 2020’s: Internal and external challenges.

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