Nikolay Kalinin shares his thoughts on Magdalen College removing a portrait of the Queen
At the postgraduate Magdalen College in Oxford, the students voted to remove a print of the Queen that was hung up in their Common Room in 2013, justifying their decision by stating that the figure represents “recent colonial history,” with one student saying that “patriotism and colonialism are not really separable”.
This move comes out after a YouGov poll that concluded that more young people support abolishing the monarchy, as well as an expose by the Guardian revealing that Buckingham Palace banned members of ethnic minorities from working in office roles.
The removal of the picture has prompted instant backlash, with education secretary Gavin Williamson calling the decision “simply absurd,” while Piers Morgan wrote: “Can we vote to have Monarch-ordered Tower of London imprisonment powers restored for these insolent wastrels?”.
The president of Magdalen College, barrister Dinah Rose, stated that although the students “don’t represent the College,” the decision to take down the image was “their own to take, not the college’s,” and reaffirmed that “Magdalen strongly supports free speech and political debate, and the MCR’S right to autonomy.”
It seems ironic how people like Gavin Williamson supported a “university free speech bill” a month ago, but now are condemning the decision of the students to use that power of freedom of speech to take down a print through democratic means to a vote. This truly shows that to them freedom of speech is fine as long as it supports their own ideology.
Regarding the ideology behind the removal, I do not agree with the statement that patriotism is inseparable from colonialism, because you can still love Britain and condemn its colonial past. However, I do understand where the students come from, since the monarch was the head of the British empire, and therefore seen as responsible for some of its worst atrocities such as the Amritsar massacre.
Overall, I don’t necessarily agree with “cancelling” the Queen, but I do think that there should be more debate about Britain’s colonial past, how we should deal with it and what the monarchy means to this country nowadays.