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Spare to the Throne

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"My parents were... rather traditional. They wanted the heir and the spare, and I was left in the cold."
Sebastian, Dragon Age II

Only one person can inherit a throne, that's obvious enough, but history books will occasionally reference kings and queens' desire to have at least two male heirs, an "heir and spare."

The reasoning for this is simple. Back before modern medicine, child mortality was through the roof even for the ruling elite. Assuming a prince survived past the age of five, they could still catch a nasty illness, fall victim to a Hunting "Accident", or be slain in an overt coup. On top of this, medieval monarchs were often expected to be warriors, so the heir might be slain in battle, or even while training for battle. Anything could happen to the oldest child, hence the importance of having a figurative spare tire to keep the kingdom and royal line running. In fact, he could even avoid all of this, succeed to the throne, and then fail to produce any surviving heirs of his own, in which case it would be prudent for his parents to provide him with a brother.

The thing is, despite any complexes being explicitly considered not as important as his older brother throughout his life might have given him, the spare isn't really expecting to inherit the throne. He may be brought up as a brave knight, skilled administrator, or member of the clergy, but he's not going to be trained to rule the same way as his older brother. So when the worst happens and the spare becomes heir, cue panicked cries of "I wasn't prepared for this! I didn't ask for the throne!" But everyone expects the rightful heir to suddenly step in and do a bang-up job he hasn't been prepared to do, even while he still grieves for the loss of his older brother. The closest analogy to this would be the Falling into the Cockpit scenario in Humongous Mecha shows, just with less mecha and more monarchy.

Note that it doesn't have to be an explicit "older brother dies, younger brother takes over" situation. Something may happen to the heir, forcing a regency. A bastard who never thought of taking the throne due to his illegitimacy may find himself the only one with the claim and the right to combat the Evil Uncle who assassinated his brother and nephews. It also doesn't count if the spare offed the heir to get to the throne, or even if they are eager to get onto it. They have to show signs of being a Reluctant Ruler who would really rather someone more prepared took over it. If both the heir and the actual throne-holder are lost at the same time, then the Spare ends up finding that he is in the big chair now.

See also Heir Club for Men and Hidden Backup Prince. A form of Unexpected Successor.

Considering how this is frequently also The Reveal, expect unmarked SPOILERS!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Alec from The Bride of Adarshan, as an illegitimate prince born of a mistress, was brought to the palace for this reason when the proper prince (now king) fell extremely ill. He's internalized it so much that he sees himself as nothing but his brother's shadow. That said, he has no desire to be king, as he's not suited for it, despite some people worrying that he's going to usurp the throne. Tragically, his mentor and Parental Substitute falls under that category, and tries to kill him for it.
  • Cesare - Il Creatore che ha distrutto features historical examples Cesare Borgia and Giovanni de'Medici, sons of two of the most powerful families in Italy, though not quite royalty. Both were set on the path that noble second sons were often forced into in real life — the church. The problem? Cesare's older half-brother, Pedro-Luis, was killed (the manga has it that Ferdinand and Isabella saw him as a threat to their power and did away with him). This leaves Cesare's younger brother Juan as heir to the family's secular power. Giovanni is the second son of Lorenzo "The Magnificent" de'Medici, a humble, common banker who is more-or-less dictator of Florence, who made a deal with the pope to have Giovanni made a cardinal as soon as he graduates from school.
  • Chagum in Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is the Emperor's second son, and Spare to the Throne. Unlike most examples he did apparently receive schooling because his older brother suffers from a Soap Opera Disease, and becomes the heir apparent after his brother succumbs to it halfway through the series. In either case, he is remarkably calm (although clearly not-too-pleased) about it.
  • One Piece: As a flashback shows, Sabo's parents adopted Stelly, a noble child of even higher status than him, as Sabo kept running away to see Ace and Luffy, among other "lower-class trash" in their eyes. The parents expected Sabo and Stelly to get along, but since the latter was a dick like the other nobles, and only Sabo was kind, it didn't turn out too well. Sabo was shot by a World Noble and presumed dead, ended up with amnesia and was taken in by Dragon's Revolutionaries... while Stelly grew up to be the king of Goa Kingdom.
  • In Red River (1995), Prince Kail Mursili has a number of older brothers and half-brothers who have claim to the throne before him. Just about everyone, those brothers included, agree that Kail is best-suited to rule, though. Nakia, meanwhile, is desperate for her own son Judah to take the throne. Given that her boy is the youngest of the princes, this means she has a lot of scheming to do to get the others out of the way, even when the poor boy has quite the Big Brother Worship towards Kail and does not want to rule. By the end of the series, all of Kail's older brothers are dead (including the one who succeeded their father, who appointed Kail as his successor since he didn't have kids) and Prince Judah permanently renounces his claim to the throne after also calling out his mother on her evil deeds. By that point, it wasn't a question of whether or not Kail expected to rule so much as when he would actually be taking the throne.
  • The Rose of Versailles:
    • Louis Charles, Louis XVI's second male child, who finds himself the Dauphin of France when his older brother Louis Joseph dies. In a variant, both Joseph and Charles were still children when this happens (they were respectively seven and four), and it was diagnosed a few years early anyway. Louis Charles never gets to reign anyway, as The French Revolution abolishes the monarchy, but Marie Antoinette proclaims him king Louis XVII the moment after his father's execution.
    • The king's brothers, the Counts of Provence and Artois, and the Duke of Normandy also hoped to invoke this trope in their favor. The Count of Provence then returns in the sequel Eikou no Napoleon-Eroica, calling himself King Louis XVIII after his nephew's death during prisony. While he considers himself as king of France since the moment of his nephew's death in 1795, he doesn't get to actually reign until Napoleon's defeat in 1814-and then is back on the run when Napoleon comes back, at least until his final defeat at Waterloo.
    • Also from the sequel we have Alexander I of Russia — who makes sure it doesn't happen: while his grandmother, Catherine the Great, planned to skip his father Paul and have him succeed her directly, she had a stroke and died just as she was about to put it in writing and make it official, and Alexander hid himself until Paul arrived, at which point he was the first to salute him as the new tsar.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: In spite of belonging to the Shinomiya family, Kaguya is not particularly held at high regard by them, as they consider her a mere accessory to the family's wishes. This further implies that Kaguya is not among the siblings that would immediately inherit part of the empire (given that she has three much older brothers, one of whom has a young son), but would have to fulfill the conditions to do so. The truth of the matter is rather different. Kaguya is actually an illegitimate child, and thus isn't allowed to inherit the company (though her father does admit on his deathbed that he was planning on leaving her with full control of a smaller company).
  • Inverted in the anime/manga version of The Heroic Legend of Arslan, where it's strongly implied that Arslan was to be the intended "heir" in this scenario as they were revealed to be a commoner adopted into the royal family and made the public heir so Andragoras could placate the citizens about the royal bloodline and have time to woo Tahamine over the years and father a real heir with them. However, Arslan started proving themselves to be a competent ruler and recruiting several powerful and talented allies and Tahamine never opened their heart to Andragoras. It wasn't long before Andragoras became antagonistic towards Arslan because they never intended this commoner to be anything more than a public distraction until they could replace Arslan with their true heir.
  • In Black Butler, the protagonist Ciel Phantomhive is revealed to be this to his older twin brother, the real Ciel Phantomhive.

    Comic Books 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2020): The origin of the Prince of Power. His brother was created to be the very epitome of the heroic ideal, actually born gleaming with heroic might. However, in the process the machine also created a spare, which immediately turned out to be astoundingly ordinary (their mother says an evil twin would've been something). So Prince Muscular becomes a great hero, and his brother Otherone becomes an office drone. Until he finds and, er, eats the Power Stone.

    Fan Works 
  • To Die at Dawn by Allronix, written for the King's Quest universe. Considering Alexander-Gwydion was a slave less than a fortnight earlier, while his sister was the one prepped for the duty, it's pretty justified.
  • Shadow and Rose, being a retelling of Dragon Age: Origins, has this going on with its narrator.
  • A Man of Iron:
    • Antony Stark is very much low in the line of succession to Winterfell, being Ned's cousin and as such behind Ned's three sons, but Tywin still daydreams about having the more friendly - to him - Stark as Warden of the North.
    • After being legitimized, Jon Snow becomes this since he's even more closely related to Ned and Tywin thinks he would be even more biddable.
  • White Knights and Dark Lords duology: Discussed in the second story, where Draco and Spike have a conversation about Draco's family situation and what options he has now; Draco expects he'll have to explain this trope, only for Spike (who reveals afterward that he grew up in an era when this trope was the norm in the non-magical world) to surprise him by summing the whole thing up as "And you're taking umbrage at going from heir of one Family to... not even being considered as a 'spare heir' for another."

