Princess Charlotte: the ‘spare’ who is key to the monarchy’s future
The star of the coronation wasn’t His Majesty the King, the sword-carrying Penny Mordaunt or even the 6th-century St Augustine’s Gospel that is older than the monarchy itself. No, the real star was the poised and caped HRH Princess Charlotte. Aged 8, she is the mini-me to the Princess of Wales, the stern behaviour monitor for Prince Louis and the “spare” to her 9-year-old brother, Prince George.
It is Princess Charlotte that could make or break the future of the monarchy. The Royal family needs to properly support her in her role. The senior royals must learn from the spats and scandals of recent years how hard it can be for the younger siblings when the elder is destined for the throne.
When the Prince of Wales inherits the throne, he will cut a lonely figure, given that his only brother Harry does not look to be returning from California anytime soon. Surely, the future King would not wish the same for his son. Prince William looks as though he is doing all he can to foster a strong relationship between his children. It’s clear this sibling relationship is a priority. Their Royal Highnesses have sent all their children to the same school, picking a co-ed in the Berkshire countryside so that Charlotte can join her brothers there.
They also present the oldest two as an inseparable pair. George and Charlotte were side by side in the royal walkabout to commemorate the Platinum Jubilee in Cardiff and they both attended the late Queen’s funeral in September. The importance of the sibling tie was shown keenly last weekend when the family were digging and drilling with the Scouts as part of the Big Help Out.
The spirited Prince Louis, 5, will easily forge his own path. But the serious and thoughtful Charlotte, who is closer in age to George and seems to be forming a unique bond with her elder sibling, is vital to the success of the monarchy.
In time, Prince George needs to learn from the heartache of his father. For George to be a successful modern monarch he will need his sister Charlotte to support him. Very few know the strain of growing up as a royal child and the friendship forged through that experience cannot be easily replaced. It is important that the Royal Family recognise the uniqueness of that sibling relationship. The Firm should begin actively preparing Princess Charlotte for her role as a spare. Thankfully she has a brilliant role model in her formidable and very popular great aunt, Princess Anne.
Anne has worked harder than anyone in the Royal family – she carried out 214 engagements in 2022, to the King’s 181. But she has also carved out her own role within this strange set-up, where first her mother then her brother was her boss, while the rest of her siblings are her colleagues. The Princess Royal is a trusted pair of hands for every official engagement, but also has a life outside of the endless ceremonial. For Princess Anne, the escape was horses. She competed at her first public equestrian competition at age 11 and seemed to find her freedom and joy in the sport that led her to represent Team GB in the Olympics in 1976.
Princess Charlotte should be encouraged to find a similar joy. Something that takes her out of the world of royal engagements, of handshaking and ribbon-cutting, but isn’t directly in opposition to royal life — like, to pick an example, making tell-all Netflix documentaries. An issue with Harry was that it seemed that he wanted to do the same things as William, but the field was too crowded for two. Both had military careers, were interested in conservation, loved Africa and saw sport as their outlet. But one was destined for a coronation and the Crown, the other to watch from the sidelines. Anne found her place by not competing with or replicating Charles’s preoccupations. Charlotte should be encouraged to do the same.
Before tensions rise, the Royal Family should help Princess Charlotte find what she wants to do with her lot in life. The monarchy may not survive another family spat. Laying the groundwork now can future-proof the institution by ensuring that Prince George has his sister’s wholehearted support when he finally takes the throne. Hence Princess Charlotte may well hold the future of the monarchy in her hands. The Royal family should be putting as much effort into preparing her for her lifelong role, as they put into educating the heir for his. We have seen the disastrous consequences that ensue when these two equally important roles don’t exist in harmony. Charlotte, we are counting on you.
Sophia Worringer is the Deputy Policy Director at the Centre for Social Justice and a former parliamentary aide. Sophia is writing in a personal capacity.
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