What Life Is Like For Other Royal 'Spares' Around The World

The terms "heir and spare" refer to a traditional concept, particularly within royal or aristocratic families. The "heir" is the direct successor to the throne or the family's inheritance, while the "spare" serves as a backup in case anything happens to the heir. In royal contexts, this strategy ensures the continuity of the dynasty or noble lineage.

The concept has never been more talked about as it has today, with Prince Harry's memoir "Spare" underscoring the significance of such a role, as well as the hardships the second-in-line to the throne often endures. Many say Prince Harry is whining and exceptionally privileged, while others take a more empathetic approach. Either way, the whole "Megxit" debacle has forced many other royal "spares" into the spotlight.

Heather Cocks, co-author of "The Heir Affair" and "The Royal We," told Vanity Fair, "They're famous from birth, whether they want it or not. With an heir and spare dynamic, you get one child who's born for the top job, and the second who probably grows up feeling like the understudy." She continued, "Learn the lines, know the role, but understand you'll probably never get called to do it. And if your personality more naturally pushes you toward the spotlight, that would be really hard on the spare." So, have you ever wondered what life is like for these charming royal spares around the world? We're diving headfirst into the glittering world of these lesser-known royals who are runners-up in the line of succession.

Princess Charlotte: Spare to Prince George of the United Kingdom

While the biggest "heir and spare" conflict has played out in the British tabloids between Prince William and Prince Harry, naturally, all eyes are now on William's children. Princess Charlotte is considered a royal "spare" to her brother Prince George, who will one day be king. While Harry has reportedly claimed he's worried about this dynamic, William has shot back, saying his kids are not Harry's responsibility.

While many worry about Charlotte going down the same road as Harry, royal correspondent Katie Nicholl claimed on the Dynasty podcast that Princess Catherine and William have it "all worked out." Nicholl believes they have made it a priority to raise their kids with a down-to-earth mindset, including going to normal schools and having normal holidays, but with an "understanding of who they are as royals and as just ordinary children too."

William and his wife Catherine's determination to raise their children with a normal upbringing, means Charlotte now attends the Lambrook School along with both of her brothers after the family relocated from London to Windsor. It's one of the top prep schools in the U.K. and puts a strong emphasis on sports. In July 2022, while visiting the England Women's soccer team, Prince William told a few players, "Charlotte wanted me to tell you that she is really good at goal. She said 'Please tell them that.' She's a budding star for the future," her father declared (via Hello!).

Princess Anne: Previously spare to King Charles III of the United Kingdom

While the drama between Prince William and Prince Harry still hits headlines daily, another British royal spare has been quietly supporting her brother behind the scenes for decades. In the media, she is thought of as a "spare," however, Princess Anne found herself surpassed in the line of succession by her younger brothers, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.

Prior to 2013, older sisters in the royal family would be moved down the order of succession if their parents had a younger son. However, the Succession to the Crown Act of 2013 brought about a substantial alteration in the rules of succession, eliminating this gender-based preference, and allowing royal daughters to retain their positions regardless of their gender, as is the case with Princess Charlotte. According to Robert Hardman, author of "Queen of Our Times: The Life of Elizabeth II," Princess Anne is an "example of how, even if you are clearly earmarked for a peripheral role, it doesn't mean you can't make a contribution" (via Express).

Princess Anne is widely regarded as one of the hardest-working members of the royal family, with a diary full of engagements every week. Her work on Save the Children has been one of her most notable charities since becoming president of the organization in 1970. According to Hardman, "It's also wise not to take on too many charitable patronages: focus on where you can make a difference."

Prince Andrew: Spare to King Charles III of the United Kingdom

Prince Andrew, also known as the Duke of York, was born second in the line of succession to the British throne and has faced numerous controversies throughout his life. One of the most significant controversies centers around his association with the late financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was convicted of sex trafficking. Prince Andrew faced allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor, Virginia Giuffre, who claimed she was trafficked by Epstein and forced to have sexual encounters with the prince. Andrew has vehemently denied this but due to his disgraced reputation, he resigned permanently from all his public roles in November 2019.

