1 Days Left to Support a Troper-Created Project : Personal Space (discuss)

King Incognito

"You mean, the guy who collapsed on the side of the road and mooched food off of us was the son of the emperor?"
Edward Elric, Fullmetal Alchemist


The heroes and/or villains run into a seemingly unimportant person, usually a beggar or common criminal. Later we discover this person is actually someone of great fame and importance (a king/powerful wizard, etc), and that he/she had disguised him/herself to walk among the general populace unnoticed.

This may be a Rags to Royalty situation, if the king must stay hidden for his own safety. However, it is never a case of a Secret Legacy; the king always knows that he is the king, and is generally plotting for when the Rightful King Returns, or has been using a Decoy Leader to rule. If he doesn't know he is the king/emperor/etc. then the situation is I Am Who?

It can lead to a Right in Front of Me moment. God Was My Copilot and Angel Unaware are the supernatural versions of this trope.

Very common for Royals Who Actually Do Something as it allows the king to leave the stuffy confines of his castle and interact with the people outside without drawing too much potentially dangerous attention to themselves. If this character isn't good at passing for common, he may be Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense.

Compare Body Double, Modest Royalty, Secretly Wealthy. Compare also Hidden Backup Prince, who is likewise hidden, but often without knowledge of their Secret Legacy. Contrast with Ermine Cape Effect and Mock Millionaire. Sub-Trope of Secret Identity.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX,
    • Chazz runs into a scruffy-looking guy outside North Academy who tells him about the requirements to get in. When he finally does get in and beats every student in the school, the scruffy guy reappears and reveals that he's actually the one who runs the academy.
    • In season 2, Jaden beats Aster Phoenix, supposedly the best duelist in the world. He doesn't learn Aster's name until Syrus tells him.
  • In Chrome Shelled Regios, queen Alsheyra Almonise pretends to be a normal, lazy professor all the time, leaving Kanaris in charge of most of the things in the palace.
  • Mai-Otome plays a double case of this with Mashiro and Takumi both sneaking out be among the general population and unknowingly meeting up with each other while their bodyguards try to keep up the Masquerade.
    • The prequel Sifr features a male example.
  • Crusnik #3/The Methusela Empress/Seth in Trinity Blood; She poses as a human tea vendor around her city using an Amidala/Padme decoy system (though the decoy looks much older).
  • The Principal in Great Teacher Onizuka learns of Onizuka's true nature this way.
  • In The Twelve Kingdoms, Shoryuu the Emperor of En does this a lot. He claims that listening to gossip in brothels is a good way to find out what's really going on. It seems to work.
    • Also, the recently crowned Yoko goes on a sabbatical like this early on to familiarize herself with her empire. She ends up joining a revolt against her own government (which had become choked with corruption before her ascension).
  • Hotohori in Fushigi Yuugi is always doing this. And has, on occasion, intentionally combined it with Dude Looks Like a Lady.
    • Also, his half-brother Tendou, who would have been the successor to the throne if not for a) his parents fearing for his safety and sending him away and b) Hotohori's overbearing mother pushing him onto the throne instead) lives as a peasant and even shared a relationship with the woman who later became Hotohori's wife.
  • Used absurdly straight in Moetan, where the Badass Longcoat Dandy is revealed to be the King of the vaguely defined Magical Kingdom all along. Ridiculously shounen battles ensue.
  • In Rose of Versailles, Queen Marie Antoinette tries to go to a party incognito (just not revealing she's the queen, since she's still clearly a noble in a Pimped-Out Dress), but her bodyguard Oscar just has to challenge the guy chatting her up. And so began another one of the series' sources of drama.
  • Lelouch, of Code Geass. Slight subversion in that he's only a prince, and not even close to being the crown prince. (He's 17th in line for the throne, at least he is at the beginning of the series.)
    • It runs in the family. At the series' beginning, he lives with his sister, a princess. As well, Euphie meets Suzaku whilst pretending to be a commoner so she can see the settlement.
  • Happens frequently in The Five Star Stories. It's a favorite activity of Emperor Amaterasu, but then, disguising yourself is the easiest thing in the world to do when you're a literal divine emperor.
  • Shi Ryuuki from Saiunkoku Monogatari does this a lot. Not that he always succeeds; Shuurei saw through his disguise immediately when they first met (he was using the name of someone she had met not ten minutes ago, among other things). He does manage to pull it off at other times, though - at least once so well that when he reveals his identity, his subjects don't initially believe him.
  • Ling Yao and May Chang in Fullmetal Alchemist, although in May's case, being the emperor's daughter doesn't really get her all that much. Ling on the other hand is such a dork that when the other characters find out who he is, they picture him in pantaloons with a white horse and a shiny crown and almost injure themselves laughing. It's mostly Obfuscating Stupidity, even if the falling-over-and-demanding-food thing is later Ling's Something Only They Would Say in a plot-relevant way.
  • The fifth episode of the second season of Strike Witches is essentially an extended Shout-Out to Roman Holiday.
  • In the manga adaptation ofThe Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Link, during his trip to Hyrule Castle Town, meets a little girl and plays with her all day (including going on a semi-disasterous Bombchu Bowling excursion). She's actually Princess Zelda, of course, temporarily run away from the castle to have some fun.
  • In The Heroic Legend of Arslan anime, Arislan is hoping to get some information out of some prisoners his forces recently captured, so he disguises himself as a servant and arranges things so that he gets assigned to deliver food to each of the prisoners he's most interested in. Estelle/Etoile confides in the "servant" that she has heard that Arislan is evil. He responds by feeling the top of his head. When she asks him why, he replies that he's checking to see if he has horns, giving away his identity.
  • Queen Dianna in Turn A Gundam is incognito amongst the Earthrace for most of the story, due to a practical joke she played getting more than a bit out of hand (she switched places with an Identical Stranger and they were separated before she has a chance to switch back). The leaders of the Earthrace do become aware of her situation, as does her personal bodyguard back with the Moonrace, but the general public on both sides has no idea.
  • Doll, the childish girl who joins the Odd Squad early in ˝ Prince, turns out to be a real life princess outside of the game world
  • Ferio in the manga version of Magic Knight Rayearth. He's Princess Emeraude's younger brother in both anime and manga but the anime version doesn't count because his memory of being royalty was erased there.
  • Pokémon uses this a lot with Gym Leaders. The first is Misty, who meets Ash at the beginning of his journey and travels with him for a long time after. Until they get to Cerulean City, Ash and the audience don't know she is the Gym Leader. Clemont in particular went 8 episodes as part of the main XY cast without either him or his sister Bonnie slipping that he's the Lumiose City Gym Leader.
  • Shogun Iemitsu occasionally sneaked out of the castle in Ooku: The Inner Chambers, dressed in woman's kimono with only one bodyguard. As this happened before the fact that the Shogun is a woman became public knowledge, this was a very effective disguise.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, the leader of Aogiri Tree is a mysterious figure known as the One-Eyed King. During the finale, the King is revealed to have been there the entire time disguised as the child-like Eto, a seemingly lower-ranked member of the organization. They even make several appearances in another identity, novelist Sen Takatsuki, allowing them to manipulate the protagonists without anyone being the wiser.
  • Fairy Tail. The king of Fiore is disguised as the pumpkin-headed mascot of the Grand Magic Games.
  • Char Aznable in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam wore a pair of shades and used the name "Quattro Bageena" when he joined the Anti-Earth Union Group to fight against the Titans. Only a few people in the AEUG know who he is and his heritage as Zeon Zom Deikun's son. It's only when he went to Earth where the former members of White Base recognized him and late in the show, he had to use his true identity as Casval Rem Deikun to give a speech at Dakar and expose the atrocities that the Titans committed.

    Comic Books 
  • In the World of Warcraft comic, Lo'Gosh, an amnesiac human with uncanny fighting skills who was forced into being an Orc gladiator, turns out to be Varian Wrynn, the kidnapped and subsequently shipwrecked king of Stormwind.
  • In one issue of The Sandman, Augustus Caesar disguises himself as a beggar to make plans that will not be overheard by the gods.
  • For a few issues Tony Stark decided he didn't want to be Iron Man any more so he gave away his fortune and went to Silicon Valley under the alias of Hogan Potts. He worked as a normal grunt at a company. He really didn't last that long.
  • The X-Wing Series arc Warrior Princess starts with the news that one of the Rogues is actually the lost heir of Eiattu IV, most of the rest of her family having been murdered in a revolution. Who is it? Plourr Illo, the butch, tempestuous mechanic-turned-pilot and last person in the galaxy any of the characters expected. She's a take on Anastasia and initially disguised herself to escape, then made herself into what she wanted to be, far from the self-serving decadence of the court, but is convinced to return and take her rightful place as the empress-apparent.
  • In Fables #150, Rose Red dons a hooded cloak and wanders among her troops on the eve of the battle, in a scene that directly homages the same scene in Henry V.

