How could so many of my generation mock me for mourning the Queen, asks TikTok star Chiara King, 23
- Chiara King turned to social media after the news that the Queen had died
- The TikTok star, 23, posted an honest, heartfelt and tearful video reaction
- However, nothing could have prepared her for the abuse she would receive
- Full coverage: Click here to see all our coverage of the Queen’s passing
A week ago, like the rest of the nation, I watched with horror as the TV screen went a solemn black and the moment we’d all been dreading finally came to pass. My phone began to ping as friends and family responded to news of the Queen’s death with griefstricken messages.
In the emotion of the moment, I decided to do what my generation so often does: I turned to social media, where I posted an honest, tearful and utterly heartfelt tribute to our monarch.
Little did I realise that within hours my phone would be alight with thousands more messages — these ones dripping with vitriol directed at me by strangers, purely because of that tribute to our former Queen. A large part of my generation, it seems, has reacted to the nation’s grief, online at least, with a callous ignorance that makes me genuinely ashamed.
I had been honestly distraught that I would never see the Queen’s smile again, and it felt natural to express that on social media. TikTok — an app that allows you to create and share short videos — is the obvious platform to someone of my age.
Chiara King (pictured) turned to social media after the news that the Queen had died. The TikTok star, 23, said she was disappointed about the reactions she received
As a musician and actress, I’ve steadily amassed 3.2 million followers there (and another 740,000 on Instagram) since singing for Simon Cowell on X Factor: The Band in 2019, while studying for my degree at King’s College London.
I created what’s known as a ‘duet’, where a video plays on one side of the screen and your reaction to it on the other. It might sound odd to older generations, but for mine — at 23, I’m at the upper end of Gen Z — it’s a completely normal, acceptable way to share your feelings.
The video I picked to honour the Queen switched between her joyful Paddington skit for the Jubilee and footage of her looking young and radiant at her coronation 70 years earlier.
On my side of the split screen was footage of me weeping to the camera — my face red and swollen from crying — deeply moved by what we had lost. Laid over the top of it all, I’d written my own words in tribute, recognising the many millions of people whose hearts have been touched by Queen Elizabeth over her 70-year reign, and feeling thankful that at least she would be at peace with her beloved Philip.
Chiara’s split-screen video featured her reaction to footage of the Queen, right. She said the video was a honest tearful reaction
Nothing prepared me for what would happen next. With millions of followers all over the world, it’s not as if I’m not used to abuse. Gen Z has a horrible habit of pouncing on its own for transgressions that can get you ‘cancelled’ in a heartbeat — misgendering; cultural appropriation; fakery; not checking your privilege — and even though most of my posts are innocuous bits of fun about dating and travelling, I’ve had mean comments under plenty of them. I’m well aware that internet pile-ons — where thousands of people post angry comments on someone’s social media account, encouraging others to do the same — happen all the time.
I suppose it was inevitable I would eventually be the victim of one myself, yet I never imagined that mourning the death of a 96- year-old woman — a mother, grandmother and great grandmother who was loved by her family as well as the nation she devotedly served — would be what prompted people to turn on me.
I posted my tribute at 9pm, and within a minute my phone had blown up with notifications telling me I’d had hundreds of comments — the majority saying things that made me feel ashamed of my own generation: that they hoped the Queen’s death had been painful and she had gone to hell. Some were so awful that I started to delete them, blocking those who had posted them, which I’ve never had to do before.
Some ranted about colonialism — as though Queen Elizabeth was personally responsible for the reach of the former British Empire — others accused her of murdering Princess Diana and stealing from people all over the world.
I know where the Diana stuff came from. My generation wasn’t even born when she died, and most of what we know about modern royalty comes from watching The Crown on Netflix, in which the Queen and Prince Charles come across particularly badly.
I’m stunned by how many think it’s a documentary instead of a drama with a very loose grip on real history.
I’ve always known my generation is divided about the monarchy — in a YouGov poll ahead of the Platinum Jubilee, only 56 per cent of 18-24 year-olds said they thought the Queen had personally done a good job during her time on the throne, compared to 94 per cent of over-65s.
Republicans peacefully protesting their unhappiness at the fact we have a monarchy at all, by holding up ‘Not my King’ placards or blank pieces of paper as has happened in the real world this week, is one thing. But using your keyboard to facelessly tear someone apart in the Wild West that is the online world, and encouraging others to do the same, is of a different order of cruelty altogether.
Queen Elizabeth II waves in the horse-drawn carriage, on June 2, 1953, on the way to the Westminster Abbey with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, for her coronation, in London
Whenever it happens, it’s fuelled by the fake and unregulated news and conspiracy theories that get posted online, which my generation is quick to believe and slow to fact-check.
Along with a pack mentality that allows hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people to shout with what feels like one voice.
Some comments were about Prince Andrew. I understand why people feel angry about that, but I can also imagine motherly instincts will always rule your head, even if a crown sits on top of it.
There were accusations of racism too, based on Meghan Markle’s comments since stepping away from the Royal family. Again, I understand where they’re coming from — she’s so much more relatable to my generation of young women than any other royal.
But I was still shocked by the hypocrisy of those who claim to be so angry about how she was supposedly treated, yet had no qualms about telling me how pathetic I was for sharing my own feelings.
I couldn’t believe I was being abused by the same generation I’d hoped my tribute would offer some comfort to; people who, like me, saw our queen as the nation’s granny and bereft that she’d gone.
On a personal level, the Queen’s death felt especially poignant because my grandfather — who has idolised her since serving her father as a teenage soldier during the Second World War — is the same age and similarly poorly with the frailties of old age.
I read the online bile with my head in my hands, glad that Grandad would never have to see what had been written.
A week on, and a million people have viewed my post from the United Kingdom to the United States — there are still a couple of thousand comments underneath it, although I’ve stopped reading them now. I can’t put myself through any more.
I already know I’ll be incredibly upset when I watch the funeral on Monday, but I won’t be sharing any of my emotions online.
I’m too scared of what the pack of animals who prowl social media as their hunting ground, looking for people to tear apart, might say next.
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