Spare a Thought for the Spare Heir


Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding on 19 May 2018 is hot news, so here’s my little contribution to the #royalty craze, a tribute to the spare heir.

It must be a tough gig being the little brother of the heir (of the heir apparent). Prince Harry, bless him, seems unlikely to reign. Heck, who knows if his father, the heir apparent, will make it to the throne.

History is speckled with spare heirs winding their way to the throne. Tempestuous Henry VIII, a spare himself, fathered three children, all of whom had a turn holding the sceptre in the hot seat. More recently, Elizabeth II, a daughter of a spare, could have pursued a life of quiet obscurity if love and duty hadn’t collided so violently in the life of her uncle Edward VIII, the abdicator.

Fascintating Spare Heirs

Late in 2014, I encountered the intriguing concept of spare heir. After pondering the potential for sibling jealousy, the impact on family dynamics, and the effect on one’s sense of identity and purpose, I followed it deep into the rabbit hole of  research and emerged with some cool background conflict for a story.

I wondered if there were ever any twin heirs and spares? Imagine missing out on a kingdom and a crown (or, conversely, relative freedom from duty)  by a matter of minutes! A quick shake of Queen Victoria’s family tree and out fell a golden apple, AKA the propelling nugget of goodness—a historical fact that leads to a series of compelling what-ifs that beg to become a story!

I found heir apparent twins. Almost…

William_IVVictoria wasn’t the daughter of her predecessor. She was the niece of William IV, who’d failed to produce a (legitimate) heir. William and his mistress, actress Dorothea Jordan, produced a herd of children surnamed FitzClarence. But William and Queen Adelaide had a string of bad luck in the progeny department. Their two daughters, Elizabeth and Charlotte, both tragically died shortly after birth. Adelaide’s final pregnancy ended in a devastating stillbirth of twin boys, who, as far as I can tell, were not named.

If those boys had lived, one would have become king, and the other a spare—but a spare by only moments. Meanwhile,  Princess Alexandrina (Victoria) would have remained an obscure princess—a round-raced, royal hanger-on, probably sequestered to a drab apartment at Kensington or worse. No pretty young queen, possibly no marriage to Prince Albert, and no dour, widowed monarch. How would the 19th century have fared without her formidable imprint? How would the 20th century differed?

See what I mean about a series of compelling questions?

History’s Loss, My Gain

I gave those unsung twin boys life and names, and I dug into their family history for a bit of intrigue. I didn’t have to go deep; the boys’ grandfather would have been King George III. Remember him? His illness rendered him unfit to rule and was the reason for the Regency period. He was considered mad (which I must point out is one weakness among many other good and noble qualities he possessed, like being a faithful family man and an ardent promoter of scientific enquiry. He was a fascinating and misunderstood character.)

Augustus (my name), the firstborn twin in my story THE TEMPLE OF LOST TIME, inherits not only the throne but also his grandfather’s illness. Though fairly young, he’s slowly dying and losing his mind. King Augustus’s desperation to extend his reign makes him volatile, cruel, and vulnerable to exploitation. His dangerous obsession with olden magic puts both his life and empire at risk. This is the world of my story: London, 1853, during the dark and unstable Augustan Age. Great Britain teeters as time ticks away.

Meanwhile, King Augustus’s twin, the spare heir Prince James, is healthy, capable, and wildly popular with the masses, a fact that torments the paranoid, enfeebled king.


King Augustus not only inherits a genetic illness, he also adopts his philandering father’s habit of pursuing beautiful actresses. His prime target is the lovely Lucy Le Breton, a popular actress and singer at the Theatre Royal. She does everything she can to avoid the despicable king.

Eleven-year-old Toby, Lucy’s son, is the hero of the story. More than anything, Toby yearns to know his father. What he doesn’t know is the clock is ticking, and there’s no time to lose…

So, a bit of wondering about spare heirs plus a few years of writing and rewriting and rerewriting has resulted in a story, THE TEMPLE OF LOST TIME, a middle grade historical fantasy adventure, which is currently in submission. It is the first of three books. Wish me luck as I try to find a good home for it.

Temple of Lost Time 5_1

To the Real Spare Heir!

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have a rich and colourful royal history behind them and a life full of possibility ahead of them. Here’s wishing them happiness and long life together. May the real spare heir be spared the wild adventures of my imagination! To the royal couple! Cheers!