    Fan Works 
  • In Sunny Skies All Day Long, Princess Celestia tires of everypony constantly kowtowing to her out of fear and respect. At her sister Luna's suggestion, Celestia spends a day in Ponyville disguised as an ordinary pegasus named Sunny Skies. This particular fic is famous enough in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fandom that later stories where Celestia goes incognito almost invariably use the name Sunny Skies as a shout-out.
  • The Myst fanfic "Midnight in Shamathen" takes the King Incognito rumors about Lemashal (noted in the Video Games section below) and covers a pair of con artists—one masquerades as Lemashal masquerading as a beggar and the other is an off-duty royal guard pretending to be on guard duty. A merchant gives two generous coins. Four days later, it turns out that King Lemashal sometimes masquerades as a commoner further up the ladder—he tries to scout out the lives of commoners of every level, not just the poorest of the poor—and was the "merchant" in question.
  • In Weightless, Aria spent almost all of her POV's chapter explaining why she does this.
  • In Girl Genius fanfic The Birthday Present Gil, Tarvek and Agatha try to visit Paris without altering anyone to their true identity. They even book hotel and buy opera tickets under false names. Too bad they don’t make any actual effort to disguise themselves, so they get recognized almost immediately after their arrival and become a headline news next morning.
  • The Frozen fanfic Frozen Wight has an early scene where Anna and Elsa, respectively princess and queen of Arendelle, do this while entering a tavern to see what some of the citizens of Arendelle think of being ruled by an ice queen like Elsa. It works until Elsa inadvertently tries to drink hot chocolate and finds it too hot, causing her to spill and freeze her drink.
  • In the Ben 10 Fan Fic Hero High: Earth Style it is revealed that Gwen's boyfriend is actually the CEO of Sphinx Corp and the Big Bad in the worse possible way.
  • In A Peccatis, Justin Finch-Fletchley brings "a friend from the RAF" to the Leaky Cauldron to meet Neville and Hannah. The "friend" turns out to be Prince William.

    Film - Animated 
  • In Disney's Aladdin:
    • Princess Jasmine is running away from the palace when she first meets Aladdin, who thus doesn't learn that she's the princess until the royal guard tries to arrest him for kidnapping her. Many a Rebellious Princess first encounters the plucky young hero this way.
    • When Jasmine puts two and two together and confirms that the "Prince Ali Ababwa" who's courting her is in fact the street-rat Aladdin she'd met beforehand, he explains it away as a case of this trope, claiming that he really is a prince but was pretending to be a poor man to escape the pressures and restrictions of royal life.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Queen Padme Amidala of Star Wars frequently disguises herself as one of her own handmaidens. (OK, in this case it's just so that the assassins will shoot the wrong woman, which proves to be entirely justified.)
    • For the majority of The Phantom Menace, Padme is posing as one of her handmaidens while the visible Amidala is actually a decoy played by Natalie Portman-look alike Keira Knightley. This allows "Amidala" to send "her handmaiden" Padme with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan to keep tabs on them, with no one the wiser until later on.
    • In Attack of the Clones, the assassin who targets Padme at the beginning of the movie manages to kill off her decoy instead.
    • It's not just Padme who does this kind of thing. In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke goes to Dagobah to find the Jedi Master Yoda. After crash-landing in a swamp, he encounters a bizarre green muppet who talks funny and manages to annoy the poodoo out of Luke. Even after revealing that he knows Yoda and promising to take Luke to him, he still pushes the impatient Jedi-wannabe to the limit—before revealing that he is in fact Yoda and was testing Luke the whole time.
  • In Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress (which later went on to influence Star Wars: A New Hope), a princess and a general of a defeated kingdom disguise themselves as peasants in an attempt to smuggle themselves and their kingdom's treasury to safety.
    • One of the princess's servants also dies in her place earlier in the movie (off camera). Look familiar?
  • In A Knight's Tale, William faces a certain "Sir Thomas Colville" in a jousting match in which the latter is injured. Rather than either finish him off (which would shame him) or have him withdraw under the threat of same (again, a shameful act, as he has never not finished a match) he tilts against him, but neither man strikes the other, allowing Will to progress on points and Colville to withdraw having finished his match. In the next tournament, William and his rival Count Adhemar are again matched against "Colville", but Adhemar bows out of the joust at the last minute to William's confusion. It turns out that Colville is in fact Edward, The Black Prince of Wales and future King of England. Both Will's earlier mercy and his refusal to withdraw upon learning his secret lead to Prince Edward becoming one of Will's greatest allies.
  • The twist at the end of the Sherlock Holmes movie Pursuit To Algiers is that Holmes has disguised the about-to-be-crowned-king prince as a ship's deckhand and a cop as the prince to throw the prince's enemies off the trail. He doesn't tell Watson because he fears that Watson would give it away by treating the "deckhand" with the sort of respect he would normally show royalty.
  • Subverted in Alexander Korda's The Thief of Bagdad, in which the vizier convinces the king to walk among his people dressed as a commoner—and then takes over the kingdom in his absence. He's gone for a day. Easiest. Usurpation. Ever.
  • In The King's Speech, Duchess Elizabeth makes her first visit to Lionel Logue under an assumed name and without a retinue. When she finally has to reveal her identity to make Logue see the gravity of the situation, he is naturally taken aback.
  • In From Hell, Albert Sickert is Prince Albert Victor Edward, the grandson of Queen Victoria.
  • In Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn plays a princess who escapes her bodyguards and handlers to have fun touring Rome with a journalist played by Gregory Peck.
  • A Kid in King Arthur's Court had King Arthur posing as a peasant to save his daughter.
  • Becomes a major part of the plot of The Adventures of Robin Hood.
  • Prince Akeem in Coming to America. Unsatisfied with how passive his bride-to-be is, Akeem and his friend Semmi travel to New York, where they pose as working-class African college students, so that he can find a woman who will love him for who he is, rather than what he is. His cover is almost blown at a basketball game, when an immigrant from his home country passes him in the hallway and instantly recognizes him.
  • The female protagonist in the Russian comedy Man with a Warranty (or Man with a Guarantee) has a wealthy businesswoman make a bet with her long-time rival that she can meet and marry (it's still not uncommon in Russia to have a Fourth Date Marriage) a "normal" man in one of her shopping malls in 5 days while pretending to be a new employee with no residency. While she starts off as a terrible employee, she quickly gets the hang of it. The "normal" man she picks is a security guard who literally lives at the mall and absolutely loves everything about his job. Her cover is nearly blown by a friend (the wife of her rival) who sees her working at a lingerie store. The protagonist claims that she's merely undercover to find out how her business works firsthand. Naturally, her rival crashes the wedding and reveals the truth to the security guard. The guard is angry at her for lying but, of course, ends up forgiving her when she tells him that she doesn't need all her millions (which she will lose to her rival) to be with him. They end up getting a marriage license one minute before the bet deadline. She then goes to live with her husband at the mall (which she owns anyway).
  • In Bachelor Mother, David Merlin, the "Son" in large department store Merlin and Son, insists to spunky store clerk Polly that Merlin's will take a return on a broken toy duck, without a receipt. To prove it, he takes the duck to customer service, while in disguise. He fails utterly, and he's about to be arrested for shoplifting when security figures out who he is.
  • He may be a toy store owner instead of a king, but Mr. Duncan from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York fits the trope fairly well. He poses as an ordinary store employee while talking to Kevin, who doesn't wise up until he sees a portrait of Duncan, who has already disappeared.

