The Caribbean Responds to Queen Elizabeth II’s Complicated Legacy

Queen Elizabeth II during her 80th birthday celebrations at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, England. Photo by Michael Gwyther-Jones on Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

After 70 years of reign, London Bridge has collapsed: Queen Elizabeth II, the monarch who broke the record for longevity on the British throne, is dead on September 8 at the age of 96 at his beloved castle in Balmoral, Scotland, shortly after his doctors had revealed that they were “concerned” about his health.

Earlier in the year, the Queen had celebrated her platinum jubilee. As part of these celebrations, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, namely Prince William and his wife Catherine, had been on a tour of the Caribbean during which they had met with some resistance due to continuing problems. related to colonization. In Belize, for example, the Maya Q’eqchi community had organized demonstrations in favor of indigenous land rights, while in Jamaica, citizens demanded an apology from the British royal family for its role in the transatlantic slave trade.

During this trip, the question of reparations was also at the center of the debates. In 2015, former British Prime Minister David Cameron refused to enter into any discussions regarding possible repairs and advised Jamaicans to “turn the page on slavery. To add insult to injury, he had engaged to build a new prison on the island. During the Queen’s Jubilee Tour, however, Prince William did not not apologized.

Because of the conflicting nature of this history, many locals try today from to find a delicate balance: if on one side, they recognize to the queen a life devoted to duty and service to her nation, they cannot forget a story which has inflicted on them its share of suffering and fighting.

On a discussion of the Facebook group dedicated to the history of the Virtual Museum of Trinidad and TobagoAngelo Bissessarsinghthe members remind that Elizabeth II behaved “with grace and dignity”, that she do “much for the country and the Commonwealth” and that she fulfilled her duties as Queen “until the end”.

Only two days before her death, the queen had, for example, accomplished what was to be her last constitutional duty, in naming officially the 15th Prime Minister of his long reign. Trinidadian Mark Edghill gave him paid tribute on Facebook :

“A woman attached to duty, tradition and protocols. After honoring her vow to devote her whole life to her role as Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, she can now rest in peace.

A symbol of strength and stability for the whole world, it has gone through decades of cultural transformations, development and technological advances.

His death truly marks the end of an era! »

As for the governments of the region, they each have recognized the death of the queen in their own way:

The Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago has evoked the Queen’s “rich legacy through the history of Trinidad and Tobago’s currency”, while in Jamaica, where the Queen was head of state, a day of national mourning was declared for September 18, with the instruction not to organize celebrations.

Guyanese-born author Ruel Johnson clearly expressed his point of view :

“In 1954, two years after Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne, a young poet barely a year younger than the then 27-year-old monarch was thrown into prison for protesting the rule of the British Empire on the tiny South American colonial territory where he was born, British Guiana. The picture [qui accompagne le post de Johnson] shows this poet, Martin Carter (who wears glasses), detained alongside Cheddi Jagan, who at the time was leading the fight for independence from Her Majesty’s Empire.

This movement was met with the violence of the Crown government and the deployment of British troops in this small territory that we know today as Guyana.

Of this time, Carter wrote:

These are dark times, my love,
Brown beetles swarm our lands.
The bright sun is hidden in the sky,
Red flowers bow in agonizing grief.
Here comes a dark time, my love,
Here comes the time of oppression, black metal and tears.
It’s the festival of guns, the carnival of misery.
Everywhere the faces of men are tense and anxious.
Who comes to walk in the darkness of the night ?
Whose is that steel boot trampling the fine grass ?
It’s the angel of death, my love, the unknown invader
Who watches you sleep and attacks your dreams.

Don’t forget your story. The image of the royal family built on a clever mix of cups of tea, crumpets, bows and corgis, should not make us forget that everything that exists today was built on blood and injustice. »

Guyana-born historian who spent most of his life in Barbados, the last Caribbean territory to be became a republicProfessor Richard Drayton has compared Elizabeth II to the American Singer chuck berry and the Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castroevoking “three lives that marked the world of the end of the 20th century in very different ways”:

“The three lived at a pivotal time in history, when the existing anti-democratic and racist world order, the era of empires, of Jim Crow, and the acceptance of unequal status that had persisted for centuries, was upset.

Born in what was then still a British colony, throughout my primary schooling I stared at the portrait of Elizabeth II on the light blue cover of my exercise books. The students used to draw on his portrait 👓, blackening a tooth of the royal mouth from time to time, or sometimes adding a mustache to it. These acts of disfigurement were not deliberately anti-monarchical, but were nevertheless minor acts of rebellion against the many forms of authority that we somehow knew to be the mainstay.

It is this aspect that will be overshadowed in this season of obligatory mass emotions. As benevolent and well-meaning as she was as a person of flesh and blood, whom neither you nor I know, the “Queen”, the figure of official authority, was nevertheless the symbol of an absolute right not democracy derived from a statute, not from a contract. She outlived Chuck and Fidel, but while the latter were ambassadors of the future, she, on the other hand, was a guardian of the past. »

Noting that “the massive media machine, private and public alike, will seek to manipulate collective emotion and mass sentimentality about the past, in an effort to shape the present and control the future,” Drayton said. declared :

“Against this sorcery, use your apotropaic charms: as soon as they evoke Liz, think of Fidel and Chuck, her psychopomps, escorting her to freedom. 😂 Free her so she can finally wear fatigues, smoke cigars, and duck-walk into eternity. »

Trinbagon LGBTQ+ activist based in the UK, jason jones has abstract the flow of reactions as follows:

“This is a defining moment in our lives. Loss. Hate. Frustration. Admiration. Weapons. We all grieve and express our respect in our own way. »

Despite all this, the Trinbagonaise Dionne Ligoure has recalled :

“You can say what you want, she was LOYAL until the end. »

Wayne LeBlanc, radio host, for his part, declared :

“As coverage of the Queen’s passing begins, the BBC will be able to teach all broadcast networks around the world a lesson 🖤. »

Queen Elizabeth II will rest for 24 hours at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, where the public can pay their respects. Her body will then be airlifted to London, where she will lay in state before her funeral, which is expected to take place in ten days at Westminster Abbey in London.

[Note de la rédaction (le 10 septembre 2022, 15 h 54 HST) : Une version antérieure en anglais de cet article faisait référence à une lettre écrite par des « membres de « l’UNC ». L’article a été modifié pour supprimer cette référence erronée].

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The Caribbean Responds to Queen Elizabeth II’s Complicated Legacy

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