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“I’m Sorry, Your Majesty…”

A Tribute to our Late Queen Liz, with Post-Colonial Afterthoughts

By Loz Lawrey

As my tremulous fingers tickle my laptop keyboard, late this night in my campervan (currently parked on Wiradjuri land), my mind travels back, back to another time…

‘Twas 1967. I was sixteen, incarcerated in one of those most conservative institutions: an Anglican (or “Church of England”, as we said back then) boarding school.

Uniquely white-bread Australian, it was the colonial emulation of its British educational avatar: the boarding school, always a convenient place to park the kids during their teenage years when the conventional wisdom of the day dictated that career obligations and overseas postings mattered more than keeping the family together.

These private religious schools, whether Anglican, Catholic or otherwise would do their level best to indoctrinate their hapless students with religious dogma and ultra-conservative values, as well as an entrenched and inalienable belief in a class system that would always maintain the social status quo, with the rich (ie “successful” and “entitled”) on top and others (“poor”, “other” and “lesser”) way, way down below.

All this overlaid with that ghastly pompous veneer of religious justification plastered over its ungodly (dare I say it?) agenda…

Ah, white-bread religion (white Christians only, please)… always justifying that implication of colonial mastery and white supremacy that permeates our “Australian culture” to this day, as the current exposure of entrenched historic racism within Australian Rules Football exemplifies.

I’m amazed that I and a few friends from that time didn’t completely succumb to the conservative brainwashing, although I’m not sure we came through completely untainted.

Silly young boys we were, but our eyes, meanwhile, were on world affairs: What on earth was happening in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco? Who were the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers? Would man actually walk on the moon? Had you heard “Purple Haze” yet? The new Beatles’ album? What were those Israelis doing to those poor Palestinians? And what was this “civil rights” movement in America about?

The history we were being taught at the time ignored the true custodians of Australian culture, the native Australians who had occupied this island continent for over 60,000 years.

“Australian history” in the 1960s was a celebration of colonial occupation. The frontier wars? Never mentioned.

At the time, the attempted genocide and cultural demolition of Aboriginal people was in full swing, as stolen generations victims can testify.

At white-bred boarding school, however, we had no idea.

The arrogance, self-entitlement and ingrained racism of those invading white colonialists, who regarded all “foreign” natives and their cultures as inferior, has imbued our Australian society for over two hundred years and it remains in clear evidence today.

To myself and my fellow boarding school detainees, the Australian society that surrounded us in the mid-sixties seemed irrelevant and out of touch.

Locked up in boarding school, some of us were subscribing to Time Magazine in our mid-teens as our own assertion of independence, our way of embracing and trying to comprehend the affairs of the wider world beyond Australian conservatism…

I learned that politics can be the tool of oppressors and exploiters.

But life’s for learning, right? And at the age of seventy-one I understand much more than I did then.

But I digress… This is about our late queen.

Drowning as we all are in the apparently endless, bottomless ocean of public grieving and media squawking that “tradition demands” following the passing of a monarch, it occurred to me that rather than taking refuge from all news channels and retreating to Netflix and YouTube while Royalty dominates the airwaves, I might humbly add my own tribute to our late Queen Liz (that’s if I can reach up high enough to add it to the by now very high pile of obituaries and reminiscences).

Because, let’s admit it: She was the very exemplar of public service, and the absolute embodiment of the very model of a modern monarch.

And yes, she was there, a “presence” throughout my time on this planet: “The Queen”.

To most Australians, she was a fixture, our overarching monarch. After all, from 1954 to 2011, she visited us sixteen times!

Hey, that was her job, wasn’t it? To be Queen of the Empire, overseer, promoter and maintainer of that relic of British imperialism that is the “Commonwealth”.

It could be said that British church/state imperialism, with its overtones of invasion and occupation, of native suppression and eradication, was nothing more than fascism and authoritarian control dressed up as a congenial collaboration of disparate cultures and ethnicities.

A now-forgotten Australian PM (as recently as 2013-2015) venerated as “western civilisation” that unrequested imposition of English “culture” upon native populations.

Yes, the role of the Queen of England was always to maintain the appearance of a “commonwealth” of nations happy to be dominated, exploited and controlled by Mother England.

It was a role she inherited and one which she inarguably did her very best to fulfill.

And yet, and yet… preserving British dominance was the mission she inherited and to which she gave her all, and within the parameters of her own upbringing and understanding, it always seemed a noble cause, I’m sure.

Over the years, despite our familiarity with her image, she remained a remote figure to many of us, the titular head of the Church of England and… oh yes, that’s right… the Queen of the United Kingdom and the “Commonwealth of Nations” also known as the “many conquered lands of empire”, of which our own Land of Oz is but one among many.

No one with open eyes could argue that she didn’t do her absolute best, however, within the parameters of her own understanding and the worldview and title she inherited.

So here it is: my own tribute to our late Queen Liz:

Point one: You rock, and always did, your Majesty!

Anyone who really watched you over the years knows that your life was a masterclass in public service.

Point two: And then, as I said previously, ’twas 1967…

Picture it:

On this particular day, as was customary, we convened in the boarding school dining room for lunch. The headmaster and his teacher minions sat at the high table, students submissively subservient at the lower tables, Hogwarts style.

