The Divine Right of Kings, or in the case of the United Kingdom, Queens, is the belief that God appoints the monarch and, as such, we cannot rebel against the king (or queen). As a general rule, the western world rejected this philosophy. (And the American Colonies rejected it in a big way in 1776.) But, several western countries maintain monarchies that have no real power, but a whole lot of privilege.
Queen Elizabeth is the most famous. And until a few days ago, everyone expected Prince Harry, like his father and brother, would stay in line and stay in the family business. But, the Prince did something unexpected and left the family business. Here's why family business owners should pay attention.
There's no divine right of bakeries, accounting firms, or anything else
There is no eternal obligation overseen by the almighty to have your children continue in the family business. You can wish it, of course. You can also hope that they don't. But, you have no moral authority to demand that your children stay in the business.
Many parents think that their children should remain in the family business. Judging by my email inbox, a lot of them don't want to. You may have an influential family culture of sacrificing to support the family. That's lovely. Your children aren't obligated.
The in-laws seldom feel the same level of obligation
Many people say this is the Duchess of Sussex's idea. Until she or the Duke come out and say so explicitly, it's just a guess. But, often, spouses don't feel the same obligation to the family that the child does.
You can argue that Meghan knew what she was getting into when she married the man, but honestly, I don't think any one of us can truly understand what it's like to be royalty until we are.
Your children may have been trained since birth to work for your business, but their spouses will have hopes and dreams of their own. They won't feel that obligation, and you will (probably) be less able to guilt-trip a son or daughter-in-law.
It's inherently unfair
In theory, you can have equal heads over your business, but in reality, there's one person in charge. Sure, you split ownership 50/50 between your children, but who has the final say when there is a disagreement?
In this case, the family business is set up explicitly for one person to be in charge, and all the other family members get to support that person. Prince William had the advantage of being able to say to Catherine Middleton, "One day, all this will be ours." Prince Harry could only say to Meghan Markle, "One day, this will all be my brother's, and we'll be doing the same thing we do today for the rest of our lives."
Don't be surprised if the child with the most aptitude, or who is the most like you, wants to stay and take over the business while everyone else chases their own dreams. You will have to pick one child to succeed you, or they will fight it out themselves.
You don't get to choose your successors
If you want to keep it in the family, your candidate pool is limited to your offspring. With the average family size shrinking to 2.5 children per woman (globally), you're limiting yourself. Perhaps Queen Victoria knew what she was doing with her nine children.
Queen Elizabeth didn't even have the luxury of choosing among her four offspring--it was always going to be Charles, regardless.
Stop and think about if you really want it to remain a family business, or if you just want a company you built to be a success. The latter option gives you and your children a lot more opportunities. Sure, your oldest child may be the best person for the job, but if she's not, you need a bigger talent pool than her younger sister and your third cousin once removed.
Family businesses can be great
I have the utmost respect for Queen Elizabeth. She's done a fantastic job. Likewise, Bob Wegman built the world's best grocery store, which is currently headed by granddaughter Colleen as president and CEO. (Son, Danny, is the chairman.) Family businesses can work.
But they can also be a disaster. If you're more committed to keeping the family working than keeping the business running, you can face disaster. If you are committed to making your business a great place to work and your children are a benefit to the business and want to be there, but all means, train and develop them.
But, if they decide it's time to step away, let them. And hopefully, they'll be kind enough to warn you before going to the press.