Ideological Royalty

Someone said this the other day: that in our lifetime, we will likely never have another female monarch. It wasn’t a “we” in which we, as American citizens, would be directly affected by that monarchy. Instead, it was an interesting observation about how society might react in the absence of a female monarch. 

Once when I was little, my mom recounted to me just how much people loved Princess Diana. I was fascinated, and my mother told me about how when Diana died, people all over the world mourned for years. Flowers and condolences mounted high at Buckingham Palace and 2.5 billion people around the world watched her funeral. She was adored—not just because of her status, but because of the way she made people feel. Diana worked hard to make the world a better place. She represented the best parts of the monarchy, and did so with grace even after she was no longer an official member of the family. Women and girls around the world could see Diana as a shining beacon of what could be. Diana was adored because she represented, and in many ways was, the ideal. She worked for the people, was presentable and organized despite personal strife and crisis, rising above the political and social fray. 

Similarly, Queen Elizabeth II embodied this calmness and stability. She symbolized to her people—and to much of the world—the way in which an archaic system could adapt to a new era and was able to create a new home for the British monarchy. She was always there, always watching, making sure that her country stayed on course and maintained their position of power in the world. Her death marks a similar landmark. Yet again, a female leader has died and a male leader has taken her place. Common gender roles are yet again being upheld, and it becomes harder to visualize the possibilities for female leadership in Queen Elizabeth’s absence. I am 17 years old, and September 7, 2022 was the last day that I will see a female monarch in the British royal family.

Queen Elizabeth was 96 years old, a long life by anyone’s standards, and yet after her Platinum Jubilee, it felt like she would live forever. She was a constant; always there with her tiaras, white hair, and royal stoicism. She led the country through war and through a pandemic; her public addresses on Christmas reassuring her people that indeed, it was possible to maintain routine and reality in the midst of chaos. When I received the notification on my phone that she had passed away in Balmoral, I thought back to when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. It felt very similar in that two women, who were political and social constants, had finally left this world. It didn’t make sense; how could they just be gone? One day dressed in pastel-colored skirt suits, the next day, the world was mourning the loss of an iconic monarch. 

Instead of focusing on the political and judicial tragedy that arose when Ginsburg died, Queen Elizabeth’s death marks a moment in which, subconsciously, there is just one less female figure in power. When a woman is in power, it becomes harder to ignore issues of sexism and gender inequality, especially when the ruler of your country is a woman. The U.K. is a constitutional monarchy, and while that means that the Queen didn’t actually have any say in how the government was run, laws were enacted, or wars were fought, those were all still in her name. It was the duty of the parliament and the prime minister to work on a governmental body that was socially represented by the monarch and royal family. She was the face of one of the leading countries in the world. 

There is a feeling of disappointment that is startling and disheartening when looking up at the royal family and seeing Prince Charles III as king. To know that I will never again see a Queen of England is not emotionally shocking, but it has taken time for me to really understand how, subconsciously, I am affected by the lack of a female monarch. I no longer feel a stronger presence of female leadership nor see a manifestation of poise and strength in Queen Elizabeth II. I am not British, and I do not carry a British passport, but I can only imagine what the world will look like when the face of a leading country like the U.K. changes so drastically. 

It is a moment of consideration for us all: what we value, where we look to for inspiration, and how we let our world affect our perception of ourselves and our place in that world. It is more than the loss of a monarch, more than the loss of person and a woman—it is the loss of an era, of psychological and political development, that we have not yet begun to mourn.