Teenage hormones rampant (scientists understand this stuff), brain in neutral, uninspired by the meatloaf (which we called “elephant turd”) and mash offering (my vegetarianism was incubated here), I flick a spoonful of mashed potato over my shoulder in an act of misguided irreverence.

Behind me, on the wall above, that classic photographic portrait of Queen Elizabeth (young, beautiful and wearing the crown) that permeated my younger years…

The flung mash landed squarely upon Her Majesty’s left cheek, much to the amusement of my tablemates.

Fearfully, I glanced at the occupants of the high table, those who had the power to punish and suppress me.

None of them had even noticed!

Chuckles and nervous giggles all around… I’d got away with it!

After the many failures of various kinds I’ve had to endure in my life journey, this is one success I cling to this day.

No disrespect, Your Majesty.

At the time, Queen Elizabeth was a remote yet familiar figure to me, part of the Australian/colonial architecture, if you like.

Yes, I flung a little mash and it landed by chance upon the Queen’s portrait.

You know the one, that timeless image of a beautiful woman in her prime, wearing the royal crown and exuding that superiority and wisdom we commoners expect to perceive in the monarchs we accept.

I assure you all, there was neither malice nor republican nor anti-royalist sentiment involved.

I was, quite simply, young, stupid and sometimes out of control.

That is my pathetic defense.

And now I lay my tribute down:

I’m sorry, Your Majesty.

Thank you for your sincere service.

I know you did your very best, and who could ever do more?

 

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10 comments

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  1. Canguro

    Well expressed, Loz Lawrey. One wonders if the mashed spud lingers on the dining room portrait’s cheek to this day? After 55 years it may well have taken on the appearance of a rather nasty aged mole, unlike its bearer.

  2. RoadKillCafe

    Fuck me dead, why did I read this, and then I knew, Canguro, a rather nasty aged mole, not forgetting the fruit of her loins, chucky the turd, Andy, likes em on the young side, Anne, give me a horse. Good larf, thanks Canguro

  3. New England Cocky

    Time for an Australian Republic and an Australian borne Head of State.

    Betty Windsor’s sprogs have very little to admire, as listed above, and Chuckles supported the Dismissal of the democratically elected Whitlam LABOR government that liberated Australia from the Vietnam War and English domination.

    Why would any thinking person want any more to do with the most dysfunctional family in Europe?

  4. Bonno

    QE2 “masterclass in public service” or ‘masterclass in public deception on behalf of the thieving elite’, that is the question.

  5. GL

    I was told that I was a vile, horrible person when I suggested that they should release a little special collectors edition money box of the royal coffin with a pop-up zombie looking queen that snatches coins off the lid.

    Too be honest, I’ve always thought the royals were a bunch of parasites and only really fit for the muckraking cash cow main sleaze Murdoch and others of their ilk.

  6. New England Cocky

    OK, PP & Rossleigh will say that i am fixated, but an ordinary person could reasonably conclude that Scummo and Betty Windsor’s representative gg David Hurley conspired in an attempt to form the Royal Australian Dictatorship overlorded by ”The One Chosen by the Eagle” in the group of matters known as ”the five secret ministries” and ”the missing about 700 government documents” that Scummo sitting alone allegedly protected using Parliamentary privilege.
    .

    Scott Morrison copies Donald Trump’s corruption strategy and claims he has the power to declare government documents classified

  7. Phil Pryor

    Who is or is not fixated in attempting to use mere words to express deep instinctive feelings and drives? The old tribalisms behind royalty go way back and Freud commented on the actual establishment of law itself as a hedge against outrageous aggression, theft, appropriation, by tribal leaders or pretenders. It is difficult, but, the U K government, upper classes, plutocratic thieves, the nobles, fringe royals, top board members, established old chaps, the “upper ten Thousand” (Gladstone), the self appointed elites in their fields and niches, and now a King, are intruders, strangers, foreigners, oppressors, invasive outsiders to Australia. Thus, the goings on by a former P M, and the disgusting non efforts for Australia by the queen’s rep here is criminality…

  8. LambsFry Simplex.

    That is a marvellous piece.

    So good to come to somewhere where people like the panellists at Backsliders (Murphy excluded.) are not present for fear of reading the truth and having their lies exposed,.

    Loz, I remember those times;
    The Truth was not some thing to garner info , but a smutty newspaper.

  9. Loz Lawrey

    I don’t disagree with all these negative comments about the monarchy etc. My piece was a tribute to the individual human being we knew as “The Queen”.
    I simply feel that she did her best with the hand she was dealt.
    Yes, I too do not subscribe to the very concept of “royalty” that denotes a certain group as “special” or “of royal blood”.
    That perspective paints the rest of us as serfs and vassals and the concept of kings and queens has always seemed wrong and absurd.
    After all, Donald Trump wants to be a king too… and how absurd is that?
    If you were born in the late 1920’s into an already existing “royal family” and told at a very young age that you were to assume the title of Queen or King, given the temper of the times you were raised in, how would you handle it?
    Would you shout “viva anarchista” and hit the high road with a begging bowl? I doubt it.
    None of us can escape from our own roots or the peculiarities of our own upbringing, try though we may in later life.
    We are shaped by the environment we were raised in and the influences of those who surrounded us.
    The point of my piece is that while I decry the evils of empire and the monarchy that presided over it, I can still respect the lifelong effort to serve that was Elizabeth’s response to the demands of the world into which she was born.

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