    Films — Animation 
  • Frozen:
    • This comes into play in Frozen:
      • Hans mentions wistfully that he has twelve older brothers, and seems to have a bit of a complex about it. Since he'll never inherit his homeland, he wants to take over Arendelle instead.
      • There were plans to explore this in-depth with Anna, with her introductory song in an earlier draft being one called "More Than Just the Spare", but most of it was cut. The song had Anna lament feeling ignored and useless, hoping one day to find her own place in the community and be helpful. In the movie proper, she still makes comments suggesting she sees Elsa as superior, such as when she earnestly reassures Hans not to worry too much about accidentally hitting her, the Princess of Arendelle, with his horse, because she's "not that princess" and it's not as big a deal to hit her as it would have been to hit her sister, "It's just me." This is exploited by Hans, who takes advantage of her low self-esteem to manipulate her into trusting him. When Elsa became queen, she gets bumped up to heir apparent, and soon finds herself needing to deal with the chaos that ensues when Elsa flees Arendelle, while retaining the inferiority complex associated with this trope. Rather than try to keep the power for herself, she promptly sets off in a blizzard to find Elsa and offer her help.
    • This is explored more in the sequel, Frozen II. Like in the first movie, Anna spends most of the movie assuming the role of supporting her older sister, but when Elsa suffers a Disney Death, Anna finds herself in charge in the middle of an international crisis while grieving for the loss of the last of her family. She has to talk herself into finding her own direction independent of her sister during "The Next Right Thing," musing on how she'd always lived for her sister and asking "How to rise from the floor when it's not you I'm rising for?" Elsa comes back to life, but steps down as Queen of Arendelle and moves away, and Anna is crowned as her successor.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Reluctant Illegitimate Heir variation occurs in King Ralph, twice. First, when all known members of the royal family are electrocuted in a photography accident, Ralph is discovered to be the son of an illegitimate child of a royal uncle. He's lived his whole life in the US, so he's hesitant to leave that behind. At the end Ralph realizes that the man who had been prepping him to rule was also an heir to the throne who didn't feel worthy to take the position, and who also at one point specifically referred to how much trouble being king was.
  • One of the central conflicts in The King's Speech is King George VI's ascension to the throne when his older brother abdicates. He felt totally unprepared, largely due to a pretty serious stammer. Of course, this is Based on a True Story (see the real life section below).
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: More precisely Spare to the Stewardship of Gondor; Ruling Stewards are de facto Kings after the royal line of Anárion had died out. Being the second son of Denethor, Faramir did not expect to inherit his father's title, but that's exactly what happened because his older brother Boromir had died, and Denethor committed suicide.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Thor: Because Thor, the Allfather's eldest son, has been exiled to Midgard, Loki, as the second son, becomes the regent of Asgard after Odin becomes indisposed due to the Odinsleep. In the past, it's implied that Frigga once held the office of regent (Sif and the Warriors Three initially believe that they need to speak to the Queen about undoing Thor's banishment), but now that Loki has come of age, he inherits the position. This deleted scene makes it clearer:
      Frigga: Thor is banished. The line of succession falls to you. Until Odin awakens, Asgard is yours.
    • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: Shuri is King T'Challa's much younger sister and never expected to rule, turning her attention to science and technology instead. However, when her brother dies of a sudden illness, and her regent mother follows barely a year later, she is unexpectedly thrust into the position of Queen.

