After mourning, division? The death of Queen Elizabeth II, Thursday September 8, “risk of widening the divide within the country”, according to researcher Isabelle Baudino. While the country is going through a long political crisis and Brexit has strained relations between Scotland and England, this specialist in British civilization analyzes the consequences of the Queen’s disappearance on the monarchy in the United Kingdom.
Franceinfo: The Queen Elizabeth He had no political power, so how to explain the fascination she aroused among the British?
Isabella Baudino : We must always distinguish the person from the institution when we speak of the monarchy. As an institution, the monarchy is one of the specificities of the United Kingdom. As it concerns Elizabeth II, she has become one of the faces of the country, a planetary icon, a very recognized and recognizable person. There isn’t a place on Earth where you wouldn’t recognize his face. He was an elderly person, who aroused a lot of respect and admiration as a person, more than as a monarch.
The queen had a truly unifying power between the different nations of the United Kingdom?
In any case, this is what emerges from the political reactions that followed his death. In the speeches of the two English and Scottish Prime Ministers, Liz Truss and Nicola Sturgeon, we saw an attempt to “retrieve” the Queen.
“Nicola Sturgeon for example insisted that the Queen died at the Scottish estate of Balmoral, that she adored Scotland… She made the Queen a Scot at heart.”Isabelle Baudino
At the same time, the plan of “royal train” gets ready. Its objective is to unify the country by the passage of the queen’s body throughout the territory.
From Brexit to the inflationary crisis, the United Kingdom has been going through a political crisis for several years. With the death of a unifying figure like the queen, will the rupture widen?
At first, it will be quite easy to participate in this collective mourning. All British media try to give voice to citizens of different nations to testify and tell their stories. But I think that in a second step, it risks widening the divide within the country because this tutelary figure is no longer there and, if at present the Scottish independence movement is mainly hampered by economic questions , it can be an element of further dissolution of British identity.
Are there differences in the attachment to the queen and the monarchy between the Northern Irish, the English or the Scots?
The monarchy is one of those English institutions from which other nations have moved away over time. There is a great attachment to the queen and less to the monarchy.
“Besides, Nicola Sturgeon didn’t say ‘God Save the King’ at the end of her speech, unlike Liz Truss.”Isabelle Baudino, researcher
The attachment to the new king is to be proven, this figure will not necessarily benefit from the same respect and the same affectation granted to Elizabeth II.
In the United Kingdom, everyone seems to share their pain, but are the British as attached to the queen as the media relay? Is there a social pressure that pushes to love the queen?
There is obviously a whole construction of this reverence for the monarch which is relayed by the institutions. This is done through politics, through the Prime Minister who is a relay of the monarchy. The church is also very important in this relay as the British King and Queen are the heads of the Anglican Church. And at the same time, this construction is based on an image that touches: it’s so difficult not to have respect for this elderly, frail woman, who has dedicated her life to the monarchy.
The Queen Elizabeth Has she always had this popularity and forged this respect of which you speak?
In the 1980s, the very strong figure of Margaret Thatcher [Première ministre britannique de 1979 à 1990, ndlr] had become the political image of Great Britain at that time. The neo-liberal values that she advocated allowed the queen to gain a more emphatic, more benevolent dimension. In the 1990s, her popularity declined as she was completely second to Princess Diana. [ex-femme du roi Charles III, à l’époque prince de Galles]. It was she who attracted the crowds and all the affection of the British public.
It is really in the last 25 years that it has become very popular again with the British. Aging, Elizabeth II became the nation’s grandmother to everyone. It was a kind of element of stability in the way the British can represent themselves.
What did the British like about the Queen? What did she embody?
Elizabeth II was a pillar of British identity, especially in the traditional values she carried. Since his death, there has been a crowd outside Buckingham Palace, but people are very calm, they don’t push each other, don’t talk loudly, they have a very “British”. They apply the decency that she completely personified, notably through her reserve. The monarch was also the embodiment of duty. Less than 48 hours before her death, she was still doing her duty, this is the last image that will remain of her. While she had been absent from the Highland games, which she loved very much, she went to welcome the new Prime Minister in front of the cameras.
Did the British still have things to reproach him with?
Certainly yes. Perhaps the criticisms will be made more clearly and directly in the years to come. In the wake of Meghan’s interview [Markle, épouse du prince Harry] with Oprah Winfrey, the accusations of racist remarks even inside the royal family have not been commented on too much. Now, tongues are in danger of being loosened. For twenty years, the queen has conscientiously avoided difficult subjects, questions that could divide. We saw it during his grandson’s visit to the Caribbean [le prince William]accusations of racism are not only underlying.
In January 2020, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan announced their wish to step back from the royal family. Since, their popularity rating among the British has only dropped, especially among the over 65s. The 18-24 year olds are on the other hand more divided, is this the sign of a change in the relationship of the youngest to the monarchy?
When Harry and Meghan got married, there was a lot of talk among young people from multicultural backgrounds rejoicing that the royal family was finally able to integrate diversity. The failure of this integration weighs heavily. And then Prince Andrew’s involvement with Jeffrey Epstein and the MeToo movement opened up a rift between young people and at least this senior royal. The younger generations are less attached to the monarchy than their elders.
What is the relationship between first, second and third generation Britons and the monarchy? And more especially for those from a Commonwealth country?
Windrush generation immigrants [qui s’étend de 1948 à 1971] are rather favorable to the monarchy. the Windrush was the first ship that brought immigrants from the Caribbean, invited to come to the UK. When they arrived they had British passports, they weren’t asked to do any papers. Forty years later, they were told they weren’t, and some were fired. It is a huge scandal that Theresa May had to deal with and which is not resolved.
People of this generation, who are 80 years old today, say: “When we arrived, she was our queen”, because it was the colonial discourse that imposed itself on them. The question of age is really important in the popularity of the monarchy.
“Among the older generations, there is more strong support for the monarchy. Among the young, there is a form of indifference or neutrality.”Isabelle Baudino
Are the younger generation of royals more attractive role models in today’s British society?
Prince William, his wife Kate and their children have good communication, handle social networks well, and it is true that they are rather popular. But when they are went to the caribbean, they were not very well received. Support for the monarchy is not at all acquired in the former colonies. The departure of Barbados from the Commonwealth in November 2021 risks being followed very quickly by others, such as Jamaica… Even in Canada, fairly strong movements are calling for a referendum, consultations. It will not be enough to guarantee the monarchy.
Will the Queen’s death encourage some Commonwealth states to free themselves from the British Crown?
With the death of the Queen, in the current situation, the United Kingdom does not have much to offer the countries that were associated with it. Other countries are global powers and offer greater support to former Commonwealth countries. It is a chapter that is closing.
“The British are aware that they will no longer know a character of this caliber, who will have this radiance.”Isabelle Baudino
With her, a chapter closes with glorious passages to which we liked to relate, now we will have to turn the page.
Can the death of the queen revive republican aspirations in the United Kingdom?
Certain republican movements speak of a referendum. But the British will find it very difficult to accept a new referendum, because the latest one has profoundly transformed their world.