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LONDON — Imagine starting life being called "the spare," not only by your own mother but by the entire world.
That was the fate of Britain's Prince Harry, born two years after his brother Prince William — and with the next "spare to the heir" expected any day now, another young royal will be sharing the less-than-desirable title.
Prince William and the former Kate Middleton are awaiting the imminent birth of their second child. While the arrival of the baby will be greeted with fanfare, the truth is that the newest royal will always be a step behind in more ways than one — but might make it out on top.
Being the second child can be tricky in a regular family, but the stakes are much higher for a member for the world's most prominent royal clan.
William and Kate's first child, baby Prince George, is himself third in the line of succession behind his father and grandfather, Prince Charles. That means the new baby will be fourth — considered highly unlikely to ever take the throne given the plethora of heirs ahead in line.
"As a kid, Harry was very much what we call in England an ‘also-ran.’ He was there, but everyone paid attention to William"
"The whole idea of an heir and a spare is a great little catchphrase, but you're actually calling someone a 'spare' and that is not an easy thing to deal with," said psychologist and author Dr. Linda Papadopoulos.
From a young age, Prince Harry was well aware of his role in life, according to Ken Wharfe, royal protection officer to the royal brothers when they were young boys.
He witnessed the royal sibling rivalry firsthand many times, and watched as William assumed the role of both big brother and future king. They fought, like all brothers, and generally Harry won, Wharfe said.
One car ride stood out.
"When he was around five, Harry said to William, 'You will be king and but I can do what I want." Wharfe adds, "[Harry] knew his brother was top."
Ingrid Seward, editor of the British magazine Majesty, added: "As a kid, Harry was very much what we call in England an 'also-ran.' He was there, but everyone paid attention to William."
It is impossible to know how this treatment helped form his personality, but in his youth the prince was criticized for what some said was irresponsible behavior for a royal. Known as the "Party Prince," he regularly made headlines in the tabloid press after admitting to smoking marijuana when he was 16, and being photographed on several occasions stumbling out of nightclubs.
In 2005 he was forced to apologize after he wore a Nazi uniform — complete with swastika armband — to a friend’s birthday party. And he was the subject of a leaked naked pictures scandal in 2012 when he was photographed following a game of strip-billiards in Las Vegas 2012.
"In many ways, it was an awful and humiliating episode for him, as it is for anyone who has unauthorized pictures of them naked [posted] on websites around the word," said Tom Sykes, editor of the Daily Beast’s The Royalist blog.
But the episode introduced a whole new generation of readers — a different and crucially younger demographic — to the royal family, Sykes said.
"That very embarrassing situation for Harry, in the long run, might have been a terrific thing for the royal family because it sustained interest in them," Sykes said.
Fast forward to the present and Prince Harry is no longer in his brother's shadow. A 2014 key poll placed him as the public's favorite royal, with his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, coming in second and Prince William third.
And even members of the public who disapproved of his wilder behavior would likely have been impressed with his two tours of Afghanistan in the armed forces and his dedication to charitable causes.
Still, while Prince Harry is unlikely to ever be king he in many ways may have ended up with the better deal, according to Papadopoulos. "You look at Wills and what rests on his shoulders, the expectation, and Harry seems to be able to have a lot more fun," she said.
Seward agreed it is definitely better to be the "spare," younger royal sibling.
"They can slightly pick and choose with their career, they can slightly pick and choose with their girlfriends, and they can get away with stuff," she said. "Of course they have a certain responsibility not to besmirch the name of the monarchy, but they can get away with being a bit naughty."
There are many uncertainties in the near future for Prince Harry. He is leaving the military and at the age of 30 does not appear to be in a steady relationship.
But with his mischievous moments perhaps behind him, he could prove something of a role model to the new royal baby on how to be a "spare" to the heir of the British throne.