Keeping it in the family
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There have been more stories of a rift between the Duchess of Sussex and her father but what can you do when it’s family?
We all know you can choose your friends but when it comes to family, you’re pretty much lumbered.
In the last few days we have read that Thomas Markle, father of the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan, has been interviewed about his allegedly difficult relationship with his daughter. And we have also read that Meghan is going to see her dad.
Royal protocol does not automatically extend to citizens of the United States and, indeed, it is hard to see how Mr Markle would know what to do if applying the regulations that govern the ordinary person’s dealing with royalty. Meanwhile, reports of a smouldering rift have been stoked by Meghan’s half-sister, Samantha.
Poor Thomas, suddenly there are headlines dubbing him a “problem father”. Having one’s daughter marry a man who is sixth in line to the British throne must be bewildering. Meanwhile and understandably, Meghan must be heartily embarrassed by the whole shebang.
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A family row is not unusual but it is more difficult to smooth things over if it is played out in the public domain. Shakespeare’s King Lear takes ridiculously against his daughter, Cordelia, when, unlike her sisters she isn’t overly fawning when speaking of her love for him.
One of the longest and most famous estrangements of comparatively modern times was that of the Duke of Windsor and his family. When, as Edward VIII, he abdicated in order to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson in 1936, it was left to his younger brother to accede to the throne as George VI. It shattered relationships. Despite this, the King met with his brother on more than one occasion and at least one commentator suggests there was a degree of reconciliation.
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Queen Mary confined her contact with her oldest son to letters. “It seemed inconceivable to those who had made such sacrifices during the war that you, as their King, refused a lesser sacrifice,” she said.
Shifting the focus to another great institution, Hollywood, the on-off feud between American actors Angelina Jolie and her father, Jon Voight, often hits the showbiz headlines. They have fallen out and made up on a number of occasions. He co-starred with his daughter in Tomb Raider but was not invited to her 2014 wedding to Brad Pitt. (You have to feel a bit sorry for Pitt, Jennifer Aniston did not invite her mother to her wedding with Pitt in 2000).
Sisters and Oscar-winners Joan Fontaine and Dame Olivia de Havilland (who celebrated her 102nd birthday last month) allegedly did not get on. It has been reported the two stars had a competitive, yet communicative relationship until their mother passed away in 1975 – and Joan was not invited to the funeral. It was said they hadn’t spoken for decades but Joan, who died in 2013, claimed they were friends and it was the media who had whipped up the idea of a feud.
British pop legends Liam and Noel Gallagher have had a sometimes stormy relationship ? there was the tambourine-throwing in 1994, the alleged cricket bat incident in 1995 etc. Noel is quoted as saying: “The way it worked was, when were not slagging each other off, that’s when were telling each other that we loved each other. That’s it.”
Ah, I see. No, I’m not sure I do.
But while it may be entertaining to read about other people’s family feuds, when you are in the middle of one it’s no fun. I fell out with my mum one Christmas Day in the mid-Seventies ? I can’t remember why but my dad spent the whole morning talking to each of us in turn, trying to persuade one of us to apologise to the other. I refused on the basis that it wasn’t my fault and my mum refused for the same reason. An uneasy truce had been reached by tea-time. But at least our brief bust-up didn’t get reported in a celebrity magazine.
There is a school of thought that everything is down to parenting. A parent is blamed for doing too much for their child, doing too little, not buying them designer trainers, feeding them junk food, making them too food conscious, making them feel insecure, being over-protective, not insisting they kept up with the ballet/piano lessons, not letting their 11-year-old stay out till midnight... like, apparently, all the other mums do.
A useful overview is provided by the late comedian George Burns: “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”