  • Alexis Carew: Queen Annalise of New London inherited the throne unexpectedly at fifteen after her parents and older brother were killed in an avalanche (she survived due to being cooped up in their skiing cabin with a bad head cold).
  • In The Belgariad, this is a part of Silk's backstory. Silk is the nephew of King Rhodar of Drasnia, and became promoted to heir after a disease, implied to be smallpox, took most of the rest of the family. Silk, having spent most of his life in the Intelligence Service (and most of that in deep cover as a traveling merchant), was horrified at the prospect, and was (along with the rest of Drasnia, one would assume) immensely relieved at the birth of his cousin, Crown Prince Kheva.
  • In the Belisarius Series, Eon of Axum was the younger son of Negasa Negast Kaleb... then the royal palace was blown up by Malwa agents with his father and brother (along with his child and two concubines) inside.
  • The royal family in A Brother's Price all sort of rules as a unit (especially after the last time they tried to "split" the royal family as some large families do, two generations back, led to civil war). Nevertheless, the Eldest of their family, like any other family in this setting, holds particular authority. When nine of her older sisters are killed in a theater explosion, Princess Rennsellaer is thrust into the role of Eldest without having been raised to prepare for it. Some drama stems from the fact that some people — including Ren herself, for a while — thought her younger sister Halley might have been a better fit.
  • In Chalice, the younger brother of the Master is sent off to the priests of Fire, and has advanced in his studies to the point that when his older brother dies without producing an heir, he's no longer exactly human.
  • Shows up several times in the Chalion series.
    • In The Curse of Chalion, the much younger half-brother of the infertile and secretly ill king is brought to court by the king's Evil Chancellor to insure the succession. When the prince dies shortly after the king's condition takes a massive turn for the worse, the entire court instantly redirects its attention to the prince's marginally older sister.
      • Later in the same novel, the death of the rebellious elder son of the Fox promotes Bergon from spare to the Heir of Ibra — and to the top of Iselle's short list of potential spouses.
    • In The Hallowed Hunt, the eldest son of the hallowed King has recently died. Succession politics aren't central to the plot, but they are a crucial detail.
  • In Chronicles of a Strange Kingdom this happens three times, including the backstory, thanks to Church Militant massacring royal families to try and fail to seize power. The monarchs of Earth-Delta usually have inheritance lists, making sure the potential successors are more or less fit to rule and favouring competent relatives to immediate children.
    • 15 years before the series start the Cult killed the rulers of Mistralia (Spain equivalent), but spared the airhead 3rd heir Orlando, king's sister's bastard, hoping to brainwash him and use his magical talent. The theocracy wrecked the economy and was quickly overthrown, then more coups followed. The series starts with partisans preparing yet another revolution — to restore monarchy. The prince is a nice guy and half-competent leader — when he isn't weeping, smoking pot or practicing magic without a teacher.
    • 10 years later they blew up the royal family of Ortan (sort of absolutist Germany), but the workaholic 6th heir Shellar was busy at work. Since he was the chief of criminal police and State Security, he suppressed the coup in a day. He is a very smart man, but suffers from lack of emotions. Often called a Tin Man, but more of The Spock with Frozen Face and good theoretical understanding of psychology.
    • 6 years later the cult tried again in Hina (China, for all intents and purposes), but the numerous royal family held out until Shellar teleported a relief army, and the 4th heir Lao lived. This one does not get much screen time. Too young, too hot-blooded, somewhat inferior to his older brothers in every respect, but ultimately doesn't make serious mistakes over the series course.
  • The Horse and His Boy:
    • Inverted: it turns out Shasta is actually one of twin princes of Archenland, kidnapped as a babe. It turns out he's older than Corin, who is delighted that he won't ever be stuck with boring royal duties now (and threatens to punch Shasta if he tries to renege on his duties).
    • In the same book, hot-headed Prince Rabadash, the heir to the throne of Calormen, is given permission to raid nearby Archenland in pursuit of Queen Susan. His father the Tisroc discusses this trope with his advisor, commenting that he can afford to lose Rabadash and promote a more biddable "spare" in his place. Rabadash is captured, humiliated with a Forced Transformation by Aslan, and sent back to Calormen, where he inherits the throne and presides over a period of peace between Calormen and the northerly kingdoms.
  • The second Deathstalker series begins when the highly popular and well-prepared heir to the throne is killed by a drunk driver. His younger brother, who had expected to live a relatively simple life as a Paragon, finds himself thrust onto the throne.
  • Pops up in the first Deltora Quest Sequel Series. The king has a beautiful, well-educated Toran woman brought to the capital, and court gossip claims that he plans to marry her. In reality, he has realized that the royal family's Single Line of Descent (which was, in fact, engineered by the Shadow Lord's servants to make them easier to kill off) could easily result in disaster for the kingdom if he were to be killed before having a child, leaving nobody capable of using the magical Belt of Deltora to keep the Shadow Lord from invading, and has tracked down a distant cousin to be his heir.
  • A partial list from the Deryni works:
    • Sickly King Alroy Haldane is succeeded by his younger twin Javan, who is turn succeeded by the still younger Rhys Michael.
    • King Donal Haldane has four sons (Brion, Blaine, Nigel and Jatham), but only two (Brion and Nigel) outlive him. Nigel is Heir Presumptive to the throne for nearly half his life, and while he'll do his duty and rule if it comes to that, he doesn't want the job.
    • In Torenth, Liam succeeds his elder brother Alroy after his riding accident, though he accepts out of duty rather than desire. Liam has a younger brother named Ronal-Rurik.
  • Deverry:
    • Prince Galrion was the third of four princes. It's lampshaded that being the third of four sons is the most useless position to be in: the eldest is the heir; the second, the spare; the fourth, an extremely powerful Arranged Marriage tool. The third has no purpose, and is regarded as nothing by his father. As a result, Prince Galrion focused on magical study, something that incensed his father. The situation escalated into catastrophe, concluding with the King stripping his unfavourite son of all title, wealth and even his identity to rename him the "no-one" his father had always believed him to be. Thus was Prince Galrion destroyed and Nevyn born.
    • Rhodry was spare to the Gwerbrethryn (essentially a duchy) of Aberwyn until his half-brother rose to the seat and failed to produce an heir.
    • Yraen, who as the younger son of a younger son of a king, was even further down the line of succession, and became a mercenary.
  • In Discworld, King Verence of Lancre was raised as a clown (part of the Fools' Guild) and didn't even realize he was an heirnote . At first, he exhibited signs of this trope, but later decides it's definitely better than being a Fool and turns out to be quite a good king:
    But Verence had kingship thrust upon him. He hadn't been raised to it ... In the role of ruler, then, he had started with the advantage of ignorance. No one had ever told him how to be a king, so he had to find out for himself. He had formed the unusual opinion that the job of a king is to make the kingdom a better place for everyone to live in.
  • The Dresden Files: In Cold Days, it is revealed the Mantles of the Queens of Fae have a survival instinct. If their current host ends up permanently dead, which is hard considering they are immortal except under certain circumstances, the mantle will search out the next best candidate or return to the next closest Queen of that court assuming that Queen can hold both Mantles at the same moment. Queen Mab, always one to plan a contingency or three, ensures she has multiple spares for her daughter Lady Maeve. The nice thing, for Mab's sake, is the next person need not be related to Maeve by blood, just a person who has long contact with a fae, usually under some harsh training.
    • The first spare is Maeve's twin sister Sarissa, who is still a changeling after 500 years, and more recently helped hero Harry Dresden survive Mab's physical therapy, which included at least one assassination attempt a day, but Maeve ends up ending this spare by killing the Summer Lady Lily, forcing the Summer Lady mantle to enter into Sarissa and bind her to the enemy court.
    • Maeve doesn't recognize the second spare Mab set up, Molly Carpenter, apprentice to hero Harry Dresden, and for the past two years or so, had been trained by Harry's fairy godmother, who can be described as, "spooky, crazy death Sidhe lady". When Maeve tries to kill Harry and an ally of Harry's instinctively shoots Maeve, killing her, the mantle ends up in Molly.
  • The Eyes of The Dragon uses this trope to drive the entire plot. The Evil Chancellor Flagg has the capable heir framed and imprisoned for regicide, so that he can use the unsteady spare as a puppet and effectively rule the kingdom himself.
  • Fire & Blood:
    • King Jaehaerys and Queen Alysanne had nine kids. Everyone figured things were safe so long as their oldest son Aemon and his brother Baelon were around. Then Aemon caught a sudden, fatal case of accidental arrow to the neck, and Baelon died of a burst stomach, throwing the whole question of succession into chaos. (The next oldest son was seen by all as a total no-hoper.)
    • Speculated as being the reason Princess Saera turned out the way she did, since she was the ninth-born child and a girl, and therefore had no hope of ever getting to the throne.
  • Torovico in the Firekeeper novels was the second son of the Healed One. He was training to be a dancer. When his elder brother died in a hunting accident, he ended up the next ruler of New Kelvin. He tries to do a good job, but he didn't take learning a few of the secrets reserved only for the Healed One and the primary heir well.
  • Forest Kingdom: Book 1 (Blue Moon Rising) has Prince Rupert, the second-born. His father eventually sends him on a quest for the express purpose of having him get killed off so he won't cause a Succession Crisis (since it doesn't look like Prince Harald, whom their father sees as a worthier heir, is going anywhere anytime soon).