  • In the older versions — pre-twentieth century — of Robin Hood, the king (who may be Richard The Lion Heart or, if the ballad is old enough, a King Edward) disguises himself to get Robin Hood to capture him. Due to Robin's role in the Rightful King Returns in twentieth century works, this has become less common, but not unknown.
  • King Matthias the Just (aka Matthias Corvinus) of Hungary has hundreds of tales depicting him as this, using it to expose corrupt lords or to learn about the problems of his people.
  • Popular tales about Polish king Casimir III the Great ascribe him the habit of wandering in beggar's disguise and asking for food. After such a visit he always re-visited said people with his whole court and revealing the results of previous test to public. The most popular version involves the king visiting a mean noble who mocked his poverty and a poor peasant who shared his last loaf of bread with stranger and asking him to come to baptism of his child. The following Sunday, the king's carriage stopped by the knight's castle just to warn him about underestimating people and then the king, with his whole court in tow, come to the peasant's cottage and throw a party to celebrate the peasant's son's baptism. The king becomes one of the child's godfathers, promises to take care of whole family, and gives them a loaf of bread in exchange for the one that he had eaten before. It was made of pure gold .
  • In the old fairytale "King Grizzlebeard," the eponymous king goes through several disguises to get (and to get back at) the princess.
  • In the Sicilian fairy tale "Paperarello", the title character is a king who finds work as a goose-boy in another kingdom. Paperarello (derived from Italian papera meaning "gosling") is the nickname given to him.
  • In Chinese folklore, famous government officials (especially ones well known for a strong sense of justice) were said to disguise themselves in plainclothes to better spy understand the people he was ruling over.
    • This is also a very common thread in Arabian or Islamic folktales, too.
  • The Jewish folktale "The Sword Of Wood" has a king visit a cobbler without him knowing who he is.
  • Toyama Kagemoto is celebrated in both folklore and Jidai Geki for Wandering The Earth (well, Japan at least) in disguise and righting wrongs after he reveals his true identity in dramatic fashion.

