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Letter: Queen's funeral triggers memories of dark history

Beneath all the pomp and circumstance lies a far different truth.
Memorial tributes to Queen Elizabeth II have sprung up in cities across Canada, including New Westminster. But this letter writer says all the pomp and circumstance around the monarch's death conceals the dark truths of history.


Watching the queues of all nationalities stretching for miles outside London’s Westminster Palace, where Queen Elizabeth II was lying in state, triggered some of my earliest memories. I remembered holding my mother’s hand queuing outside the butcher’s shop for a meagre piece of low-cost meat, during times of rationing in Britain that continued from the dark days of World War II up to 1954.

I remembered the first time my mother cried in front of me when she heard on the radio that King George VI had died in 1952. I remembered listening on that same radio to the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth, and later watching the ceremony on a Pathé Newsreel film at our local cinema, as we had no television at that time. I remember how the Queen had looked so tiny surrounded by the Archbishop of Canterbury and others in the hierarchy of the Church of England, all dressed in regalia with various jewelled crowns, ornaments and rituals dating back to 1066. I remembered her being anointed monarch and Defender of the Faith, as leader of the Anglican Church, among many other titles.

I remembered learning in history class a few years later how the Church Of England was formed by King Henry VIII in order to get his marriage to first wife Catherine of Aragon annulled; he could then marry his mistress, Anne Boleyn, as the Pope denied the divorce in the Roman Catholic Church. I remembered that Queen Anne literally lost her head a few years later, but not before giving birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I.

I remembered how the British landed gentry and titled aristocracy had fought bloody wars for centuries, resulting in the various Kings, Princes, Barons, Dukes, Earls, Counts, etc, claiming castles, palaces and huge tracts of real estate that remain in their descendants' possession until today.

I remembered going to sea at the age of 16, and frequently travelling to countries colonized in the name of the British Crown, where commodities had been plundered and nations’ entire wealth exploited. I remember witnessing so many people living in abject poverty as a result, and making me so aware that my own hard-scrabble youth in post-war Britain was not comparable to their hopeless plight.

I remembered learning that the Anglican Church was once the largest slave-owner in Barbados, where their slaves were branded with the word “Society” across their chests  —  meaning “ Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts." I remembered that when the facade of all the pomp and circumstance concerning religions and monarchs is removed, a far different truth is revealed.

Bernie Smith