Weirded out

I’ve had two instances now of colleagues sincerely offering ‘condolences’ about the death of the Queen and it isn’t even 8:40 am here yet. OK, fair enough, it’s going to be weird for Australians as well and I don’t want to go off at people, so you get the rant here.

Yes, I’m English and I have an English accent but 1. I’m obviously left-wing 2. I’ve never shown even a remote interest in the royal family 3. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve an Irish-Catholic background (which is also a common thing here in Australia – it’s not a weird idea here that people who aren’t obviously Irish might have family and cultural connections to Ireland but people don’t seem to get that just as there are Irish-Americans and Irish-Australians, there’s a hell of a lot of English people of Irish descent).

Less obviously, I’m from South Lancashire, the most Catholically part of England there is. I grew up with people also of Irish-catholic backgrounds and what Catholics there are in Lancashire who are of English ancestry also have a beef with the British Royal Family dating back to Henry VIII. In primary school, we got a very distorted view of British history informed by the apparently numerous number of “martyrs” to Catholicism that died in the general area — a version of history with its own biases (e.g. we didn’t learn much about the prior persecution of protestants in England under Queen Mary’s reign). Everyone in my family growing up were republicans.

Queen Elizabeth dying is more like “your ancestral enemy is dead” than “your beloved national leader is dead”. Now, yes, I’d like to think I’ve moved on from engaging with history in terms of factional loyalties but if I’m going to have to pick sides it’s not going to be the “beloved monarch” one.

35 responses to “Weirded out”

  1. Talk to Tim, I’m sure he will be able to straighten you out about the importance of monarchy. Isn’t he in line before Charles?

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Saying your family is republican (my Irish Catholic Yorkshire coal miner grandad hated the royals with a grand passion) feels like it has a lot less weight in Australia than in England.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, eg Malcolm Turnbull was a recent right-of-centre Prime Minister and a republican. But I’m still cautious about being rude about the monarchy around more-posh people that I don’t know well.

      There’s a weird element to Sydney. The English class structure is alive and well here but it’s also sort of smaller. Like, in the UK, I never really ever had to meet the REALLY posh people, the elite-public school actual posh, rather than well-to-do-middle class. But it’s a smaller pond here and obviously cues around accent etc aren’t the same…so sometimes I have this sudden whiplash when I realise “Oh, this is actually somebody from a very wealthy, divorced from everybody else’s reality, who went to school & uni & everything else with very posh people and who geninuely doesn’t get it sort of person” but also THEY don’t get the social cues from me because I don’t have the right-school-right-suburb-right-university markers that designate social class here.


      • I was thinking more along the lines of an Australian republican just wants the monarchy to stay over there, while an English republican wants to get rid of the whole thing.

        Asking which school you went to when you first meet someone is very much a thing in certain Adelaide circles, with the clear expectation that the answer be from a very small group of schools. It can be quite disconcerting (it’s more than 25 years since I was in high school, why are you asking me this?).

        Liked by 2 people

        • That absolutely wouldn’t work with me, as when I went to high school, it was public but very highly ranked and mostly upper-middle-class white.

          Last time I checked, it had become majority PoC and lower-middle-class.


  3. I can’t honestly say that I feel any actual grief over the death of a woman I never knew, and never even saw in the flesh…. but she was the Queen for, well, my entire life and then some, so it’s like a vague background hum that’s always been there has suddenly stopped.

    This would be an ideal time, of course, to hold a referendum on whether the UK should continue to be a monarchy at all – but that’s not going to happen under the current administration, so, well, we shall just have to get used to King Charles III, or whatever he decides to call himself.

    I’m fairly set in my ways, and I don’t much like change, so I’m feeling, well, slightly dislocated. Of course, there is no practical or moral justification for a hereditary monarchy (especially one who’s also the head of the official state religion!), but I’ll own up to a vaguely sentimental feeling about the whole thing. While it’s fair to say that the monarch is a symbol of the evils of colonial oppression, it’s also fair, I think, to point out that Elizabeth II’s only contribution to British imperialism was to sit around and watch while the wheels came off and it all fell to bits. And she was at least somewhat well-intentioned, herself, and her reserved public persona was a welcome change from Thatcher’s stridency or Blair’s showmanship.

    And, of course, she was a human being, with human faults, human virtues, and people in her life who did know her and care for her and will miss her now she’s gone. So I’m inclined to respect that, at least, and refrain from any celebration or off-colour jokes at her expense. (I didn’t download “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead” when Thatcher died, either.) Let those who need to mourn, mourn in peace.

    Liked by 2 people

    • She’s lived long enough for there to have been many ebbs and tides in her popularity. All the tabloids made sure supermarket customers knew about every one of them, too.

      For me, I most admired that she played along with whoever came up with the idea of having her and James Bond parachute into the 2012 Olympics. I don’t assume she entirely got it, however, it was a canny bit of publicity, and I can hardly dislike someone who appeared not to take themselves deadly seriously all the time.

      Liked by 3 people

      • And her recent tea with Paddington was also cute.

        But as she had already been Queen before James Bond was a thing, and probably went to movie premieres, she probably got the Olympic bit.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It would be better if she did, no question.

