Harry’s decision to leave royal life behind earlier this year stunned royal spheres — especially his brother, William. However, a historical glance at the Duke of Sussex’s life on the royal frontline exposes years of frustration and doubt as to what his purpose within the institution was. He was often in William’s shadow as the second-born and he was incredibly unlikely to ever become the monarch himself.
Royal author Robert Lacey recently said that Palace courtiers “just don’t know what to do with the spare”, while pro-Sussex biography Finding Freedom claimed the Duke of Sussex was fed up with having to “take a back seat” to other senior royals.
Princess Diana was always determined to treat her two sons equally, regardless of their position in the line of succession.
However, she faced an uphill battle against the rest of the Palace.
Royal biographer Angela Levin admitted that Harry was “always less than his brother” in the eyes of some senior royals in Channel 5’s 2020 documentary, ‘Prince Harry: The Troubled Prince’.
She explained: “The late Queen Mother would always invite Prince William over for tea and talk to him about his future and not invite Harry.”
As Vanity Fair’s royal correspondent Katie Nicholl explained: “Prince William’s role has always been defined.
“What he’s going to do has always been clearly outlined. Harry, like spares historically in the Royal Family, has had to find a role for himself.”
Many critics have speculated that this imbalance of power contributed to the brothers’ reported fallout over the last few years.
However, by having another child, William and Kate have veered away from the inevitable difficulties that come with having an “heir and the spare”.
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Kate Middleton is the eldest of three herself, and has often said how much she appreciated family life with her brother James and sister Pippa.
The Evening Standard claimed in 2017 when the news of Kate’s third pregnancy broke that siblings were important to the Cambridges.
The report explained: “For both parents, their family and especially siblings have played important roles in tricky times.
“William and Harry depended upon each other through their parents’ scandals and divorce, as well as the death of their mother Diana.
“When Kate was pursued by the paparazzi while dating William, Pippa and James were by her side.”
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will hope they have ensured that, by having another child, they can lessen the load carried by previous spares – avoiding a repeat of the turmoil suffered by the Queen’s younger sister, Princess Margaret.
While the Queen and Margaret were uniquely bonded, growing up in the public eye and bound to the monarchy, the younger royal reportedly felt she had no purpose.
As The Telegraph commentator Harry Mount pointed out: “The sad truth of it is that life as the ‘spare’ younger sibling isn’t much fun.
“Yes, you get all the trappings of royal life but with none of the responsibilities as the head of state or as heir to the throne.”
Harry and his family now live in California and are no longer working royals.