Oxford University graduate students removed a portrait of Queen Elizabeth from their common space due to its ties to ‘colonial history’, prompting ‘culture cancellation’ cries and headlines in the whole world.
Members of Magdalen College’s Intermediate Common Room, or MCR, decided to remove the portrait at a committee meeting on Monday, according to the BBC. The outlet reported that the graduate students wanted to put aside the picture of the queen because “for some students, representations of the monarch and the British monarchy represent recent colonial history”.
Dinah Rose, a lawyer and president of Magdalen College, Oxford, responded to reports of the photo being removed on Twitter Tuesday.
“The middle common room is an organization of graduate students. They do not represent the College ”, she wrote. “A few years ago, around 2013, they bought a copy of a photo of the Queen to decorate their common room.”
“They recently voted to withdraw it. These two decisions are theirs and not those of the College. Madeleine strongly supports freedom of expression and political debate, as well as the right to autonomy of the RCM, ”added Rose.
“Maybe they will vote to put it back, maybe they won’t. During this time, the photo will be stored securely.
Rose also implored supporters of the Queen to keep her in mind before harassing members of Oxford.
“If you are one of the people who is currently sending obscene and threatening messages to College staff, you might consider taking a break and asking yourself if this is really the best way to show your respect for the Queen,” a- she declared.
“Or if she would be more likely to support the traditions of free debate and democratic decision-making that we keep alive in Madeleine.”
Buckingham Palace made no comment for the HuffPost on Wednesday. Oxford University and Magdalen College did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Not surprisingly, some people called the students’ decision “absurd” and evidence of “culture nullification.”
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson called the removal of the portrait “just plain absurd.”
“She is the head of state and a symbol of the best in the UK,” he tweeted. “During her long reign she worked tirelessly to promote the British values of tolerance, inclusiveness and respect around the world.”
Other British universities have suffered backlash for any apparent homage to the monarchy. King’s College London recently apologized for sending a photo of Prince Philip after his death. After a number of complaints from critics of the Duke of Edinburgh, Associate Principal Joleen Clarke told students and staff the school was “sorry for causing this harm”.
“The inclusion of the photo was not intended to commemorate him,” Clarke said. “Through the comments and the conversations that followed, we realized the harm this has caused to members of our community, due to its history of racist and sexist comments. “
The royal family is grappling with tales of racism following Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah Winfrey in March. Meghan, who is mixed race, said a member of the royal family had expressed racist “concerns” about the color of their son Archie’s skin before he was born.
The revelations from the interview prompted Prince William to claim that the royal family was “not really a racist family.” Buckingham Palace also issued a statement on behalf of the Queen, stating that “the issues raised, in particular that of race, are of concern. Although some memories may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be treated by the family in private. ”
The Guardian also recently uncovered and published documents describing old Buckingham Palace hiring practices that prohibited minorities and foreigners from holding office positions, although this did not prevent them from serving as domestic workers. The outlet said the practice continued until at least the late 1960s.
Prince Harry spoke of the need for the royal family to take into account its colonial past and the history of the Commonwealth, which includes the former British colonies, last July in an interview with young leaders of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.
“There is no way to move forward unless you recognize the past,” Harry said at the time.
The British monarchy took an active part in the slave trade. Kehinde Andrews, professor of black studies at the University of Birmingham City, previously told HuffPost UK that “the British monarchy is a racist institution”.
“Its symbolic role is whiteness. Even now the fact that we think the Queen represents Britain tells you all that is wrong with so many people in this country, ”he said in March. “You don’t even have to look this far in her story. He is a champion of the Commonwealth, which is quite simply the British Empire. It is not something to celebrate. Most of the Commonwealth is the colonial possession of the United Kingdom.
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