Queen Elizabeth’s recent Platinum Jubilee has thrown the Royal family into the spotlight once again and given me reason to reflect on the path trodden by Meghan and Harry.
Did I tell you I met them?
I met Meghan and Harry in 2019 after a workshop in the Riverina. I also met them 15 years ago when they were citrus farming near Griffith and once again near Dubbo where they were grazing cattle. I am not talking about a royal visit, but the recognition of other young couples in very similar circumstances to the exiled Duke and Duchess.
Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex separated themselves from the Royal Family, both financially and in terms of their contribution to the workload of the Royal family’s official duties in Britain and abroad. They essentially chose to forgo a legacy dating back thousands of years and established themselves in America. Their path is similar to many farming family businesses where the entrance of a new daughter or son in-law has rocked the boat in terms of the long term vision the matriarch and patriarchs once held for their families and the difficulties posed by determining roles for siblings within a family.
Times are changing. The role of the son as the holder of a family’s farming legacy is not set in stone, however most commonly it is women who marry into family partnership. Like Meghan they move away from friends and family and sometimes make incredible sacrifices in their own careers to establish themselves within new communities and new industries.
So, it went a bit pear shaped for Harry and Meghan but what was different about their journey than that of other modern royal couples?
Meghan and Harry dated for just over a year prior to their engagement, much of it living in separate countries. Meghan was involved in royal duties just weeks after her wedding. Contrast this with the four year courtship of the now Danish Princess Mary who undertook extensive formal training in history, politics and language before and after her wedding.
Kate Middleton also had a 10 year courtship before the pressures of marrying into the family business and the Queen gave the couple a 2 year grace period so they could enjoy the early years of married life. Like many farming couples they lived in a rented farmhouse which was close to where William was working out of the family business, on a nearby RAF base.
So, what are the lessons from the Megexit example for our Australian farming families and how can you support a new daughter-in-law, either in your family or in your local area?
- Recognise that the adjustment to a new family, a new region, marriage and the possible loss of career can be a difficult one.Time to sort these things out is needed.
- Recognise that the transition into motherhood is one of the most fundamentally life changing experiences that a woman will go through. Yes, early fatherhood is important too, but it comes without the physical, hormonal and neurological changes that happen only to mothers.
- Recognise that time, training and supportive mentors are needed to establish someone in a new role.
- Create a marriage friendly farm business – that means respectful communication at all times, financial independence, personal privacy, getting succession issues sorted early, realistic work hours and regular time off farm.
New daughters-in-law are the maternal line, mothers of future grandchildren and keepers of the faith and need to be treated with honour and respect, as an asset, not a liability.
I can not end without an honourable mention going out to my father and mother -in-law John and Helen Quade with heartfelt thanks for their help and support in my own journey and in being fantastic role models for our entire family. Long live the King and Queen.