Many Filipinos are fascinated with British royalty.

In the 1980s, they were glued on television when Prince Charles walked with Lady Diana on the aisle in a fairy-tale wedding, and were shocked by the tragic death of the Princess of Wales nearly two decades later. 

Queen Elizabeth II’s passing at 96 years old renewed Filipinos’ interest in the British monarchy. She was the longest reigning monarch in world history as well as a dominant figure in the 20th century.

She could have been the Philippines’ head of state, just like in Great Britain and 14 territories, including Australia, Canada, Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand, if the British forces took control of the country in 1762.

The British occupied Manila for 20 months in the second half of the 18th century when Spain sided with Catholic France during the Seven Years’ War against the Anglican Great Britain.

The war was a catastrophe for the French, which lost its possessions in North America as the British emerged as a world power and expanded its colonies in the New World.

Spain briefly lost its two important trading ports – Manila and Havana – but both colonies were returned to Madrid in the Treaty of Paris when the war ended in 1763.

What could have happened if the British held on to Manila after 1762?

The Philippines would end up as a British crown colony, just like Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Papua New Guinea in Southeast Asia.

The rich Hispanic influence on the Philippines would be replaced by English traditions in politics and culture, including religion.  

Catholicism would take a back seat, replaced by the Church of England, or Anglicanism.

The Anglican church is the third largest Christian-based belief with some similarities to the dominant Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Church of England was united with the Roman Catholic Church in the Vatican until 1534 when King Henry VIII was declared head of the church to show its independence from Rome, after the Pope denied the king’s request to divorce his wife and marry another.

Catholics suffered at the hands of Protestant England in the 16th century and the animosity between the two religions continued until the 18th century during the Seven Years’ War.

The British and the French were the bitterest enemies for centuries beginning in the 11th century when the Norman kings in England, the lineage of Queen Elizabeth II, controlled huge territories in France.

Queen Elizabeth II was the 40th monarch since William the Conqueror defeated the Anglo-Saxon King Harold in the Battle of Hastings. Another William could rise to the English throne as he has been proclaimed heir of King Charles III,  probably the oldest monarch to ascend the throne at 73 years old.

Apart from the Anglican faith, the country’s form of government would naturally be patterned after the English-style parliament, recognizing the monarch as the head of state and the prime minister as the head of government.

The country’s history would also be altered. Jose Rizal would have attended Oxford University instead of Madrid. His two famous novels would have been written in English, not in Spanish. The main villain in his novels would have been an Anglican priest, not a Spanish friar.

There would also be no American influence in Philippine society as Spain would not cede the country to the United States in another Treaty of Paris. Washington would still emerge victorious in an American-Spanish war before the turn of the 20th century but the Philippines would not be part of the spoils of war.

But things didn’t turn out that way even if the British had occupied Manila in 1762 for nearly two years.

The British were probably not interested in taking over the Philippines from Spain. A fleet of 15 ships with less than 7,000 troops sailed from India to attack the fortified city of Manila.

After a two-week siege, the walled city’s defenses crumbled and the Manila archbishop, who was the acting governor-general, surrendered, agreeing to deliver a hefty ransom in Spanish gold coins.

But the British, with very little troops, did not control the country beyond Manila and the nearby Cavite province even if the Chinese community were conscripted to join an expedition to attack Spanish forces in Bulacan and Batangas.

The British duped Diego Silang in the northern Ilocos region to revolt, promising support that never came. The Spanish authorities crushed the rebellion.

Spain regained control of Manila after the British sailed away months after the Seven Years’ War ended, preserving Hispanic heritage, especially the Roman Catholic faith. 

Filipinos, who had been converted to Roman Catholicism for over two centuries already, remained loyal to Spain during that period, helping fight the British occupation.

If Spain lost the Philippines, could Great Britain be a more benevolent colonizer? Some people say the Philippines would have been a better country ruled by a mercantile-oriented power rather than by the colonizers who were motivated by religion.

But the British were also harsh rulers. The people in British colonies in Africa, South and Southeast Asia were no better than those ruled by other European powers, like the French, Belgians, Germans, Italians, and the Spanish.

The Europeans exploited the natural resources of distant colonies, a factor why wars are still fought until now. They have little concern over the welfare of the people, their subjects.

The European powers’ harsh rule in their colonies contributed to the rise of independence movements in the second half of the 20th century.

Queen Elizabeth II saw the crumbling of the British empire. Her great great grandmother, Queen Victoria, ruled at the peak of Great Britain’s power during the 19th century until her death in 1901.

The queen’s death could usher in a new era as resistance to monarchs grows across the world. The royalties could become fairy tales read in books and watched in cinemas. 

Many Filipinos would remain fascinated with the royalties but, in reality, there would be none even if a political family tried once to create a fantasy in the country.