For King and Colony
The British monarchy is a hollowed-out symbol of economic exploitation, political oppression, and depraved imperialism.
On Saturday morning, Charles III—King of the United Kingdom and the 14 other Commonwealth realms—will leave his birthplace of Buckingham Palace in a horse-drawn carriage and arrive at Westminster Abbey for an antiquated ceremony recognizing his ascension to the throne.
During the coronation, King Charles will don a 200-year-old cloak woven from gold cloth and lined with red silk. He will be anointed with (vegan) holy oil from a spoon that is more than 900 years old and will carry an orb and sceptre that denotes his power and divine authority. And finally, he will have St. Edwards Crown—the 350-year-old centrepiece of the Crown Jewels—placed on his head as the abbey bells ring and the congregation shouts “God save the king.”
The event is meant to symbolize the inseparable links that bind the monarchy with Britain’s history. Instead, it underscores the absurd traditions of an outdated imperialist institution and the 74-year-old relic who presides at its helm.
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The coronation is a purely ceremonial event—a propaganda display meant to endear the monarchy to a new generation of British youth. Yet with an estimated cost of $125 million to the UK taxpayers amid a cost-of-living crisis, it is inevitable that many Britons will resent the displays of ostentatious wealth in the form of golden carriages, priceless (and stolen) jewels, and couture outfits.
It is yet another reminder that the King’s enormous private fortune and luxurious lifestyle stands in stark contrast to the concerns facing most people living in the UK.
While I sympathize with Britons’ ongoing economic struggles, my biggest concern with the British monarchy lies in its history of depraved imperialism, which took caused irreparable damage to countless nations, including my homeland of Egypt.
British colonialism in Egypt began in the late 19th century when Britain established control over the country's finances to ensure the repayment of its debts to European banks. This was followed by a military occupation in 1882, which lasted in various forms until 1956, when Egypt regained its sovereignty. The British claimed that they were bringing modernization and progress to Egypt, but their presence was deeply resented by Egyptians, who saw the British as foreign oppressors.
The British implemented policies that were detrimental to the Egyptian economy and society. They heavily taxed the population, which led to widespread poverty and unrest. They also controlled the country's resources and diverted them to their own interests. The British also intervened in the country's politics, often supporting authoritarian leaders who were loyal to their interests. This led to the suppression of democratic movements and the stifling of political dissent.
The British presence in Egypt also sparked nationalist movements, including the Wafd Party, which demanded independence from British rule. These movements eventually led to the 1919 revolution, which saw Egyptians from all walks of life unite to demand their rights and self-determination. Despite this, the British continued to exert their control over Egypt until the 1952 coup d'état led by the Free Officers Movement that put an end to the monarchy. Britain agreed to withdraw its troops and had done so by 1956.
Britain then attempted to go to war against Egypt over the Suez Canal with allies France and Israel. However, the country was forced to back down due to a lack of international support. The embarrassing incident is widely considered to be the (well-deserved) death blow to the British Empire.
Despite the end of British influence in Egypt, the kingdom is yet to return the countless items it stole from Egypt, including the Rosetta stone, a priceless black granite slab that led to the seminal breakthrough in deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. The British Museum, where the Rosetta stone is currently housed, continues to deny that the stone was seized illegally.
Nevertheless, Egypt was luckier than other former colonies and protectorates. New research shows that Britain drained approximately $45 trillion from India between 1765-1928—a figure that is more than 17 times the GDP of the United Kingdom today.
Britain also used its illicit gains from India to finance its expansion of capitalism in places like Canada and Australia, both of which remain part of the commonwealth. It is evidently clear, therefore, that Western industrialization was likely financed by a steady stream of stolen fortunes from colonies like India.
Beyond its history of imperialism and colonialism, the British monarchy continues to enable authoritarian regimes around the world. The coronation will be attended by foreign dignitaries such as Han Zheng, the vice president of China who was allegedly involved in the anti-democracy crackdown in Hong Kong, another former British colony. Others will include King Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain and the Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, both of whom have been accused of human rights abuses in their respective countries. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the vice-president of the United Arab Emirates and owner of the Manchester City football club, will also be in attendance.
As previously reported by Sports Politika, the British monarchy has long-ignored Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s alleged crimes, which include the abduction of two of his daughters (a crime which the High Court in London deemed him responsible for), due to his exceptional influence in Britain’s horse-racing industry. He reportedly invested billions of pounds into the sport since the 1980s and owns tens of thousands of acres in Newmarket, the spiritual home of horse racing located in eastern England.
The monarchy has long been presented as a reflection of British pride and tradition. In truth, it is little more than is a hollowed-out symbol of economic exploitation, political oppression, and depraved imperialism that holds no place in modern society. Instead, we are now forced to endure the ascension of yet another monarch who is little more than reflection of the country’s shameful history and modern failings.