Growing up in the shadow of his older brother, Prince Andrew developed a certain amount of jealousy and resentment toward King Charles III, allowing his status as "spare" to get under his skin. At one point, Andrew allegedly plotted to get Charles pushed out, according to royal author Angela Levin for the Daily Mail. Levin claimed there were secret discussions between Andrew, his ex-wife Sarah, Duchess of York, and Princess Diana about how they might overthrow Charles. These discussions went so far that Andrew allegedly even spoke to Queen Elizabeth II to persuade her to agree to the plan. It all sounds like one big Greek tragedy. 

Prince Carl Philip: Spare to Princess Victoria of Sweden

Prince Carl Philip of Sweden was actually first in line to the throne for the first seven months of his life. However, on January 1, 1980, a change in the law stipulating that the first-born child would inherit the throne regardless of gender resulted in his two-year-old sister, Crown Princess Victoria, becoming the heir apparent.

In January 2023, the King of Sweden told local news station SVT (via the Daily Mail) that he felt it was unfair of them to change the law after his children were already born. At the time, the king opposed the ruling, saying, "You can accept the next generation — that's okay. But it was my son who was born, and they got rid of it all."

Prince Carl Philip married Sofia Hellqvist, a former model and reality TV contestant on June 13, 2015, and the pair have three children together. In October 2019, the King of Sweden removed the royal titles from Carl Philip's children in a bid to slim down the monarchy. The couple welcomed the move, stating that their kids would have "freer choices in life" (via the Mirror).

Princess Astrid: Spare to King Philippe of Belgium

Princess Astrid of Belgium graced the world with her presence on June 5, 1962, right in the heart of Brussels as the second child of King Albert II and Queen Paola. Her parent's marital woes affected her deeply, especially during her high school years, and she had to repeat the first year over again.

As for Princess Astrid's most famous images, her fairytale wedding is notable, giving Prince William and Princess Catherine a run for their money. In 1984, Astrid said "I do" to Lorenz, Archduke of Austria-Este, and the pair are still happily married today. They got busy building a mini-kingdom of their own with five kids, all born in Belgium. With a change in the rules of succession in 1991, Princess Astrid found herself second in line to the throne for quite some time before her older brother King Philippe got married.

Princess Astrid never let her "spare" status hold her back and has consistently shown compassion for marginalized members of society, supporting initiatives for single mothers and those lacking in education and skills. She's part of the International Paralympic Committee and even took the throne as the Honorary President of Action Damien. Action Damien is a Belgian medical organization dedicated to serving individuals affected by diseases like leprosy, tuberculosis, and other illnesses, particularly in vulnerable communities.

Princess Märtha Louise: Spare to Crown Prince Haakon of Norway

Born on September 22, 1971, Princess Märtha Louise of Norway is the eldest child of King Harald V and Queen Sonja, making her the "royal spare" because her younger brother, Crown Prince Haakon, inherited the throne. But being second in line didn't stop Märtha Louise from living life to the fullest.

Fast forward to today, Princess Märtha Louise is a fascinating blend of tradition and modernity and she's certainly not your average royal. In the name of love or perhaps just inspired by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Märtha Louise made headlines in 2020 when she announced she would take a step back from official royal duties.

She announced on Instagram that she will marry shaman Durek Verrett who appeared on the Netflix reality series "Bling Empire." The pair will wed on August 31, 2024, at the Hotel Union in Geiranger. The relationship has apparently created a bit of family strife for Märtha Louise as she told the BBC, and stepping down from her position had to do with how the Norwegian people reacted to her fiance. "The Norwegian people I guess ... have decided it's best for me to step down because of his views about things," the princess said.

Princess Alexia: Spare to Princess Catharina-Amalia of Netherlands

Princess Alexia was born on June 26, 2005, as the second daughter of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima making her the "spare" to Catharina-Amalia, who holds the title of Princess of Orange and is the heir to the Dutch throne.

But being the spare doesn't mean a dull life for this Dutch royal. Currently, in her late teens, Princess Alexia is navigating the path of adolescence, pursuing her education, and embracing the responsibilities that come with her royal lineage. She attended the Christelijk Gymnasium Sorghvliet for four years, a prestigious school in The Hague before her continued studies at the United World College of the Atlantic in Wales. In the summer of 2023, she acquired her International Baccalaureate.

