Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge and wife to Prince William, is expected to give birth to her second child in mid- to late April. When Baby Cambridge #2 makes his or her royal entrance, big brother Prince George will be 21 months old. After his grandfather and father, George is third in line to the British throne, and his future younger sibling will be fourth.
Will and Kate have proven themselves to be sane, protective parents, and their genetic material clearly combines in an adorable fashion. (This reporter's feelings about Prince George are a matter of public record.) Nevertheless, we're worried about this baby. The second sons and daughters of monarchs and monarchs-to-be — their so-called "spare heirs" — tend to lead lives marred by misfortune and misbehavior.
This family portrait, taken on the occasion of Prince Harry's christening in 1984, beautifully sums up the spare heir experience.
It may be Harry's baptism, but the unequivocal star of the day is two-year-old Prince William, seen squatting in front of his grandmother.
Now 30, Prince Harry has seemingly transformed into a fully functional adult, but his is a textbook case of Second Royal Syndrome. Harry's royal duties have historically included underage drinking, smoking weed with his friends, and removing his clothes at parties in Las Vegas.
Parents often make a bigger fuss over their firstborns, which can cause their younger children (who, conventional wisdom holds, grow up to be more rebellious and attention-seeking) to feel less important. But if you're a royal second child, that insecurity is based in fact. Your sibling is literally more important than you: not only to your parents, but to your country, to the world, to the course of history. They will reign; you will not. Sorry.
Here are some more classic, troubling examples of Second Royal Syndrome (and, technically, of Third and Fourth Royal Syndrome), all drawn from the House of Windsor.
The younger sister of Queen Elizabeth is perhaps best remembered for her tragic romance with Royal Air Force officer Peter Townsend. (In case you, like me, find that your knowledge of recent British history is embarrassingly anchored in The King's Speech, Margaret was King George VI's other daughter.) She fell in love with Townsend, a divorcé with two children, but bowed to pressure from the government and her family to end their relationship. The princess wed photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones instead. That marriage ended in 1978, making Margaret the first British royal since Henry VIII to divorce, which didn't exactly do wonders for her reputation.
Gore Vidal wrote that the princess was well aware of her own notoriety, quoting Margaret as saying that society had cast her — in contrast to Elizabeth, the image of purity — as "the evil sister." A heavy smoker and drinker, she died in 2002 following a series of strokes.
Prince Charles' only sister — and Queen Elizabeth II's second eldest child — survived an abduction attempt in 1974. (When her would-be kidnapper told her to get out of her limousine, the 24-year-old princess responded, "Not bloody likely!") More recently, Anne has distinguished herself as the only senior member of the royal family with a criminal record. In 2001, she was fined £400 for driving 93 miles per hour in a 70 mile per hour zone (she says she thought the police cars tailing her were a royal escort) and, in 2002, she pled guilty to charges related to an attack on two children by her dog, Dotty.
The third child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip has been accused (in a civil suit) of patronizing an underage prostitution ring. He sounds nice.
Baby brother Edward, the fourth child of QEII, dropped out of the Royal Marines several months into his one-year training course. He then entered show business, in which he proved equally successful.
Edward's TV company, Ardent Productions, was "an industry laughing stock" and an utter financial disaster. Highlights of the Earl's media career include invading his own nephew's privacy by filming Prince William at St. Andrews University and producing The Grand Knockout Tournament, a profoundly embarrassing charity game show. Imagine a medieval version of Battle of the Network Stars, featuring members of the royal family forced to perform physical challenges in ridiculous costumes. I cannot overstate how bizarre this was.
Don't forget that the charming ginger who inspired a misleading reality dating show last spring is the same charming ginger who modeled a Nazi uniform at a fancy dress party in 2005.
This isn't to say that every spare heir succumbs to Second Royal Syndrome. King George VI, great-grandfather to Prince William and great-great-grandfather to Prince George, ascended to the throne (and overcame that stutter) after his older brother King Edward VIII abdicated to marry the twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. We're pulling for you, Royal Baby II.
Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.