  • Used by Thomas, Lord of the obscure British castle of Magnus in Sigmund Brouwer's Wings of Dawn; officially, he's terribly sick and close to death for the last six months, while in reality he's been in hiding from the Druid conspiracy that seeks his castle and his books, and terribly sick of being stuck inside that long, so he goes undercover to get some fresh air and find out what's happened in the meantime. Good thing, too, since the Druids strike while he's gone.
  • The 1001 Nights:
    • In "Two Sisters Who Were Jealous of Their Younger Sister", the Sultan, having just buried his father and assumed the title, disguises himself to check out how his people are receiving the change. He overhears three sisters discussing their "If I could have one wish" fantasies, in which one says she'd marry the Sultan's chief baker, the next says she'd marry the chief cook, and the youngest says "Nothing less than the Sultan himself" - so the Sultan decides to make their wishes come true.
    • According to these stories, caliph Harun al-Rashid also liked to do this. He wasn't necessarily good at it, though, nearly getting himself killed in The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad for asking nosy questions while forgetting they didn't know who he was.
  • Discworld
    • In a way, Carrot in the books. While no one knows for certain, everyone suspects and generally doesn't care. He doesn't want to be king and they are fine with that. It helps the last guy to press the matter is killed by Carrot, who jammed his sword through the man and into the stone pillar behind him.
    • Elsewhere in Discworld, Nanny Ogg reflects on an (unrelated) story that fits this trope and her suspicion that the King in question sent his people around beforehand to make sure everyone knew what was really happening "in case anyone tried to get too common."
    • Prince Heinrich of Zlobenia in Monstrous Regiment serves in his own army as Captain Hortenz, and tries to get too common with a serving girl (actually the heroine disguised as a boy disguised as a serving girl), who naturally kicks him in the"Royal Succession".
    • In Raising Steam there is occasional mention to one of the shovelers on the trains. He is one of the best there is, and help defend the train during an attack in the climax. He is really Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork.
  • When we first meet Aragorn, the rightful king, in The Lord of the Rings, he's a ranger named Strider. We don't find out his true identity for quite some time. Tolkien himself didn't know at first: in the first drafts he was considering making the character a Hobbit badass who had had adventures with Gandalf and been captured and tortured in Mordor.
    • And before the events of Lord of the Rings, there was this mysterious advisor to Steward Ecthelion (Denethor's father) of Gondor...
    • And before that, when Théoden was a child, there was a mysterious foreigner who rode with the Rohirrim and just up and left one day...
  • Prince Gwydion and Fflewddur Fflam of the Chronicles of Prydain both travel around the countryside in simple traveling garb. Both cases are heavily subverted though. The protagonist of the series, Taran, recognizes Gwydion within minutes of meeting him and is actually shocked and disappointed to not find him in more regal garb. Gwydion uses it as a lesson to not judge others by their appearance alone. Fflewddur meanwhile makes a point out of boasting how he is a king (of a rather small kingdom, but a king nonetheless), thereby voiding the "Incognito" portion of "King Incognito".
  • Nat Whilk in The Dragons of Babel. It helps that he's been gone for a number of years and no one saw that much of him to begin with. And at the end, Will comes back after twenty years or so and does the same thing.
  • The Eternal Emperor, Ruler of the Court of a Thousand Worlds, in the Sten series by Chris Bunch & Allan Cole, liked to take a break from the Imperial rulership thing by dressing up as a seedy starship engineer named "Haroun al-Raschid" (in a deliberate homage to the Arabian Nights) and go out bar crawling. And getting in bar fights.
  • The Connatic, benign dictator of the Alastor Cluster in Jack Vance's Alastor trilogy, not only frequently goes out into the public in disguise, but makes sure that the people know of this habit. He only appears as his official self once in the series and it is implied that Ryl Shermatz, a government agent who appears in two of the books, may be one of his cover identities.
  • Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe features King Richard I going around as a mysterious knight searching for adventure upon his return to England. His loyal retainers' advice not to risk his life in this manner is ignored.
  • In Fiona Patton's The Painter Knight, the mildly insane king goes bar-crawling. This doesn't work, however, because members of the royal family are quasi-divine and have literally flaming eyes. Whatever tavern he enters is required to uncomfortably maintain the fiction, under pain of having the bar burned down. When he is assassinated and his daughter and heir is on the run from her enemies, her eyes are disguised by blindfolding her with a thin cloth, so that she can see but others will think she is blind. Her distinctly red hair, another family characteristic, is darkened with dirt.
  • Prince Jonathon in the Song of the Lioness quartet.
    • In the sequel quartet, Protector of the Small, Kel didn't know that her friend Princess Shinkokami was part of the Imperial bloodline of the Yamani Islands until after the latter arrives in Tortall to meet her future husband Prince Roald. Shinko explains that her family was out of favor with her uncle the Emperor at the time and she loved it that Kel treated her like an ordinary person, so never told her.
  • Prince Roger and his surviving bodyguards do this in John Ringo and David Weber's We Few, literally remolding their bodies with supertech to go undercover.
  • King Arthur did this in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, to no one's benefit. However he did give King Arthur a Crowning Moment of Awesome when he knowingly exposes himself to infection by carrying a smallpox stricken child to die in the arms of her equally ill mother.
  • The King and the Duke from Adventures of Huckleberry Finn claim to be this, but Huck can tell they're just con men on the run almost immediately after meeting them.
  • Another Mark Twain piece, The Prince and the Pauper, features the eponymous prince swapping places with the eponymous pauper, effectively becoming this.
  • In James Thurber's The 13 Clocks, the wandering minstrel is, in reality, a prince. (The wicked duke finds him out by finding his real clothing: the Ermine Cape Effect strikes.)
  • In the Chivalric Romance Sir Orfeo, Orfeo wanders in the wilderness because of his grief at the loss of his wife, kidnapped by the king of Fairy. However, when he finds the fairy court, he exploits it to present himself as a ministrel. When the king promises him a reward, he asks for his wife back. The king objects because he is so tattered. Orfeo says that breaking his word would be worse, and gets her.
  • In Greg Costikyan's book Another Day, Another Dungeon Vic, the senile old man who tells long, pointless stories and begs for spare change, turns out to be the last polymage, a type of sorcerer thought to have died out more than ten thousand years ago. This definitely counts as a Deus ex Machina, but it's completely forgivable because it's hilarious.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's Chessmen of Mars, Gahan the Jed of Gathol met, and rather repulsed, John Carter's daughter Tara. He disguised himself as a panthan, a wandering swordsman, named Turan when they met again.
  • Subverted in Yulia Latynina's Wizards and Ministers, when the naive young emperor Varnazd tries to be this and ends up being coerced to join a street gang which then just betrayed him and took him hostage, easily recognising who he was. His Prime Minister was honestly relieved that this was as far as it went, having previously noted that all the wannabe Haroun ar-Rashid emperors in the Wei Empire tended to end up as irresponsible Robin Hood-wannabe gang leaders with complete immunity from law enforcement that was afraid to arrest anyone right or wrong for the fear of accidentally arresting the Emperor.
  • 1632 has Gustavus Adolphus as in Real Life below.
  • The initial love interest in Variable Star is addicted to this in an almost literal fashion, discovering just how much she can find out if nobody realizes who she is. (She's not technically royal, but her financial status is about a step above Richie Rich.)
  • Murtagh of the Inheritance Cycle, despite seeming to be an ordinary rogue, is the son of the Empire's most powerful general, the Dragon Rider Morzan, who died fifteen years earlier
  • In Andre Norton's Ruritanian novel The Prince Commands, Michael Karl, soon to be King of Morvania as a result of his cousin Urlich Karl's death, is captured by a bandit known as The Werewolf, a prime suspect, who makes no secret of his dislike for the royal family. Protests too much, methinks, because The Werewolf is Urlich Karl, using that role to build a loyal army while also posing as an American journalist to ferret out traitors among the nobility.
  • In Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno, when Sylvie and Bruno chase after a beggar driven off by their uncle, aunt, and cousin, they find it's their father — who has become the King of Elfland.
  • In Scott Westerfeld's novel Leviathan, Alek turns out to be the rightful heir to the Austrian-Hungary empire. Not a king, but close enough.
  • In the Codex Alera series:
    • Tavi starts out as a Secret Legacy, but is finally told the truth about his heritage early in the fourth book. However, it fits this trope for the fourth book, as he travels around the country as a soldier or spy rather than openly admitting who he really is. It's partly a King Incognito in the fifth book as well. The Alerans know, but to most of the Canim he is just another soldier from among the demons and he has to bargain or bully his way through. It's unlikely that knowing who he was would have affected how they treated him, though.
    • The First Lord does this as well when he feels like delivering a message personally. It's actually justified since having powerful watercrafting allows him to shapeshift. It then gets subverted in that the Genre Savvy Tavi and Marcus see right through it despite the shapeshifitng, because they know the First Lord's mannerisms and body language and the First Lord fails to change them when he's incognito.
    • One noblewoman, Invidia Aquitaine, gives her husband Attis a dancing slave girl as an anniversary present. He gives the girl to one of his servants, Fidelias, for the night, as a reward. Once they're alone, Fidelias reveals he figured out she was Invidia. They discuss business and she says she's going to sleep with him anyway, as ordered. Ironically, Aquitaine makes a remark about what his wife might say if she were there, and Fidelias concurred, though he had already figured it out by that point.
  • Henry VII (supposedly) posed as a leper in "The King's Job" (aka The Tudor Monarchy) by Rudyard Kipling.
  • In The Malazan Book of the Fallen, a highly competent but otherwise unassuming servant turns out to be the Elder God of the sea in disguise, who decided to live among humans in an attempt to avert Who Wants to Live Forever?.
  • In Bernard Cornwell's Azincourt, a disguised Henry V talks to his soldiers the night before the battle. Almost certainly an homage to Shakespeare's use of the trope (see below).
  • In the Malloreon:
    • Zakath's default state is Modest Royalty. Except when forced to ride around in expensive robes, wearing a heavy crown, he prefers wearing simple white linen - both when travelling and when dealing with the day-to-day work of being Emperor of Mallorea. As a result, no-one ever recognises when he does travel around the city. When he joins Garion's group, he's forced to become a real King Incognito. Thanks to his usual spartan dress sense, the only change he makes to his appearance to make it even harder to recognise him is... to grow a beard.
    • Garion also qualifies when he's adventuring. Most of the main characters qualify in some way or another, since they're almost all at least nobles of some rank.
  • In The Chronicles of Amber, some of the Nine Princes of Amber did this, riding into shadow and taking up places away from court.
  • Paul Atreides does this in Dune Messiah.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Be Born", Salome throws the head of a murdered man to a deaf beggar and casually discusses the true queen's imprisonment. Not only is Valerius not a beggar but a La Résistance leader, he's not deaf.
  • The Medieval Dutch epic poem Karel Ende Elegast recounts the adventures of Charlemagne, disguised as a common thief, and his companion Elegast, who may or may not be an elven king. Charlemagne takes advantage of his thieving alter-ego to break into the castle of his brother-in-law, who he then conveniently overhears plotting regicide.
  • In Anne Rice's The Mummy, the eponymous character reminisces about advising Cleopatra that a good ruler has to do this, on account of never really getting the complete picture from their advisers on the state of the kingdom.
  • In Claire Madras's Sissi in Ireland, Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary (aka Sissi) disguised herself as a "mere" Austrian countess to travel through a highly fictionalised Ireland of the late XIX century. Only her original hosts know who she is... but due to the gossip of their household staff, Sissi's cover is revealed to a local noble yet very simple-living Irish family that she had befriended, and who then swear secrecy. In the last chapter of the blook, Sissi willingly presents herself as the Austro-Hungarian Empress in a high-class ball, much to the shock of these who still didn't know.
  • Wizards in the Sword of Truth seem to make a second profession out of this. Zedd (several times), Adie, Richard (several times, never of his own volition, and invoked by the books), Ann, Nathan, Nicci (with Richard), Kahlan (in the Chainfire arc).
  • The scarred woman in A Brother's Price, later identified as Cira, turns out to be the missing princess Halley, in disguise.
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's Smith of Wootton Major, in Smith's first meeting with the queen, she does not reveal her identity. Also, Alf is the fairy king.
  • In Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series, this happens a few times:
    • in The Path of Daggers, Queen Morgase passes herself off as Maighdin, a simple lady's maid (which she's bad at), to escape being made a puppet
    • in Lord of Chaos, we learn that Tigraine, heir to the throne, was given a prophecy that says she must leave and disguise herself as an Aiel Maiden of the Spear
    • Rand al'Thor does this at least once, in The Gathering Storm, wearing plain clothes and walking the streets of a city ruled by his enemy, only to find how happy and peaceful everyone is
  • At several points in the Vorkosigan Saga books, Emperor Gregor of Barrayar uses his title of Count Vorbarra for the 'avoid irritating protocol' variant of this trope. Also applies during The Vor Game after he runs away and Barrayar when he is being hidden from Vordarian's forces.
  • Ista's vaca-*ahem* pilgrimage in Paladin of Souls was taken using the surname of a distant cousin and most minor noble title available to avoid the entourage deemed fitting for the sister of a ruling Provincarnote  and mother of Royinanote  Iselle.
  • Spoofed in Mogworld: The King of Lolede disguises himself twice to help the cause of La Résistance, but everyone recognizes him anyway. Wearing his crown quite visibly under his hood probably did not help matters.
  • A variation occurs in Catch-22, Major Major Major Major, bored and lonely, puts on a disguise and insinuates himself into the base's basketball game. In true Catch-22 fashion, this backfires spectacularly: once the other players realize that it's their commanding officer in disguise, they play even rougher with him, knowing that they can get away with abusing him by pretending they didn't recognize him afterwards.
  • 'Brian' a traveller in An Encounter And An Offer, is actually King Richard Edward Plantagenet. His pseudonym turns out to be pretty pointless though.
  • In "Gylfaginning" of Prose Edda, King Gylfi of Sweden travels in search of Ásgarðr disguised as an old man and calling himself Gangleri.
  • Tip in The Marvelous Land of Oz. Kind of. It's complicated.
  • In The Book of the New Sun, the Autarch is (at least) several of his own minor officials, a brothel keeper, and a conspirator against the throne.
  • In The Lost Prince, many generations of the legendary Lost Prince's descendents have lived incognito while preparing for the day they can pull a Rightful King Return without some Sketchy Successor immediately arranging for them to get lost again. When the protagonists are formally introduced to the Returned King at the end of the novel, it turns out to be someone they've met before on multiple occasions without knowing his heritage.
  • In Akarnae, the protagonist Alex eventually discovers that her antisocial roommate D.C. is actually Princess Delucia Cavelle, the heir to the Medoran throne.
  • Journey to Chaos: When Princess Kasile wants to go out in public unnoticed, she puts on commoner clothing and sneaks out. She has to add a hood or a hat because otherwise her hair and eye color would give away her Royal Blood. During A Mage's Power, she tries to pass herself off as a cowgirl but Mia sees right through it because it's only skin deep.
  • During the Time of Troubles arc of the Deverry novels, in order to reach Cerrmorr in his (ultimately successful) attempt to gain control of that faction of the civil war, Prince Maryn has to travel through territory held by the rival Cantrae faction. So he disguises himself as a common mercenary (Thankfully, his bodyguard is a mercenary unit on long term retainer, so they come with him to extend the disguise and provide security).
  • This trope lies at the center of a stymied deportation case in G. K. Chesterton's story "The Unmentionable Man."
  • A variation in the Tales of Dunk and Egg. The stories follow the hedge knight Ser Duncan the Tall (or Dunk for short), who has taken the boy Egg as his squire. Egg is short for Aegon, as in Prince Aegon Targaryen, who is later crowned King Aegon V and is nicknamed "the Unlikely".

