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Students at Magdalen College vote to remove portrait of the Queen on campus

Students at Magdalen College, part of Oxford University, recently voted to remove a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II from a key campus gathering place, citing that the portrait symbolized the monarchy’s history of colonialism.

The decision to remove the portrait has been met with derision from all over the UK, with Education Secretary Gavin Williamson criticizing the move as “simply absurd” and arguing that the Queen is instead “a symbol of what is best about the UK.”

Regardless, graduate students at Magdalen College voted to have the portrait removed from the college’s Middle Common Room – a hub of campus social life – arguing that, to many students, “depictions of the monarch and the British monarchy represent recent colonial history.”

According to Magdalen College President Dinah Rose, the decisions regarding how to decorate the common room is entirely up to the student body, not the college administration. The portrait in question was originally purchased by Magdalen students in 2013, Rose reports.

“Maybe they’ll vote to put it up again, maybe they won’t,” Rose added. “Meanwhile, the photo will be safely stored.”

The vote to remove the portrait follows only a week after The Guardian published reports that “colored immigrants or foreigners” were barred from serving in office roles at Buckingham Palace during the first few decades of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. The portrait housed in Magdalen College reportedly dates back to the early 1950s.

Rose, an alumnus of Magdalen College herself, hinted that while she may not agree with the students’ decision, she will nonetheless fight to protect it.

“Being a student is about more than studying. It’s about exploring and debating ideas,” she said.

“It’s sometimes about provoking the older generation. Looks like that isn’t hard to do these days.”

According to Rose, the decision to remove the portrait has been met with strong criticism and even threats.

“If you are one of the people currently sending obscene and threatening messages to the college staff, you might consider pausing and asking yourself whether that is really the best way to show respect for the Queen,” Rose concluded.

 

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