Since the death of Queen Elizabeth II last Thursday, the tributes went well beyond the borders of the UK. But beyond her image of longevity, the monarch represents, according to others, the dark hours of the colonial period. Throughout history, the British Empire was indeed one of the largest at the beginning of the 20th century, and therefore by definition one of the most powerful.
The role of the queen is therefore often discussed in recent days, and many people are wondering in particular on the tributes returned to those who would have encouraged colonialism. “You are from a former British colony and you mourn the death of the queen? Concentrate”, calls out in particular a user on Twitter. Others have brought out a video that would show the Queen of England throwing coins at African children. These images would prove that the monarch maintained racist practices linked to colonization. Except that Internet users are mistaken: it is not Elizabeth II in these images.
“Dear Africans, before you cry, remember this”. On the video in question, widely relayed on Twitter, images in sepia are accompanied by melodramatic music. In the background, a woman dressed in a large hat and matching jacket is throwing silver coins at dozens of children. The publications talk about silver coins. With the naked eye, one can also see pieces of bread there. A shocking scene, these children being treated like animals.
In the image – always with the naked eye -, we could quite see Queen Elizabeth II there by the costumes that she loved to wear so much. But on closer inspection, her figure doesn’t match. What’s more, we can distinguish on the house in the background writings coming from Asia rather than Africa.
A film shot in Indochina
So let’s trace these images, using the Google reverse image tool. It is actually a film by director Gabriel Veyre, who lived between 1871 and 1936. He notably filmed many images of Morocco, South America and Asia. From the same video found on Youtubethe scene would take place in French Indochina [aujourd’hui le Vietnam] and would be dated between April 1899 and March 1900.
On the site of the cinematographic work of the Lumière brothers, we find more details. The title reads as follows: “Annamite children picking up coins in front of the ladies’ pagoda”. The Annamites correspond to the inhabitants of Vietnam today, and the sapeques were the ancient coins used in the Far East.
The wife of a French general
The archive site indicates the names of the two women confused with Elisabeth II. It is actually the wife and daughter of General Paul Doumer. The latter was Governor General of Indochina from 1897 to 1902, which corresponds to the dates of the images filmed by Gabriel Veyre. A few years later, after several posts as Minister, Paul Doumer became President of the Republic in 1931… until his assassination the following year.
If these images are difficult to view by the brutality it displays from the colonial period, they in no way represent the Queen of England. Moreover, the scene takes place in Vietnam, which was a French colony, not a British one.