Reportedly, many of the world's royal families got a little uncomfortable with all the revelations from Prince Harry about how much he hated being a "spare" to Prince William, with the Dutch royal family being no different. Thus, many royal families have allegedly sought to give the second-born child more responsibility and in September 2023, Princess Alexia attended her first solo engagement where she christened the ship Vox Alexia in Rotterdam.

Infanta Sofía: Spare to Princess Leonor of Spain

Infanta Sofía of Spain is the younger daughter of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, and she's making her own royal mark. Despite being a "spare" to her older sister Princess Leonor, Sofía is anything but ordinary. Born on April 29, 2007, this Spanish royal gem is currently pursuing her education at the prestigious UWC Atlantic College in Wales, dubbed the "Hippy Hogwarts," and also attended by several international royals as well as her big sister. 

Per Tatler, the Spanish royal family released several images of Sofía at the school and with her parents as they said goodbye. She could be seen posing surrounded by the castle walls of the stunning campus, whose past alumni include King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, Princess Raiyah bint Al Hussein of Jordan, and Princess Elisabeth of Belgium. Prior to starting at the UWC Atlantic College, Sofía had a busy summer in which she attended the Women's World Cup and cheered Spain to victory along with her mother.

According to Express, Queen Letizia would prefer her daughters take on more intellectual pursuits and wants to distance them from their controversial aunts, Infanta Elena and Infanta Cristina who haven't given the royal "spare" title a great reputation. Per the publication, journalist Rosa Villacastín told a Spanish news outlet, "She wants her daughters to visit cultural centres, not to watch them stroll around the Náutico all day as the Infantas did."

Infanta Cristina: Previously spare to King Felipe of Spain

Infanta Cristina of Spain, once considered a "spare" to her brother, King Felipe VI, has navigated a tumultuous journey in the royal spotlight. Her life took a significant turn in 2015 when King Felipe stripped her of her title as "Her Royal Highness" amidst legal troubles and allegations of tax evasion. Though she was later found not guilty she still had to pay a fine, and her husband was sentenced to more than six years in prison. King Felipe VI stripped her of her title after she refused to give up her right to the throne, which she is currently still 6th in line for, proving Cristina was perfectly happy with her royal status as "spare" and being so close to the top spot. 

In more recent developments, Infanta Cristina made headlines in 2022 when she announced her separation from her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin. In a statement to Spanish tabloid Hola!, the pair said, "By mutual consent, we have decided to end our marriage. Our commitment to our children remains intact. Since it is a private decision, we ask for the utmost respect from all those around us." The pair announced their separation after Urdangarin was seen holding hands with another woman. They had been married for nearly 25 years and had four children together.

Princess Isabella: Spare to Prince Christian of Denmark

Princess Isabella of Denmark, born April 21, 2007, is currently third in line to the Danish throne behind her father, Crown Prince Frederik, and her older brother Prince Christian, making her a royal "spare." Despite the moniker, Isabella appears to be focused on her education and just being a teenager at the moment.

While much of her life is kept quite private, the palace released professional photos shot by Franne Voigt in honor of Isabella's 16th birthday, something royals do often in a bid to keep the tabloids at bay. Isabella looked gorgeous in a beige turtleneck and black pants as she sat on a stool and smiled at the camera, looking like the perfect combination of her parents, Prince Frederik and Princess Mary.

However, in 2021, Princess Isabella was seen having an outburst at her mother in public. According to royal historian Oskar Aanmoen, the Danish spare is known to have a "strong personality" (via New Idea) — something an heir would be trained not to display on the world stage. Since then, media outlets have reported concerns from Queen Mary that Isabella's rebellious antics are due to her status as a "spare." 

Princess Gabriella: Spare to her twin brother Prince Jacques of Monaco

Princess Gabriella is the daughter of Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene. The little princess is often referred to as the spare to her twin brother Jacques, who is the hereditary heir to the Monégasque throne. 

In September 2023, Princess Charlene was interviewed by local paper the Monaco-Matin (via People) in which she happily discussed her children, sharing a bit of insight into some of Princess Gabriella's favorite activities and personality. She had just dropped the pair off at school, so her emotions were quite mixed but the proud mother claimed Gabriella is the more outgoing of the twins, adding she's "quite spontaneous." She also mentioned her daughter's favorite activity, saying she "has a passion for hip-hop dance," though added she doesn't want them to do anything so intense after being an Olympic athlete herself.

