As time and society progressed, it morphed into less of a necessity and more of a shorthand describe royal kids in the press. These “spares” occupy a complex existence: they’re thrust into the spotlight from birth yet, unlike their eldest sibling, have no defined role. As time goes on, and their monarch has children, their importance and influence wane along with their place in the line of succession.
Inevitable conflict ensues: “The younger-sibling syndrome is an enduring problem,” Robert Lacey, author of Battle of Brothers: William & Harry, The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult, said. The system has not found a way of giving them the recognition that they need.” Princess Margaret, a famous “spare,” is said to have felt great anguish over limited position; she made headlines living a life of rebellion and partying that included vodka breakfasts. By the time she passed away in 2002, public attention had long refocused on younger royals like Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, leaving Margaret largely forgotten.
Yet, while their heir siblings have a pre-planned fate, the spare’s have something priceless: freedom. “Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so,” Harry told Newsweek in 2017. (In that context, “spare” may take on a different meaning–perhaps Harry feels “spared” from the British monarchy itself.)