Sunday, November 9, 2014

Being the Spare

From Ermine and Pearls:
If the Tudors had trouble finding a spare then the Stuarts had problems keeping them off the throne. In the history of the British monarchy, this one dynasty saw more seconds in line eventually take the crown than any other.  From start to finish, the House of Stuart was filled with princes and princesses who went from playing second fiddle to ruling the realm. Here are the Stuart spares to the heirs – and some of them might be very familiar.

When James VI of Scotland became James I of England on the death of Elizabeth I in 1603 he brought with him a nursery filled with princes and princesses.  His heir was a nine year old called Henry Frederick who arrived with his parents as they took over the royal residences of London.  The spare was his little brother, two year old Charles, who only came to England the following year when he was judged strong enough to make the journey. Henry was a hugely popular figure who grew up in the public gaze and at times outshone just about everyone else in his family so the first spare of the Stuart dynasty had to lurk in obscurity while England fell in love with its young Prince of Wales.  The deep affection in which Henry was held showed when tragedy struck in November 1612. The nation was distraught when the popular young prince, taking on more responsibility in public life and showing every sign of being a more than able king in the making, died unexpectedly. Thousands took to the streets to grieve publicly and his brother, Charles, was chief mourner at his funeral. He also stepped into the role of heir but was still overshadowed by his brother’s memory.

Charles became the first spare of the House of Stuart to become king when he succeeded James I in 1625.
One of the first things this new king did was to marry and start a new royal family.  His bride, Henrietta Maria of France, became queen as soon as she said ‘I do’ in 1625 just months after his accession but the couple waited almost four years for a family.  Their first son, Charles James, lived for just a few hours but their second little boy, another Charles, arrived almost exactly a year later and became heir to the throne.

The spare, James, arrived in 1633.  But while their father had been raised at an ambitious court where his brother was a star in the making, these two royal brothers grew up in an increasingly fractious political situation and by the time both were ten their father was embroiled in the English Civil War which would lead to his deposition and execution in 1649. The monarchy was restored in 1660 when Charles took the throne and James, Duke of York became his heir and he retained that position throughout his brother’s reign as the new king had children with several mistresses but none with his wife, Catherine of Braganza.

James had several sons of his own during his brother’s reign although whether they can be considered spares is debateable as, by the time of both their births, it was fairly obvious that Charles II and Queen Catherine would have no family of their own. The baby boy born to James and his first wife, Anne Hyde, in 1667 had a very good chance of becoming king himself so baby James was really more of a monarch in waiting than a supporting member of the royal dynasty. He died in 1671 just before his fourth birthday and just months before his parents welcomed another son, Edgar. This prince of York with a very Anglo-Saxon name was, like his brother James, in the direct line of succession until he, too, died months before turning four. (Read more.)

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