The tortured history of the Royal Spare
Since they were born, Prince william and his little brother, Prince harry, have had many titles. Two unofficial, but powerful, are “heir” and “spare”. While it may sound silly, these hierarchical designations have long had a major impact on the royal siblings, leading to divisions and rivalries like the one apparently rocking the British royal family.
While it might seem cruel to label a second child as “surplus,” infant mortality rates meant that additional children ensured the maintenance of power and the lineage of a royal family.
In modern times, the “spare” has occupied a more nebulous place in the royal hierarchy. Recent royal siblings like Princess Margaret, Prince André, and Prince harry apparently struggled at times to navigate their delicate roles as royal superstars with no real endgame.
“They’re famous from birth whether they like it or not. With an heir and a spare dynamic, you get a child who was born for the highest office, and the second who probably grows up feeling like the understudy, ”explains Heather roosters, co-author of The case of the heirs and The We Royal and co-founder of the pop culture website GoFugYourself.com. “Learn the lines, know the role, but understand that you will probably never be called upon to do it. And if your personality pushes you more naturally into the limelight, that would be really hard on the reserve. “
This position can lead to a life of decay, despair, or disillusionment. “It’s obviously full of opportunities for dramatic conflict, which is great when writing a novel but probably not that great when it comes to your real life,” Cocks co-author and GoFugYourself partner, Jessica Morgan, Remarks.
But in the past, spare part life could be downright fatal, especially in England. According to the royal historian and author Leslie Carroll, the reason is simple. “In a word: primogeniture. The age-old system of the eldest son inheriting 100% of a domain – which, for monarchies, meant the throne– was a recipe for disaster as well as sibling rivalry.
One of the most egregious rifts between the heir and the reserve occurred during the reign of King Richard the Lionheart in the 12th century. When the king went to fight in the Third Crusade, his younger brother John (the future King John, forever demonized in the Robin Hood tales) attempted to usurp the throne. When Richard was captured by Austrian forces, John mismanaged the funds that had been raised to pay the king’s ransom. However, Richard returned to England and forgave his brother. According to Carroll, he said, “Don’t think about it anymore John; you’re just a kid who had bad counselors. Now what can I get you for dinner? “
Not all family feuds ended so benign. When King Edward IV ascended the throne in 1461, he made sure to enrich his heir, George, Duke of Clarence. Thomas Penn The York Brothers: A Royal Tragedy, he believed that this would make the Duke faithful to him.
But it didn’t have to be. The charming and spoiled George was “aggressively angered at any perceived contempt and favor shown to others,” Penn writes. He will attempt to overthrow his brother four times, twice while raising an army. According to Carroll, he also spread rumors that his brother was illegitimate.
“At this point, Edward couldn’t afford to be magnanimous towards his little brother anymore. He ultimately accused George of treason and imprisoned him in the Tower of London, ”Carroll said. In 1478, he was believed to have been drowned, by order of the king, in a vat of Malmsey, his favorite wine.
Another British spare was also imprisoned in the Tower, but this time for a crime she did not commit. According to the biographer Jane dunn, in 1554, the future Queen Elizabeth I was sent to the famous fortress by her sister, Queen Mary. The paranoid Mary, who had long resented Elizabeth, suspected that she had played a role in Wyatt’s rebellion.
Although the conspirators allegedly planned to put Elizabeth on the throne in Mary’s place, it was her sister’s overwhelming popularity with the people that the Queen saw as the real threat. “What concerns [Mary] most important is to see the eyes and hearts of the nation already fixed on this lady as successor to the Crown … “observed a contemporary, according to Dunn’s Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens.
Fortunately, Elizabeth survived her life in the tower and became a much more respected and loved ruler than her sister.