Queen Elizabeth II in 1959

I was born in 68, and I remember the middle-aged Elizabeth and the era before the Commonwealth became meaningless. There was a post-war world where people traveled freely & often between the ex-Empire nations, and where economic ties between those nations and Britain were still primary. It came to an end when Britain went into a financial crisis so serious it required IMF intervention and then joined the EU to get a real bailout. Once Britain was in the EU, its focus became European, not ex-Imperial.

It was, in a way, a betrayal of the ex-colonies, but Britain didn’t have much choice. I’ve always found it ironic that British elites are such loyal dogs for the Americans, because the US did everything it could to hasten the fall of the Empire and then to put the boots to Britain. The US understood it was taking over the old Empire in a new form (less direct killing, but the boot was still there), and wanted to make sure Britain not only didn’t get back on its feet, but went from on its knees to on its belly.

It succeeded in this. Leading Brits in the late 40s and 50s knew this was what was happening, but could see no way out, given how relatively powerful the US was (and how Europe and Britain were garrisoned by US troops).

I can’t, offhand, think of a “good” Empire; they’re always bad, though in some places, some relative good can be done. (Hong Kong started out with a population under 1,000, and Chinese fled there. Though the Brits were bastards, they were better than the late Manchu, however.)

From Ireland to India and most parts in between, the British Empire did plenty of evil, as one would expect from the largest Empire to ever exist. (The Mongols come in second, though they had the largest land empire. The US? It’s a bit hard to count. Might be that post-USSR collapse they could be seen as eclipsing the UK.)

Elizabeth ceremonially presided over the dismantling of the British Empire. She worked hard to try and keep the Commonwealth together, but post-70s, even that disintegrated step by step. She died, I would say, mercifully, before the United Kingdom itself (the union of England and Scotland) broke up, and before Northern Ireland was lost. For a person in her position, she seems to have done less harm than one would expect.

The sun set on the British Empire decades ago. Soon, it will set on the UK. Europe is no longer the center of the world, but a collection of satrapies conquered by its old colony, the US.

In the normal order of things, the next Empire would rise in China — but we no longer exist in the “normal order,” but rather the end of a climate which has existed for thousands of years.

Elizabeth is lucky to miss the end of that order as well.

Note: Yesterday’s article was incorrect. A month after publication, the scientists clarified that the Antarctic sea-shelf collapse would not raise the sea level quickly, and that sea level rise (from this collapse) could take a century. I apologize for the error, and thank commenter David for catching it. The article is still up, with the error noted, but will be deleted after a bit. This note will stay.