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In his memoir, Prince Harry described his relationship with his great-aunt Princess Margaret, who died on February 9 exactly 21 years ago, saying he and his grandmother’s sister were “almost strangers”. The Duke of Sussex reflected on their distance and admitted to feeling as if he had missed out on a close friendship. He likened their positions in the Royal Family, both Spares destined to live in the shadows of their older sibling, with whom, according to Harry, they endured challenging relationships. However, a royal author has argued the Prince’s description of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s bond with her younger sister is not entirely accurate.

In Spare, Harry compared the tension between him and his brother Prince William to the relationship between Elizabeth and Margaret, writing: “Now and then, as I grew older, it struck me that Aunt Margo and I should’ve been friends. We had so much in common. Two Spares.

“Her relationship with Granny wasn’t an exact analogue of mine with Willy, but pretty close. The simmering rivalry, the intense competition (driven largely by the older sibling), it all looked familiar.”

Gareth Russell, historian and author of Do Let’s Have Another Drink: The Singular Wit and Double Measures of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, spoke to royal commentator Kinsey Schofield on an episode of the To Di For Daily podcast last month.

Ms Schofield said: “He gets into the competition aspect of Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth, although I don’t know if they’re even remotely comparable considering how angry Prince Harry sounds.”

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Prince Harry / Princess Margaret

Harry likened his and William’s relationship to that of the Queen and Margaret (Image: Getty Images)

Princesses In Grosvenor Square

Elizabeth and Margaret are understood to have shared a close friendship (Image: Getty)

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Mr Russell added: “I don’t know if I believe that. I don’t believe that Margaret and Elizabeth had as much of a sense of competition — or the heir and the spare syndrome — as many people make out to be.

“The Crown has made a major plotline out of that and it’s a drama, it has the right to do that, and Margaret’s been played by three absolutely phenomenal actresses over the course of the five seasons and counting. But I really think it has embedded this idea that Margaret was the sacrificial spare and I don’t think Margaret would have seen herself like that.”

Harry’s “sibling rivalry” with his older brother featured heavily in his 416-page memoir, with the younger Prince recounting several private moments between him and William.

In one instance, the Duke of Sussex described a heated altercation which allegedly climaxed when the then-Duke of Cambridge pushed him to the ground.

Prince Harry's book

Harry’s book was published in early January (Image: PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE/RAMONA ROSALES)

Spare in numbers infographic

Spare quickly became the bestselling non-fiction book in history (Image:

The feud between the brothers has long been the subject of speculation, with Harry and his wife Meghan Markle’s exit in 2020 fuelling discourse surrounding Harry and William’s deteriorating relationship. However, Harry has claimed the tension between the Princes had been brewing since childhood and was largely a result of the “doomed” heir and spare dynamic.

Harry frequently touched on the disparities in how he and his brother were treated from a young age, even indicating that the decoration of their childhood bedroom at Balmoral Castle pointed at their places in the royal pecking order.

The Duke wrote that the Scottish residence had 50 bedrooms, one of which had been divided for him and William. He recalled: “Willy had the larger half, with a double bed, a good-sized basin, a cupboard with mirrored doors, a beautiful window looking down on the courtyard, the fountain, the bronze statue of a roe deer buck.

“My half of the room was far smaller, less luxurious. I never asked why. I didn’t care. But I also didn’t need to ask. Two years older than me, Willy was the Heir, whereas I was the Spare.”

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Harry went into great detail about his relationship with his older brother (Image: Getty)

Elsewhere in the book, he recounted his brother ignoring him at school having instructed him to pretend they didn’t know each other. He also claimed William was “quietly frustrated” by Harry’s military career prospects, with the younger Prince permitted to get to the front line.

Margaret was a spare in Harry’s mould, as she was the younger — and only — sibling of the Queen. By some accounts, the Princess struggled with her position within the Firm once her sister was set to be monarch. In 1936, when she learned that her parents were to become King and Queen, she said: “I used to be Margaret of York and now I am nothing.”

Later, she said: “I have never suffered from ‘second daughter-itis’. But I did mind forever being cast as the ‘younger sister’.”

Similar to Harry, whose popularity was at one point unrivalled, Margaret was the “Diana of her day” in the late Forties, according to historian Anna Pasternak.

However, following the dissolution of her marriage to Anthony Armstrong Jones and her duties within the monarchy decreased, the Princess’ “solitude was tangible”.

Portrait of Princess Margaret

Margaret was the ‘Diana of her day’ in the early Forties (Image: Getty)

Prince Harry And Meghan Markle Visit Cardiff Castle

Harry was once one of the most popular royals (Image: Getty)

Writing for The Telegraph last month, Ms Pasternak said: “She became seen as the black sheep of the family; a spoilt, unfulfilled woman who drank too much and partied too hard to drown out her furious despair that her marriage to Captain Peter Townsend was forbidden.

“Like Harry, outraged that his wife wasn’t more warmly welcomed into the regal fold, it’s easy for the disgruntled spare to retaliate and tarnish the wholesomeness of the monarchic ideal.”

However, in contrast, Mr Russell claimed the Princess was “strongly against self-pity,” citing the recollections of those who knew her. He said: “I think Margaret was strongly against self-pity. In fact, that’s one of the things that people I interviewed, who had known her, that was one of the recurring things that [was said].

“Margaret did not feel sorry for herself or hard done by or heartbroken by life. She felt as though there were difficulties in her life, as there are difficulties in everyone’s. But I don’t think I would necessarily buy into the idea that there was an antagonistic relationship between Margaret and Elizabeth. I don’t think that is how either sister characterised it, from the records that we have.”

Do Let’s Have Another Drink: The Singular Wit and Double Measures of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was written by Gareth Russell and published by HarperCollins Publishers in October 2022. It is available here.

*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.