The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Life & Death Of Queen Elizabeth II

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.



When Is the Next Oil Driven Inflation Spike In the US? December to March.


Open Thread


  1. Joan

    Scotland and Northern Ireland are the heavy hitters, but I am also curious what Wales will do, as well as the Isle of Man and even Cornwall. In all cases I hope these places work to keep their languages alive.

  2. BlizzardOfOzzz

    No mention of how the British Empire ended the slave trade? Seems relevant if we are weighing the good and bad of empires.

  3. anon

    I expected Elizabeth to live beyond 100 years as her mother had. Her health went downhill fairly quickly after contracting Covid earlier this year. Very few media outlets will bother to connect the symptoms of long Covid to her death, but I believe she could have easily lived another 5 years had she not gotten Covid.

    Charles will not live as long as his mother. He’s not as healthy and he contracted Covid twice. I predict his reign will be fairly short.

  4. different clue


    If UK becomes as poor as expected due to Brexit and its support of the Ukraine War sanctions, then Scotland and Wales will seek independence so they can apply for admission to the EU on their own independent terms. If the English outnumber the Cornish in Cornwall, the Cornish can do little.

    The Northern Ireland Unionists will be too Crown and Empire proud, and too antiCatholitic, to ever leave the UK.

  5. Trinity

    “No mention of how the British Empire ended the slave trade?”

    And much, much earlier than the US, which still has racial issues.

    My question is whether King Charles III will rule as his mother did (staying out of things, smoothing over things) or will he continue his work in advocating for climate change mitigation and cleaning up the environment? He was quoted as saying that as king he will follow his mother’s example, but I kind of hope he doesn’t. More importantly, how do his subjects feel about this?

  6. mago

    I remember an educated German frau telling me back in the late 80’s how important monarchy is because it gives people something to look up to and how we Americans who lack such an institution are diminished as a result. I thought her reasoning bullshit then and I still do now.
    Dead queen. How sad.

  7. Willy

    I don’t understand the level of media interest this is. Obsessing over the mourning of a failing state figurehead monarch, so full of pomp and no circumstance, seems weird to me. I did like the little gardening series Charles did a while back, though.

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