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U.K. Historian Clashes With MSNBC Host Over Queen Colonialism Comments

A British historian clashed with an MSNBC host during a segment discussing Queen Elizabeth II’s death.

MSNBC’s Ali Velshi began the interview by asking Andrew Roberts about the future of the monarchy now that King Charles III acceded to the throne following his mother’s death at 96.

“We just had an historian say that there are many people who are Queen-ists, they’re not monarchists. They liked her, they’re either bored with the institution or think that it needs to change or aren’t going to be that into the next king. Give us your evaluation of that?” Velshi asked.

Roberts replied that such opinions are “wildly overstated,” referencing opinion polls that found some “80 to 85 percent” of Britons support having a constitutional monarchy, regardless of who is on the throne.

The historian also took issue with Velshi’s introduction to the segment, where he had said that as “beloved” as Elizabeth was, she also “represented an institution that had a long and ugly history of brutalism, violence, theft and slavery.”

While Elizabeth’s death has prompted widespread sorrow and tributes, it has also reignited talk about Britain’s colonial past, from slavery to looted artifacts that are held in British institutions.

“If we’ve given so much pains [to] people throughout history, why was Charles chosen by every single Commonwealth country, many of which are former imperial countries, as the head of the Commonwealth?” Roberts said.

Velshi interjected. “Andrew, hold on a second. Andrew, are you really denying what I just said about British colonialism? Are you really doing that, Andrew? Are you really doing that?” he said.

As Roberts talked about how the U.K. abolished slavery decades before the U.S., Velshi said: “Andrew this is not a propaganda show. Andrew, I need you to stop… Are you really taking issue with the horrors of colonialism, Andrew?”

Roberts replied: “I’m certainly taking issue with your remarks about slavery which we abolished 32 years before you did and we didn’t have to kill 600,000 people in a civil war over it.”

Images of the late Queen Elizabeth II
Images of the late Queen Elizabeth II are pictured at bus stops in Edinburgh on September 9, 2022, a day after Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 96.
Lesley Martin/AFP via Getty Images

Velshi didn’t relent. “So you think that that’s fine, that there are people all over the world who are born in colonial countries?” he said. “Because when I was born, the British Empire still existed… that’s okay for everybody?”

Roberts asked which country Velshi was born in. When he said it was Kenya, Robert said the Kenyans “not only supported the appointment of Prince Charles, now King Charles, as the head of the Commonwealth, but we just had a fantastic statement from the president of Kenya saying what a wonderful thing….”

When Velshi pointed out that President Joe Biden would be attending Elizabeth’s funeral, Roberts asked “why on Earth do you want to concentrate on the only the negative things of an institution, which is 100 years ago now?”

At this point, Velshi said he did not “concentrate on it.” But he said: “I said there are many people in the world, many millions of people in the world—I don’t know if you have social media but you should check it out—who don’t think we should be celebrating the British monarchy right now… and many in Britain, by the way.”

MSNBC and Roberts have been contacted for additional comment.

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