“Patriotism and Colonialism are Not Really Separable”: Oxford To Remove Queen’s Portrait From Common Room

This week, the cancel culture became a royal pain with the removal of the portrait of the Queen by Oxford students at Magdalen College because her image is threatening to some students and “represents recent colonial history.” The decision follows King’s College formally apologizing for sending out an email after the death of her husband, Prince Philip, which showed a picture of Philip opening university’s Maughan Library with the Queen in 2002.

It appears Magdalen College has come a long way since it was a Royalist stronghold in the English Civil War. Indeed, the school’s own historical account refers to its own victimization as the result of a type of 17th Century cancel movement: “During the English Civil War of the 1640s, we were solidly Royalist, and had to endure a purge of our President and many of our Fellows after the victory of the Parliamentarians.”

Now, a committee has called for the removal of the image of the Queen because, as one student explained, “patriotism and colonialism are not really separable.” The Committee found that the portrait made some feel “unwelcomed” because the Queen represents “recent colonial history.”

By taking down the portrait, the committee hoped to make Oxford “a welcoming, neutral place for all members regardless of background, demographic, or views.”

It is truly a sad moment for an institution that is so heavily steeped in history.

In the case of Prince Philip, it was considered a mistake to even email his image after his death. King’s College sent out the photo of the man who was the governor of the university since 1955. The email simply said “As the nation marks the death of HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, we thought you might like to see this photo of the duke at the official opening of the Maughan Library in 2002, which some colleagues will remember.”

Given the Duke’s long governorship of the university, it is absurd to bar any image of Philip but the University apologized after some objected that Philip engaged in “historical racism.”  The complaints were made to the university’s Anti-Racism Community of Practice, according to the Mail on Sunday.

Associate director Joleen Clarke issued an apology and explained that

“[T]he picture was included as a historical reference point following his death. The inclusion of the picture was not intended to commemorate him. Through feedback and subsequent conversations, we have come to realise the harm that this caused members of our community, because of his history of racist and sexist comments. We are sorry to have caused this harm.”

Phillip had a history of controversial and insensitive comments, including comments denounced as racist like his comment in 1986 to British students visiting China, “If you stay here much longer you’ll all be slitty-eyed.” He also was criticized for sexist comments like stating “I don’t think a prostitute is more moral than a wife, but they are doing the same thing.”

Philip was correctly and regularly criticized for such comments. They tarnished his legacy and were legitimately referenced in discussions of his life. However, this was just an email acknowledging his long connection and service to the school.

As with portrait of the Queen, such imagery is part of the rich history of these schools. They are part of a broader context. Indeed, the point of higher education is to consider such images and legacies in their historical and political contexts.  We can go through life removing images that trigger us or discomfort us. Alternatively, we can place such images in their proper context and learn from the history that they represent.

None of us are hermetically sealed from history or its imagery. Oxford students should celebrate that history even as they change it. Indeed, many of these students embody the changing face and values of Oxford.

99 thoughts on ““Patriotism and Colonialism are Not Really Separable”: Oxford To Remove Queen’s Portrait From Common Room”

  1. As I understand it, England’s version of our American Oath of Office (English Oath of Allegiance) is fundamentally different from the American version. Americans have an “indirect” loyalty oath to a “constitutional rule of law” that protects individual rights and freedoms – not directly to the president, not directly to the nation and not directly to the people.

    The American Framers of the Constitution believed the nation and American people were best served by an indirect oath. This was based on over 2000 years of world history prior to the 1700’s. England apparently has a direct oath to queen and country.

    For example: America’s police, military and intelligence/security officials pledge supreme loyalty to protect individual constitutional rights – above all else – as a condition of retaining governing authority. Apparently in England, their police, military and intelligence/security officials pledge supreme loyalty to queen and country.

    It’s their choice but most of us love the American system better!

  2. Where does it say that everyone is entitled to go through life without ever being “harmed” by another’s words or images? These obnoxious middle class babies claim to be all for “equity and diversity,” but in reality they reek of entitlement, exceptionalism and conformity.