  • The Goblin Emperor: Maia is the fourth in line, born to the king's goblin wife and exiled from the court since he was a newborn due to his father's hatred of his mother, with the political circumstances being the only reason he wasn't disinherited outright. Then his father and his three older half-brothers die in an airship accident, and Maia is forced to take up the throne despite having no experience with the court or ruling.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: The reasons and political maneuvering behind the various forms of Arranged Marriage among the nobility are a theme of Closer to Home. Male spares are given far more leeway in that matters of drinking, carousing, and whoring than firstborn sons, since the best they can typically hope for is to marry into a family with only daughters and become heir of someone else's estate, and there aren't many noble families without male heirs of their own. They also have to compete with older nobles looking for young wives to produce their own heirs, and wealthy merchants looking to marry up, so many young spares don't put much effort into the game.
  • Immortals After Dark: This is part of Rydstrom's backstory. He had quite a wild youth because, as his father and older brother were immortal, he never expected to be king of the rage demons. Then they ignored the practice of keeping the king and heir separate in times of war and died in the same battle, putting Rydstrom on the throne. This led to him doing a 180 and becoming as grounded and steady as he knew how in order to be the best king he could be for his people.
    • Garreth's backstory is similar, with him playing the wild child to his older brother, Lachlain. Lachlain doesn't die, but he does become a prisoner for a century and a half, leaving Garreth in charge of the Lykae.
  • In The Interdependency, anyone of the current Emperox's cousins or nephews/nieces can become the next Emperox. Until shortly before the start of the first novel, the Emperox's son was to be his successor. Then the guy had to die in a race. Instead of those same cousins/nephews/nieces, the Emperox, instead, chose his illegitimate daughter Cardenia as his successor, who wasn't even raised at the palace, much less groomed to be Emperox.
  • The Jessica Keller Chronicles: In Flight of the Blackbird, a Military Coup attempt against Emperor Karl VII of Fribourg forces his youngest daughter Kasimira "Casey" to temporarily claim the throne as Emperor Karl VIII. In St. Legier she becomes the emperor permanently after Buran nukes Fribourg's capital city, killing her parents and older brother.
  • Journey to Chaos: Queen Kasile has a number of blood relatives living incognito within Ataidar in case she dies. They're so secret that not even she knows who or where they are. Fiol, Kasile's ancestor, offhandedly mentions "Laura the Hermit" and Sister Cremia is heavily implied to be one as well. The latter of these much prefers her current job to ruling.
  • Lammas Night: William commonly refers to himself as a "fifth wheel", with no chance of reaching the throne but nothing else he can do thanks to a pre-novel breakdown that got his security clearance yanked. This becomes part of his reason for volunteering for the Human Sacrifice needed to stop Operation Sealion.To be fair, the book was written before it was widely known that the margins for Britain winning the air war were a lot wider than mythology had it, and the German General staff never seriously planned it because they knew it would be suicidal.
  • Props up a lot in the Mahabharata
    • First, Dashraj the fisherman refuses to allow King Shantanu to marry his daughter Satyavati because he doesn’t want his grandchildren to become the spares to Crown Prince Devavrat. Devavrat abdicates his position as Crown Prince and even takes a vow of celibacy to ensure that neither he nor his descendants can even make a claim for the throne.
    • This decision bites the kingdom in the ass hard, when both of Satyavati’s sons with Shantanu are unceremoniously killed off before they can even sire heirs, leaving the kingdom bereft of both a ruler and an heir. Devavrat, who is still alive refuses to take the throne because he took an oath. This forces Satyavati to call on Vyasa, her illegitimate son to stop his meditation and sire children with the young princesses.
    • Vyasa’s eldest son Dhritharashtra is born blind and is therefore judged unfit to rule. The kingdom passes to Pandu, but Dhritharashtra seethes in resentment at having “what is his” taken away. However, Pandu is banished to the forest as punishment for manslaughter and the crown reverts to Dhritharashtra.
    • Finally, an Epic Battle ensues between Dhritharashtra’s eldest son Duryodhan and Pandu’s eldest son Yudhistir for the kingdom. Yudhistir is declared presumptive Crown Prince, but Duryodhan hatches a plot to murder him. This causes Yudhistir to go into hiding, but allowing Duryodhan to become Crown Prince. When the plot is exposed, the kingdom is split up between them, then Yudhistir gambles his entire kingdom away in a dice game. This eventually forces both sides into open warfare.
  • Chell in Masks of Aygrima is the ninth and youngest child of the king of Korellia, meaning he's last in line and is the least important.
  • The Mote in God's Eye. Commander Roderick Blaine was the second oldest son in a noble family, who wanted nothing more than a Navy career and the chance to become Grand Admiral someday. His older brother George was in line to inherit the estates and title when their father retired but was killed in battle, leaving Rod as the heir.
  • Ozorne in The Numair Chronicles was born last in line with six heirs ahead of him, and his own father declares him as just a "leftover". He doesn't mind it too much since it leaves him free to become a mage, but heirs to the crown keep ending up dead until he winds up second in line. Of course the whole thing is a prequel series to The Immortals where Emperor Ozorne is a major character, so it's a Foregone Conclusion that he's going to end up on the throne one way or another.
  • The main character of Andre Norton's first published novel, The Prince Commands, didn't have a clue he was of the Morvanian royal family until he was eighteen, when his guardian introduced him to some visiting nobles with the words, "This is His Royal Highness." And then they told him that his grandfather the King had been assassinated, and the Crown Prince died in an ... accident ... before he could be crowned, and guess who's next up for the throne?
  • In the Prince Roger series by David Weber and John Ringo, Prince Roger is the Heir Tertiary to the throne of the Empire of Man (third in line, after his older brother and sister); nobody, including his own family, can decide whether he's an Upper-Class Twit or a potential traitorous usurper, so he is specifically not given any guidance in how to exercise power. Then he gets marooned on a Death World, and then he finds out he was actually safer on that Death World than his brother and sister...
  • The Princess Diaries plays this without actually having a death. Or an original "heir" in the first place. Mia is the illegitimate daughter of the ruler of Genovia. Due to politics and her mother's wishes, there's no intention of ever putting Mia on the line of succession, with the assumption that her father will go on to get married and produce a proper heir. Then disease renders him sterile, meaning Mia (who only knows her father has some sort of government position, not even realizing he's royalty) is his only possible heir. She also isn't put right onto the throne, since her father's still alive, but she does meet the trope description of being utterly unprepared for her new role, based upon the sudden lack of other inheritors.
    • The post-timeskip sequel Royal Wedding reveals that there's a spare too - Mia's half-sister Olivia, who was just two years old when Mia found out she was a princess, and whose existence was kept secret from everyone in the family until Mia's grandmother discovers the truth via activity from her son's bank account. Olivia later becomes third in line to the throne after Mia gives birth to twins (having only recently become pregnant when Olivia was discovered and not finding out until after the sisters met for the first time).
  • The Queen's Thief: In The Queen of Attolia, the queens of both Attolia and Eddis are this; Attolia's brother died in a "riding accident", though it was suspected to be an assassination. Eddis' brothers died of illnesses, possibly the same one that killed her father.
  • Crown Prince Alaric in The Quest of the Unaligned has this reaction when he first discovers his true heritage, but regains his balance and learns to be a prince fairly quickly.
  • In Ranger's Apprentice, it turns out Halt is a prince and the older of a pair of twins, making his brother an unintentional spare to the throne. The brother got jealous and tried to kill him, leading to him leaving his native kingdom for Araluen.
  • The Riftwar Cycle:
    • Mara of the Acoma was mere moments from taking orders as a nun when her family retainers interrupted to let her know of the death of her father and brother, making her the new Lady and Master of the Acoma. Despite her fragile position and lack of ruling experience, she managed to end up the mother of the Emperor and most powerful person in Kelewan.
    • Prince Borric was originally a spare to the throne, but his cousin drowned, his aunt passed childbearing age without producing another son, and his father renounced his claim to his brother's throne in favor of his children (believing that the kingdom would be ill served by a king only a few years younger than the one who just died of old age). Though it should be noted that he was promoted from spare to heir sooner or later a decade or more before actually taking the throne (his uncle didn't die until years after it was announced that the queen would not be producing more heirs), so he was ready for the job by the time the crown came to him.
  • Shannara: From The Elfstones of Shannara, we get the elven prince Ander Elessedil, who's not in favor with his father and doesn't see any reason why he'd ever be king, never even considered the possibility. And then SURPRISE, his older brother is dead and father incapacitated. The writing made it fairly clear this was the direction things would go from fairly early in the story.
  • Pops up all over the place in A Song of Ice and Fire due to a messy and protracted multiway civil war with a high casualty rate. Before the main story begins, Ned Stark was this to his brother Brandon, and Maester Aemon was offered this but abdicated in favor of his younger brother (who was called "Aegon the Unlikely" for how far down the line of succession they had to go to finally find someone to take the jobnote ). Renly and Stannis vie for this after the death of older brother Robert, Stannis playing it slightly more straight (reluctant but insistent) while Renly leaps at the chance. Tommen is this to older brother Joffrey. Daenerys is this to her brother Viserys, and in A Dance With Dragons it is revealed that Rhaegar Targaryen's son Aegon is alive after all (if he's genuine), making Daenerys this to him as well. Depending on how things go, either Bran, Rickon, or Jon is likely to become this to Robb. There are probably dozens of other minor examples in the background.
    • Dany would also be a spare if it is revealed that Aegon is fake but Jon was in fact a legitimate son of Rhaegar (with Lyanna Stark). If Aegon is real or is never proved he's fake, Jon would be the spare and Dany would go further down the line