Image Credits

Prince Harry & Meghan Markle

By Mark Jones CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

William IV, Public Domain

Blog Award Tour

Blogging M Licht

I was invited by my writer friend, Jeanette O’Hagan, to take part in The Blog Award Tour. We met years ago in a book club, and our children attend the same school. I think our journeys as writers started in earnest at about the same time, so it’s been very encouraging to watch Jenny go from strength to strength.

JennyJuly15bx200Jeanette is an avid fantasy and science-fiction fan.  She has lived in Australia and Africa. She has practiced medicine, taught theology, accumulated a few degrees and is currently  caring for her young children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad Legacy series. She is actively involved in a caring Christian community.

Check out her blog to read about her fantastic books and projects.

Jeanette asked me to answer four questions as a part of the tour.


I’m in submission mode, which is my optimistic reframe of waiting. (Cue cricket sounds). My most recent manuscript, Toby Fitzroy & the Quest for the Scales of Time was launched into the world in early July at a writers’ conference where I pitched to four editors. Happily, all four asked to see the full manuscript. It’s been sent off, and now, well, I wait.

But I’m not twiddling my thumbs, and I’m definitely not checking my inbox every quarter hour. I’m using my writing time to research agents and publishers where Toby might find a home. It astounds me how much time the submission process consumes. I find it hard to accomplish much writing–other than customised query letters and synopses.

Beyond submissions, I am in the pre-writing stage of my next work. One editor at the CYA conference asked about sequels, so I’m doing preliminary research and developing another epic adventure for Toby. India is  a prospective backdrop, and I am so excited at the possibility of including elephants, tigers, and not-so-helpless princesses. 1856 is a fascinating time in Indian history. If you don’t believe me, read MM Kaye’s The Far Pavilions. *Swoon* Check out my research shelf on GoodReads to see my list of books. And if you know of a resource (fiction or non) I should check out, please leave a comment…


I love to weave myth, folklore, and fairy tales into my adventure stories. At the same time, anchoring the story in a historical place is crucial, and getting the details right is very important to me. Hiding sneaky little titbits in words and names is a bit of fun I indulge in. Nobody needs to know but me. *Wiggles fingers fiendishly…*


I remember the exact moment in my childhood when I fell in love with books and reading. I long to recreate that specific experience of wonder and enchantment for a new generation of readers.

I want my readers to be comforted and inspired while falling in love with literature. Always in the back of mind are girls who in certain parts of the world are denied education and freedom and treated like a sub-species. How my heart aches for little girls  who are treated unjustly because they are female. I wish I could offer them some reprieve from misery and fear with stories of beauty, possibility, and promise. Is that too much to ask of literature? Probably. But I’ll keep trying.


I spend months in the pre-writing stage. Throughout this stage, I sample from lots of books and take copious notes. I keep my heart and ears open, because you never know what the universe will offer up. The other day at the library, I checked out a stack of books, but none of them was “spot on.” As I walked toward the door, something caught my eye on the new release shelf. A shiny, new copy of Tears of the Rajas by Ferdinand Mount winked at me. It was perfect. Back to the check-out counter I went.

I research until I stumble upon what I call my Propelling Nugget of Goodness (PNG). This is a deliciously quirky fact that makes my story take off.

With Toby Fitz, my PNG was a fact about Queen Victoria’s uncle, William IV. I’d been wondering what England would have been like in the 19th Century if Vicky hadn’t reigned. She became queen because her uncle didn’t have a legitimate heir. (Mind you, he spawned a tribe to a popular stage actress, but no living heir to Queen Adelaide.) Adelaide had four babies to him, two girls, Charlotte and Elizabeth, who died, and (here’s the PNG) twin boys who were stillborn and unnamed. I named them (Augustus and James) and gave those boys’ lives. I explored the dynamics between the twin who would be king and the other, the “spare heir.” I imagined an England without Victoria. Voila and hey presto! Victorian England became Augustan England. It was so fun! Interestingly, all this royal intrigue withdrew to the background of my story, informing it in lots of ways.

Once the story takes off, I write a long synopsis of the story. I spend some time crafting the climax and end first. I break the story down into a three-part outline in which I imagine as many of the scenes as I can. All the while my characters are taking shape. I begin to create profiles for them, well aware of the fact that I won’t really “know” them until the story gets going. When I’m happy with the outline, I begin writing the first draft. While I write, I keep a working file of questions and problems.

After the first draft is finished, I begin editing. I find some beta readers and get their feedback. I write another draft, which I send to a professional l editor. I keep editing until it’s ready to release.

That’s all for today. Thanks to Jenny for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour!

CC 2.0 Image Credit:

Blogging Fun by Mike Licht