Monarchy as Media – Ideas for Addressing Queen Elizabeth II’s Death

 In Carol Arcus, Diana Maliszewski, Elementary, Kindergarten, Lessons and Ideas, media literacy, Secondary

(This illustration was obtained from and is used under a Creative Commons license.)

Monday, September 19, 2022 was the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. As different Canadian media outlets such as Global News, CP24 and CBC reported, after a certain school board initially advised staff not to initiate discussions about the Queen’s passing, the Ontario Minister of Education insisted that all schools recognize Queen Elizabeth. The Ministry of Education letter to school boards stated, in part:


“Schools should ensure that the day’s activities include learning about the many contributions the Queen made to our province, country, and Commonwealth, and the Accession of King Charles III to the Throne. Recognitions and observances of this nature should be consistent with your board policies and procedures, and conducted in an age-appropriate manner that recognizes the developmental stages of students and [the] varied ways this event will affect diverse populations in our province.”


The British monarchy is a topic most often found within the social studies, civics, and/or history curriculum. However, the death of Queen Elizabeth and her funeral are fitting topics for media literacy study. Monarchies are media texts, constructs, that use iconography, visual and oral ritual, language, and music to communicate meaning. These visual, aural, and verbal constructs contain ideologies and values; they have economic, political, and social implications, and they use unique aesthetic forms.


The Association for Media Literacy offers these discussion prompts and lesson plan ideas for free to educators. Media literacy is the knowledge and skills necessary to understand, use, and create the codes and conventions of a wide variety of media forms and genres appropriately, critically, healthily, effectively, and ethically.

Media literacy should not privilege one position over another; the ideas shared here can be taken in different directions. Being media literate means thinking critically about multiple perspectives on issues. (What are the values? What is the legacy?) It is important to be age-appropriate and sensitive to student life histories and experiences. When we have located suggestions from other sources, we will link them directly to the creators. We trust educators to select the most relevant and useful approach to use with their students and hope these ideas will help further discussion. We thank Carol Arcus, Margie Keats, Diana Maliszewski and others for their contributions to this article. 


Connecting The Monarchy to Macbeth (Grades 9-12)

  • Idea by @GCSE_Macbeth
  • Discuss: What other symbols are associated with the British monarchy (colours, objects, places)? What symbols can you think of that may be associated with monarchy and royalty beyond the British monarchs? How do these differ? Why might they be the same? 

(Key Concept #7 – Form and content are closely related in the media)


Recognizable Faces (Grades K-2)

  • Cover an image of Queen Elizabeth’s face with sticky notes and/or a screen cover on an interactive white board – reveal a square at a time and see if the students can guess who it is
  • Cover images of other famous people (e.g. monarchs from other countries, celebrities) and have students guess who the secret person is
  • Discuss: How many people were able to recognize Queen Elizabeth? Why? Why might she be more recognized than other monarchs? Where might you have seen the Queen?

(Key Concept #2 – The media construct reality)


What is a Queen? (Grades K-2)

  • Ask: how can you tell if someone is a Queen? (brainstorm ideas)
  • What would a queen wear? What would a queen do? 
  • Why might a country want or need a queen?
  • What makes a good or bad queen?
  • Draw what you think a queen looks like. Compare these drawings to Disney princesses and to photos of different queens (including Queen Elizabeth II at various times of her life)
  • How do countries decide who becomes the new queen or king? Discuss

(Key Concept #5 – Media contain ideological and values messages)


The Queen’s Contributions (Grades 6-8)

  • Check out the list of contributions compiled by Grunge – (or look at the abbreviated list below)
    • Her service in World War II. …
    • The stability she brought. …
    • She guided the transformation to a commonwealth. …
    • She modernized the monarchy. …
    • She made the succession more equitable. …
    • She was the first British monarch to address congress.
  • Ensure the vocabulary is understood (e.g. stability / commonwealth / succession)
  • Evaluate and/or rank the list – e.g. Which of these contributions is most valuable? To what extent do you agree or disagree that these are important contributions? 