    • In the Dunk and Egg novellas, Egg is Prince Aegon Targaryen, fourth son of Prince Maekar Targaryen, who is in turn the fourth son of King Daeron II Targaryen. He was so far down the line, no one expected him to be king, and so he was allowed to wander Westeros as the squire of a hedge knight. However, almost everyone ahead of him in line ended up dying of illnesses, wars, and unfortunate incidents. He ended up being elected by a council of lords and became King Aegon V, better known as Aegon the Unlikely.
  • The Sunne in Splendour:
    • Edward IV initially has only daughters with his queen Elizabeth Woodville, making his younger brother George, the spare and heir for a time. George becomes gripped with jealously, betraying Edward often enough to have him executed, though the book presents Edward's real motive for the execution as George's knowledge that Edward IV's marriage is invalid and his children are illegitimate.Younger brother Richard is more loyal, content to be The Lancer during his brother's life and even initially pledges loyalty to Edward's son and heir.
    • Edward IV eventually has two sons. His oldest, briefly becomes Edward V and his younger brother is Richard. The two boys disappear, going down in history as the Princes in the Tower. In the novel, rather than having them murdered, Richard III is content to declare them bastards, which he sincerely believes they are, and spirit them away for their own safety.
  • In Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms - The Fairy Godmother, the heroine's eventual love interest is the second son of a king. His older and younger brothers both become kings, leaving him to decide what he's going to do with his life if he doesn't want to hang around and be decorative. He even calls himself "the spare" at one point.
  • Vorkosigan Saga:
    • At the age of eleven, Aral Vorkosigan watched as his mother and older brother were slain by a death squad sent by the mad emperor Yuri. While these events happened before the time of the books, they are of critical importance in the relationship between his father, Count Piotr Vorkosigan, and his son, Miles. His mother, Cordelia, was poisoned while pregnant, and the boy was considered lost by both Count Piotr and their doctors, who called for an abortion, with the intent of trying again for a healthy heir.
    • Years later, while Miles was missing and action and presumed dead (which he technically was at one point, but not so dead as to be beyond the reach of modern medicine), his clone-brother Mark, who had been created in a plot to replace him and destroy the Imperium, had to face the concept that if Miles was truly lost ("dead and rotted", as Cordelia grimly puts it), he might have to take up his progenitor's place as heir to the Countship of the Vorkosigan District in the Council of Counts. At one point, Aral himself calls himself the "spare". Despite their rather extreme case of Sibling Rivalry, Mark wasn't all that disappointed when Miles extricated himself from the mess he found himself in after being patched up and made his way home.
    • Barrayar has a really complicated political situation in regards to the throne. Aral's mother was a Princess of the royal family, giving him a claim to the throne of Barrayar if Salic law is ignored. Aral's own political capabilities and support among the military means he's first in line of around half a dozen claimants if something should happen to Gregor, and many readings of the family tree indicates he as a better right to the throne than Gregor. However, since Aral's son Miles is deformed and a mutant by Barrayaran standards, it would be unlikely for the Vorkosigans to take the throne even if Aral wanted the job. Another princess married into the Vorpatril family, who gave birth to Aral's cousin Padma. Padma had a son, Ivan, with Alys, a lady of the Vor. Ivan's high birth makes him another contender for the throne, and one character in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance states that if Gregor had died, the Vorkosigans would have supported Ivan for the throne.
  • In Warbreaker, the oldest princess was groomed from birth to become the God-Emperor's wife. The second oldest princess was the "spare", trained in case something happened to her sister. Their father sent the youngest princess instead.
  • In Wolf Hall, Henry VIII has been reigning for over twenty years but still has some issues with this. When he has a nightmare about his brother Arthur, he feels as though his brother is rebuking him for taking his wife and unbalancing the kingdom through their failure to produce a male heir, and drags Thomas Cromwell across town in the middle of the night to ask his opinion. Cromwell's interpretation is rather that Arthur is encouraging Henry to be the best king he can, especially by throwing off the Catholic Church.
  • In the Xanth series, the Fourteenth Wave, or Nextwave Invasion, of 1061 results in EIGHT spares: King Trent's mind is trapped in the Gourd, where dreams are crafted. His chosen heir, Dor, succeeds him, but suffers the same fate. Eight additional kings take the throne in turn, all but one of whom are older than Dor (in fact, two are his parents, and one is his mother-in-law), before the one responsible for their conditions is killed and the last heir frees all of her predecessors.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Andromeda: In "The Prince", Dylan and Tyr find themselves co-regents to Prince Erik of Ne'Holland, the only survivor of a Ruling Family Massacre. Notably, Erik is doubly the spare in that he was his father's third son, who was never expected to be king, and had never trained for it as his older brothers had. As a result, in addition to helping Erik reclaim his throne from the ruthless group of barons who had killed his family and put an end to the civil war on his planet, Dylan and Tyr must provide the young heir with a crash course in politics, Tyr's Nietzschean cynicism contrasting against Dylan's more idealistic approach. After Erik is crowned, he decides to make Ne'Holland a democracy.
  • Bridgerton has a peerage version. As Anthony points out, he can afford to slack on wife-choosing and heir-siring because he has three brothers who can inherit the title of Viscount Bridgerton. Second son Benedict is feeling a little lost and turns to art, so he's a little taken aback when Anthony challenges Simon to a duel, because Anthony will either die or be forced to flee the country, meaning Benedict will have to step up to the plate.
  • The Crown (2016): The historical example of George VI is very important to Season 1. George VI was George V's second son, and he had not expected to inherit the throne. The series does a good job of showing George VI's perspective on events: he had set himself up as an ordinary-if-unusually-comfortable naval officer with a happy marriage and two daughters living in an ordinary (for the neighbourhood)-if-unusually-comfortable townhome in Piccadilly. Then his brother decided marrying an American divorcée was more important than his duties and abdicated, leaving the newly-minted George VI with a crown he never wanted and wasn't entirely sure he could handle. Then he not only has to be King, he has to be King during World War II. No wonder the man smoked so much that he died of lung cancer at 56. His daughter, the newly-minted Elizabeth II, shares George's opinion, never really wanting to be Queen (or at least, wishing she could have raised her children before becoming Queen) and forces her uncle to realise that his abdication had hurt her, as well.
  • Deus Salve O Rei: When Prince Afonso of Montemor goes missing after being attacked by bandits, his younger brother Rodolfo becomes the unexpected heir, a job that he really doesn't want because he prefers the life of a rich knob enjoying all privileges without any responsibilities of a king.
  • Late in the first season of Galavant, it turns out that Richard was the geeky second son and that his parents wanted his older brother Kingsley to inherit the throne. But Kingsley didn't want to be "given" anything, or so he said, and left to terrorize the countryside for thirty years before coming back to take Richard's kingdoms from him.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • After his brother's death at his own wedding reception, Tommen is next in the line of succession. His grandfather Tywin wastes no time in beginning his training. He's even betrothed to Joffrey's widow afterwards.
    • Viserys Targaryen was this in his childhood since Rhaegar was supposed to become king. Then came the Rebellion, Rhaegar and his son died, and Viserys thought to be the legitimate king. But as Rhaegar had the time to marry Lyanna Stark, that means Jon Snow is actually born legitimate and the ultimate irony of Viserys's life is that he has never been the true rightful king to begin with.
    • Another version of this happens when Heroic Bastard Jon Snow takes Winterfell back from the Boltons. Since as far as anyone knows, he is the last living son of Ned Stark, he is crowned King in the North. In actuality, Bran is still alive and Jon is actually Ned's nephew from his sister Lyanna Stark.
  • House of the Dragon:
    • King Viserys Targaryen tells his daughter Rhaenyra he needs to have more kids. He reassures her that she is the heir, not to be replaced; he merely wants another kid as backup, because having only one heir is precarious — especially when his current backup heir is Daemon. Given that Rhaenyra actually dared Daemon to kill her in this very episode (even if she was confident he wouldn't), he arguably has an unassailable point. Though that decision to make more children ends up causing a Succession Crisis and Civil War in the end.
      Viserys: I could never replace your mother, no more than I intend to replace you as heir. But you are my only heir, and our line is vulnerable, too easily ended.
    • One of the aforementioned children, Aemond, resents his older brother Aegon becoming king (though not of Aegon's own volition), for Aegon is ill-suited to be king while Aemond would be a better choice.
  • In the documentary series Harry & Meghan, Harry's early life as spare to the throne is chronicled as is his escalating Sibling Rivalry with older brother William. However, it's clear that as an adult Harry had no desire to be the heir, and the series chronicles his new life in America, far away from royal protocols.
  • A second modern example: Prince George from The Palace. For most of the series, he shows no interest in ever being a monarch, and tells his older sister Eleanor that if their brother Richard dies, she can be queen. However, when Richard's legitimacy is challenged in Episode 8, making George's ascension an imminent possibility, he starts to think that it might not be such a bad deal. (Of course, being an immature Royal Brat, he would almost certainly fail spectacularly in that role.)
  • Though they aren't royalty, Jayden is essentially this to Lauren in Power Rangers Samurai. While she's in hiding, Jayden pretends to be the sole living heir to the title of Red Samurai Ranger, and with it the leadership responsibilities to the other Rangers. He doesn't really have an issue with being team leader as much as the fact that it's not rightfully his position. Lauren later demotes herself to spare when she realizes Jayden is better at leading the team than she was.

