Published On: Tue, Sep 9th, 2014

William and Kate Are Expecting Again, but a Spare Royal Is Often a Fifth Wheel

William and Kate Middelton

With news buzzing that Prince William and Kate Middelton are expecting their second child, the old expression (if crude) of “an heir and a spare” is popping up. However, younger royal siblings in recent generations have had to worry less and less about ascending to the throne, and have directed their energies to rebellion and leisurely, controversial photo-ops.

It was over a decade ago when Prince Harry, William’s brother, was snapped at a party wearing a Nazi uniform. Much ado lately has been made about his appearing half-naked by a swimming pool, but aren’t most people who find themselves close to a swimming pool half-naked?

Even if William and Kate’s child is a girl, she will be as irrelevant as a male child in the succession, no more no less, since laws in 2013 changed the succession to give males and females equal weight. But while gender differences have been lessened, the line of succession still favors the oldest child, and his or her children have precedence over a younger sibling. For example, Princess Anne, sister of Prince Charles, was once the second in line, and now she isn’t even in the top ten, ranked at 11th. Given Prince Charles’ children and now grandchildren, Prince Andrew was the “spare, ” but now he has been bumped to sixth place.

So get excited all you want about this “spare” Royal birth-to-be and wish the parents the baby well, but be prepared that he or she might be more characterized by bored, moneyed hellraising than with important ceremonial duties, like propping up the British tourist trade and the tabloid industry, as a Royal.

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