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Why three's not a crowd when it comes to our own siblings

As the Cambridge household is set to expand what will it mean for Prince George and Princess Charlotte? Kerry McKittrick talks to well-known people here about growing up in a trio of children

It's all change in the house of Windsor with a new arrival for Wills and Kate due early next year. And Cambridge junior will change the royal order of succession with Prince Harry moving to number six and baby number three taking up the fifth spot behind Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

But it's Princess Charlotte who will have the unenviable position of being the middle child. Being neither the privileged elder or the indulged younger, how will she cope in the new family set-up?

We talk to three well-known personalities here who grew up in a family of three.

Pamela Ballantine (58) lives in Belfast and is the host of UTV Life on Friday evenings. She says:

My sister once gave me a card that said, 'happy middle child day - although you're probably in therapy right now'.

My brother Peter and I are only one year apart, but Susie is five and a half years younger than me. I do remember life before Susie, sort of. When I see photos of holidays and outings before she came along, I remember what that was like.

Peter and I were always very close and his mates were mine too, so Susie was a bit of a nuisance. Middle child syndrome exists. I remember years ago my brother came back from school in England. During the holidays I would get a clip round the head and be told to get up and give my brother my seat. I remember saying to mum that dad loved seeing Peter come home from school and that he had always loved Susie more. She replied 'oh yes, I know dear, but don't worry about it'.

But I don't know if I would have preferred being the elder or younger sibling. As middle child you just drift along and, as we got older, Susie and Pete seemed to ally more. To me, Susie was just the annoying little sister who wanted to tag along and it drove me nuts. Then Pete would come home and Susie would adore her big brother.

It's flipped now and Susie and I are best friends. I think it might be because of geography rather than anything else as Pete's in Hong Kong now.

Future advice for Princess Charlotte as the middle child? Only hit them where it doesn't show."

Lynda Bryans (54) is a lecturer in journalism at Belfast Metropolitan College. The former UTV presenter is married to Strangford MLA Mike Nesbitt (60) and they live in Castlereagh. They have two sons, PJ (22) and Christopher (20). She says:

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Close bond: Lynda Bryans with sister Alison Clarke (left) and niece Natalie

I’m the oldest of the family. Alison is four years younger than me and Glen is 10 years younger.

I always felt a bit sorry for Alison because she wasn’t the eldest or youngest and she wasn’t the only boy or only girl. When Glen was born he had the most beautiful blonde, ringletty hair and looked like he’d fallen out of a Botticelli painting or something because he was so pretty. My hair was cut like a boy’s.

Glen lives in Scotland now and when he comes over my mother will be baking for a week in preparation and will cancel any plans just so she can be home for her son. Alison and I call him the blessed one, the golden boy. We’re here all year round but we certainly don’t get that kind of treatment. Everything is put on hold for the wonder child.

Being the eldest comes with difficulties too, you have to break the ground for everyone else to follow in your footsteps. I was quite a good child. If I was told to be back by midnight then I would be. But Alison just wandered in whatever time she liked and didn’t think twice about it.

Alison and I didn’t get on at all when we were growing up. I think the four-year gap was too much for her to be going out with me and my mates but she just tagged along annoyingly. I do vaguely remember a time when it was just her and me. We were insanely jealous of each other growing up. We shared a room and Glen got his own room. She would borrow my clothes — the good ones that I kept for going out — and just go to work in them. We weren’t very nice to each other growing up but we’re very close now. The years don’t become so much of an issue as you get older.

Glen was so much younger than me. He was very much a part of my life but I never babysat him. My parents didn’t go out much then and they wouldn’t have left me alone in the house as a teenager. I helped my mum, though. Being the eldest you’re always supposed to be the responsible one and you’re always looked to if something goes wrong.

For a parent, the first one is the hardest one for you to let go of. They need to go and get the bus or go out for a night alone. When I was heavily pregnant with Christopher and leaving the house to take PJ to the childminder so I could go to work, he tripped and banged his head on a flower pot which smashed as he hit it so hard. When I looked there was a lump the size of a marble under his skin — I had never seen anything like it.

I panicked and put him in the car and drove him to the Ulster Hospital — I was sobbing by the time I got there. The nurses took one look at me and started to treat me for shock.

At that point PJ found the toys and was absolutely fine.”

Ralph McLean (47) is a BBC Radio Ulster presenter. He lives in Ballymoney with his wife Kerry and their three children; Tara (10), Dan (8) and Eve (1). He says:

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Fun times: Ralph McLean and his eldest two children Tara and Daniel with his mother Iris (left) and sister Heather (right)

I  was the late arrival, the last minute surprise. My brother Gordon is 62 and sister Heather is 60 so there was a considerable gap between us.

It makes a big difference when there’s that much of a difference between you and your siblings. For me it felt like I had extra parents, especially with Heather.

She spent a lot of time looking after me so we were and still are really close.

I grew up with her a lot and we have a great relationship but it was her as the grown-up and me as the kid.

I think Heather did get a bad deal as the middle child because I was spoiled rotten. If you arrive late then you’re in a very privileged position and I’m sure the other two felt that I got everything I wanted and they never did.

I think that when the youngest arrives the parents are a bit more mature.

They’ve already brought up the other two so there’s a little less pressure and anxiety.

I speak from experience as a father of three — when my oldest, Tara, was on her way I read every parenting book out there and was so careful with everything. Then Dan came along and I knew what to expect but with Eve it’s all second nature now.”

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