It's A Princess! A Look at Royal Second Siblings

On the occasion of the birth of Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, let’s remember a few other second-born British royals from the past hundred years.
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Kate Middleton Prince William Photo

The Duchess and Duke of Cambridge introduce their new baby princess outside of St. Mary's Hospital in London. Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana was born on May 2, 2015, at 8:34 a.m. local time, weighing 8 pounds, 3 ounces. 

While Prince William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, celebrate the birth of their second child, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, little Prince George finds himself joined by a younger sister. 

The two royal children are spaced less than two years apart, so they’ll most likely share certain activities and interests. On the other hand, there’s one important difference between Prince George and his sister: George is third in line for succession to the British throne, while the new baby will always be the “spare” to the “heir.”

Princess Charlotte is fourth in line to the throne, the "spare" to the "heir," after her big brother Prince George.

Princess Charlotte is fourth in line to the throne, the "spare" to the "heir," after her big brother Prince George.

Here’s a look back at other second siblings of the British royal family, including their successes, their struggles, and the occasional twist of fate.

George V (1865-1936)

King George V Photo

King George V was the second son of King Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark. 

The grandson of Queen Victoria and the second son of King Edward VII, George Frederick Ernest Albert did not expect to rule. It was his older brother, Prince Albert Victor, who was destined by birth to become King of England. Albert Victor was a charming man, but his name was unfortunately linked with several scandals, including supposed relationships with prostitutes and visits to a male brothel in London. Although nothing was ever proved, his public image suffered from these rumors. 

Albert Victor was engaged to be married to Princess Mary of Teck, but in 1892 he died from influenza. George married his older brother’s fiancée in 1893. After Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 and his father’s death in 1910, George was crowned King George V. Although he had a quiet personality, he was respected for his hard work and his sense of duty. He steered England through the First World War and the economic depression of the 1930s, and he supported the middle class more than any of his predecessors. He also guided the British Empire through a transitional period when many of its colonies were granted the right of self-governance.

George VI (1895-1952)

George VI Photo

George VI, the second son of King George V and Victoria May, the Duchess of York (Mary of Teck), with Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (known in later life as the “Queen Mum”).

The second son of King George V was baptized Albert Frederick Arthur George, and he grew to adulthood and middle age as the more serious, conscientious younger brother of Edward, the Prince of Wales. He and his wife Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (known in later life as the “Queen Mum”) had two children, both girls: Elizabeth, born in 1926, and Margaret, born in 1930. In 1936, King George V died, and older son Edward was crowned King Edward VIII. In less than a year, however, Edward abdicated the throne so that he could marry his mistress, the American socialite and divorcée Wallis Simpson.

In the wake of this scandal, which rocked the British government and populace to their core, Albert ascended to the throne in 1937. He adopted the royal name “George VI” in order to show that he was a true successor to his father and to restore public faith in the monarchy. He proved himself as an inspiring, trusted leader during World War II and the consolidation of the British empire in the mid-twentieth century. (A note for film fans: in 2010 he was portrayed by Colin Firth in The King’s Speech.)

Princess Margaret (1930-2002)

Princess Margaret Photo

Princess Margaret was the younger daughter of King George VI and sister of Queen Elizabeth II. (Photo: Koch, Eric / Anefo [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl], via Wikimedia Commons)

Princess Margaret, born Margaret Rose, was the younger daughter of King George VI. She and her sister Elizabeth shared a sheltered childhood in London and Windsor, but even from an early age, Elizabeth was being prepared for the duties she would eventually assume as Queen, while Margaret was allowed more fun and freedom. When their grandfather George V died in 1936 and their father was crowned the following year (following their uncle’s abdication), both girls began their life in Buckingham Palace.

In adult life, glamorous Margaret was often the subject of gossip and controversy. In 1955 the royal family and British parliament required her to end her engagement to Peter Townsend, a military man who had served her father, because he was divorced. Instead, she later wed the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones (Lord Snowdon), and as a couple they enjoyed a social life that included friendships with 1960s cultural icons like actor Peter Sellers, hairdresser Vidal Sassoon and fashion designer Mary Quant, one of the originators of the miniskirt. However, their marriage was troubled, and Margaret’s affairs became public knowledge. She and Armstrong-Jones divorced — the first royal divorce in England since Henry VIII— and Margaret never remarried. Unlike her calm and self-disciplined older sister, who ascended to the throne in 1953, she became known for her moodiness and her apparent dislike of public obligations.

Princess Anne (born 1950)

Princess Anne Photo

Princess Anne is the second child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, and the younger sister of Charles, the Prince of Wales.

Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise, the second child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, was born two years after Charles, the Prince of Wales. As the only girl in the family, Anne had a different education than her brothers Charles, Andrew and Edward. Rather than enter military service after she attended school, she began making frequent public appearances for charitable work. In 1973 she married Lieutenant (later Captain) Mark Phillips, with whom she had two children. She and Phillips divorced in 1992, and later that year she married Commander (now Vice-Admiral) Timothy Laurence of the Royal Navy.

Anne’s reserved nature has helped her to keep her personal life guarded. Unlike the dramatic collapse of her older brother Charles’s marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales, Anne’s own marital troubles remained relatively private. Like her mother, she has maintained a busy schedule of official public engagements, and she is known for being a skilled and passionate horsewoman. In 1991 she published a book about her equestrian career, titled Riding Through My Life.

Prince Harry (born 1984)

Prince Harry Photo

Prince Harry is the second child of Prince Charles and Princess Diana and Princess Charlotte's uncle.

Harry, baptized Henry Charles Albert David, is the second child of Charles and Diana, the Prince and Princess of Wales. Two years younger than his brother William, he was only 12 when his mother died in 1997. Like his brother, Harry attended Eton College and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, but he had a more extensive military career, serving with the Armed Forces for 10 years before resigning with the rank of Captain.

Harry lives primarily at Kensington Palace in London but travels frequently to fulfill his royal duties through public engagements. He is also an avid polo player and rugby enthusiast. In contrast to his responsible-seeming brother, he has a reputation as a free spirit and a mischief-maker, known as the “Party Prince” for his love of nightclubs and his steady stream of girlfriends. Some of his antics, like wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party in 2005 and being photographed naked with several companions in a Las Vegas hotel in 2012, have been embarrassments for the royal family. All the same, Harry is currently the most popular living British royal. With the birth of William’s second child, he is fifth in line to the British throne.