    Live Action TV 
  • In the Merlin (2008) episode "The Once and Future Queen", Prince Arthur discovers the other knights are letting him win duels and jousts, so disguises himself as an ordinary knight to compete in a tournament, to prove that he doesn't need special treatment.
  • Subverted in the first season of Blackadder; Edmund, Baldrick and Percy visit a plague-ridden village to visit an informative old crone, and after several people greet Edmund, Baldrick suggests that he disguise himself so no one will deliberately infect him. Edmund then places a strip of cloth over his eye, and the peasants just play along.
  • The premise of Undercover Boss, a reality(ish) show where a CEO works in an entry-level role of his own company while in disguise.
  • Babylon 5:
    • In one episode, Commander Sinclair goes looking for information in disguise - mainly changing out of his uniform into more nondescript clothing. Nobody recognizes him as the station commander (But then, the station does have a population of 250,000, and most of them have probably never seen his face).
    • Delenn is secretly a member of the Grey Council (the Mimbari ruling body), keeping an eye on Sinclair.
    • Garibaldi, the chief of Station Security, does this from time to time too, adding a fedora to help conceal his face. He justifies it by pointing out that most people dealing with cops don't see an individual or even a face, just a uniform and a badge.
    • Cartagia, the Centauri emperor, mentions he keeps a small hair crest specifically to pull this... And go through low class brothels. He's The Caligula, by the way.
  • Xena and a princess who look just like her had to switch places and the princess had to learn what it's like to live like a warrior peasant.
  • King Sukjong in Dong Yi likes to inspect his country in such a manner. And it was in one such tour when he bumped into the eponymous character. Hilarity ensues when she acted rather rudely (albeit not on purpose) in front of him, unaware of his real identity.
  • Trick, the bartender in Lost Girl, is secretly the Blood King of the Fae.
  • This trope is the primary conceit behind the long-running Jidai Geki series Abarenbo Shogun. The eponymous Shogun disguises himself as an ordinary samurai to hang out with firefighters, uncover corruption, and solve mysteries. Every episode ends with a Big Reveal where he confronts the evildoer of the day, which nearly always results in a big sword fight.
  • In keeping with the older Robin Hood ballads, King Richard does this in the Robin of Sherwood episode "The King's Fool".
  • In Doctor Who episode Nightmare in Silver, it turns out that Porridge is the Emperor.
  • Emperor Qian Long in Princess Returning Pearl goes on an incognito inspection trip around the country. This is Truth in Television as he is an emperor famous for these trips.
    • Yong Qi, Er Kang, Zi Wei and Xiao Yan Zi also try to keep their royal (and fugitive) status secret in series 2, not always to great success.
  • Deconstructed in an episode of The Musketeers, in which King Louis XIII goes out incognito for a night on the town to see how the working class live, and gets kidnapped by slavers. The result is an enormous mess that leaves a huge body count, and the King unambiguously fails to learn any kind of humility, compassion or decency.
  • On The 100, when Jaha and Kane are taken prisoner by the Grounders, a timid servant girl is left to watch over them. At the end of the episode, it turns out the girl is actually the Grounders' Commander, posing as a mere servant so Jaha and Kane would talk freely to each other in front of her, letting her get a better assessment of their characters.
  • The Greek, an international crime boss in The Wire, does this by pretending to be a common costumer at a cafe he owns, while his dragon is the one pretending to be the boss making deals within earreach.
  • Game of Thrones. At the start of Season 6, Tyrion and Varys do this to gauge the mood on the streets of Meereen (basically starvation, anger, rebellion and religious fanaticism = not good). Varys has to point out that Tyrion is still strutting about like a noble, so he's not fooling anyone.

    Myth and Legend 
  • Zeus, and others of the Greek Gods would also occasionally walk the earth in the guise of old hags or beggars, so they could reward those that showed them kindness, or punish those that didn't. The most famous story of this is the tale of Baucis and Philemon, where Zeus and Hermes, disguised as beggars, are shown Sacred Hospitality by the poor, elderly couple Baucis and Philemon after their richer neighbors had shut their doors to the gods. This leads to Zeus providing some Laser-Guided Karma to the rich people and one of Classical Myth's most heartwarming endings.
  • One of the founding myths of ancient Athens was that its semilegendary last ruling king, Codrus, heard a prophecy that if the city was to be saved from the attacking Dorians, an Athenian king would have to die. Codrus therefore disguised himself as a peasant, found a Dorian encampment, provoked the garrison, and was killed in the ensuing quarrel. After this, everyone agreed that this was a Tough Act to Follow and that therefore Athens would never again have a king; his descendants were instead given a hereditary post in the judiciary with additional religious duties.note 
  • Norse Mythology has Óðinn doing this a lot as well, sometimes accompanied by Loki.
  • Japanese folklore has youkai which fill this role.
  • According to the New Testament, God the Son became a mortal man in order to reconcile with fallen humanity, and even after his return to heaven remains The Son of Man as much as of God.
    • Some interpretations of Jesus' parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46) see the King in this story as using this trope to test the goodwill of his subjects.
  • More than one Catholic saint has an encounter like this in their legends.
    • Saint Martin of Tours, one of the most popular Catholic saints, was converted after having shared his cape with a freezing beggar, who turned out to be Jesus.
    • Saint Christopher, was an ex-Genius Bruiser turned Gentle Giant who converted to Christianity after finding out that the cute little boy once he helped cross a river was actually Baby Jesus, and that said baby was actually the Lord and Master of the Universe.
    • Both St. Francis of Assisi and St. Elizabeth of Hungary, among others, are said to have encountered Christ in the unpleasant form of a leper.
  • King Solomon, of Jewish history/mythology, was said to have been thrown down from his throne and replaced by a demon impostor. He was forced to roam the land as a commoner, so rather than by choice, this one was against his will.
  • The prophet Elijah favored this trick, doing it willingly to gauge the temper of the Israelite people. On the other hand, he was often forced to do it (he was hunted by King Ahab, so he had to hide).
  • Angels are said to do this, as in the story of Lot.
  • Also used by Odysseus in The Odyssey, to gain entry into Troy (as well as his home, after the suitors took it over).
  • King Alfred The Great of Wessex traditionally infiltrated the ranks of his Danish enemies disguised as a minstrel; more famously, in disguise, he was taken into a poor woman's hut and told to watch her baking cakes, and slapped by her when he burned them. (Both incidents are included by G. K. Chesterton in The Ballad of the White Horse.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • In Forgotten Realms divine minions do it frequently — Elminster more often than Khelben, and Erevis Cale constantly lives as a "head butler" of a wealthy merchant family.
    • Azoun IV Obarskyr of Cormyr, before he became king, joined an adventuring group fittingly named "the King's Men" soon after it was founded, as a swordsman named "Balin", but revealed his identity to them after a few months. The Royal Court Wizard, of course, both kept an eye on and covered for the prince, pretending he's on an expedition or pilgrimage.
    • Elminster's scribe and general manservant Lhaeo, secretly the last living royal heir of Tethyr after civil war plunged that realm into chaos and staying at the Old Mage's tower (with Elminster's knowledge and permission) for his own safety.
  • In Traveller this is a common fashion among Imperial nobles and is perfectly legal as long as their incognito is registered should mail arrive. Generally they will use in-jokes like literary characters for their incognito.
  • Elisabetta Barbados, the Holy Sacred Empress of the Empire of Abel in Anima: Beyond Fantasy. She loves to leave palace to known firsthand how things are going on her domains alone (she's just thirteen years old) and carrying the Imperial Sword, as a daughter of traders named Anna Never having even fought against her own Empire and entered into many messy situations. At most, her main bodyguard knows both her location and when she's in danger.