(Key Concept #1 – All media are constructions)


Maps (Grades 2-4) (discussion questions for Grades 4-6)

(Key Concept #8 – Each medium has a unique aesthetic form)


Royal Funerals (Grades 2-4) (Grades 6-10)

*NOTE: If you have students who have recently experienced a loss in their family, use caution if employing this approach

  • Read a picture book or non-fiction book that explains what a funeral is like (and how they differ based on religious beliefs, cultural practices, etc.)
  • Note that funerals are often highly ritualized events, with a set of preconceived activities and imagery.
  • Explore the mourning and funeral images.
  • Late primary level questions
    • How does the Queen’s funeral compare to other funerals you have seen or experienced in real life or in movies?
  • Intermediate level discussion questions:
    • How might the Queen’s funeral strengthen England’s world status?
    • How might the Queen’s funeral strengthen the power and celebrity of the Royal Family?
    • How might the images add to the power and prestige of the Royal Family?
  • Being invited to a royal funeral is a big honour – There are specific protocols in place for a state funeral that differ from a private individual’s funeral, including the invitation of various government figures. Canada has announced the delegation of people that will attend the funeral here:
    • Who are the Canadians who are attending?
    • Why might these people have been chosen to attend?
    • Who was not invited as part of the official Canadian delegation?
    • Why might some public figures be missing from the invitees? 

(Key Concept #5 – Media contain ideological and values messages)


The Queen and Canada (Grades 4-8)

  • View this clip of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explaining why Queen Elizabeth II was important to Canada:
  • What does he mention first? What does he mention last? Which items, in your opinion, were the most important? 
  • What personal qualities did he list? Which personal qualities are important for a ruler to possess?
  • What is the role of the Monarchy in Canada today? 

(Key Concept #6 – Media have social and political implications)


The Queen, Timelines, and Commemorative Items (Grades 2-6)

  • This article, found on ( reviews 15 moments during her 70-year reign
  • Create a timeline of the Queen’s life and create a comparison timeline underneath it (e.g. Queen Elizabeth’s life vs your life / Queen Elizabeth’s life vs Canada’s history)
  • There were many “commemorative items” created for these key moments of Elizabeth’s reign – see 
  • Discuss: what kind of collectibles are currently being sold to commemorate the end of her time as queen? What makes a suitable or appropriate collector’s item? What makes an inappropriate (or tacky/distasteful) collector’s item? Which items would you like to collect?

(Key Concept #4 – Media have commercial implications)


The Queen and Breaking Records (Grades 2-4)

(Key Concept #1 – All media are constructions)


“Respecting the Deceased” (Grades 6-9)

(Key Concept #3 – Audiences negotiate meaning in the media)


News Coverage of the Queen’s Passing (Grades 4-8)

  • Look up several news outlets from different parts of the world
    • What headlines were on the front page before the Queen’s death? 
    • See for a collection of newspaper front pages.
    • What headlines were on the front page on the day of the Queen’s death? 
    • What events might have been front-page news but were moved because of the Queen’s death?
    • How might the location and/or political bias of the news outlet impact the headlines chosen?

(Key Concept #5 – Media contain ideological and values messages)


Quirky Traditions About The Transition of Royal Power (Grades 1+)

(Key Concept #5 – Media contain ideological and value messages)


London Bridge had Fallen – Protocols and Transitions of Power (Grades 7-12): 

  • Discuss: Why is it important to have funeral plans established beforehand?  

(Key Concept #2 – The media construct versions of reality) 


The Queue (Grades 4-8)

(Key Concept #5 – The media contain social and political meanings.) 


Money Matters (Grades 1-4)

  • Look at a Canadian $20 bill – can the students identify who is the person featured?
  • Discuss:
    • Which faces appear on Canadian currency? Why?
    • Why is the Queen’s portrait on Canadian money?
    • Does her death demand that the money be redesigned?
    • Might the new face be King Charles 3?
    • Who else might qualify as a new face on the money?
    • Who might not qualify as a face on money, and why?

