For almost 16 years now, I’ve been a subject of the Queen.
It’s kind of weird whenever I think about it — that a kid who was born in Alaska, grew up in the hills of California and went to university and started his career in Mississippi, would end up a subject of the British monarchy.
But ever since I moved here to New Zealand in 2006, that’s exactly what I’ve been, and since becoming a New Zealand citizen around 10 years back, I even swore allegiance to her majesty.
Although we all knew it was coming, it’s a strange thing indeed to wake up and learn that Queen Elizabeth II is dead.
I’ve always been a bit neutral about the queen, neither a rabid royalist nor a fanatical republican. I guess I’ve mostly just been interested in the workings of a centuries-old system of royal hereditary rulership, having grown up pledging allegiance to a different flag, to myths and legends about George Washington and Abe Lincoln. I liked the novelty of being part of a monarchy when I moved here, of having the Queen on our coins and cash and all the little finicky bits of royal protocol I’ve had to learn in my work as a journalist.
New Zealand is my home these days, quite possibly for the rest of my days, and King Charles III is now my head of state. Hearing the words “God save the king” this morning for the first time felt bloody, bloody weird, I’ll tell you that.
The last couple of years, there’s certainly been a part of me that’s kind of appreciated the kind of cultural stability the Queen’s presence brought, when you look at the chaotic upheaval among flailing political parties in my homeland, where a creeping authoritarian fascism seems to be more and more accepted.
And after 16 years here, I firmly think some parliamentary system of government – where party leaders are more accountable, where minor parties have a larger voice – is essentially superior to the creaky, unfair US system of antiquated electoral colleges and deeply unequal representation, states with 500,000 people having the same Senate spots as states with 50 million.
Sure, there’s lots of questions to raise about the legacy of the monarchy and its relevance in the future, about the bad things that have happened under kings and queens, the idea of being “born to rule” and the often horrific impacts of colonialism.
But today, I’m just kind of sticking to my number one rule about engaging with the internet in 2022: Don’t be a jerk.
Ninety-six years, 70 of them in one job, is a good run. The sheer longevity of her reign – she ascended the throne when my 80-something parents were teenagers – is remarkable. She spanned from the age of silent movies and Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin to streaming TikToks and Prime Minister Liz Truss.
History is happening now, today, and tomorrow. We’ll all go back to arguing about everything in a few hours, I’m sure, but today, I’m watching the great gears of history turn and one era ending, forever.