  • In Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado Prince Nanki-Poo disguises himself as a minstrel to escape the advances of Lady Katisha, a much older woman who wants his hand in marriage.
  • A favorite of Shakespeare:
    • Several characters in King Lear.
    • In Henry V, King Henry dresses as a common soldier and wanders the camp the night before the battle so he can hear what the foot soldiers think of him. It is not always complimentary.
    • The Duke of Vienna in Measure for Measure spends most of the play disguised as a friar in order to spy on his subordinate, Angelo, who he has left in charge of governing the city. Good thing, too, since Angelo proves to be ruthless and corrupt..
    • Lucentio, son and heir of the famed merchant Vincentio, disguises himself as a language tutor in The Taming of the Shrew.
  • Played for laughs in Offenbach's La Perichole. The Viceroy disguises himself as a common man to find out what the people really think of him. His courtiers, however, have tipped off everyone in the town, and bribed them to say how much they love the Viceroy. When he finally realizes he is being lied to, and finds La Perichole reviling the government, he is rapturous at "beautiful, beautiful truth!"
  • The Rose Of Algeria: The Rebellious Princess Zoradie disguises herself as a fortune-teller named Miriam in order to discover the identity of a mysterious poet.
  • There are stage adaptations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that pull this in conjunction with Composite Character to explain how Charlie Bucket manages to find the last of the five Golden Tickets despite his dire straits. In the 2005 stage musical Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka and the 2010 opera The Golden Ticket, a candy vendor/sweetshop owner whom Charlie meets and befriends in the early going is actually Willy Wonka in disguise — a concept not that farfetched as the novel has Charlie live in the same town as the Wonka Factory to begin with. In both versions, he has a lot of Pet the Dog moments with the boy in both his identities, in an effort to soften a character who has a notorious dark streak.

    Video Games 
  • In Jade Empire, the hero encounters a mysterious female ninja named Silk Fox. She later turns out to be Princess Sun Lian, trying to discover the source of corruption in her father's government.
    • Also, Master Li of a rather small martial arts school, starts off as a somewhat important character (master of your school, but it's out in the middle of nowhere and all). Early in the game, he reveals to you that he is Sun Li the Glorious Strategist, brother of the current Emperor. Over the course of the plot you have a few opportunities to tell people this when they ask about Master Li, but most of them - including the above-mentioned Silk Fox - won't believe you.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, an old man in imperial armor gives you a lucky coin on your way to face the Big Bad if you have done certain things in the game. You never see him again, but it turns out he was the spirit of the first emperor, Tiber Septim, that had ascended to godhood.
    • Tiber Septim is also suspected to be the true identity of the ragged old prophet from Knights of the Nine.
  • The player character's history stories in Daggerfall generally involved the player helping one of the Emperor's sons without knowing who he was, and later being rewarded by the Emperor for it.
  • Three Fire Emblem games have a prince/princess joining your party in the guise of a bard, a healer or swordsman.
    • L'Arachel (8th game) tries to hide her identity as a princess, but enjoys drawing attention to herself too much. Other cases are Levin from the 4th game and Joshua from the same 8th game.
    • Radiant Dawn has Micaiah. While she knew she was Branded, it isn't revealed until the Endgame that her ancestor was in love with the Apostle of Begnion, thus making her the true Empress. Played with in that she ends up ruling the kingdom of Daein instead.
    • Prince Mildain/Elphin the bard from the sixth game.
    • Princess Lucina, Chrom's daughter, though she more takes the appearance of a Mysterious Waif literally disguised as her ancestor. Virion also plays this role, claiming to be "The archest of archers" when he joins the Shepherds, but is later revealed to be the Duke of Rosanne.
  • Princess Nadia of Chrono Trigger disguises herself and takes on the pseudonym Marle in order to see the Millenial Fair. It's only after they're sucked into the past that the heroes figure out who she really is when she's mistaken for her ancestor Queen Leene.
  • Quite a few times in The Legend of Zelda
    • Zelda while disguised as Shiek in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
    • Tetra in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. She has no clue about her royal lineage at first, and some time after finding out she continues to disguise herself as her normal Tetra persona.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, there's Midna, who happens to be the eponymous Twilight Princess. But we don't find that out until near the end of the game.
    • Ralph is revealed near the end of Oracle of Ages to be the heir to the throne of Labrynna, and a direct descendant of Queen Ambi. Early on, he dodges the question of how he knows so much about the nation's history and the palace layout, so clearly he is actively hiding it, though it's harder to hide that he looks exactly like Ambi.
      • Additionally, both the eponymous Oracle of Ages and her Oracle of Seasons counterpart are divinely-empowered priestesses who have disguised themselves as common performers for safety.
  • In Final Fantasy IV Tellah is looking for his daughter Anna who has run off with a no-name bard. When the party arrives at Damcyan castle, Tellah immediately attacks the bard on sight. After Anna's interference, we learn that he's actually Edward, the prince of Damcyan.
  • Final Fantasy XII is full of these. Lord Larsa starts out pretending to be a mysterious boy named "Lamont", Princess Ashe masquerades as Amalia, and Judge Zecht forfeits his rank and title and becomes the Pirate King Reddas. Baltheir was also a Judge in the past and gave it up long before the game started
  • In Final Fantasy VI, by Post-cataclysmic Edgar. The heroes, having met him before, see right through the ruse. After several denials, he finally fesses up.
  • In Tales of Vesperia we have a subversion, Estelle thinks she's this, but the only one who didn't figure out that she's a princess on his own was Karol.
    • Gaius becomes this in Tales of Xillia 2 so he can learn the daily lives and living conditions of the Elympions.
  • Early on in Baldur's Gate you meet an unassuming "Old Man" in some very obvious bright red wizard getup. This being an RPG set in the Forgotten Realms and the old man's penchant for Cryptic Conversation, you should have no trouble figuring out that it's an Elminster cameo. Don't worry if you do, though — Elminster and Drizzt have cameos throughout the entire series (when it's clear who they are). Another of Elminster's cameos has him taking the pseudonym "Terminsel" during Jaheira's personal quest. She figures it out quickly enough.
  • Tears to Tiara 2: the leadersof the Canaanites does this to travel to the Rhenus frontiers to look for allies. Monomachus says he can just announce who he is and his intentions. But Hamil says he wants to test them and want to make them believe and follow him from their heart.
  • Suikoden IV: Soon after making landfall on the Island Kingdom of Obel, the Player Party is given directions to the King's place by some guy on the street wearing worn sandals and an open, salmon pink vest. Congratulations! Hello, Insert Name Here was just introduced to King Lino en Kuldes, one of the fan-favorite characters.
  • Quest for Glory II: Trial By Fire had one when the poet Omar is revealed at the end to be the Sultan of Shapeir.
  • Alistair in Dragon Age: Origins, although it's because he's the illegitimate heir to the throne. If he does become King, one epilogue reveals that he often sneaks out of the palace in order to head down to the local taverns, where he proceeds to buy everyone a round of drinks. The people love him for it.
  • Joshua in The World Ends with You. Instead of being a regular player, he's actually the freaking Composer of Shibuya. Doesn't stop him from being any less of a Jerkass though.
  • Roan in Grandia II, who first appears as a bratty Tagalong Kid. When the party reaches his hometown, he's revealed to be the crown prince. In the epilogue he playes the trope really straight when he ventures out of his kingdom to visit his old friends.
  • Fable III will live and breath this trope once you succeed in overthrowing the corrupt king of Albion and take his place.
  • Persona 4: Remember the gas station attendant who, other than making your controller vibrate and causing you to feel dizzy, seemed just like any other attendant? Well, turns out she's Izanami, the Big Bad and the True Final Boss. And you don't find out about this unless you decide to go for the True Ending.
  • Touhou has the youkai Rabbit, Tewi Inaba. As a mere Mid-Boss, fans interpreted her as a lowly servant and, indeed, based on Perfect Memento, it's assumed in-story that she serves under Reisen's command. Of course, the truth is that Tewi barely listens to anyone at all. When Reisen finally had enough of her in Cage In Lunatic Runagate, she asks her master Eirin why they even allow Tewi to run around freely in Eientei. For whatever reason (possibly pride) Eirin doesn't tell her the truth: in reality, Tewi is the master of the Bamboo Forest of the Lost, where Eientei was built. Tewi is the leader of all the youkai Earth Rabbits, who only serve as Eientei's servants because Tewi tells them to and wouldn't listen to the Lunarians at all otherwise. Furthermore, Tewi is basically treating the Lunarians as tenants; she approached them long ago with the deal that she and her rabbits would help the exiles hide from the whole world, so long as the Lunarians shared their knowledge with Tewi. Ergo, it's not the Lunarians who tolerate Tewi running around freely in Eientei; it's Tewi who tolerates them.
    Eirin: It was clear that Tewi wasn't just a normal youkai rabbit. All the earth rabbits listened to everything she said. Though there was nothing at all dignified in her appearance, the idea of her being able to control a great number of rabbits at will brings to mind the image of an ascetic who has achieved enlightenment.
  • N from Pokémon Black and White is actually the king of Team Plasma. He reveals this to the player just before you get your fourth badge in Nimbasa City, while on the ferris wheel.
    • A non-royalty example from the same game: the president of the Battle Company likes to pose as a janitor to scout strong Trainers.
  • In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Heng Sha triad boss Tong Si Hung impersonates a bartender in his own nightclub to screen people who are seeking an audience with him.
  • Huepow of Klonoa: Door to Phantomile. You don't find this out until the last world!
  • According to one of the D'ni history notebooks in Uru: To D'ni, King Lemashal was said to wander the city incognito to see how people treat each other.
  • In the King's Quest series:
    • Whenever he goes adventuring, King Graham doesn't bother letting people know he's a king, though it's usually because he's outside his own kingdom at the time.
    • In the sixth game, Alexander can either make a point of using his princely status to try to make things go his way (it doesn't work, but it's an important plot point), or remain incognito. Generally he doesn't bother to call himself "Prince Alexander" unless his status would help him somehow.
  • The kingdom of Hamelin in Ni no Kuni once had two princes: Fiery, clever, and standoffish Gascon and Shy, sweet, and magical Marcassin. However, the elder Gascon vanished, leaving Marcassin alone. So what happened to Gascon? He grew up into the drifting thief known as Swaine, who's been traveling with you since you acquired you boat, and had been troubling you for a not-insignificant time before that. The player figures this out long before the characters do.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky features not one but two actual royals. The First Chapter reveals White Magician Schoolgirl Kloe Rinz is actually crown princess Klaudia von Auslese. She would rather help the people with a more hands-on approach than ruling. In the Second Chapter, we learn that the eccentric hunter of love-slash-musician Olivier Lenheim is in reality prince Olivert Reise Arnor of Erebonia. The party probably wouldn't believe the latter if it wasn't for the Erebonian army corps and their lieutenant general behind Olivier backing this claim.
  • In Dragon Quest V there is The Player Character. a bona-fide king who wanders the land wearing literal rags. And although it's convenient to be treated as a traveler instead of royalty, he wears them because he had worn rags for his entire life - both as a child and as a slave - and likely feels uncomfortable in anything else.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, the dirty bum Howdy later turns out to be King Byron Kagawest of Aison in disguise who wishes to liberate his conquered kingdom from the Yamato Empire. Oswald Flynn, a masked leader of the resistance movement, turns out to be Prince Geraden Aurelac of Maar Sul.
  • In one of BIONICLE's on-line serials, we learn that Velika, a highly eccentric Matoran inventor who always spoke in riddles, was in fact a disguised Great Being, one of the creators of the Matoran Universe. However this had next to no importance in the story, as the serials sank into a permanent hiatus before this could have been officially revealed.

