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‘Not My Queen’- The harsh reality of a royal death on Instagram

With a hashtag amassing 1.7 million posts, the death of Queen Elizabeth has taken Instagram by storm. It is unsurprising, therefore, that there has been a corresponding influx of republican sentiment and the hashtag #notmyqueen, challenging those mourning her death. Should people be glorifying her reign and actions when she has arguably ruined the lives of many? Similarly, should anti-monarchists be taking advantage of the death of a 96-year-old woman to make a political statement? It is a deeply complex issue intertwined with the tough reality of social media; does it ever have an appropriate reaction? 

For me at least, I was unable to escape the bombardment of Instagram stories with pictures of the late monarch on the day of her death. It seemed like there was a swarm of recognition and mourning, contained within a 24-hour story. Then it was back to our regularly scheduled programming of Freshers posts. The amount of actual distress that her death caused is therefore difficult to measure, which may also attribute to the fact that those who have a particularly strong connection to the Queen are most likely past the Instagram generation. But what has surprised me the most is the inclination of many to mourn the Queen as a maternal figure, personifying her as the nation’s “grandmother” when, in fact, she was far from it in the public eye. Many have circulated particular videos from her reign to paint her as a “cute”, normal old woman- there has been a particular delight over her reaction to cows at her 90th birthday celebration. It is not completely outlandish for people to mourn her this way- she was a 96-year-old woman. However, it is very easy to glorify someone in death as a way of coping. And for those who have been affected negatively by the monarchy, this is simply not good enough.

Whether she contributed directly or constitutionally, Queen Elizabeth’s reign was underpinned by violence, including the exploitation of colonised countries for postwar reconstruction at the beginning of her reign. Time Magazine also points to the “recurring, brutal end-of-empire conflicts [that] marred the first thirty years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign” – not very “cute” or “grandmother-like”, is it? Such actions are largely the basis for the #notmyqueen hashtag on Instagram, alongside the frustrations around the amount of money and excess retained by the monarchy- this is particularly poignant now that we are in an economic crisis. The scale of this frustration is understandable for those whose families may have fallen victim to these conflicts. Although everyone is entitled to mourn such a public figure, she was not anyone’s sweet old neighbour from down the road. She was a monarch, and we must remember her as such.

Now that the barricades are down from the Royal Mile, and there are no more queues outside of St Giles, we are left with the online footprint of her mourners and critics alike. Although no one’s death should be an opportunity for political statement, I will not be remembering the Queen as a “cute grandmother”. I will remember her as a monarch who, in all likelihood, probably never gave a damn about me… or Instagram.

Image ‘Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’ by Defence Images is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.