The heir and the spare: 'Troubled' Diana wanted to shield Harry from demeaning label

The heir and the spare: 'Troubled' Diana wanted to shield Harry from demeaning label
Princess Diana worried about Prince Harry's 'spare' label (John Minihan/Evening StandardHulton Archive/Getty Images, John Lamparski/Getty Images)

The British monarchy has long worked on the principle of 'heir and the spare'. The tradition continued when Prince Harry, the second son of Charles and Diana, the Prince and Princess of Wales, was born. So, it did not come as a surprise when the media was quick to label the young Harry as the 'spare' and his older brother, William, as the 'heir'. 

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According to royal author James Patterson, Princess Diana was deeply troubled by this, as she knew that William would always be treated as the favorite, while Harry was nothing more than a backup of sorts. As a result, she was determined to shield her youngest from the demeaning 'spare' label he had received by virtue of his birth. 

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Diana Princess of Wales (1961 - 1997) and Prince Charles with newborn Prince Harry, leave St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London, UK, 16th September 1984; Diana wore an outfit designed by Jan Van Velden. (Photo by Steve Wood/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Diana Princess of Wales (1961 - 1997) and Prince Charles with newborn Prince Harry. (Steve Wood/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Talking to Fox News, Patterson said he felt that Princess Diana "tried to control it as much as she could." However, she must have been "troubled" about the label. He went on to mention how this is a common phenomenon that can be observed across families: "One of the kids who do better in school or become a better athlete seems to be a little more charming and lovable. How do you make the other kids feel that they’re just enough? It happens pretty much to all families. And in this case, the stakes are much higher because one is presumably going to be king someday."

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Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (left) and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex unveil a statue they commissioned of their mother Diana, Princess of Wales, in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, on what would have been her 60th birthday on July 1, 2021 in London, England. Today would have been the 60th birthday of Princess Diana, who died in 1997. At a ceremony here today, her sons Prince William and Prince Harry, the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex respectively, will unveil a statue in her memory.
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex unveil a statue they commissioned of their mother Diana, Princess of Wales (Photo by Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Patterson said that Diana's understanding of Harry's situation stemmed from her own experience as a princess thrust into the public eye. "She wanted to have her own life", he said, adding it "was very hard for her."

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"She didn’t want the boys to experience the same struggles she faced. She tried as much as she could to control it. She simply wanted them to be normal kids and understand that the real world doesn’t operate in the same way it worked within the palace. They shouldn’t see themselves as special or different."

A doting mother to her sons until her untimely death, Diana must have disliked the identity of her youngest being reduced to that of a 'spare'.   

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James Patterson (Twitter/@JP_Books)
James Patterson (Twitter/@JP_Books)

In his book, 'Diana, William, and Harry: The Heartbreaking Story of a Princess and Mother', the American author claims to have focused his attention on the beloved 'People's Princess' and the role she considered the most important in her life - that of a mother. Patterson has spoken of his extensive research into various archives from England over a span of several years in order to present Diana in the most accurate way possible.

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