My confused feelings about the death of Queen Elizabeth – The Irish Times

A week ago, I and 160,000 other Irish-born people who live and work in London, along with the rest of Britain and the world at large, heard the news of Queen Elizabeth’s passing. An important historical moment like this forces us to confront our own history and how we carry that with us as we build jobs, lives, fortunes and families in the English capital.

My first response was confused, not because the event was unexpected—she was 96—but because I felt a loss, and that made me uncomfortable. As an Irish person, someone who enjoys every opportunity to come home and take a sanctuary from the beautiful busyness of London in my beloved Kerry countryside, it was as if I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t pay tribute to the late Queen.

I am from Ardfert, a few miles outside Tralee in Kerry and moved to London in January 2019 to study an MA in Fashion Communications at Central Saint Martins. Since completing my master’s programme, I have been working for a luxury PR agency ANM Comms and writing on the side.

The celebration that fell over London, which was especially evident as I walked into Buckingham Palace on a Friday night, is something I have never seen before. Walking down Regent Street toward St James Street and into the mall, I was surrounded by people with flowers and cards and their phones to take pictures of the Queen’s homage along the way.

Regardless of our opinions on Elizabeth II or the monarchy, we all knew that walking into the palace should be respected. In this moment, it has become clear to me that it is entirely reasonable to acknowledge and embrace the grief of the Queen’s death alongside my British friends and colleagues.

Suddenly, the jubilant press or social media coverage of her death seemed cruel.

I have never, and never will support, the institution of monarchy in any country, but the death of this woman will not end this system: its nature is that someone else, in this case King Charles III, takes his place at once. The monarchy that ruled all of Ireland went nowhere, but a grandmother of a city and a nation, one that gave me so much, died.

Queen Elizabeth was a figure that many Britons clung figuratively to in times of instability. Naturally, her death was an emotional event.

That Friday night, as I arrived at Piccadilly Circus and stared at ornate portraits of the Queen on their giant screens, I was taken to the last time unusual images replaced flashy advertisements. At the height of the first lockdown, in early 2020, it was a dark time for many, including myself. For a moment on a Friday night, I realized why the British took such solace in the image of Queen Elizabeth as a figure who had always been there.

Did I laugh a little and share witty tweets with my British and Irish friends who surrounded her death and Charles’ rise? yes. But, as with any death, there are moments of happiness and laughter punctuated by overwhelming sadness. Whether we are prepared for it or not, we are all able to appreciate Elizabeth’s reign as having historical and emotional significance to people all over the world. And we can do this with criticism of the monarchy; Not binary.

As an Irish person who is likely to spend my entire career – and possibly longer – in London, I consider it perfectly reasonable to respect and codify this event without fear that the ghosts of my ancestors who fought for Irish independence will come. Back to haunt me.

I feel sad that she is gone. Her passing marks the end of an era and the beginning of another. Change can be for the better, but it is often frightening and unknown. Before I moved to London, I dreamed of living here, and when I first visited the city, at the age of fifteen, I knew it was where I belonged. Buckingham Palace, the streets lined with cream-colored townhouses, the manicured gardens and shrubs, the Queen herself, the Diamond and Platinum Jubilee ceremonies, and more, shaped my view and that of many other people in London.

Somehow it is fitting that she is now giving it up, just as the stamps and money that were like her are slowly but surely losing their scattering everywhere.

A mainstay in the lives of so many British and London-born friends and colleagues who made me feel welcome and privileged to pursue a career here has vanished, and I sympathize with them. For my Irish friends and family, our history of rule from London will always remain – no matter what the British monarchy may have in place.

At times like these, our sense of humor prevails as a mechanism for channeling our feelings, negative or positive, as well as our lasting ability to embrace our past while moving into the future. It makes me proud to be Irish, and proud to have built a life and a career in London.