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Most parents avoid showing favoritism toward one child, even if it exists, but then again most parents aren’t raising the future King of the United Kingdom. Prince Charles and Princess Diana were faced with a unique set of challenges parenting Prince William and Prince Harry. Especially considering how the royals conspired against their intentions to give their sons equal treatment.

Senior royal family members could not fathom why Diana especially showered Harry with the same attention paid to William. After all, he was only the “spare heir.” Reports claim these senior royals provided William with preferential treatment that turned disastrous for young Harry.

Diana, William, and Harry
Princess Diana, Prince William, and Prince Harry | Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Prince Charles wanted Prince Harry to be a girl

The trouble began when Prince Harry was born. Because he already had a son, Prince Charles reacted to the birth of a second male heir by saying, “Oh God, it’s a boy.” Later he apparently told Princess Diana’s mother “We were so disappointed — we thought it would be a girl.”

Charles also expressed dismay that his new son carried on a Spencer family trait. The Prince of Wales said, “And he’s even got red hair!” Later, Diana pointed to the birth of Harry as a major turning point in the downfall of her marriage to Charles.

Princess Diana wanted her sons treated equally, but the family didn’t agree

Diana, William, and Harry
Diana Princess of Wales, Prince William & Prince Harry | Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images

The Princess of Wales clashed with the royal family on a variety of topics. The way she chose to raise her boys, including showing them life beyond the Palace walls and treating them to McDonald’s, was just another source of conflict.

Diana tried to give William and Harry equal treatment. However, the documentary Prince Harry: The Troubled Prince explains how her attempts were met with opposition from senior royals, The Sun reported.

“Prince Charles shared Diana’s concerns about making sure the boys shared things in their early years,” journalist Richard Kay said in the documentary.

“But certainly more senior members of the royal family in private were saying: ‘This is nonsense. William is the future. All our efforts must go into educating William.’ It was William the Queen would invite for lessons in kingship when he was at Eton and she was at Windsor Castle.”

The Queen Mother especially showed favoritism toward William

The Queen Mother and Prince William
The Queen Mother and Prince William | Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth’s mother, whose name was also Elizabeth, is well-known for offering Prince Charles affection and love during boyhood when his own mother neglected him. But allegedly the Queen Mother didn’t extend the same sentiments to Prince Harry.

“He was always less than his brother,” royal biographer Angela Lewin explained. “The late Queen Mother would always invite Prince William over for tea and talk to him about his future and not invite Prince Harry.”

Journalist Richard Kay supported the claim, saying: “The Queen Mother always made sure Prince William was seated in a prominent seat next to her and Harry never was.”

Prince Harry had to forge his own path

Prince Harry
Prince Harry | Joe Giddins – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Even before marrying Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry was making headlines as he tried to figure out his life. He went through a rebellious stage in youth that culminated in scandalous photos circulating of the prince partying naked in Las Vegas. Now the Duke of Sussex is engaged in a whole different sort of rebellion after all but quitting the royal family and moving to the United States with his wife and son.

Unlike his older brother, Harry never had his destiny laid out for him. “I think being the spare to the heir is a role that inherently has problems attached with it,” royal expert Katie Nicholl said.

“Prince William’s role has always been defined. What he’s going to do has always been clearly outlined. Harry, like spares historically in the royal family, has had to find a role for himself.”

It appears that he’s doing just that.

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