On September 8, 2022, after 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth passed away. Queen Elizabeth was the longest reigning monarch in British history, with her death marking the end of an era. She had been queen since 1952, after the passing of her father, King George VI. Her legacy includes working with fifteen prime ministers, the first dating all the way back to Winston Churchill. She is known for playing an active role in government and foreign affairs beyond her duties as the symbolic head of state.
Despite being extremely popular throughout her reign, Queen Elizabeth did have to deal with much controversy and conflict. She was tasked with modernizing the monarchy as the years passed, including making the family more public and allowing tours of the royal palace in her absence. This modernization was demanded over the years by a public increasingly tired of dealing with scandals among the royal family, including several divorces, a tragic death, and family members deciding to leave their titles and royal duties behind. The royal family has been in the public eye since Queen Elizabeth began modernizing their role, bringing their every move under scrutiny.
With her passing, many may wonder what will happen to US foreign policy in regards to the United Kingdom. Though the monarchy’s role in the UK is more symbolic than political, she was a beloved, long-reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, and her passing could affect political relationships as well as cause changes to economic conditions.
The U.S. has “no closer ally than the United Kingdom”, and both US and British Foreign Policy emphasizes this relationship through close coordination and shared democratic ideals. Their relationship has continued to be strengthened throughout years of world conflict, including World War I and II, the Korean War, the Persian Gulf Crisis, and more. Given that Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952, she has been involved in the US-UK relationship for many of these conflicts, and her death may now affect the relationship. Undoubtedly the United States and the United Kingdom will continue to be the closest of allies, but it is possible her death will cause economic changes and conflict among other countries that will negatively affect the United States in the long run.
At her passing, the United Kingdom was already dealing with inflation, strikes, and risks of a recession. The 10-day period of mourning has slowed the country down by causing institutions to close, which also delays the implementation of plans to help build back their already slowing economy. Additionally, new prime minister Liz Truss had plans to help provide aid to British households, including a two year freeze on their energy prices for individuals. Originally planned to be discussed in the House of Commons on September 19th, the process will have to wait to be implemented until after the 10 day mourning period is officially over. Additionally, the holidays surrounding the queen have exacerbated the slow GDP growth, causing more businesses to close for additional time. Two additional holidays have been declared - one for the Queen’s Jubilee celebration and another for her passing. Many citizens have shared their opinions about how the country is shutting down, expressing concerns about the growing number of holidays, businesses being closed, and kids not going to school. Still, others want to honor the queen, but also remember the colonial legacy of the British empire and use this time to perhaps make changes to the monarchy. Many are calling for redistribution of monarchy lands and wealth instead of continuing to hand it down through the royal line.
So how does this affect the US economy? The economies of the US and the UK are intertwined in many different ways. The countries are each other’s “number one source of foreign direct investment,” which totals over $1 trillion. Every state in the US has jobs that are connected to the UK Over 1.2 million Americans work for a UK company based in the US, as well as over 1.5 million British citizens working for a US company. This interconnectedness between the two countries’ economies causes any shifts or downturns in the UK economy to be of concern to the US economy. Considering the 10 day mourning period and continued holidays that shut down UK industries, the US economy could also be negatively affected as well.
In addition to economic strains, the death of Queen Elizabeth may also affect US politics and foreign relations. Now that the queen has passed, rumblings of changing or ending the monarchy are growing, especially among former British colonies, and countries that are still part of the Commonwealth, in which the ruler of the British monarchy is also the ruling monarch of members of the Commonwealth. With Britain’s legacy of colonialism, many countries are still part of the Commonwealth, though they are free to leave and become independent of the Commonwealth at any time. Celebrations of Queen Elizabeth's reign and life have often overshadowed a focus on this history of colonialism. As stated above, the US and the UK are each other’s closest allies. Since countries are now speaking up in an attempt to focus more on Britain’s past, the US may be negatively associated with the UK as well. Many Commonwealth members such as Jamaica and the Bahamas have demanded reparations from Britain, and are also seeking to end their association with the monarchy. It remains to be seen how the US will react to the changes these countries are making - foreign relations could be strengthened or weakened depending on how deep feelings go among these nations.
Finally, what relationship will King Charles develop with the United States? There was an early history of distrust among American citizens, but the United States has been working with a peace-making monarch for seven decades. King Charles is known to be more outspoken and controversial than Queen Elizabeth, often taking political stances which is a stark difference between the Queen’s strict political neutrality. He has clashed in the past with former prime ministers, which may happen more often now, given his new role as King. His political views and history of conflict have the potential to affect the US relationship with the UK in a negative way.
Queen Elizabeth left behind a lasting legacy of promoting peace, change, and growth within the monarchy. Her death is mourned by many across the world as people gather to remember her reign and life. The end of a legacy like hers has the ability to affect policy across the UK, which also has the potential to affect foreign policy with the United States. It is hard to tell what the long term effects will be on the US, but their historic relationship with the UK makes it likely that anything that happens in the UK will reverberate into the US.