    Western Animation 
  • Done once in Transformers Generation 1 with the young Hassan (real name: Prince Jumal).
  • The Number 9 Man of Futurama
    • Also, Nibbler
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Hiding from his Psycho for Hire sister in enemy territory forces Zuko to trade in the role of Prince for Loveable Rogue (and occasionally Ninja-with-a-Cool Mask).
    • As we learn in the first episode of season three, this is also the intended plan for the Earth King and Bosco.
    • While it wasn't intentional on either Zuko's or Azula's part, some people didn't recognize them in one episode of Book Three and Azula quickly decided to play along.
      Zuko: So why didn't you tell those guys who we were?
      Azula: I guess I was intrigued. I am so used to people worshiping us.
      Ty Lee: As they should!
      Azula: Yes, I know, and I love it. But for once I just want to see how people would treat us if they didn't know who we were.
  • Kim Possible had a prince who was threatened and so he was sent to Kim's school to blend into the student population. It worked well (well, as much as it could with the prince not disguising his arrogance), until Ron Stoppable, who didn't get the concept of "incognito" until it was too late, called the press to announce the prince's presence at Middleton High.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The heroes once met a travelling merchant looking for his missing daughter. In the end, the Dungeon Master revealed the "Merchant" was actually a King going Incognito to make the search easier.
  • Justice League: Villainous example. When Grodd's secret society broke in the headquarters of Crime Lord Morgan Edge, Edge tried to escape by disguising himself as a servant but it failed because he forgot to put on shoes that weren't too fancy for a servant.
  • Alfred J. Kwak: When Alfred and Professor Paljas visit one of Rameses' relatives in Egypt, they are also introduced to that man's granddaughter. She's later revealed to be the reigning Pharaoh.

