By: Peggy Sue Wood | @pswediting
The concept of the “heir and the spare” traditionally refers to the practice of having two potential successors in a royal or aristocratic family, usually brothers. The “heir” is the eldest and the one who is expected to inherit the title, lands, and other assets of the family. The “spare” is the second born and is seen as a “backup child” in case something happens to the heir, such as their death or inability to fulfill their duties due to injury or illness.
This did not mean that the spare was meant to be a literal replacement, although I have seen some literary depictions that perpetuate that idea. Rather, the “spare” was more like a secondary heir who received similar education and training, often expected to be an aid to their older sibling and take on various tasks should the official heir inherit the position as planned. Of course, as time went on, the meaning of these roles changed, and the higher up the nobility or royal rank, the more likely the secondary heir was to become a rival instead of an aid–sometimes leading to callous deaths at the hands of one’s own family.
The tradition of having an heir and a spare dates back to medieval times when the risks of childbirth and early death were much higher. It was believed that having two potential heirs would ensure the continuity of the family’s lineage and wealth. The concept was particularly important for royal families who were expected to produce a male heir to ensure the stability of the monarchy. Today, the concept of the heir and the spare is still used in some royal families, such as the British monarchy. However, the practice has become less common in modern times as the risks associated with childbirth have decreased, and families no longer need to rely on multiple heirs to secure their lineage and wealth. I have seen this concept played out in a number of different anime, manga, and various other forms of the sequential art media, but one example that I’d like to point today is the series Revenge on The Real One, which currently available on Tapas.
For those who have not yet read this fantastic story or those who need a brief refresher, Revenge on The Real One is about two daughters of Duke Yutrit, Helga and Hillianne. Helga, a child prodigy in all matters from magic to business (except, maybe, for swordsmanship), has been raised as the sole and perfect daughter of House Yutrit. Right as she discovers her sublime magical capabilities, she learns that she is not the actual “Helga” Yutrit but the half-sister of the true heir who was switched at birth by her mother, a former maid of the Yutrit house. Ever since learning of the switch, Helga has strived to live up to the impossible standards of her stepmother, the Duchess, and done remarkably well. However, her efforts become wasted as her stepmother becomes obsessed with finding the “real” Helga and returning her to the rightful heir position. Just as things are about to settle, Hillianne, the “true” daughter of the Duchess returns, and Helga’s stepmother makes plans to try to have Hillianne replace her. As Duchess Yutrit tries harder to replace Helga with Hillianne, Helga begins her plans for revenge on the family that abandoned her and never seemed to appreciate her sincere efforts. For convenience, I’ll refer to the main character as Helga, the name she was raised with, and to her supposed half-sister raised outside the Duke’s estate as Hillianne.
Now, it’s not very clear whether Helga and Hillianne are twins or actually switched at birth. The “they are twins” trope is a more common approach when siblings look as alike as these two daughters do, but given that both mothers claim to have had a single child, I’m going to guess that the two daughters are not twins despite looking extremely alike.
In appearance, Helga and Hillianne are practically identical, with a few minor differences in appearance. Helga has sharper eyes, and Hillianne has slightly straighter hair. They have the same blonde hair and red eyes as their father, with similar heights and builds. Personality-wise, though, the two could not be more different, with Hillianne being open and bright while Helga comes off as cold and standoffish.
Hillianne, raised as a commoner, is not as adept at the high-society social skills that Helga has gained over the years. Hillianne is also not nearly as innately talented in education-related areas, unlike Helga, who has a firm grasp on politics, business, and the arts with her superior intellectual prowess for such materials. To put it bluntly, Hillianne is more bronze than brains, while Helga is more brains than bronze.
Their personalities are definitely a result of nurture (how they were raised), but their differing aptitudes seem to be more so related to their natures (who they come from)–at least, that is what the Duchess believes.
Helga has magical capabilities that Hillianne doesn’t seem to possess, while Hillianne seems to possess a better aptitude for swordplay. This supposedly ties into their lineage, with Duke Yutrit and his family being one of the few lines that still produce magical offspring, explaining Helga’s aptitude for magic. Meanwhile, Duchess Yutrit, the supposed stepmother of Helga, is revealed to have strong sword skills, which would explain Hillianne’s aptitude for swordplay. If the maid truly switched the two children, then their differences in appearance and aptitudes can be explained by their lineage. As daughters of the Duke, both Helga and Hillianne would have had a chance of inheriting magic. However, swordplay would have been a inherent skill unique to the daughter of the Duchess–or so the Duchess and Helga might believe.