  3. If colonization is bad, as yet no one has offered any evidence. But. If its bad, and those colonizers must be punished.

    Aren’t Muslims at the top of the list of people to scorn and castigate. Just spit balling here, nothing to lose my head over.

    Not to leave out Christians. They do a lot of Mission Work. But the Crusades were to liberate people enslaved by Muslims.

  4. I’ll bet Egypt is ecstatic that the Israelite slaves were out of Egypt before the ink was dry on their release papers.

    Egypt hasn’t suffered for millennia, and doesn’t suffer now, a caterwauling, ineffectual and dependent minority which is relentlessly begging for “free stuff,” in all its multitudinous forms, including compulsory free social acceptance, free money, free food, free housing, free matriculation, free grade inflation, free hiring, free mortgage assistance, free healthcare insurance, free immunity from culpability, etc.

    The communists (liberals, progressives, socialists, democrats, RINOs) in America have made Karl Marx proud – no freedom and self-reliance for them; simply class “untouchability,” dependence and entitlement.

  5. This amounts to colonial denialism. The denial the USA started as British Colonies

  6. Steve Brown clarifies: “I do not think I was suggesting Prof. Turley would defend Nazis.”

    Nor was I! Turley would no more defend Nazism than he would defend Trumpism, that is, “American Nazism.”

    1. Jeff, oh for God’s sake, what kind of malicious fool would compare voting Republican with murdering Jewish men, women, and children, and stuffing couch cushions with their hair?

      Meanwhile the Left keeps promoting the propaganda that white people are born malignant oppressors by reason of birth.

  7. If a portrait of the Queen causes someone emotional distress, they should see a doctor. They can’t possibly manage to live in the UK if they feel like a photo of the Queen of England causes them some sort of vague harm.

    Prince Phillip was born in 1921. His humor would have evolved at a time when the automobile was a new and dazzling creation. We should give the elderly quite a bit of grace. When I was a kid, off color jokes were common that would be cringed at today. Hollywood and Laugh-In relied upon Pollock jokes, so that they were still common by the time I entered the playground. Those jokes never made any sense to me. I remember wondering what people’s problem was with Poland.

    Shall we cancel the lovely Goldie Hawn because she was a regular on Laugh-In, which told off color jokes? Anyone older than 30 likely has a history of telling jokes or making comments at some point that would be consider impolitic today.

    I’m quite sure that future generations will consider the fad of castrating boys to create feminized eunuchs to be appalling. Yet there will be quite a public body of evidence of many people supporting this practice, even going so far as to say that children should be allowed to decide for themselves to be castrated, without parental involvement. Children’s TV shows have gone off the deep end. Blues Clues featured an LGBTQ parade with a song by a drag queen, featuring beavers with “top surgery” mastectomy scars. This may very well be severely condemned by future generations. Perhaps people will be canceled and unemployable for what they confidently believe is right today.

    So before anyone throws stones, remember that in the years ahead, it may be you standing there in front of a mob holding stones.

  8. It’s true that diversity [dogma] (e.g. racism, sexism, ageism), inequity, and exclusion is not only a progressive (i.e. monotonic) condition but threatens to liberalize (i.e. diverge) under a forward, backward-looking banner of political congruence. That said, diversity of individuals, minority of one. Baby Lives Matter

  9. Thought experiment: If I sneaked in and hung a portrait of Idi Amin would the cowards running the place be afraid to take it down?

    I suspect so.

  10. Jonathan: When it comes to the “cancel culture” you are leading the charge against attempts here and in the British Isles to reckon with the history of slavery, colonialism and racism. It’s interesting how white conservatives cling to a bygone era when they got to determine what was placed in the public square or what was taught in schools about the real history off the US and Great Britain. Now your complaint is that the vast majority of graduate students at Magdalen College have voted to remove a portrait of the Queen from their Middle Common Room (MCR). The MCR is an organization of graduate students that do not represent the College so their vote does not reflect the views of the College. Although the President of Magdalen, Dinah Rose, says the vote was simply an exercise in “free speech and political debate”–something you would normally support when it comes to the views of conservatives but not when students vote to remove the Queen’s portrait. You oppose this move. Why? Because Magdalen is “so heavily steeped in history”., you say. Every thing in England is “heavily steeped in history” but that doesn’t mean the Brits should be forced to keep on public display symbols of their racist and brutal colonial past.

