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Mourning the Queen’s Death is Complicated

Monday, October 03, 2022

By Kristi Kasper

During my early childhood, there was a day that stood apart from the rest. I don’t even remember what day of the week it was, but everything about that day felt out of the ordinary. My younger sister and I begrudgingly put on our nicest dresses, pulled on our itchy tights, and slipped into our rarely worn, shiny patent shoes.

Our parents then ushered us into our minivan and drove us downtown, which was a big deal in and of itself. When one’s whole life—school, friends, activities—was lived in the suburbs, downtown was a novelty. Even the drive felt meaningful: our parents, after all, were taking us to a once-in-a-lifetime event.

We arrived at a prominent hotel, a red carpet running from the main entrance to the very edge of the curb. There was an awning above the carpet that matched the carpet in both length and width, presumably there should the weather suddenly turn. Velvet ropes also ran the length of the carpet serving as partitions on each side: the carpet for her and beyond the ropes on either side for everyone else.

I am certain my sister and I complained a lot while we stood and waited. We were told to be patient: this was important and special, and it would be our only chance.

At the very moment it seemed we would burst from boredom, she arrived.

A dark vehicle pulled up to the edge of the red carpet. She slowly emerged. I remember her steps being measured. I remember her taking time to acknowledge those who had waited behind the ropes. I felt nervous as she grew closer to us: nervous that we waited all this time and she might not even look our way, but also nervous that if she did come to us, she may look at me the way a stern school teacher would. I remember being worried about properly following protocol. My mom told us we should curtsey and call her, “Your Majesty,” but I was equally worried I would look and feel ridiculous if I were to follow such rules.

It turned out that my inner conflict didn’t matter. Although it all happened very quickly, she didn’t brush past anyone whether they followed protocol or not. She was generous with her glances and small smiles and seemed genuinely pleased, almost humbled, to be greeting her well-wishers.

She finally came close to us and turned our way. It all happened so fast that I have no recollection of whether we actually said anything or made any attempts to curtsey. I was awe-struck. She stopped at us. She acknowledged us. We presented her with simple grocery store flowers wrapped in cellophane, and my mom quickly snapped a photo on her camera. I will forever have a photo of my meeting the Queen.

As much as I grumbled about both getting ready for the day and then waiting around for someone who was far more interesting to my parents than to me, I also remember the tides turned after I met her. I definitely got caught up in the rush of meeting her and I reveled in the story I had to tell all of my friends afterward. I cherished this memory.

I remember all of these details from one day of an otherwise ordinary childhood because she was special. She was revered, and I felt that. She also made everyone she met feel special for a brief moment. It wasn’t just her presence; it was the way she looked someone in the eye and gave a nod of acknowledgment. It was a nod that felt no different than the one she also would give to world leaders, celebrities, or war heroes.

If anything, the Queen’s passing can be a time for reflection and re-evaluation.

Looking back on that day, I feel conflicted.

Yes, it was a special day in my life. I was able to meet a remarkable world figure in my otherwise pretty unremarkable Canadian city. My city had hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics, but it otherwise didn’t host major dignitaries that often, and certainly none that I got to meet. Even though the Queen visited Canada 22 times during her 70-year reign, this was the one time I got to witness her visit.

However, I now have a different view of the monarchy. The monarchy and its legacy are far more complicated than I had ever realized as a child. In my child’s mind, the royal family was all pomp and circumstance and crowns and castles. While it may be those things, it is also an institution that has a history of violent and oppressive colonization. We are finally starting to explore and fully understand the negative and far-reaching repercussions of colonialism, and it is impossible to separate the Queen from this.

Not only did the Queen lead an imperialist institution, she didn’t take any meaningful steps during her reign to undo any of the damage. There have been no apologies of significance, no reparations or steps taken to help people heal and recover from this past. It is nothing short of horrific.

I think many people are feeling this conflict, and I suppose it is a good example of how two things can be true. On the one hand, millions of people have come to love the Queen and view her as a lovely person, a leader that provided continuity in an otherwise chaotic world.

The Queen reigned for a record 70 years, and she undoubtedly had a massive global impact. I personally will miss having a woman in this role. To have a female in a position of such power and prominence is not insignificant. A female leader who was important on the world stage. A woman amongst the many many men presiding over world events. Someone who had a prime seat at the table and brought a purse along with her.

On the other hand, we have learned a lot—especially as of late—about the abhorrent actions of colonialism. The repercussions of colonialism will be felt for a very long time. We cannot ignore this and we cannot separate the Queen from these actions.

These thoughts and feelings don’t have to be mutually exclusive. If anything, the Queen’s passing can be a time for reflection and re-evaluation. What does this institution mean to us and why? We can keep our fond personal memories, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also acknowledge the realities of centuries of imperialism and make changes for the better.

It is okay to feel conflicted. Just like life, death and mourning can be complicated.


Kristi Kasper is a corporate lawyer turned stay-at-home parent to three busy boys. She still manages to find some time to read and her book reviews and recommendations can be found on Instagram @bambini.bookworms.