Queen's death sparks complicated emotions in former colonies

Source: 1News

Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-serving British monarch in history, was laid to rest on Monday. Her state funeral was watched by millions around the world.

But for many who grew up in one of Her Majesty's former colonies - some of which fought violent struggles to secure their independence - her legacy is complicated.

Presidents and prime ministers of former British colonies paid homage to the Queen after her death, including leaders from India, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Barbados and Jamaica.

But there have also been discussions - in public and private - about what she represented and what could have been done to address the empire's past wrongs.

For many, the Queen was a symbol of an empire that was built on violence, brutality, slavery and genocide. For some, the struggle to shake the legacy of colonisation is real.

East African countries like Kenya have a very complex relationship with the Queen. She was there back in 1952 with Prince Philip at the Treetops Lodge when she received news of her father's death. The lodge would be remembered as the place where Elizabeth 'went to sleep as a princess and awoke a Queen'.

Two years later, freedom fighters burned it down. The movement was both a freedom struggle and a civil war. The rebellion lasted from 1952 to 1960, and saw roughly 1.5 million Kenyans sent to special camps and tortured. Reports came out later revealed the British made efforts to conceal what had happened.

But as soon the news of Her Majesty's death was announced, Kenya's leadership paid tribute and ordered four days of mourning.

Colonisation did not take place under Queen Elizabeth II's reign, but Britain still had a large empire when she took the throne in 1952. Even though she had limited decision-making power, a lot of people from her former colonies think that as a monarch and as a political figure, she had the opportunity to be vocal - but she remained silent.

The Queen's crown jewels, some of which were taken from various colonies, were the subject of debate and discussion soon after her death. Many noted that the late monarch never made any indication that they would be returned.

Many in India and South Asia have escalated calls for the royal family to return riches taken from their lands, including diamonds like the Koh-i-Noor and the Great Star of Africa.

Koh-i-Noor is a 105-carat diamond on The Imperial State Crown. It's been a source of a decades-long controversy between India and UK. According to the palace, 10-year-old Sikh Maharaja Duleep Singh gifted Koh-i-Noor to the East India Company in the 19th century. Over the years many in India have questioned Britain's claim to the gem, and historians have suggested they got it by forcing the young maharaja to hand it over. For many in the former colony, the gem is a reminder of the brutal past of colonisation.

The British Empire was the largest in the history of the world. At its peak, a quarter of the world's land was part of it and one in five people were British subjects.

Fast forward to 2022, the world has changed. The monarchy is still here. They've modernised, pivoted, and even survived Covid-19. Prince William and Princess Catherine are loved and are celebrities, but for some the question remains: are they going to take accountability for their family's past?