(Key Concept #4 – Media have commercial implications)


What’s Your Feed Like? (Grades 9-12)

  • Consider the social media networks you participate in – are people discussing the Queen’s passing? If so, how? How might your social media feed differ from others?
  • Check out sites that attempt to provide a variety of different perspectives on the news, such as Modo News or Ground News to compare coverage based on political leanings
  • Research social media to identify trends connected to the funeral.
    • How many threads express personal loss? How do they describe the impact of their loss?
    • How many threads express global loss? How do they describe the impact on the world?
    • How many threads express happiness at her dying? How do they describe the benefits of her death?
  • Discuss: 
    • Why do some people admire the Queen? 
    • Why might some people protest against the Queen?

(Key Concept #3: Audiences negotiate meanings.)


Symbols (Grades 4-8)

  • Consider what a symbol is – what are symbols of Canada?
  • Discuss: What might the Queen symbolize (to whom, and why)?
  • If the Queen was a Canadian symbol, what did she symbolize?

(Key Concept #6 – Media have social and political implications)


Public Mourning (Grades 1-4)

  • Look at the flagpole outside your school. Is the flag flying at half-mast? Why?
  • Discuss: When does the flag fly at half-mast? Who decides when it flies lower? In what other ways can a community demonstrate sadness or mourning?
  • Discuss Part 2: What if someone in a community does not share the same sad feelings about the event or person?

(Key Concept #5 – Media contain ideological and values messages)


Compulsory Grief and Oppositional Readings of Media Events (Grades 9-12)

(Key Concept #6 – Media have social and political implications)


Colonialism and Reconsidering Ties (Grades 9-12)

  • Examine this map created by @ranaabdelhamid and shared by @nazerra99 – 
  • Why might some of these countries/places not have been attacked in the past by Britain? Why might other countries/places have been attacked by Britain?
  • Barbados has decided to end its relationship with the British monarchy; research why the country has come to that decision.
    • Consider: Could Canada follow Barbados’ lead? 
    • What reasons might Canadian citizens have to be in favor of this? 
    • What reasons might Canadian citizens have against this?
  • Consider this thread of actions by the queen that harmed or discriminated against others – 

(Key Concept #6 – Media have social and political implications)


Beloved Rulers, Despised Rulers (Grades 4-10)

  • Name some rulers who are, or who have been, beloved by the populace. Why might they be/have been so loved?
  • Name some rulers who have been despised by the populace. Why might they be so despised?
  • How has each represented themselves to the public – visually & orally? With what effect?
  • How has each used their power differently? 
  • How is Queen Elizabeth II perceived? How is King Charles III perceived?

(Key Concept #3 – Audiences negotiate meaning in the media)


Not the Legacy You Imagined (Grades 9-12)

  • Read this thread by Jairo Funez on the legacy of the British empire during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign: 
  • Compare this thread to Minister of Education Lecce’s insistence that school boards recognize Queen Elizabeth II’s legacy – how have Funez and Lecce defined the term “legacy”? How might schools create spaces for discussions that can hold different perspectives on someone’s legacy?

(Key Concept #6 – Media have social and political implications)


A History of the Crown Jewels (Grades 10-12) 

(Key Concept #4 – Media have commercial implications)


The TV Show and The Portrayal of the British Monarchy (Grades 9-12)

(Key Concept #8 – Each medium has a unique aesthetic form)


The British Monarch and Indigenous Issues (Grades 6-12)

  • Canada’s Indigenous community is struggling with ways to respond to the Queen’s death. (The Grand Chief was not going to attend, then changed her mind.)
    • Research to find out why it is conflicted. What responses have been considered? 
    • How do you think the Indigenous community should respond?
  • Canada is engaged in an ongoing debate about Indigenous rights and reparations.
    • How does the Monarchy influence that debate?
    • Are there good reasons for Canada to abandon the Monarchy?
    • Might abandoning the Monarchy be an important step in decolonization and reconciliation?

(Key Concept #6 – Media have social and political implications)


The “D” Word (Grades 4-10)

  • Many of the news articles use the term “passing” in relation to Queen Elizabeth II
    • Why might news agencies be reluctant to use the word “dead” or “death”?
    • What are the connotations or implications with the word “death”? Why do certain cultures have an aversion to discussing death?

(Key Concept #5 – Media contain ideological and value messages)

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