Last week, the Commonwealth lost its longest-serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. We also lost a champion of agriculture, who alongside the late Duke of Edinburgh were steadfast advocates of farming, and the rural way of life.
The late Queen exemplified not only the loyalty, dedication, and passion required to be a true leader; but with every passing global challenge or upheaval, she was the constant who cared deeply for people and the environment. Her passion for agriculture was exemplified through the many farming organisations throughout the Commonwealth of which she was – or representatives of her family remain – a Patron, particularly those providing support and opportunities for youth in agriculture.
As a fellow cattle breeder, no commemorative imagery of the late Queen has brought me more joy, than the footage of her sheer delight at Jersey and Red Sussex cows being brought into the arena during her 90th birthday celebrations in 2016, where she can be seen to excitedly exclaim, “Cows!”, to her late husband.
And just as actions can often speak louder than words in the bush, no other tribute has sparked a greater feeling of sorrow than seeing Aberdeenshire farmers form a guard of honour with tractors on each side of the road, some of which had front end loaders raised in salute, as the late Queen’s cortege passed on its way to Edinburgh on Sunday.
As one who cherishes the peace that comes from living amongst nature and animals, it comes as great comfort that the Queen spent her last days at the Balmoral Estate – a private farming retreat that offered the Queen ‘endless possibilities’ to ride, fish, stalk, and spend unfettered time with her family – indulgences of a life on the land, and a part of her otherwise extraordinary life, we could all relate.
Whilst I did not have the good fortune of meeting the late Queen, I had the honour of being the spokesperson for the Australian Surf Lifesavers who participated in the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on the Thames in 2012, marking the Queen’s 60th year as sovereign. In 2018, I also had the pleasure of meeting HRH The Princess Royal at the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth (RASC) Conference in Edmonton, Canada. Founded in 1957 by the late Duke of Edinburgh, the RASC plays a pivotal role in the promotion of agriculture across the Commonwealth, by enabling the interchange of ideas, information, and views on the secure sustainable use of natural resources in the production of food, forest, and fisheries. The theme of the 2018 RASC Conference was ‘Connecting the World Through Food’, and in her keynote address, The Princess Royal spoke of the realisation that whilst agricultural practices have changed, and will continue to change, the common denominator and underlying theme of sustainability remains the same.
Indeed, sustainability and harmony are the values upon which His Majesty The King has built his long-standing legacy in the Duchy of Cornwall, which is committed to sustainable agricultural stewardship through net zero targets, soil health, natural capital, and community. Significantly, His Majesty published a book in 2010 titled, ‘Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World’, which details how ‘the Earth’s precious life-support systems’ will ‘start to wobble and eventually may collapse’, if we do not consider the topics of agriculture, architecture, urbanism, natural ecosystems, and healthcare to be inter-related. His Majesty is a long-time exemplar of sustainable agricultural practices, and his considerable research and experience detailed in his book points to the importance of putting Nature at the heart of each deeply entrenched problem we now face in society.
Arguably a man well-before his time in respect of sustainability, and environmentally responsible business; His Majesty acknowledges in his book that for many years, ‘so many people failed to fathom’ his desire to inter-relate agriculture, architecture, and climate change. However, I consider that his forty-years of experience and steadfast devotion to the environment, will not only strengthen the foundation and inspiring example set by the late Queen, but importantly makes him The King – and the leader – we need for this era.
Author: Caitlin McConnel – Caitlin McConnel is an agribusiness lawyer, a sixth-generation grazier, and Chair of the Future Farmers Network.
Photo 1 taken from ‘Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World’: King Charles III at Highgrove, Gloustershire laying hedges using traditional methods to prevent top soil erosion, and create havens for wildlife.
Photo 2: Caitlin McConnel meeting HRH The Prince Royal at the 2018 RASC Conference.