With the birth of Prince Louis Arthur Charles, it seems the throne just gets further and further from Prince Harry. The second son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana is now sixth in line to inherit the crown, and he’s perfectly fine with it. Of course, just because he won’t ever become king of England, that doesn’t mean he isn’t an important member of the Royal Family. Despite a wild youth, Prince Harry has become a leading figure amongst the Windsors, deploying twice to Afghanistan (being the first Royal in a war zone since Prince Andrew), becoming an Apache helicopter pilot, and beginning the Invictus Games for injured service people after his military career finished. In these actions, Prince Harry becomes one in a long line of Royals who made an impact on British history without ever becoming King or Queen. We’ve outlined five of them for your consideration below.
John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster
The fourth son of King Edward III, John never had much of a chance to inherit the throne, but because of his rank within the Royal Family, he was one of England’s foremost military commanders from the 1370s to 1380s. He fought several campaigns in France that were ultimately unsuccessful and had the foresight to understand that the present state of the Hundred Years’ War was unwinnable for England. Following the death of his father and oldest brother, John became the de facto head of the English government as his nephew, King Richard II, was still a minor. Later disgraced and branded a traitor, John’s lasting legacy would come in the form of his son, Henry Bolingbroke, who deposed Richard and became King Henry IV.
Daughter of King Henry I, Matilda became more well-known for what she did after her father’s death and her own marriage to Holy Roman Emperor Henry V. On the death of Henry I’s only son William in 1120, a succession crisis resulted in “The Anarchy” as multiple claimants to the throne tried to assert themselves as Henry I’s inheritor. Her husband having died two years prior, Matilda took an active part in The Anarchy rather than choosing to join a convent. She remarried to Geoffrey of Anjou and made moves against another prospective heir, King Stephen, along with her son, Henry Plantagenet. Years of stalemate ultimately resulted in a truce in which Stephen recognized Henry as his heir over his own son William. After the war, Matilda ruled over Normandy in Henry’s name and later mediated his deteriorating relationship with Thomas Beckett.
Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall
The second son of King John, Richard lost out on the throne to his brother, King Henry III. In the 13th Century, there weren’t many other options to distinguish oneself when you’re not going to be king, so he went off to fight in the Barons’ Crusade in the Holy Land. Richard didn’t actually do much fighting but was successful in negotiating the release of prisoners and burial of Crusaders from the Battle of Gaza. He was ultimately elected to the mostly powerless position of King of Germany/King of the Romans until his death. He also helped his brother fight in the Second Barons’ War and founded Burnham Abbey.
Edward the Black Prince
John of Gaunt’s elder brother, Edward the Black Prince was the oldest and arguably most accomplished of Edward III’s children. Edward distinguished himself as a great military commander during the Hundred Years’ War with victories in Crecy, Calais, Winchelsea, and Poitiers, as well as quelling some troubles in Cheshire. In fact, most of Edward’s life is a series of military victories that made him beloved by his troops and the English public alike. However, Edward’s health began to fail, and his ultimate death was only spurred on by the death of his eldest son, also named Edward, meaning that his younger son Richard inherited the throne.
William, Duke of Cumberland
Third and youngest son of King George II, Prince William became famous as just about everyone else on this list did by earning prestige militarily. Even though he wasn’t to inherit the throne, his courage quickly instilled him as his parents’ favorite and fought in the War of Austrian Succession on behalf of England in its alliance with the Hanovers, Austrian, and Dutch troops against France. His most famous military victory was in the Battle of Culloden that brought a decisive end to the Jacobite Uprising. It was William’s “no quarter” policy in this battle and successive suppressions that earned him the nickname “Butcher Cumberland.” William also fought in the Seven Years’ War and negotiated the French possession of Hanover, which was initially done with his father’s permission, though King George II treated him like a pariah on his return to England, upon which William resigned his military office and retired to private life.