Will Self on the death of Elizabeth II: “The establishment is in a hurry to present her as a political genius”

For the “Inrockuptibles”, the British author Will Self reacts to the death of Queen Elizabeth II and shares his deeply republican opinion.

“God save the Queen / She ain’t no human being / It’s a fascist regime!“How we punks reveled in 1977 in the rage and gall of the Sex Pistols mocking the Queen’s Silver Jubilee with that destructive dithyramb. But I was, I confess, a precocious anti-monarchist, heartbreaking one Christmas day my devout and aging grandmother by remarking tersely, and scarcely, Queen’s annual message to the nation concluded by her divine blessing, that I believed neither in God nor in… her. I was about six years old.

Quite frankly, I never bought into all the frills and cuteness that surrounds the British monarchy, nor did I ever wish to kneel before members of the royal family or sing the national anthem: the words “Send her victorious / Long to reign over us” (Make her victorious / Long her reign over us) do not embody an idea that your devotee adheres to – and I am not alone in this. Polls regularly show that a third of Britons are opposed to the monarchy – which is actually quite a lot of people, and if the new king fails to play his royal cards right, that percentage may well rise in the future. point that the institution, for the first time since the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688, is experiencing serious problems.

It’s time for endless panegyrics

My greatest fear regarding the Queen’s death, which was anything but unexpected, is precisely what I have witnessed in the 24 hours since her death was announced: all-out media coverage, endless panegyrics on the airwaves, a deluge of pusillanimous pseudo-comments. When the Queen’s husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, died last year, there were many who criticized the way the BBC and other mainstream media had cut their schedules, not during hours, but whole days, so that the old bugger could receive his share of praise and praise. Many agreed that Britain behaved like North Korea. But it is obvious that the disappearance of the Queen, far from bringing about a republican revival, will almost certainly result in a collective redoubled feeling of loyalty to the throne on the part of her former subjects.

Already, the British establishment is jostling to present the deceased as a kind of political genius, a being gifted with supernatural charisma and deadpan humor tinged with self-mockery. In fact, it is quite easy to pass for a woman of the people when the latter is quite ready to suspend their disbelief with regard to your spiel: it was enough for the Queen to address you in a familiar way, for that you feel like part of his family. And it is undoubtedly precisely there that lies the problem; for over the decades of his reign, the flagrant infidelities and alleged pedophile liaisons committed by his children began to dull the shine of the crown jewels.

Was the Queen a human being?

But let’s answer Johnny Rotten’s mockery: was the Queen a human being? Britain a thinly veiled fascist regime? Well, Republican or not, my answer to the first question is “yes”, and “no” to the second. The Queen was indeed a human being, which is why she was so good at playing the role of a non-entity, or a sphinx. As far as fascism is concerned, Britain remains a far more unequal regime than its overt policies would suggest to foreign observers. Remember that in 1900, less than 1,000 aristocratic families owned the whole of British territory, only one of these families, the Windsors, still exercises its influence over a large part of the country today.

It is the unnatural alliance between landowners and the first industrialists throughout the 19th century.e century that allowed the British ruling class to remain quietly in power, while appearing to cede that same power to the nascent democracy. In the XXe century, it has entered into agreements with international capital, via the City of London. At the social level, the Queen – and, by extension, the monarchy – exercised her influence via co-option: all these garden partiesand what the British call the “gongs”, these titles of knight and lady, etc., distributed not only to bootlickers, but also to those who might otherwise prove unfortunate.

This way, Sir Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney, and countless musicians, writers and artists willing to bow to the Queen, and from there to the principle that people as talented as themselves should consider it a mere accident of birth as more important. Will things change now that King Charles is on the throne? My intuition tells me that there will certainly be background music, but the fact is that when it comes to a diet based on tradition and lineage, the song must necessarily remain the same.

Translated from English by Hélène Borraz

Will Self on the death of Elizabeth II: “The establishment is in a hurry to present her as a political genius” – Les Inrocks