    Real Life 
  • Emperor Kangxi was famous for doing this. As was his grandson, Qianlong. In fact, these visits spawned a gesture still found in southern China. Qianlong tended to serve his companions tea and do other little things. A person receiving such a huge honour would have compelled themselves to kowtow (a deep, kneeling bow where one's head touches the ground) to show their gratitude, but in doing so it would have blown Emperor's cover. In order to keep the his identity secret, they developed a more discreet way to say "thank you": tapping the table several times with the knuckles or fingers, also known as the "finger kowtow".
  • King Frederik VIII (1906-12) of Denmark died suddenly on a street in Hamburg while travelling under an alias, and had to be located by the director of the hotel where he stayed and sneaked out of the public morgue by his servants. Since the place where his body was found was very close to a high-class bordello, this immediately led to scandalous rumours about the circumstances of Frederik's death.
  • Several Swedish kings have done this, particularly in The House of Vasa:
    • King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, aka Captain Gars.
    • King Charles XI. According to folklore, his disguise was a simple grey cloak, which he would throw aside to show his royal garb at the right dramatic moment - earning him the nickname Gråkappan, The Grey Cloak. This was likely inspired by the stories of Óðinn's penchant for incognito wanderings, and King Gylfi's disguise as Gangleri as recounted in the Prose Edda, which also inpired Gandalf's design.
    • The first King Gustavus. Although he did it, allegedly, while trying to escape imprisonment and execution as a rebellious noble outlaw, but still...
    • After abdicating, Christina of Sweden dressed as a man and traveled through Europe.
    • King Gustaf VI Adolf (r. 1950-73) was a noted archaeologist, specialising in pre-Roman Italian history, especially Etruscan history (he's often called an Etruscologist as a result). Naturally, he kept a low profile whenever going off to digs in Northern Italy—don't want anyone to know that the King of Sweden is getting his hands dirty digging up old bits of Italian pottery and bone!
  • Peter the Great of Russia spent several years on tour of Western Europe, often going incognito as an ordinary worker to learn the skills he wanted to take home. It's said that he never fooled anybody, since he took a posse around with him. It's also said no one was fooled because Peter the Great was 6'8" and people that large aren't common today, much less during Peter's time. And that he paid them well enough everyone pretended to not notice.
  • It is said that the Doges of Venice had permanent reservations at various establishments as places where they go incognito, as for a Doge to just go out for a drink like a normal person was considered unfitting to the City's dignity.
    • ...While one Polish king did leave his chambers frequently, go out for a drink incognito, get into barfights and do similar funny (if unkingly) stuff.
  • Queen Elizabeth II did this recently, to enjoy a trip in a steam train.
    • On V-E Day after the defeat of Germany, Elizabeth - then a Princess - and her sister Margaret wandered amongst the celebrating crowds anonymously.
  • There was both a Bourbon Prince and a Bonaparte prince who served in the Free French Foreign Legion during World War Two, as both their families were officially forbidden French citizenship for fear that they might cause a succession crisis.
  • Nero was said to have done this and gone around beating people up (and robbing them), in a Paper-Thin Disguise that everyone saw through but could do nothing about. After one senator beat him up anyway, he started having bodyguards follow at a distance.
  • Richard I, the Lionheart, traveled incognito after returning from The Crusades, trying to escape capture (he wasn't successful).
  • Neither was king Louis XVI of France when he tried to escape from France as a servant travelling with a large party (actually his family). He was stopped in Varennes, allegedly because someone recognized him with his portrait on a coin
  • King Henry V of England. He used the pseudonym "Harry Leroy" which is an Incredibly Lame Pun on two accounts - "Harry" is colloquial for Henry and le Roi means "king" in French.
  • James V of Scotland was said to wander his kingdom as "the Guidman of Ballangeich". ("Guidman" = "Goodman" = "Mister".) For this he was known as "the King of the Commons."
  • As mentioned above, Haroun Al-Raschid.
  • Also, probably in direct imitation, Abbas the Great of Persia.
  • Haroun al-Rashid was actually following the tradition of Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second Caliph, who was famous for touring whatever city he was in (usually Medina) by night more or less to check its pulse and particularly to see that nobody was being cheated and that the city's poorest weren't too poor (if they were, the Islamic pillar of Zakat—either charity or a poor-tax depending on whom you ask—wasn't working). Umar himself was famous for living the simple life, generally wearing a shabby, patched robe and giving away nearly all his (colossal) income towards the relief of war orphans.
  • After the Battle of Worcester Charles II spent six weeks attempting to flee the country, dressing as a regular citizen as he did so. He did usually have allies with him, who would help him move on and point to who could help him (including many Catholics, hence his general appreciation toward them later - and deathbed conversion), but he also had to stand up to scrutiny to those not in the know and occasionally be almost by himself, even talking with Commonwealth supporters about that rogue Charles Stuart. He is said to have seen the time as quite character-making for him.
  • King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands once participated in a legendary 200 kilometer ice-skating endurance race while he was Crown Prince under the pseudonym W.A van Buren. After a while he got recognized, both Queen Beatrix and his father were present when he finished.
  • Sigismund of Luxemburg loved doing this. He preferred having fun over his kingly duties and often snuck out dressed as a commoner whenever he wanted to party.
  • Mathias Corvinus would occasionally travel dressed as a commoner. Rumours also claim he did some vigillante work this way. One particular story even made him into a thief, due to a fortune teller telling him that he will die the following day if he doesn't break into somebody's house - he broke into the home of one of his advisors, and came across a conspiracy to assassinate him.
  • There is a story about the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII - a hotel in Swanage, Dorset (England) claims that he spent time travelling incognito without a retinue and arrived at the hotel only to find it full. They managed to find him a couch to sleep on - and he never let on that he was the son of Queen Victoria. That was, of course, in the days before even illustrated newspapers could print photographs of anyone, including the royal family.
  • King Bansah, a King of several tribes from Ghana works in a automobile repair shop in Germany. (Note: He also worked there before he became king. He became king because after the death of his precedessor, he was the only one of his family who could become the king according to law. So, this is also partly Unexpected Inheritance. After he became king, he wanted to continue life as a commoner, and so, he stayed in Germany living a normal life while doing his work as a king.)
  • Prince Harry, younger son of Charles and Diana, once came as close to this trope as he could ever get in this day and age by participating in a "homeless for a day" event with a load of other volunteers. The half-dozen MIBs loitering at a discreet distance probably didn't improve the already dubious authenticity of the stunt.
    • He's somewhat more successful at this in his Army career, given that everyone in a helmet and camoflage looks the same.
      • One newspaper revealed the secret of where one of the Princes was serving, and was harshly criticized by people who pointed out that not only were they putting his life at risk, but they were also risking the lives of the other people in his unit. And, in fact, Harry was a priority target. They somewhat remedied this by making him a helicopter pilot. Since helicopters are high-priority targets regardless, it didn't matter at all if the guy piloting it was royalty or not.
  • Doing this can have embarrassing results. During a visit to the theatre in the 1920s, King Alfonso XIII of Spain was unceremoniously pushed aside by a deputy mayor's bodyguard that didn't recognize him. One can only imagine his face when he got told.
  • Alfonso XIII's grandson, King Juan Carlos I of Spain, likes to motorbike incognito around the Spanish countryside.note  There are several Urban Legends about His Majesty bringing fuel to fellow bikers who'd run out on lonely roads.
  • In 1755, Frederick The Great of Prussia travelled to the Netherlands pretending to be a musician of the king of Poland. He was not recognized by Swiss student Henri de Catt, who was quite surprised to be invited to the court in Potsdam and asked to serve as reader to the king.
  • It was not uncommon for monarchs to travel under an "official incognito" that everybody knew in order to forego elaborate and time-consuming ceremonies, calling-out of guards of honour etc. Czar Alexander I of Russia for instance travelled as the Comte du Nord (Count of the North, since Russia at the time was seen as the great Northern, not Eastern power), while Prussian kings would go as the Count of Ruppin (actually one of their many lesser titles). Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II travelled abroad as Count von Falkenstein.
    • Similar things are done in some military units, particularly in Special Operations. The commanding officer of a larger military unit may receive a visit from his "father" or "brother", and the CO will treat his "father" or "brother" to a tour of the base. Of course, the "relative" is actually a senior officer or high-ranking civilian official, and, as in above, the masquerade is done to streamline the visit from the ceremony required by a senior officer or high-ranking civilian official visiting, particularly if the unit's mission(or very existence) is classified.
  • Certain celebrities, particularly those in British Indie music, can pass pretty much unnoticed in public, as from a distance they look like anyone else (short hair, plain clothes etc). It is not uncommon for fans of the band to not notice them until realising a sort while later who it was. Conversely, world famous people with a distinctive appearance (e.g. the late Michael Jackson) have been seen in public with very conspicuous disguises that make them more noticeable than if they went out plain clothed.
    • A lot of celebrities do this, for various reasons (comfort in their personal life compared to the sometimes painful high-fashion looks they frequently wear, hiding from the paparazzi, etc.,) can sometimes dress not just simply, but often kinda shabby. It's led to the joke that sometimes people who are poor often dress beyond their means to look wealthy, whereas the rich and famous, by contrast, will dress like they're homeless.
  • Supposedly, when Dolly Parton wants to make sure Dollywood is being run the way she likes at ground level, she goes out without makeup and wearing a muumuu.
  • Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah (1477-1488) of Malacca was famous for regularly going undercover at night to check on the well-being of his people. He was even rumored to have once chased after a thief on one such occasion.
  • Walt Disney was in Disneyland at least once a week disguised as a tourist to check out the park and make sure everything was working smoothly. Despite the fact that he hosted a TV show, apparently nobody recognized him once he put on a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses. When he hired Disneyland's upper management, he made it clear that he didn't want them sitting behind desks all day—he wanted them in the park, riding the rides, eating the food, and talking with guests about how their day is going.
  • A Belgian monarch is reported to have attended a performance of Le Petomane, a flatulist, incognito at Paris' Moulin Rouge.
  • Emperor Akihito of Japan has a vacation home in Nagano prefecture and has been known to visit local farmers incognito to buy fresh produce.
  • Secret shoppers at retail chains are a form of this.
  • More recently, the Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg played taxi driver for a Friday.
    One passenger: When I see you from behind, you look a lot like Stoltenberg.
  • Pope Francis has been known to go out at night dressed as a parish priest and help the needy and homeless.
  • Benito Mussolini tried this while attempting to escape into the Alps, he disguised himself as a private, although he left his striped General's trousers uncovered. However at Dongo he was arrested by Partisans and hanged.
  • A jackass version of the trope on par with Nero's above, was practiced by Philip IV of Spain, who would dress like a commoner and sneak into nobles' houses to sleep with their wives. Most were aware of that, but pretended not to, to not get in trouble with him. This worked until one day, when one noble actually didn't like the idea, and instead grabbed a cane and hit the king until he run him out of his home, acting like he had not recognized him and treating him like he would with a common burglar. The king never tried to identify himself during the incident, nor took any action against the noble. Recognizing that he was sleeping with his subjects' wives was more shameful than actually doing it.
  • After participating in a Game of Thrones panel at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con, Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) later joined the crowd at Comic-Con, wearing a Spider-Man mask so she could tour the convention floor without being recognized. Matt Smith did the same with a Bart Simpson mask.
    • Bryan Cranston once did the same wearing a photo-realistic Walter White mask.
    • Adam Savage routinely tours Comic-Con in a costume that hides his face. Though he announces #AdamIncognito on Twitter before he sets out, and has prizes (often tickets to his panel) for anyone who can identify him.
  • A disguised Henry the Eighth and several courtiers met Anne of Cleves after she arrived in England but before she arrived in court. Henry was hoping to invoke Love at First Sight as per the Courtly Love tropes of the day, but unfortunately no-one tipped off the German princess, so she gave this strange overweight man who was making advances the cold shoulder. It was not an auspicious start.
  • In the early years of the WWE (back when it was called the World Wrestling Federation), Vince Mcmahon in his younger days was known as a color commentator and interviewer. It wasn't until the Montreal Screw Job, that people found out he was the owner and CEO of the whole operation.

Alternative Title(s): Queen Incognito