In reality though, while physical traits and innate talent can give some individuals an advantage in activities like swordplay, it is still a skill that can be earned through practice and training. As such, who is to say that Helga would not be capable with a sword if given better circumstances wherein the Duchess was not abusing her or that Hillianne would not be capable of magic if taught how to use it?
Rather than focusing on such skill-based talents, I think that the idea of an heir and a spare is taking a much more active role in this story than readers or the Duchess and Helga seem to recognize. Moreover, I think that the Duke is the mastermind behind the messed up, ongoing dynamics between the Duchess and the daughters.
Despite Helga’s personal accomplishments and progress, she has not been given the same opportunities or assurances as Hillianne upon her return to the Yugrit house. By this, I mean that Helga has been relegated to the role of a spare who is “acting heir” until the real heir is returned.
In this world, women can inherit their father’s title. So, as the “sole” daughter, Helga would have been an heir to the duchy had Hillianne not returned. As the heir apparent, why was Helga, therefore, engaged to a prince?
From this question stems my theory that the Duke faked the idea of the daughters being switched for his own benefit, at the cost of his wife’s sanity and his daughters’ wellbeing.
We know that the Duchess cannot have more children (if she could, she certainly would have done so already). With that said though, the Duke obviously can have more children and has a reason to do so. In addition to creating a spare heir, the Duke’s house–which is a magical household prioritized by other magic-focused families like that of the royal family–is in a prime position to have a child be chosen for the fiance role of the prince, legitimate or not. He cannot give up an heir if he plans to have the family line continue, but he could give up a spare and, as it so happens, the maid he has been sleeping around with gave birth to another daughter that looks just like the one he and his wife have.
It is possible that the Duke knew the Duchess would hate his illegitimate child and possibly even try to kill it to prevent any challenges to the first daughter’s claim to the Duchy. The Duchess could not care less about the agreement with the royal family beyond keeping the reputation of the house she’s married into, so it is a pretty good bet that had the Duke not promised a child to the royal family the maid’s daughter would have been eliminated or tossed out.
It is very likely that the Duke planned to have Hillianne return at some point to be either an heir or spare who would marry the prince. When the Duchess learned of the spare, the Duke may have told her of the switch to prevent the secondary child from being killed or targeted by the Duchess. This is just a theory, but it raises some interesting questions about the motives and actions of the Duke and the maid.
We know that the maid told Hillianne that she was the true daughter of the Duke, so it is possible that the two were really switched before the maid left. However, I think that rather than being switched, the Duke and maid probably agreed to tell Hillianne she was the true daughter to maintain the lie told to the Duchess. Maybe the Duke whispered words of love to the maid, or maybe it was promised that agreeing to the lie would serve Hillianne well in the future because she could someday enter the house as a “legitimate” child–regardless, I do not think that Helga and Hillianne were ever actually switched.
What makes me think this includes a few factors. The first is the suspicious carelessness and callous choices of the Duke, which show that he only cares about having his two daughters serving roles that support and benefit the house’s continued linages. However, the second relates to how Helga and Hillianne have developed physically.
Although Helga and Hillianne looked even more alike in their youth than they do now, as they’ve aged, they have developed different eye shapes. There may also be some other smaller physical qualities setting them apart as most people close to Helga can immediately tell the difference between her and her sister. Hillianne has a round eye shape similar to what little we have seen of the maid but which neither the Duke nor the Duchess have. Mean while Helga had round eyes in her youth, as many children in these types of stories do, but as she has aged, she has developed the same sharp eye shape as the Duke and Duchess.
I believe that the Duchess believes Helga is not really her daughter, but I think that this is misconception brought on by the Duke, the maid, and other Yutrit staff to protect the other daughter of Yutrit house. At least, that is my theory. What do you all think? Let me know!
One thought on “[Theory & Concept Analysis] Revenge on the Real One: The Heir and The Spare”
It sounds like an interesting story and I would have to read it myself to draw my own conclusion, but I could see the rest of the staff lying to her in the hopes of protecting her.