  • Cinderella (Lloyd Webber): Prince Sebastian's older brother Prince Charming is gone, meaning Sebastian was shoved into the position of heir.
    Sebastian: Now that I'm next in line
    I've had to grow up
    Cinderella: Now you're crown prince fancy pants
    Sebastian: I never saw that coming
  • The Prince of Egypt: In "Footprints on the Sand" Moses muses about how lucky he is to be the king's second son since he can afford to goof around, but also knows that it means he won't amount to much historically.

    Video Games 
  • Dragalia Lost has the main protagonist, Euden, be the sparest heir in the Alberian royal family, being the seventh born child with his twin sister Zethia being the eighth.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Dragon Age: Origins has this in Alistair, who reveals early on that he is of royal blood... unfortunately, he's a bastard, so he wasn't raised to the task. Needless to say, he's not happy about the idea of becoming king after being trained for something completely different and being quite forcefully assured that his illegitimate status would prevent the question. Word of God confirms that he is the illegitimate child introduced in the tie-in novel The Calling, which further reveals that he's a Half-Human Hybrid, as his mother is an elf.
    • Dragon Age II has Sebastian Vael, who is the spare to the spare as the youngest of three children. Initially he resented his brothers for this, but eventually he settled into life at the Chantry and was happy there. When his family gets slaughtered and Sebastian is suddenly the rightful ruler, he's not sure he wants to be prince anymore. Hawke can push him one way or another. In the end game, if Anders lives, Sebastian decides to take back his throne for real this time in order to exact vengeance. However, as the third game reveals, he takes the throne either way; he's just much friendlier if Anders is dead.
    • The Player Character of Dragon Age: Inquisition, if human, is in a similar position to Sebastian. Trevelyan's exact number of siblings is never stated, but it is known that they are the youngest of at least three. The family tradition thus dictated that they would join the Chantry, most likely as a Templar presuming they didn't show magical abilities themselves. Unlike Sebastian, since Trevelyan is the PC, the player has dialogue options which can show that they have a good relationship with their parents, a strained one, or something in between.
    • This trope also appears in the recent history of Orlais, as shown in an Inquisition codex entry. It was presumed that Emperor Judicael I's royal lineage would continue unhindered, as he was the father of twin boys. This was perfectly fine with Grand Duke Florian, his younger brother and spare, who never expected or wanted to rule; however, an outbreak of the Hundred Days' Cough killed both of Judicael's sons and also Florian's baby daughter. Judicael, grieving deeply, was thrown from his horse on a hunting expedition not long afterward, and Florian reluctantly became Emperor. This series of events paved the way for Judicael and Florian's niece, Celene, to eventually outmaneuver her cousin Gaspard for the throne, leading to the Orlesian civil war happening at the time of Inquisition.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • Appears twice in Dragon Quest V:
      • Prince Harry's half-brother, Wilbur, never wanted to be king, but his mother orchestrates Harry's kidnapping, forcing Wilbur onto the throne so she can be Queen Dowager. When Harry returns ten years later, Wilbur is desperate to hand it over to him, and is completely stunned when Harry refuses.
      • In Gotha, Albert only rose to the throne after his elder brother disappeared; though he has done a far better job than Wilbur, he's still a Reluctant Ruler who immediately tries to hand the reins over to the just-arrived heir, despite the fact that his newly rediscovered nephew has only just learned of his Secret Legacy and has had about zero training as a ruler.
    • Dragon Quest VIII has a similar situation with King Argonia, an Unexpected Successor who had to step up after his elder brother disappeared while pursuing his lost love. While he has shaped up to be a good ruler, his own son is none other than Prince Charmles, causing his father no end of grief over how horrible he would be once it's time for him to hand down the crown. In the Golden Ending, he's presented with his brother's son at a rather awkward time for a family reunion, and it's heavily implied he cedes the right to rule after him to this new arrival, giving his own son the shaft.
  • Suikoden V has a non-royal example with the House of Barows. After his older brother Hiram was assassinated during the bloody Succession Conflict, Euram was thrust into the role of his father's heir, as well as dealing with his mother's extended BSOD. This stress of this helps shape him into the irritating Epic Failing Upper-Class Twit everyone has to deal with during the events of the game, until Character Development enables him to grow out of it.
  • Encouraged in Crusader Kings 2: if your current character dies without an heir, it's game over, but the time period is extremely capricious and deadly. If you put all your hopes into one heir, and that heir dies before taking the throne, you're done. But if you have several heirs, then you're safe even if a couple of them bite it. Of course, this almost inevitably results in a succession crisis every time your current ruler dies, but them's the breaks.
    • There can be a number of problems with multiple sons though. Such as the various things one has to do to keep them all happy. And if you have gavelkind succession your titles are split up among your sons. While if you're a Muslim unlanded sons generate Decadence, and considering that Islamic rulers are expected to have multiple wives a lot of sons are expected. Such situations are practically guaranteed to produce a Succession Crisis.
  • In Reflections on the River, Prince Shun was adopted essentially for that purpose. The king and queen weren't sure that they'd ever be able to have children of their own, so arranged to adopt a prince from an allied kingdom — but now they do have their own child, and Shun became the backup. He doesn't hold any grudges against the new heir, but he does feel useless and unappreciated, as he's not allowed to ever do anything useful — he just has to hang around in idleness until they're sure he won't be needed.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • From the series' backstory is Rislav the Righteous, detailed in the in-game book Rislav the Righteous. The titular Rislav was the fourth son in line to the Kingdom of Skingrad. His older brother, Dorald, was another spare who was allowed to follow his dream to become a priest of the Alessian Order, a radical religious movement sweeping the Empire at the time. When Rislav was 30, a plague swept through Cyrodiil and decimated the royal family of Skingrad. Only Rislav and Dorald survived. The throne fell to Dorald, who immediately ceded the kingdom to the Alessian Empire. Incensed, Rislav gathered a band of cavalry, rode for Skingrad, was allowed in without conflict by the city guards (who were equally upset at Dorald's actions), and beheaded Dorald. Rislav was quickly named King of Skingrad. However, Emperor Goreous (a fervent supporter of the Alessian Order) did not recognize Rislav and did not revoke Dorald's action. He rode with an army to Skingrad but was defeated by Rislav and his Colovian troops. It marked the beginning of the end of the Alessian Empire and the Alessian Order.
    • Martin Septim was a spare crossing over with Hidden Backup Prince. The bastard son of Emperor Uriel Septim VII, he was ferried away to a farm couple and later became a priest of Akatosh. When the Mythic Dawn assassinated Uriel VII and his legitimate heirs to kick off the Oblivion Crisis, Martin's actual parentage was revealed to him and his actions to end the crisis saved all of Tamriel.
  • Happens a couple of times in the Fire Emblem series.
    • In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, it's eventually revealed that Sanaki is actually this trope; she had an older sister who was the true apostle and the rightful empress of Begnion, but said sister and their grandmother were assassinated by the Begnion Senate so they could frame the herons, leading to the Serenes Massacre. In a double subversion, said sister (Micaiah) turns out to have survived the assassination, but abdicates the Begnion throne to go rule Daein in the end.
    • In Fire Emblem: Awakening, main protagonist Chrom is perfectly content to lead his wandering peacekeeping force, the Shepherds, while his older sister, Exalt Emmeryn, rules the country. Chrom loves and admires Emmeryn, and gives her nothing more than a token "This isn't what I would do" when he disagrees with her decisions, but nevertheless carries out her will. So when she catches a faceful of Plotline Death and he's suddenly in her place, he's devastated. In fact, his Kid from the Future makes her first attempt to Set Right What Once Went Wrong by preventing Emmeryn's assassination, and thus preventing Chrom from ever being Exalt. Unfortunately for Chrom, she still died, just in a different circumstance. (The player can later find out she survived with amnesia, but this is an optional mission and it does not change anything, practically speaking. Chrom is still Exalt because she can't be.)
    • In Fire Emblem Fates:
      • At the end of the Birthright route, Crown Prince Xander of Nohr is killed in battle and second-in-line Camilla abdicates, leaving Leo to take the Nohrian throne.
      • At the end of the Conquest route, High Prince Ryoma of Hoshido and his second-in-line Takumi are killed in battle, leaving Hinoka to take the Hoshidan throne.
    • At the end of Fire Emblem Heroes Book II, Surtr and his heir apparent Laegjarn are killed in battle, leaving his second daughter Laevatein to take the Múspell throne.
  • Pops up a few times in League of Legends.
    • Azir was the youngest of all his siblings, and was completely ignored by his father as a result. Then all of his brothers were assassinated, and Azir soon found himself Emperor of Shurima after his father's death. A quite beloved and famed Emperor on that.
    • Just a hop from Shurima is Ixtal, and their royal line. The spare of spares being Qiyana, the youngest of 10 sisters. Qiyana is well aware of her minute chances of being ruler, and as such has been scheming past, plotting behind and outright crippling her siblings to make sure she inherits the throne.
    • The Ruined King, AKA Viego, was the back-up plan for the ancient, long forgotten kingdom he hailed from. He ascended to the throne after his older brother died, and quickly ran the kingdom into the ground.
  • In Triangle Strategy, Prince Roland of Glenbrook is initially this, as he's the younger brother of crown prince Frani and princess Cordelia. At the start of the game, he enjoys relative freedom to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. This changes after Aesfrost invades Glenbrook — Frani dies trying to protect Roland, and his father, King Regna, is executed just days later. As a result, Roland ascends to the throne and gets gradually worn down by The Chains of Commanding.
  • Yakuza 6; it's revealed near the end of the second act that Yuta Usami is the second son of Big Lo, the leader of the Saio Triad that has been muscling in on Kamurocho. Due to China's One Child policy, Yuta was born off record and smuggled to Japan as an insurance policy in case Lo's eldest son died, raised in ignorance of his heritage so he wouldn't get any ideas and start a Sucession Crisis. When he does learn this, he also learns he fathered a half-Japanese son that the Saio Triad has been attempting to murder, and isn't in any mood to take his role as heir.