    Oxford University has been the center of efforts to reckon with Britain’s racist past. . Over recent years many have called for the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhoades, one of the symbols of British brutal colonial practices in Africa and elsewhere. In January All Souls College removed the name of an 18th century slave trader from its main library but decided not to remove the statue of Christopher Codrington. All over England people are starting to seriously deal with their racist past. Hakim Adi, the first person of African heritage to become a British professor, said about this effort: “I can’t think of a similar movement to effect a reckoning with glorification of slavery, colonialism, empire, human trafficking and crimes against humanity”. Adi has a response to those, like you, who would keep the symbols of that racist history: “If the government is really concerned about inequality and racism, they would put these statues in a special museum”. I agree. Put these symbols in public or private museums so those nostalgic for the past can worship their white racist ancestors. But I don’t think I should be compelled to view these reminders of slavery and racism every time I walk to the school library. or to a public park.

    1. Oh, give it a rest. I fervently hope HM Government withdraws every penny of public support from Oxford and any other organization stupid enough to take this tack.

      1. Yes, redistributive change for past, present, and progressive support of slavery, diversity, redistributive change, colonialism (e.g. wars without borders, transnational terrorism, equity and apartheid including affirmative discrimination, catastrophic anthropogenic immigration reform), and, of course, their establishment of a pro-choice religion that has normalized the wicked solution, political congruence, etc.

        That said, surely no consideration is due to anyone who, when they had a chance to take a knee, stood against slavery, diversity (e.g. racism), redistributive change, and social progress and justice.

      1. That +100 was intended for Dennis McIntyre’s well argued refutation of Turley’s blinkered opinion.

    2. Dennis, no white conservatives condone slavery or racism. Rather, they wish to judge people based on the content of their character.

      It is the Left that seeks to judge people based on immutable characteristics such as race. The Left wants a return to racial segregation – segregated dorms, graduations, meetings, training classes, extracurricular activities and clubs, etc.

      That’s not “reckoning with a racist past”; it’s racism. It’s a strong attempt to create institutional racism.

      1. “no white conservatives condone slavery or racism”

        Some white conservatives condone slavery and/or racism.

        White nationalists, for example, advocate racism.

        1. “White nationalists, for example, advocate racism.”

          Yes, there are many on the left side of the aisle that advocate racism. Some of them are white nationalists.

      2. Karen: you are not a conservative. You are a heavily-indoctrinated disciple of the Cult of Trump. True conservatives loathe Trump because he has none of the characteristics of conservatism, like fiscal responsibility, truthfulness and marital fidelity as examples. Your hypocrisy is breathtaking: you are deeply Trumpster, and yet claim that the evil “Left” judge people on things like race. Did you forget that your hero called Mexicans “rapists, murderers, criminals and vermin”? Did you forget that your deity referred to Haiti and African countries as “sh^thole”? There is no “Left” that is encouraging a return to racial segregation.

        1. Natch – “Did you forget that your deity referred to Haiti and African countries as “sh^thol”
          Aren’t they? I think they very much are, figuratively and often literally.

          I invite you to vacation there and see for yourself.

    3. You’re not compelled. You can look away. And when offense is taken when no offense is intended, that is a problem for the offended. And I don’t think the rest of us needs to endure a “woke generation” form of the Chinese cultural revolution because your generation is so sensitive that you think a painting of the queen is somehow “harmful” to your precious sense of entitlement. Perhaps its time for the woke generation to stop waking up and start growing up.

    4. “. . . compelled to view these reminders of slavery and racism . . .”