It appears Princess Gabriella is taking her role as a "spare" to heart, and according to her dad, she's actually quite the introvert when it comes to public engagements, at least compared to her brother. "Gabriella can sometimes feel a little uncomfortable around too many people," Prince Albert revealed to the Monaco Tribune. "Jacques talks more, engages more, in public." Though when she's at home, Prince Albert claims his daughter is quite mischievous. 

Prince Seeiso: Spare to King Letsie III of Lesotho

Prince Seeiso of Lesotho, born on April 16, 1966, is a prominent member of Lesotho's royal family and the younger brother of King Letsie III, making him a royal "spare." Currently, Prince Seeiso is actively involved in charitable and humanitarian endeavors. He co-founded the charitable organization Sentebale with fellow "spare" Prince Harry in 2006. Sentebale focuses on improving the lives of vulnerable children in Lesotho, particularly those affected by HIV/AIDS.

Sentebale, which means "forget-me-not" in Lesotho, was established in memory of Princess Diana and Prince Seeiso's mother, both of whom passed away. Prince Seeiso's commitment to Sentebale is evident in his active involvement in the charity's initiatives. In an interview, with aidsfonds.org, he said, "If we can keep children free of HIV, that is half the battle. At the same time, interventions have to meet young people's needs. These youngsters reprimanded me that they are not the future, they are the present. They have to be there when we draw up strategies!"

After the birth of King Letsie III's second daughter, there was once again a conversation about the Act of Settlement laws that passed over women in favor of male heirs. Even Prince Seeiso himself is very much in favor of a change to the laws, telling Afrol News, "Some of us feel that the law of succession needs to be looked at [when it comes to gender]. I am personally in favour of equal opportunities for all."

Prince Gabriel: Spare to Princess Elisabeth of Belgium

Prince Gabriel of Belgium, born on August 20, 2003, is a member of the Belgian royal family, and despite his lineage, he has maintained a remarkably private life, shielded from the public eye. As the elder son and second child of King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium, Prince Gabriel plays an essential role within the monarchy, although he is a royal "spare" to his sister.

According to Tatler, he's fast becoming one of the world's most eligible bachelors and what distinguishes him apart is his commitment to living a discreet life away from the media spotlight that often accompanies royal figures. He completed his secondary education at the International School from 2019 to 2021, and since August 22, 2022, he's been pursuing studies in Social and Military Sciences in Dutch at the Royal Military School. According to his royal bio, Prince Gabriel plays the piano, is fond of tennis, skiing, sailing, and hockey, and volunteers.

Prince Gabriel likes to stay out of the spotlight and keeps his personal life out of the press, compared to his sister Princess Elisabeth who will be the future queen. Fortunately, his status as a royal "spare" allows him that privacy. 

Prince Joachim: Previously spare to Prince Frederik of Denmark

Prince Joachim was born to Queen Margrethe II and the late Prince Henrik on June 7, 1969, in Copenhagen, Denmark as the younger brother to Crown Prince Frederik, making him a royal "spare." Prince Joachim of Denmark found himself at the center of a significant controversy when his mother, Queen Margrethe II, made the decision to strip his four children of their prince and princess titles in September 2022. This decision was part of a broader move by the Danish royal family to streamline the monarchy and reduce the number of working royals, making it more cost-effective and modern.

The controversy stemmed from the suddenness and surprise of the announcement. The titles had traditionally been bestowed upon Joachim's children, as they were members of the royal family. However, this change meant that Prince Joachim's kids would no longer have official royal roles and responsibilities. Prince Joachim expressed his disappointment and concern over the decision, stating that his children had been hurt by the loss of their titles (via Fox News). He also emphasized that he would continue to support them in their new roles and endeavors.

Prince Joachim also gave an interview to the French magazine Point de Vue (via New Idea) in which he lamented the difficulties of being a "spare," telling the publication, "Between us, it is more complicated. The Crown Prince simply has to follow the course of events. However, nothing is defined for the second-born son."