    Western Animation 
  • Skeleton Warriors: When Grimskull's pre-Heel-Face Turn crime becomes publicly known, the people of Luminicity want him to be executed for this and the only way his brother can spare him without having to face a revolt is by being executed in his place. With Lightstar dead and Grimskull still being labeled a traitor, their sister will be the next in line to become the ruler of Luminicity regardless of the fact she never received any training for this. Fortunately, Grimskull earns forgiveness on time to prevent any executions from happening.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender uses this trope in regards to none other than Prince Lotor. He's conspicuously absent from and uninvolved with his father King Zarkon's campaign for galactic conquest, and is only brought back into the fold after Zarkon is defeated by the Paladins during the Season 2 finale; prior to that, despite being the sole heir to the Galra Empire, the soldiers don't seem to know who he is.

    Real Life 
  • This is (surprise, surprise) Older Than Dirt: The surprise succession of a younger son after the death of the heir apparent is probably as old as the institution of monarchy, which is to say it’s probably prehistoric (literally). That said, a very early and prominent historical example is that of Amenhotep IV, King of Egypt, better known by the name he chose for himself, Akhenaten. Young Prince Amenhotep was the second of King Amenhotep III's two sons by his Great Royal Wife Tiye, and as such he was trained for the priesthood. Meanwhile, his much older brother, the Crown Prince Thutmose, appears to have received a more comprehensive education for the throne. However, Thutmose died young, possibly in a plague that appears to have struck Egypt in the middle to late years of Amenhotep III's reign. As a result, Prince Amenhotep became the new heir…and many historians wonder if his shortcomings as monarch and his unusual devotion to religious affairs was influenced by his education.
  • Averted and subverted many times in the middle ages as in many countries it took time for the principles of heredity and primogeniture to take hold and before then a reigning monarch could have some leeway in determining his own successor or it was customary to divide the realm up among the surviving sons. In some monarchies the realm was divided up between sons until the 18th century at least, e. g. in the duchy of Brunswick (the electorate of Hanover resulted from one of its partitions). In Russia the ruling monarch had the right to name his or her successor freely throughout most of the 18th century and so did the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire throughout pretty much its entire existence. Meanwhile in some countries younger princes received dukedoms etc. in which they were technically the king's vassals, but could become powerful enough so as to set themselves up as a de facto independent power (the Duchy of Burgundy in the 14th and 15th century) or to overthrow the king themselves (the Dukes of Lancaster and York in the same era). Such a powerful younger brother to a monarch could also quickly morph into an Evil Uncle to the ruler's children after his death.
  • Has happened many, many times in the history of the Kingdom(s) of Great Britain:
    • Surprisingly enough, four sons of Æthelwulf, King of Wessex succeeded each other on the throne. Neither was the first son. First son Æthelstan (died between 851 and 855) was known as a warrior prince and defeated a Viking invasion in 851. He predeceased his father. Second son Æthelbald (reigned 856-860), third son Æthelberht (reigned 860-865), fourth son Ætheldred (reigned 865-871) and fifth son Alfred the Great (reigned 871-899) each rose to the throne. Alfred's descendants thereafter became the line of The House of Wessex who united England—and whose descendants (through a convoluted line) still sit the throne today. (Yes, Charles III is a direct lineal descendant of Alfred the Great.) Thankfully Æthelwulf was fertile; otherwise the Wessex succession would have ended in the 9th century.
    • Eadred, King of England (reigned 946-955) was a younger son of Edward the Elder. He was the spare to his brother Edmund the Elder (reigned 939-946). When Edmund died, his sons were underage, so the adult Eadred rose to the throne. He died childless and was succeeded by his nephew Eadwig the Fair (reigned 955-959).
    • Edgar the Peaceful, King of England (reigned 959-975) was the second son of Edmund the Elder. He was the spare to his older brother Eadwig the Fair. However, the unpopularity of Eadwig with sections of the Anglo-Saxon church and nobility helped Edgar claim the throne in a civil war. When Eadwig died childless, Edgar became king by default. His nickname, "Peaceful", is a reference to the long-lasting peace and stability of his own reign.
    • Æthelred the Unready, King of England (reigned 978-1016) was the second son of Edgar the Peaceful. His older half-brother Edward the Martyr (reigned 975-978) was the heir and took the throne. However, Edward was a weak ruler. His reign was marked by internal conflict within the Anglo-Saxon nobility and the church. A famine did not exactly help his popularity with the general population, either. When Edward was murdered in 978, 10-year-old Æthelred was the obvious heir. (Just as an aside, he was not Æthelred the Unprepared, but rather Æthelred the Ill-Advised. The Anglo-Saxon word unræd means "bad counsel". There's a bit of a pun in his name, since Æthelred means "noble counsel".)
    • Edmund Ironside, King of England (reigned 1016) was the second known son of Æthelred the Unready. He was the spare to his brother Æthelstan Ætheling (980s-1014), a "warrior prince" with a large collection of swords, prized war horses and combat equipment. The sudden death of Æthelstan made Edmund heir by default. He was about 24 years old when rising to the throne became an option for him. His poor relationship with his father ensured internal conflict for the following two years.
    • Harthacnut, King of England (reigned 1040-1042) himself owed the throne to the death of his older, paternal half-brother Harold Harefoot (reigned 1035/1037-1040). They were both sons of Canute the Great, King of England and Denmark (reigned 1016-1035). However, Canute chose to divide his kingdom upon his death. Harold rose to the throne of England and Harthacnut to that of Denmark, becoming rivals and enemies. But when Harold died suddenly, childless, Harthacnut became king by default.
    • Edward the Confessor, King of England (reigned 1042-1066) owed his throne to the early deaths of various brothers, half-brothers (paternal and maternal) and stepbrothers. By the time his maternal half-brother Harthacnut died, Edward was the obvious candidate to the throne. All other sons of King Æthelred the Unready (reigned 978-1016) were dead, as were all sons of Canute the Great, leaving only Edward and a handful of nephews scattered across Europe. Edward was a son of Æthelred, a stepson of Cnut and the only viable heir on English soil.
    • William II Rufus, King of England (reigned 1087-1100), was the third son of William I the Conqueror. First son Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy (c. 1054-1134) was arguably the most obvious candidate, but his open conflict with their father lost him much favor. Second son Richard, Duke of Bernay (c. 1054/1055-1081) was killed in a "hunting accident", leaving William Rufus as the heir presumptive and, ultimately, the successor to his father upon his death.
    • Henry I Beauclerc, King of England (reigned 1100-1135), was the fourth son of William I the Conqueror. William Rufus had named Robert as his heir, but when William II died in a "hunting accident" of his own, Robert was away in the First Crusade. Henry took advantage of the situation to take control of the royal treasury, recruit the leading barons of England to his cause and usurp the throne. By 1106, Henry managed to depose Robert and claim Normandy for himself, securing his succession.
    • Empress Matilda, claimant to the English throne (from 1135 to 1153) and ancestor of the Plantagenet kings, was the eldest daughter of Henry I Beauclerc, but his initial heir was her brother William Adelin (1103-1120). When William died in the White Ship tragedy along with most of the vessel's passengers and crew, Matilda was about 18 years old and was already the widow of Holy Roman Emperor Henry V. Left without legitimate male heirs, Henry took the unprecedented step of making his barons swear to accept his daughter Empress Matilda as his heir. Matilda spent her "reign" in a civil war against her cousin Stephen (reigned 1135-1154, who was the son of one of William the Conqueror's daughters), the rival candidate; the issue of the succession wasn't resolved until Stephen accepted Matilda's son, Henry Curtmantle (later Henry II), as heir.
    • Richard I Lionheart (reigned 1189-1199) was the third son of Henry II. He became the eldest surviving son of Henry II in 1183. First son William IX, Count of Poitiers (1153-1156), died young due to a seizure. Second son Henry the Young King (co-ruler 1170-1183) died of dysentery, having already survived his only child. Richard was already 26 years old before rising to the throne became an option for him. He would spend the next six years of his life in open conflict with his father. Richard himself would ultimately die with no legitimate children.
    • John Lackland, King of England (reigned 1199-1216) was not an obvious candidate to the throne. He was the fifth son of Henry II, and thus a younger brother of Richard I. The fourth son of Henry II, Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany (1158-1186), was supposedly trampled to death in a jousting tournament, but he was survived by three legitimate children. Two of them were still alive in 1199 and typically outranked John in the succession. His nephew Arthur was the heir for most of Richard's reign. Richard supposedly picked John as his heir in a deathbed decision, probably because John was an adult, while Arthur was twelve years old. The decision would lead to a war between uncle and nephew.
    • Edward II, King of England (reigned 1307-1327) was something of a surprise candidate, though he had been the heir almost since birth. He was born in April 1284, the fourth son of Edward I Longshanks. First son John (1266-1271) died before their father rose to the throne. Second son Henry (1267-1274) was the first heir of Edward I but died young. Third son Alphonso,note  Earl of Chester (1273-1284) was the heir at the time of Edward (II)'s birth. He died suddenly in August 1284, leaving the infant Edward as heir.
    • Edward III, King of England (reigned 1327-1377) had four sons. He was succeeded by Richard II, the son of his eldest son, Edward the Black Prince. Richard in turn was deposed by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke, son of Edward III's third son (John of Gaunt). When Bolingbroke became King Henry IV, this created a situation where the descendants of Edward's second son Lionel, Duke of Clarence, became spares, but spares with (in theory) a better claim to the English throne than Henry IV, V and VI. These descendants included Edmund Mortimer (died 1425) and his sister Anne's son Richard, Duke of York (who also claimed descent from Edward III in the male line, albeit through his fourth son Edmund of Langley). This festering Succession Crisis ultimately was settled in the Wars of the Roses, during which Richard's sons Edward (IV) and Richard (III) became kings.
      • It actually was a little bit more complicated, and the conflict reflects a disagreement over whether Mother Makes You King or the Heir Club for Men was the only club in town. Lionel of Antwerp only had a daughter, Philippa, which automatically meant she was out of the line of succession as it stood at the time. She married Edmund Mortimer, the Earl of March. They had two sons together, Roger and Edmund, who were Richard II's heirs presumptive. Before they could ever be crowned, Richard was overthrown by Henry of Bolingbroke. Bolingbroke was The Ace of Richard II's court — he was the finest jouster in England and he had a truly massive power base as Duke of Lancaster. Moreover, the death of John of Gaunt and the injustices committed against him by the king made him very sympathetic to the English nobility, who were drawn to him as an alternative king. Finally, he was a grown man while the Mortimer heirs were toddlers. The nobles thought Bolingbroke being king sounded like a great idea at the time, and at that time, it unquestionably was. Eventually, both Mortimers died leading rebellions against Henry, leaving only Anne Mortimer. She married Richard of Conisburgh of the House of York, a scion of Edward III's youngest son, Edmund of Langley, and gave them the senior claim.
    • Richard III King of England (reigned 1483-1485) was the eighth son of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, and the fourth to survive to adulthood. Three brothers and their possible descendants would outrank him in the Yorkist succession. First son Edward IV (reigned 1461-1470, 1471-1483) took the throne and was survived by seven legitimate children. Second son Edmund, Earl of Rutland was killed in the aftermath of the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, dying childless. Third brother George, Duke of Clarence was privately executed in 1478 but was survived by two legitimate children. In 1483, Richard (III) was only tenth in the order of succession. He used some doubts on the legitimacy of Edward's marriage to declare all of his royal nephews and nieces to be bastards. He used the attainder of George (for treason) to also bar his children of the succession. By doing so, he eliminated the succession rights of everyone who had a superior claim to himself in a single stroke. It pays to be the de facto Regent.
    • Henry VIII, King of England (reigned 1509-1547) is sometimes suspected to have been this to an extent. He was the second son of Henry VII and became heir at the age of 11. His older brother, Arthur (1486-1502), was supposed to get the throne. Arthur fell ill and died, possibly of the mysterious "sweating sickness", which was an epidemic between 1485 and 1551. Henry got the throne instead. Arthur would have been coached personally by his father and would have been given far more guidance than Henry on how to actually be king. Specifically, Henry VIII was prepared to take a role in the church instead. Kinda funny when you consider that he ended up as the head of a church after he became King.
    • Mary I (reigned 1553-1558) and Elizabeth (reigned 1558-1603), Queens regnant of England, were the only daughters of Henry VIII to live to adulthood. While both served as the heiress presumptive at times, they were eventually displaced by their younger half-brother Edward VI (reigned 1547-1553). They only rose to the throne by outliving Edward and overcoming his efforts to remove them from the succession.
    • Charles I of England and Scotland (reigned 1625-1649) was the second son of James VI/I. His older brother Henry Frederick (1594-1612) was trained to become King and was considered robust and athletic. He died suddenly of typhoid fever in 1612, leaving Charles as the heir to the throne at the age of 12. Charles was weak and sickly since birth, and had to overcome physical infirmity (weak ankles) just to walk as a child.
    • James II of England/James VII of Scotland (reigned 1685-1688) was the second son of Charles I and the spare to the throne. He rose to the throne by outliving his older brother Charles II (reigned 1649/1660-1685), who died without legitimate issue (his illegitimate issue, on the other hand...).
    • Anne, Queen Regnant of Great Britain (reigned 1702-1714) was the second daughter of James II/VII. She was the spare to her older sister Mary II (1689-1694). She only rose to the throne by outliving both Mary II and William III, and by being a Protestant.
    • William IV of the United Kingdom (reigned 1830-1837) was not an obvious candidate for the throne. He was only the third son of George III. The first was George IV (reigned 1820-1830). The second was Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, a famous military reformer. Frederick was the heir presumptive for most of their brother's reign, but he died suddenly in 1827.
