Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, has been immortal as an icon as Big Ben. However, as Shakespeare put it, the ‘ominous and fearful owl of death’ finally perched on her knees at Balmoral Castle.
Queen Elizabeth was the heiress of the British Empire’s dark, callous, and ignominious legacy, once described as “the empire on which the sun never sets.” Through their colonial reign, she and her forebears inflicted excruciating suffering on millions across the globe.
Elizabeth II’s long reign spanned seven decades, during which British savage colonialism metamorphosed into neocolonialism, as British corporations such as the British South Africa Company (BSAC) and the giant British energy company (BP) pillaged the national riches of countries in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean by installing dependent puppet regimes.
Many naïvely argue that the Queen and the Royal Family have merely played a ceremonial role and have brought millions of pounds of income from foreign tourists. Others reject this assumption, asserting she was an accomplice in Iran’s notorious 1953 coup d’etat and the abominable atrocities in Kenya and Ireland.
In 1953, the MI6 and the CIA conspired to overthrow the democratically elected Prime Minister Mosaddegh and reinstate Iran’s puppet king, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Winston Churchill was eager to protect British oil interests in southern Iran, while Americans, frightened of Soviet encroachment, were desperate to persuade the Shah not to flee. However, the Shah was becoming restless and fearful.
The previously kept secret documents have divulged how the United States and its British allies mischievously deceived the Shah by exploiting Queen Elizabeth’s name, claiming they confused the name of the 26-year-old Queen with that of the ocean liner on which Anthony Eden, the then-foreign secretary, was travelling.
On February 27, the United States sent a telegraph to their ambassador in Tehran, Henderson, representing British interests. The cable allegedly said that Queen Elizabeth had sent a message through Eden, expressing sincere hope that Shah could be dissuaded from leaving the country.
Some historians contend that, unbeknownst to the Queen, the Americans pushed the British Crown to sail into a notorious coup that ousted a democratic government, which endured the Shah’s tyrannical dictatorship until the 1979 Islamic revolution.
However, it remains an enigma why the Queen did not acknowledge during the past seven decades that she was inadvertently involved in the joint US-UK scheme.
Northern Ireland still vividly remembers the “Bloody Sunday,” in which British paratroopers opened fire on a peaceful group of Catholic demonstrators in Londonderry in 1972. News of the carnage spread quickly, and very soon, the world was in an uproar.
Irish nationalists were constantly subjected to torture and violence throughout the British military’s 38-year involvement in Northern Ireland. For instance, the most prominent political Irish prisoner was Bobby Sands, who died on a hunger strike while imprisoned.
Given her immense symbolism as head of state, who else is to blame for atrocities committed other than the deceased Queen by her indifference or secret connivance throughout the Northern Ireland conflict?
The new British government led by Liz Truss must be concerned that the lingering legacy of British crimes on the psyche of Northern Irish citizens who suffered from decades of discrimination might spark yet another uprising against British occupation, particularly as Brexit has cast the future of Northern Ireland into a dark shadow.
In 2005, an associate professor of history at Harvard University, Caroline Elkins, published “Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya,” which details the horrendous British atrocities in Kenya. Elkins unearthed a campaign of murder in which tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, perished. In 1952, Churchill argued Kenya’s fertile highlands should only be populated by white Europeans, and he approved the forcible removal of the local communities.Hence, the British adopted a vicious strategy of mass arrests to suppress the country’s expanding unrest. More civilians were impacted by this inhumane tactic—”Britain’s Gulag,” as Elkins describes it—than were initially anticipated.
Elkins estimated that rather than the 80,000 captives listed in the official statistics, the camps had accommodated between 160,000 and 320,000 captives. She also learned that colonial officials used 800 enclosed settlements scattered throughout the countryside to confine women and children. These closely monitored communities were another kind of imprisonment since they were surrounded by barbed wire, spiked ditches, and watchtowers.
The helpless Kenyans endured forced labour, diseases, malnutrition, humiliation, rape, and massacres in camps, villages, and other outposts. Furthermore, the divisive tribalism that British colonialists implanted has been responsible for widespread social discord and a lack of cohesiveness in Kenya after its independence.
Queen Elizabeth’s bloody legacy will live on despite British historians’ continuous efforts to whitewash their country’s repugnant past in Kenya, Iran, and Northern Ireland.