New British royal baby faces tricky life as the 'spare'

Fri Apr 10, 2015 12:38pm EDT
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By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - The newest member of Britain's royal family, due to make an entrance this month when Prince William's wife Kate gives birth to the couple's second baby, will be taking on one of royalty's toughest roles -- life as "spare to the heir".

Unlike brother George, born 21 months ago and expected one day to be monarch, the younger offspring's future is less clear.

The "spare" role is an undefined one that allows more freedom than that accorded to a future king or queen.

But it also attracts massive public interest and scrutiny, while the possibility remains of having to step into the shoes of the future heir should calamity befall the elder sibling.

"I think the most difficult thing about being the number two is you don't know if by some misfortune you are going to be called upon to take the number one role," royal historian Hugo Vickers told Reuters.

"You never quite know if you're going to be called upon to become king, or instead have what you, if you're being really cynical, could say is a relatively pointless life."

Both the queen's grandfather George V, whose elder brother died aged 28, and her father George VI, whose elder brother Edward VIII abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, were "spares" who did become monarchs.

For those for whom the top job never comes, life as a "spare" is not easy.   Continued...

Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, carries her son Prince George alongside her husband Prince William as they visit the Sensational Butterflies exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London, July 2, 2014. REUTERS/John Stillwell/Pool