James Connolly was an Irish socialist, who would be executed for his role in the 1916 Easter Rising. A few years earlier, Connolly wrote an open letter to workers in advance of a visit from King George V to Ireland, calling on them not to attend the processions or recognize them in any way.
Connolly writes, “Every class in society save royalty, and especially British royalty, has through some of its members contributed something to the elevation of the race. But neither in science, nor in art, nor in literature, nor in exploration, nor in mechanical invention, nor in humanizing of laws, nor in any sphere of human activity has a representative of British royalty helped forward the moral, intellectual or material improvement of mankind. But that royal family has opposed every forward move, fought every reform, persecuted every patriot, and intrigued against every good cause. Slandering every friend of the people, it has befriended every oppressor. Eulogized today by misguided clerics, it has been notorious in history for the revolting nature of its crimes. Murder, treachery, adultery, incest, theft, perjury — every crime known to man has been committed by some one or other of the race of monarchs from whom King George is proud to trace his descent.”
More than 100 years later, Connolly’s biting takedown of the so-called “Royal Family” remains an essential read, particularly because its lessons have gone unheeded by so many throughout current and former Commonwealth countries and their allies. Even worse, those in power have now undertaken a truly noxious PR campaign to rebrand the monarchy from being what Connolly calls “a survival of the tyranny imposed by the hand of greed and treachery upon the human race in the darkest and most ignorant days of our history” into a place of charity and service. This claim has come up incessantly since Queen Elizabeth II’s death, in the newspapers, on the radio and television, and from elected officials and others alike.
For example, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement saying, “Her Majesty vowed to devote her life to the service of the Commonwealth and its people. On behalf of all Canadians, I thank Queen Elizabeth II for honouring this vow and for a lifetime of service.” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said, “Throughout her historic reign, she taught us the true meaning of selfless service and was respected and admired for her sense of duty and commitment to charity.” And the Ontario NDP wrote, “From her military service to her reign as monarch, for more than 70 years Queen Elizabeth II unwaveringly dedicated her life to public service.”
Meanwhile, a September 9 editorial from the Toronto Star had the headline: “Remembering Queen Elizabeth: A life dedicated to service.” An editorial at The Globe and Mail published the same day said that while Elizabeth had “exceptional privilege,” “what stood out […] was her exceptional dedication to service – to the duties that are the justification for the privilege.” A National Post editorial echoed these sentiments, stating, “As we mourn the Queen’s death, we should be comforted with the thought that for more than 70 years, she repeatedly made a promise to her people: to serve them and carry out her duties as best she could. It was a promise she never failed to keep.”
But the truth is that Elizabeth and the “Royal Family” as a whole aren’t servants — they’re parasites.
As it stands, The Firm, which Elizabeth’s relatives have called the “family business,” is worth more than $28 billion USD. And as Forbes notes, Elizabeth “leaves behind over $500 million [USD] in personal assets from her 70 years on the throne, which Prince Charles will inherit when he is crowned king.” He will inherit this without paying any inheritance tax, I should add, which would knock off about 40 per cent for the average person.
The Family has done nothing of value to earn this fortune. They’ve built it off of centuries of exploiting the nations and people of the Global South, particularly their current and former colonies. For example, research from economist Utsa Patnaik published in 2018 found that the British stole more than $45 trillion from India, through a trade system that professor Jason Hickel called “theft on a grand scale.” In the middle of the 19th century, they inflicted a genocide on the Irish through intentional mass starvation, which caused around a million deaths, in part to profit by shipping the food abroad. And then there are the crimes committed by the British throughout Africa, represented by the looted jewelry mounted into the crowns and sceptres Elizabeth wore in public.
Some may argue that Elizabeth wasn’t responsible for these crimes herself, and so she shouldn’t be blamed for them or have them tarnish her legacy. Responding to that logic when applied to King George, Connolly wrote, “We will not blame him for the crimes of his ancestors if he relinquishes the royal rights of his ancestors; but as long as he claims their rights, by virtue of descent, then, by virtue of descent, he must shoulder the responsibility for their crimes.” The same applies to Elizabeth.
Plus, Elizabeth’s reign saw her oversee a wide range of crimes, further undermining the idea that she was a servant to the people. As noted by Liberation, this included the British waging a “scorched-earth terror campaign” against the Malayan National Liberation Army, “a brutal counterinsurgency campaign” against the anti-colonial Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, a covert war in Yemen on the side of ousted royalists, a propaganda offensive in Indonesia that helped incite a massacre against suspected communists and left hundreds of thousands dead, and violent crackdowns on a civil rights march and other activities in the north of Ireland.
At home, meanwhile, the Family cost taxpayers in the United Kingdom about $124 million USD last year, more than double what they drained annually a decade ago. Very little of this money goes to workers, with a study from May finding that Amazon employees — notoriously underpaid — actually earn at least 28 per cent more than what the Royal Palace offers. A January investigation from Insider, meanwhile, found that the “royal household appears to have abandoned an ambition to pay its staff at a living wage in recent years.” I wonder what the woman whose job is to break in shoes for Elizabeth gets paid? I wonder if she thinks Elizabeth is a servant?
Elizabeth didn’t serve the people. She served the ruling class, and was part of it. As Connolly wrote: “Let the capitalist and landlord class flock to exalt [King George]; he is theirs; in him they see embodied the idea of caste and class; they glorify him and exalt his importance that they might familiarize the public mind with the conception of political inequality, knowing well that a people mentally poisoned by the adulation of royalty can never attain to that spirit of self-reliant democracy necessary for the attainment of social freedom. The mind accustomed to political kings can easily be reconciled to social kings — capitalist kings of the workshop, the mill, the railway, the ships and the docks.”
Regardless of whether they’re ideologically committed to the monarchy or not, most of the Western establishment in the Commonwealth doesn’t want to see it come to an end. As a result, they’ve needed to give it a rebrand in a world where it’s increasingly anachronistic. The idea of the monarchy being a service to the people, as opposed to a drain on them, is one such insidious effort. Like Nada did in the 1988 film They Live, don’t fall for it — put on the glasses and see through the ideology.
Those with an interest in keeping the monarchy in place are now cracking down on dissenters. Critical voices have been completely shut out of mainstream media. Harassment campaigns have been launched against academics that critiqued Elizabeth’s legacy, with participants including Jeff Bezos. And several people in the U.K. have even been arrested, merely for peacefully holding up signs and protesting.
When have those in power ever taken such efforts to defend the legacy of someone who truly lived for the people?