The United Kingdom and the world said a final farewell to Queen Elizabeth II on Monday with a state funeral that drew presidents and kings, princes and prime ministers — and crowds in the streets of London — to honor the monarch’s 70-year reign.
But as the queen is laid to rest, her legacy is garnering strong feelings around the world over the British monarchy and its colonial past. When she took the throne in 1952, more than one-quarter of the world’s population was under British imperial power. That accounted for more than 700 million people in all corners of the globe — including parts of Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific islands, as reported by NPR.
While historians say British control allowed for the spread of the English language and common law, many note that enslavement, theft and violence defined the history of that rule. As the longest ruling monarch, some who have lived under colonial rule see Elizabeth as an anchor to an imperial past whose damage still lingers, according to the AP.
But her reign is complicated by the fact that during her 70 years on the throne, she modernized the monarchy and the British empire saw a decline in global control where more than 20 countries gained independence. Today the British Empire does not exist aside from a few small island territories, and the monarchy is largely symbolic and ceremonial.
The former colonies of the British Empire are now part of what’s called the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 56 independent and equal countries. However, 14 of those are part of the Commonwealth realm; those countries still keep King Charles III as their monarch.