          By the way, that was my own “called shot.” The night before the 2012 Olympics my mother wondered aloud what great thing they might do for opening ceremonies. I said something like, “They could always have the Queen parachute into the stadium.” I really did.

          Liked by 2 people

  4. As an American; It’s always seemed crazy to me that the British people would foot the bill ($120m just last year!) for an already wealthy family to cosplay

    Also, as an American, I may not fully understand what the Royals do.


  5. Wealth, class and religion don’t necessarily correlate with whether a British person is a monarchist or not. For instance, my husband has a French Canadian (so Catholic-ish background, not pro-Britain background) upper middle class but not posh colleague who is a monarchist and feels Canada should not give up the monarchy for a variety of reasons (for one, that it would be very legislatively, politically difficult to do.) And there are plenty of middle class and working people in Britain who are pro-monarchy. And if your real name isn’t Irish sounding, they don’t necessarily pick that up.

    So the safest, politest procedure is to err on the side of caution and assume you might be a monarchist and thus not happy about Elizabeth’s passing and in need of a condolence. Even if you aren’t a monarchist Brit, having someone who ruled in the post for 70 some years pass on, even though it was expected the last few months, might be as Steve said, jarring. Immigrants even have to swear an oath to her, whether or not they mean it. I am a staunch anti-monarchist, but even I was a bit thrown when Diana died, just because she had so dominated culture and media — that hum that just now stopped. (I wish that would happen with Trump.) So respect just in case at least seems polite to a lot of folks, I guess, given the close ties of the two countries.

    She did not have the best track record as a figurehead with influence (people seem pretty upset about what she did regarding Sudan early on.) But I think the reaction of most people now is a neutral “well that was an era,” just on longevity, ushering in the modern age. Charles is obviously not an improvement, but at least seems into conservation. Not that the Tories care.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I’ve just realized that the last New Post notification I received for you blog was on August 31, dammit. Went to the WP Subscription panel and your blog no longer appears on the list. Very aggravating. Will attempt to re-subscribe.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Further to the comments about monarchism’s distribution through society . . . I used to slightly know a couple of anarchist monarchists. They seemed oddly positive about the House of Lords too.

    I believe the BBC is doing its usual trick for these occasions, which is why I quit using it when Chooky died. Except for ISIHAC, of course.

    [“Chooky”: Chooky Embra. Phil the Greek]

    Liked by 1 person

  8. She was a fellow Doctor Who fan, so I will allow myself the brief pang of sympathy that I allocate to all such people who I otherwise have never met – before going back to aggressively ignoring the whole media circus.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I am Australia’s Lorikeet
    I wrote this very fast
    You were a beaut
    I thee salute
    Elizabeth the Last

    (thanks to the great late Denis Kevans for putting my sentiments perfectly

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I hope it helps to see the condolences as a mix of people’s desire to express their own feelings and connecting with you.


  11. Within minutes of the announcement we had American friends emailing and texting their condolences and I was like “Do you not know me at all?!!”

    Following the rule of three, now I’m waiting for the next shoe to drop (off the multi-legged beast lurching down the road) – first a new PM, then a new King, what next?! (Maybe one of the Old Ones will make an appearance & really give the BBC something to drone on endlessly about …)

    Liked by 4 people

  12. This reminds me when Bavarian minister president and terrible human being Franz Josef Strauß died and the news solemnly reported that Ronald Reagan sent his condolences to the West German people. And I screamed at the TV, “I don’t want your condolences. I hated the man and am glad he’s gone.”

    Liked by 4 people

      • Oh yes, that weird debate about the visit to the Bitburg war cemetery. My thoughts at the time were, “Guys, if you’re in Bitburg, just have a beer. That’s what the city is famous for anyway, not war cemeteries.”

        Never mind that there is no shortage of war cemeteries in Germany. It should be possible to find one which doesn’t have SS officers.

        Liked by 2 people

  13. I hadn’t paid close attention to the death of the Queen of England, being distracted by the Queen of Canada died on the same day, but I do get the sense she was the last mature adult in proximity to the government left in the currently UK, even if she was mainly a figurehead. To the extent she was a voice of reason and mitigating factor in the excesses of English government, it’s too bad she was gone.

    I wonder if Charles has ever seen the original House of Cards? But Truss is no Francis Urquhart.

    (I am Protestant lowland Scot on one side, Catholic Irish and Highland Scot on the other–before she escaped the convent in which she was immured, my mother was a nun)

    Liked by 3 people

    • I remember reading that when To Play the King was being filmed, Prince Charles accosted one of the producers in public and asked “It’s about me, isn’t it?” I don’t know if there was any reply, but I hope it was “You might well think that, Your Highness, I couldn’t possibly comment.”

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Congratulations on the death of your ancestral enemy?

    Even if you were a monarchist I don’t really understand the idea of extending condolences to non-family or friends. Why? People are strange.


  15. I will always celebrate the death of royalty. Especially when racists die who worked to get exemption from the laws against discrimination, so as to be able to avoid people of colour being employed.


  16. Don’t think celebrating the death of 96 year old great grandmother is the sort of progressive look republicans should be aiming for.

    Even Sinn Fein have been reminding people of the time the Queen visited the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin and paid her respects.


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