Elizabeth II had a storybook life. But we have to be careful with stories of queens and kings. Independently of her great professional and political achievements over seven decades, and her enormous personal sacrifices, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born a princess (of York) and became queen in 1952 because of the simple fact that she was born into the British royal family. Nothing more.
No other girl in any other part of the world could have done that. Only Elizabeth. It's obvious: She did not earn her title. It was her turn. She inherited it.
Given that giant privilege, the argument in the year of 2022 is simple: No more kings or queens. We don't need them. They are bad for societies searching for more equality. They are very expensive. And everything they do can be done perfectly well by a civilian.
Despite all the above, 54 countries still belong to a voluntary alliance with Great Britain, the Commonwealth, and 14 are constitutional monarchies. In those countries, the functions of the British monarch are largely symbolic. But it no longer makes sense, for example, for a country like Antigua and Barbuda to have Charles III as king. That's why its prime minister, Gaston Browne, announced a plebiscite to turn the Caribbean country into a republic within the next three years. Barbados already became a republic at the end of 2021, and there's a strong movement in Jamaica to do the same.
That's the future: a world with fewer monarchies.
History cannot be erased. Queen Elizabeth II was a grand representative of the traditions, continuity and strength of the British monarchy. But she was also a symbol of a history of colonialism, abuses and racism by a powerful empire.
“The monarchy does not serve any purpose, a 29-year-old woman told The New York Times in London. “I don’t buy into the fanfare anymore, it’s an excruciating display of a violent past.”
The newspaper quoted a poll by YouGov showing that support for the monarchy increases with age. About 74 percent of people 65 and over believe it's good for Great Britain, while only 24 percent of those between 18 and 24 agree.
Translation: to be modern is to be, as much as possible, not the subject of a king.
Despite what it may look like some days, the world is advancing toward societies that are more open, democratic and meritocratic. Half the countries were democracies in 2017, according to the Pew Center, compared to only 24 percent in 1977. Although some monarchies fall within the technical definition of democracy, a king or a queen are always – at least on paper – heads of state.
In a world increasingly more diverse, multi ethnic and multicultural, we have educated our sons and daughters to fight for what they want, not to believe they deserve it because of inheritance or birth. It is the meritocracy, and the rewards for efforts, that is the goal despite the enormous inequalities and disadvantages that millions of people face as they grow up.
The U.S. Declaration of Independence has, in my view, one of the most stunning phrases ever written. “All men are created equal.” It is an ideal, of course. But it fit perfectly in a nation that was emerging in 1776 in opposition to the King of England. The message was crystal clear: In this country, the king no longer rules.
The fight for the independence of Mexico, like many others, was to free the country from the Spanish monarchy and establish, as described in the the always useful Short History of Mexico published by the Colegio de Mexico, that “sovereignty resides first with the people.” Not on a king or a viceroy. And that simple but powerful idea changed history for Mexicans.
Latin America comes from an anti-monarchical tradition. That's why, when some petty Latin America dictator – whether he's called Nicolás Maduro, Daniel Ortega or Miguel Díaz-Canel – begins to act like a king, there is fierce opposition. We have been fighting more than 200 years against those who believe they are divinely superior to others and wield all powers. But sooner or later they will fall. We have toppled worse ones.
For now, the British monarchy is not in danger. It is expert in the art of political survival. And there is no sign of change. Charles III has given no sign that he will offer an apology for slavery, much less begin talks with other countries on old squabbles. The aim of the monarchy, any monarchy, is permanency. So the only option left for countries that want a different future – like Barbados – is to break with the monarchs.
Over the last few days, in and out of the TV studios, I have learned much about the extraordinary life of Queen Elizabeth II, her moral character, her benevolence, her devotion to others and her sharp sense of humor. The Netflix series The Crown has been fundamental to humanizing her image. And I am absolutely respectful of those who prefer to live in a monarchy.
But I am convinced that a world without kings and queens is much better. More free, more democratic, more diverse, more egalitarian. We have to bet on merit, talent and work, not inheritance. For our children and future generations, it's time to start telling different stories.