When Queen Victoria passed away on January 22, 1901, few of her subjects could likely remember a time before she came to the throne. Her reign, which lasted almost 64 years, then the longest in British history, saw the world transformed.
Now more than 120 years later, many people in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and North Ireland and the British Commonwealth, as well as in much of the world, are mourning the passing of Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II.
In many ways, since this early this morning, when the news was announced that members of the Royal Family were heading to be with the 96-year-old monarch at her Balmoral estate in Scotland, it was almost as if a countdown ticker had been started. As the BBC reported, at Buckingham Palace in London, crowds awaiting updates on the Queen’s condition began crying as they heard of her death. The Union flag on top of the palace was lowered to half-mast at 18:30 BST.
Such was certainly not the case with Queen Victoria. In fact, when she passed away at 6:30 pm Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) few immediately took notice that evening. In fact, most Britons wouldn’t have even heard the news until reading it in the morning papers the next day.
The British government and the Royal Family have been preparing for this moment for years, anticipating how the news could be quickly announced via TV and radio. What wasn’t likely expected, until recently at least, was how the Internet and social media could also change how word of the queen’s passing could be shared.
Yet, the Royal Family did quickly issue a simple yet important announcement on social media.
“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow,” the official Twitter account for The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) tweeted at 1:30 pm ET.
That tweet was “liked” more than 1.4 million times within the first hour, and retweeted some 500,000 times.
What is also especially noteworthy is how social media has allowed, and almost encourages, the masses to share negative comments in such times. This has been true when word of the passing past political leaders has gone viral, but the news of Queen Elizabeth II’s death has certainly brought out the absolute worst from many, who took to the social platforms to essentially cheer that she is dead.
In fact, the negativity has so far essentially overshadowed those offering condolences on some of the platforms.
This type of public commentary never really existed before the era of social media, and even the harshest media critics of a public figure would rarely have celebrated such news. Now thanks to the global reach of social media, where anyone can comment, the gloves have certainly come off. Whether that is actually for the best has yet to be seen.