The death of Queen Victoria: compare and contrast

We found this below from a quick shuffle through the National Library’s excellent Trove resource. There is masses more, but this will do, both on that death and for any interesting comparisons that may be drawn with this week’s event.


With her fulness of years it was inevitable that the life of Queen Victoria could not last much longer. And so, having lived to see another century unfold its promise, she has passed away, to reign no more, into the land of universal equality, at the ripe age of eighty two and in the sixty-fourth year of her rule.

Disbelieving in monarchy, as do all who are supporters of majority rule, The Worker must nevertheless say that, compared with that of her predecessors, the rule of our late ruler was a blameless one. Its main fault lay in any absence of an attempt to lead a crusade against poverty, injustice, and wrong-doing — surely the noblest work in which anyone could engage.

Now, the Queen being dead, long live the King. Albert Edward comes to the throne at a period when, his wild oats being widely-spread and thickly-sown, he may be expected to exercise some discretion in the maintenance of the position. The wings of Monarchy have been long closely clipped in Britain, and it only requires an attempt on the part of the occupant of the throne to seize and exercise long dormant privileges and powers to drive the nation over to Republicanism.

In conclusion it might be said that even the most conscientious Republican may feel some regret at the death of the woman — if not at that of the queen — who was at all events a good wife and mother and who did her duty according to her necessarily limited ideas thereof.

The Worker (Wagga Wagga NSW) 26 January 1901, page 4.

10 September 2022

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One comment on “The death of Queen Victoria: compare and contrast
  1. Leighton View says:

    I found this column interesting … from Robin Artisson, a writer in Maine, regarding the passing of QEII. The only quibble I have with it is the statement about Elizabeth’s family “didn’t even come into power in England until 1901”. Since Victoria was Elizabeth’s great-grandmother (1901 being the year that Victoria died and Edward (her son) became King), I don’t know where he is coming from there.

    “Jesus F Christ on a Bicycle. The English Monarchy was dissolved in 1649 with the actual beheading of the King. After a brief and volatile time, the monarchy was restored in 1660- only to fall again (and for the final time) in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
    After that, and ever since then, it hasn’t been monarchs primarily calling any shots in England or Britain; it has been powerful oligarchs and political ministers. From 1688 till now, the social and political influence of the monarchy was waning, until they became what they are now: almost pure figureheads.
    In 1600, a corporation was formed in England called The East India Company. In the years between 1600 and 1874, it became one of the first truly massively powerful international corporations. At its height, it commanded more naval and military forces than the actual English government. It’s influence spanned the globe.
    It was the East India Company (and other, lesser companies) and a wide network of English (and later Britain-wide) oligarchs and politicians who, stirring with the energy of the newly-born movement of Capitalism, decided to monetize the colonies in the New World, and accelerate the co-opting of Africa, the colonization of India, and who decided to go after “all the tea in China.”
    This is how Capital Evil hides itself: in ranks of faceless ministers and powerful, rich families. And all of these men who, for the last 400 years, were _actually_ responsible for the colonialist and imperialistic evils coming out of England are thanking everyone today who decided to blame all their evil on the old English grandma-queen who just died.
    No, Elizabeth II did not “colonize” anywhere. No, she never declared war on any nation (the last Monarch to do that was her father, who declared war on Nazi Germany). Even if English monarchs declare war, they cannot actually wage war; Prime Ministers and other politicians and officers alone can do that. The monarchical power of declaring war is nothing but ceremony.
    No one ever said that the Windsor family was the nicest family ever. To be fair, they aren’t _really_ Windsors; they belong to the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha family; they changed their name to “Windsor” because let’s face it: “Windsor” sounds like people who like high tea and are well-mannered; Saxe-Coburg and Gotha sound like people who impale their political enemies on rusty spikes over breakfast.
    Also, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha sounds as German as bratwurst, and that’s not a cool name to have when all the young men in your country are dying fighting the Germans in WWI.
    Either way, no one said they were the greatest family ever, but Elizabeth didn’t choose what family she was born into. She came rather late in history and did (I believe) the best she could balancing the forces of tradition, history, and the demands of culture, society, and family. She cultivated a kind of pro-social neutrality for her people, realizing as she did that she was the ceremonial and symbolic Queen for all her (ceremonial) subjects.
    How can any of us know if we would have done any better, had we been in her place? One thing is certain: Elizabeth could not reverse the power of 400 years of predatory corporate capitalism. Her family cannot reverse that, even if they somehow wanted to. There are historical forces here operating that are much larger than any one rich family, even the family that has the (dubious?) honor of being the figurehead royal family.
    I write these things for my friends outside of the UK who might not be so aware of the history. A lot of people seem intent on pinning the last 400 years of colonial evil on Queen Elizabeth, or on her son (now king) Charles. I don’t think this is coherent or historically supportable. Your enemy- the thing that actually colonized or murdered people, or exploited people- is Capitalism.
    And Capital is not one family, or even a collection of families; it is a terrible evil that disperses itself into every corner of life. It _is_ primarily a very large international group of rich families and heads of corporations, yes- but it’s much more than that, too.
    Perhaps being blamed for centuries of evil that there’s no way a person could have done anything about (or reversed) is one of the risks that comes with becoming a head of state or a figurehead. In the United States, we ignore the actual power brokers of Capital and blame everything on the President, who is actually quite limited in his own power to affect much systemic change. Perhaps this is just human; we want a face and a name to hate and blame.
    Taking shelter in such simplistic tactics will not heal us or help to fix any problems in the world. Emotions run high (and I believe that humans are primarily emotional creatures, more than anything else) but a point comes when we must temporarily stop indulging in such things and become more strategic about how we consider and work against the real evils in the world. If we care about actual justice or peace, I mean.
    So, damn. No, the Queen didn’t sail over to the New World and preside over massacres, and neither did her family, which didn’t even come into power in England until 1901. No, she didn’t sit around sipping blood and laughing in some approving way about the evils of the British Empire. She actually presided (again as a figurehead) over the dissolution of England’s overseas empire.
    I’m sure she wasn’t some portrait of “progressivism” as it is known today, but it is beyond any charitable or reasonable appraisal to imagine she was the genocide-loving reptile that half my feed seems to think she was. She was a woman of her times, and we are all people of our times, even though most of us are too arrogant or short-sighted to see it.
    In centuries when we are dust, people of the future will not look kindly on many of the things we thought were so normal or even good. So, if you believe in an afterlife, brace yourselves.
    I have been very public about not liking rich and obscenely wealthy families, because they’re entirely unlikeable. And I don’t give the Queen’s family any special pass just because of who they are; but let’s separate the sharks from the guppies, when we can. And read more history: the key to everything is there.

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