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What Americans get wrong about the Queen

Unelected, and thank God: Britain’s Supreme Court Justices. Peter Summers/Getty

There’s no shortage of American liberals determined to “paint our late Queen as a villain”, says Hugo Rifkind in The Times. If The New York Times and MSNBC are to be believed, she is even “culpable for the crimes of Empire”. To mainstream British sentiments this lies somewhere between upsetting and “simply befuddling”. Forget decolonising the discourse – “the woman decolonised the actual colonies”. Perhaps more jarring, though, is the common American mistake of assuming the British monarch must have some kind of “autonomy”.

You can see why they struggle: over there, the president really is in charge, and appoints their own administration not just in name but literally. It’s why they’re so upset about the idea of a “deep state” – to them, permanence is suspect. Over here, “having a deep state is the whole idea”. Politicians come and go, but everything else functions as a “lasting, apolitical machine”, equally capable of working under Liz Truss or Keir Starmer or, “at least theoretically”, Jeremy Corbyn or Nigel Farage. This is most acute in the civil service – “permanent secretaries; the clue is in the name” – but it’s the same with judges, the armed forces, the police and “basically any agent of the British state”. That’s why Liz Truss’s “ideological purge” of top civil servants who disagree with her is so dodgy. If she was really the “constitutional monarchist” she now claims to be, she’d leave all that business to the Crown.