The Queen's overlooked encounter with a refugee-turned-national icon
Updated: Oct 24, 2022
The Queen’s death forces us to look back on the past and analyse the events that transpired under her reign with critical eyes.
One such occasion was the Queen’s second acting “gig” next to Paddington Bear — a beloved fictional character from classic British children’s literature. This pre-recorded comedy segment was presented during her Majesty’s Platinum Party at the Palace on 4 June 2022. The skit showed Paddington and the Queen enjoying afternoon tea, ending with an endearing goodbye between the two old friends and the Queen revealing the contents of her iconic handbag: a marmalade sandwich like those preferred by Paddington himself.
The skit couldn’t have appeared at a more decisive and divisive moment in current British politics, as the UK has been criticised for its plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. Both national and international organisations and individuals have called this “inhumane,” “unethical,” “shameful,” and “extortionate,” among other negative qualifiers.
In light of the Jubilee’s sketch, many internet users noted that if Paddington were to arrive in London at the time, instead of post-war Britain, he would be detained and expected to be deported to Rwanda under then Home Secretary Priti Patel’s asylum scheme. Paddington, despite its immediate connection to English culture, is a Peruvian national forced to flee his peaceful home after a catastrophic fire.
Michael Bond, the author behind the children’s books that introduced the lovable bear to the British public decades ago, has emphasised that “Paddington Bear was a refugee with a label — ‘Please look after this bear. Thank you.’ One can certainly see the contrast between this iconic British character and the grim reality for those who, like him, have come to Britain as refugees.
Even though Paddington is a fictional character and the Queen’s sketch might not have intended to add to the conversation around refugees might prove worth it to envision and strive for the United Kingdom that presents itself as a haven for those displaced.
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