    • Along these lines, Queen Victoria was rather like Henry II in that she was a distant candidate for the throne despite having been heir from birth. She was the only legitimate daughter of King George III's fourth son: George IV's daughter had died in childbirth two years before Victoria was born, and none of George III's three eldest sons had surviving legitimate issue (plenty of illegitimate issue, but that doesn't count). Every now and again one of the elder princes got it into his head that he might produce an heir; but that never happened, as they were all too old, fat, sickly, and debauched to do so, to say nothing of the fact that some of them hated their wives (and their wives hated them back!).
      • Incidentally, Victoria was barred from the Hanoverian throne over the plumbing (and the eagerness of Parliament to divest itself from its continental obligations), so that crown instead bounced to the rather unpopular fifth son of George III, Ernest Augustus.
    • George V (reigned 1910-1936) was a spare, serving in the Royal Navy for twelve years (1879-1891) — he even got a tattoo of a red and blue dragon on his arm while in Japan. He became the heir when his (somewhat insane, possibly gay) older brother Albert Victor died without issue even before granny died (giving him on the order of 20 years prepare for the job, but he still would have preferred not to take it at all). It's theorized that the reason these most recent two Georges were such excellent constitutional monarchs is that they hadn't expected the crown and as a result hadn't had the prospect of the crown get to their heads.
      • George V may have realized this, or at least suspected that his own heir had let it go to his head. He was said to have opined that he hoped David (Edward VIII), his own son, never married or had children, so that "nothing would come between Bertie [George VI] and Lilibet [Queen Elizabeth II] and the throne." And yet it was Edward VIII's marriage that cleared the way for them.
    • When Edward VIII (reigned 1936) abdicated, his successor, George VI (reigned 1936-1952), was reluctant to take up the post, as he had never expected or wished for the position. He had served in the Royal Navy during World War I (he had to sit out much of it on account of ill health).
      • For one thing, he had a dreadful stammer and a fear of public speaking. Indeed, it's widely suspected that part of the reason for his death at a relatively young age (56) was due to the stress of being King throughout WW2.note 
      • It also helped avoid Royally Screwed Up: in a time when royalty was expected to marry royalty, Bertie had a bit of leeway about it since he wasn't expected to become king. He married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the daughter of a Scottish Earl, in what was essentially a love match (Bertie proposed three times before she said yes, largely because she was afraid she'd be unable to handle the duties of being a member of the Royal Family). They were so distantly related that Elizabeth II is significantly less inbred than the average Englishman.
    • Much of Prince Harry's angst and foibles seem to stem from being hemmed into royal life despite knowing he'll never be king (at birth he was third in line for the throne, after his father and older brother, and he was only pushed further back when William started fathering children). He literally titled his memoirs "Spare".
  • Roman emperor Claudius (reigned 41-54) was never seriously expected to inherit the throne in his youth. While the Roman Empire had a fairly loose set of succession laws (basically the heir was appointed and didn't even have to be directly connected by blood), Claudius was still too far out on the periphery early on, and by all accounts he was not an ambitious man anyway. He essentially became emperor by outlasting everyone else (including Caligula), who were all too busy killing one another off to pay the "doddering old fool" any serious attention.
  • Henry II of France seemed relatively fortunate to have four sons at the time of his 1559 death in a jousting accident. However sickly young Francis II died roughly a year and a half later (December 1560) at age 16, his brother Charles IX ascended the throne at 10 only to die without issue of tuberculosis in 1574, and Henry III (who smuggled himself out of Poland less than a year of gaining that throne) was assassinated in 1589 leading to a worsening of the ongoing wars that did not really cease even after Henry II's son-in-law Henry of Navarre was crowned in 1594. (The youngest brother, Francis Duke of Alencon (one of the unsuccessful suitors of Elizabeth I) died before Henry III). Other examples from France (after the primogeniture replaced dividing the kingdom between the sons of the monarch):
    • Henry I, second son of Robert II the Pious.
    • Philip III the Bold, second son of Saint Louis. His elder brother Louis died at age 16.
    • Philip IV's second and third sons, Philip V and Charles IV, succeeded his eldest, Louis X. Philip V is also suspected of having John I the Posthumous, Louis's infant son, murdered.
    • Charles VII the Victorious was the fourth son of Charles VI the Mad, and two of his elder brothers lived to be 18 and 19, respectively.
    • Charles VIII, third son of Louis XI.
    • Louis XIII was Henry IV's eldest son, but throughout his reign was troubled by the ambitions of his younger brother Gaston, around whom a number of conspiracies against Louis centred.
    • In order to prevent a repetition of a repetition of this pattern, Louis XIII's queen (later widow) Anne of Austria raised her second son Philippe, Duke of Orléans, in a more pampered and effete way, deliberately encouraging his homosexual tendencies, so that he would never become a potential rival for his elder brother, Louis XIV. (Note that despite being gay, Philippe still founded a legitimate cadet branch of the dynasty that eventually took the throne.) For the same reason, Louis would later cut short Philippe's military career, even though Philippe had (to practically everyone's surprise) proven to be one of Louis' best commanders.
    • Louis XV, second son of Louis, Duke of Burgundy, son of Louis the Great Dauphin, eldest son of Louis XIV. He only inherited the throne because an outbreak of measles wiped out everyone ahead of him in the line of succession.
    • Louis XVI, Louis XVIII and Charles X were the third, fourth and fifth sons of Dauphin Louis, eldest son of Louis XV. Some see the crisis of Louix XVI's reign (which culminated with the French Revolution and the abolition of the monarchy) as being partly rooted in the fact that his family only began to groom him for his future role as king after his elder brother (also called Louis) died in 1761, although Louis himself only was seven years old at the time.
    • Napoleon III was the third son of Napoleon's brother Louis, ex-King of Holland. Two other Bonaparte brothers, Joseph and Lucien, were older than Louis. Of course, he originally came to power by being democratically elected (as President Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte of the Second French Republic), which made his position in the succession irrelevant.
      • Napoleon I became head of the Bonaparte family even though he had an elder brother, the aforementioned Joseph. When Napoleon became Emperor of the French, his elder brother became his prospective heir, at least until the birth of Napoleon's first legitimate son in 1810 (he already had two illegitimate ones).
  • Nicholas the First of Russia was one, being a younger brother to Alexander I the Blessed (and yet another brother named Constantine). After Alexander's coronation, Nicholas was "demoted" to just another member of the imperial family, and was never educated as a Tsar (but as a military engineer instead). However, Alexander had no male children, and Constantine had only had illegitimate children and had previously removed himself from the line of succession upon contracting a morganatic marriage, which made Nicholas inherit after the Decembrists Rebellion, which sought unsuccessfully to put Constantine on the throne.
  • 18 year old Manuel II (the Unfortunate) of Portugal was a younger son who had just started his studies at the Portugese Naval Acadamy when his father Carlos I was killed and his brother Luis Filipe mortally wounded by anti-monarchist radicals in 1908 (Manuel was in the same carriage and suffered a minor wound to the arm). A coup forced him and his surviving family to flee to Britain within three years.
  • Bashar al-Assad was going to be an eye doctor, while his brother Bassel was being groomed to ascend to the position of dictator of Syria. One high speed car crash later and Bashar ended up with a sudden and drastic career change into a series of positions calculated to allow him to build networks of support, eliminate rivals, and gain experience in leadership. Six years after the crash that killed Bassel, their father Hafez died and Bashar assumed absolute power.
  • Oda Nobunaga had several siblings, many of which were older than him and had more legitimacy to be heirs than him, especially since he was seen as a halfwit when he really wasn't. He had essentially all of them but his sister killed so that he was ruler by default.
    • Fukuzawa Yukichi was the second son in a poor samurai family, and while his older brother was very much the traditional sort of warrior, Yukichi grew up with an irreverence for feudal society and a disdain for the ailing Tokugawa Shogunate that would have probably been beaten out of him had he been the expected heir. Instead of becoming a monk as intended, he left home to take up "Dutch learning" and became fascinated with Western technology and culture. When his older brother died suddenly and Yukichi had to take over as head of the household, he liquidated enough assets to settle the family debts and went back to school. Ultimately, the freedom of being the spare to the family line allowed him to become one of the leading figures of the Meiji Restoration, an open-minded samurai who traveled abroad and found ways to incorporate foreign learning to improve his home country.
  • The United States does this with elected leaders, by design, with the offices of President and Vice President. Originally, the Vice President was the first runner-up in the Presidential Election (meaning that oftentimes, they held opposing political beliefs), but over time the system evolved so that each party would run a ticket with a Presidential and a Vice Presidential candidate, with the two being considered a package deal. It has been wryly observed that the Vice President's primary job is to hang around in case the President dies, or in particularly "characterful" cases, dissuade attempts on the President's life.
    • On at least one occasion, a particularly troublesome but popular political figure was appointed as Vice President, with the intent of it being a powerless but prestigious sinecure with which they could keep him out of their hair. And then someone went and assassinated William McKinley, which resulted in that Vice President becoming the most powerful man in the country. You may have heard of him, his name was Theodore Roosevelt.
    • The Trope Codifier of this system was someone who had very little in common with the party he was running for, but was included to attract votes. Then William Henry Harrison kicked the bucket and said Trope Codifier, John Tyler, was in charge.
      • In the case that the Vice President also dies, then the next in line to the Presidency is the Speaker of the House. Since the Speaker is frequently a member of the opposing party and the President's strongest adversary in Washington, that would be one of the biggest political upsets in history. Fortunately, it hasn't happened yet, the closest America has come is when LBJ was almost shot by an understandably jumpy Secret Service agent who mistook him for a trespasser on the White House lawn the night after the Kennedy assassinationnote .
  • It has been suggested that the American system of choosing a Vice President as successor to the President was inspired by the Gaelic system of tanistry, whereby a clan would choose an heir or second-in-command for the chief from among the eligible dynasts. This system was particularly used in Ireland, where it was used to choose the kings of the various native Irish kingdoms that existed over the island's history.
  • This is very much a problem on Despotic regimes in polygamous cultures. The regent may have literally dozens of sons, from different mothers, and there is no legitimacy on succession of the throne. If the regent has not nominated a successor during his lifetime, the usual way to resolve the issue is an all-out civil war and elimination game: the sons of the old regent begin murdering and assassinating each other, with the last surviving gaining the throne. It may well be that he has never been educated to be a regent. Amin Maalouf, in his Crusades through Arab Eyes said the Islamic rulers of the neighbouring countries admired the system of succession of the throne of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem: when a king died, a legitimate king followed him; in a similar case, a Muslim country would have fallen into a civil war.
  • The Ottoman Empire had an institutionalized framework for fratricide to ensure that the ascending heir could get rid of the "spare" and retain legitimacy. Eventually, this was abolished and replaced with the Cage system where each heir were kept separately in their own sections of the royal palace, living in luxury. This new system played a part in the empire's collapse. Prior to the cage system, each heir were allowed to travel the empire to get practical experience in leadership. Since it was often the most "worthy" heir that ascended to the throne and likely survived, each one knew they had to be the best to avoid being the "spare". On the other hand, the Cage system kept them locked to the palace for fear of assassination, preventing them from learning about leadership and a world, giving the empire a string of bad rulers at a time when the Ottoman Empire was facing increasing challenge from European powers.
  • Sweden had a modern variation in Prince Bertil (1912-1997) who was the third son of king Gustav VI, but surprisingly became second in line after his oldest brother died young leaving a 2-year-old Crown Prince Carl Gustaf as the heir apparent, and his middle brother was disqualified after marrying a commoner, making it very likely that Bertil would have to step in as regent. Further complicating matters was that he'd just fallen in love with a divorcee, whom he now couldn't marry without disqualifying himself and leaving the whole royal line in danger. They ended up living together in secret for over 30 years before finally marrying after Carl Gustaf had become king, married, and had children of his own; members of the press knew about this, but refused to report it out of respect. The whole deal was one of the reasons Sweden was one of the first countries to abolish the Heir Club for Men a few years later.
    • Bertil's great-grandfather, King Oscar II, was an example himself, as he succeeded to the throne after the death of his older brother Charles XV without a son.
  • This happened in democratic India with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination. She was grooming her elder son Sanjay to eventually succeed her as leader of the Indian Congress Party and go on to become Prime Minister someday. But Sanjay Gandhi had crashed his airplane into the ground three years prior. Now that she was dead too, the Congress party drafted her younger son, Rajiv, a carefree airline pilot with no interest in politics. His one term as Prime Minister was a mixed bag of much needed reforms but also beset by multiple corruption scandals. And then an assassin got him too.
  • Some linguistic humor regarding military ranks: "Captain" can generally be translated to mean "Chieftain", the guy in charge. "Lieutenant" can be roughly translated to mean "Placeholder", someone who is in charge in lieu of the Captain when they are unavailable.

Alternative Title(s): Spare To The Throne Woes