      Since you distort everything through the lens of race, anything (or nothing) triggers you and your ilk.

    5. Dennis, no one “compells” you to look at anything. If you don’t like something don’t look at it, watch it, read it. Pretty simple. You and others seem intent on judging the past with the moral compass of today. To look at racism or ethnicism one has to look at the whole of human history, it didn’t just begin in the relatively recent past. Tribal conflicts (wars) resulted in the taking of slaves, the Vikings traded captured people to North Africa as slaves, the Mayans used captured peoples as sacrifice, games, or slave labor etc. It wasn’t just that colonialism was brutal, life in general was brutal. In my opinion statues are beautiful works of art, they are also a way to teach about the good, bad and ugly. People are supposed to learn from history not erase it. Does the one or two bad things you have done in your life erase all the good things you have done? In the world of today, yes it does.

  11. Pretty much everything of lasting value in those crap-hole countries was put there by colonialism. Maybe take it all back and send the whiny ingrates home.

  12. Although surely not intended, but blacks are coming off as pathetic spoiled brats.

    1. Cindy,

      Yes, and they don’t realize how sick of it people of other races, not just whites, are getting of it.

      1. Young, you are 100% right! People (Democrats) should ask themselves why suddenly Latino voters are voting for Republicans in places like Texas and elsewhere. The Democrats are pandering to the Blacks to the point of nauseum for Asians, Latinos and yes whites. How does a person from Cuba feel when he or she is told that America is systemically racist and that we have to give Black farmers and Black restaurant owners benefits first and foremost? How does the population of VT feel when the lunatic governor gives the LIFE SAVING vaccine to minorities first? What do people think when they hear that a hospital in Boston is going to triage with an eye to race?

        Sorry folks but the inevitable backlash is happening and by the time a Biden or a Harris stand up to the AOCs of the world they will have lost the House and the Senate. Take a look at Senator Cori Bush, the new squad member from St. Louis, as she screams that she is tired of the police killing “her people”…as police killings are almost non-existent and the murder rate among “her people” in StL is skyrocketing. This is the discourse of today! The dumbing down of America is rapidly increasing and it looks like it will not stop anytime soon unless we have a tsunami at the polls.

        Hey suburban white women, I hope you like having your kids accelerated math class disappearing. Hey liberal urban Black folks, hope you like having fewer cops in your area as the high end folks hire personal guards. This is coming to a precinct near you.

      1. Young That’s so disgusting. You’re right…..people of other races are sick of the constant pampering and stroking of blacks.

  13. They have a right to feel how they feel, and mostly, it’s none of anyone else’s business. Tell us, Turley, should the US celebrate Britain’s occupation of America before the Revolutionary War on July 4th? I surely don’t think so. Same thing.

    1. We don’t celebrate it; we acknowledge it; we honor some individuals and achievements. Some indigenous nations, tribes, people, and not others. It’s unfortunate that today we celebrate diversity, inequity, and exclusion. Honor abortionists and social progress. Pursue social justice (e.g. witch hunts including em-pathetic appeals, warlock trials indulging plausible in lieu of probable). Perhaps there is a way to reconcile that will mitigate real and perceived harm caused by past, present and progressive choices.

    2. Why, yes, Natacha, yes, we should for the simple reason being subjects of the British Crown was, on the whole, a remarkably positive experience for the colonists, and, indeed, those of the tribes who allied themselves with the British over the course of several centuries. Without the British, there would be no United States Constitution, never mind the United States. The vast majority of colonists would have preferred to remain British subjects. We, like Canada, would still be singing, “God Save the Queen,” were it not for the idiots in Parliament. It is NOT the same thing, at all.

      1. I bet if you ask most American Indians, they’d say that they’d rather their nations not have been invaded and colonized.

  14. Perhaps they should replace his image with a lush color portrait of Idi Amin.

    Everyone will love that.

    1. “a lush color portrait of Idi Amin.”

      Young, get real.

      Idi Amin? Never.

      Che Guevara? All day long. And on t-shirts.

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