Lost Orphaned Royalty

Villains often try to kill off the whole royal line in their attempts to take the throne. This hardly ever works and they really ought to know better, as a Lost Orphaned Royal will surely turn up sooner or later to take it back. That is this trope. If the orphan in question was lost as a baby or Switched at Birth, that is also this trope. If the orphan was sent away by the King and Queen to be raised by simple peasant folk for what doubtless seemed like a very good reason at the time, that is also this trope. If the orphan was accidentally dropped down the laundry chute by an absent-minded cleaning woman and adopted by a pack of Sewer Gators, that is still this trope.

Basically, this trope is when a child raised as an orphan turns out to actually be the next heir to the throne. The orphan may or may not be aware of the situation, and ditto with the reader and the rest of the characters; what matters is that the child was not raised as royalty and was, at some point and by somebody, presumed Lost.

For an interesting spin, the orphan could BE the villain, obsessed with getting the life he or she deserves to have, being the true heir and all...

Often overlaps with or leads to Really Royalty Reveal, Hidden Backup Prince, Man in the Iron Mask and Rightful King Returns. Suddenly Suitable Suitor is a common plot twist.


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     Live Action Television  
  • In Once Upon a Time Emma Swan is the child of Snow White, who was Queen for some time before the curse took effect. Emma was sent away as a baby, so she qualifies as Lost, and she was raised in foster care, so she fits the Orphan part. Technically, she's the heir to the throne, but no one seems to have noticed and it's never brought up.

  • Shasta, from C. S. Lewis's The Horse and His Boy is one. He was abducted by an Evil Chancellor, lost in the middle of a naval battle between the Chancellor's forces and the royal navy, and then was taken in by a fisherman. Later he finds his true family and grows into Cor, King of Archenland.
  • Jenna from Septimus Heap is effectively this; her father is alive, but virtually nonexistent.
  • Discworld: Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson was orphaned as an infant, then raised by dwarves, before eventually travelling to Ankh-Morpork to become a city guard. He turned out in fact to be the rightful 'eir to the throne, and from all appearances he'd be damned good at it, what with his essential king-ness meaning the entire city, horrible selfish jerks to a human, actually like him. But he really doesn't want to be king, and the man in charge doesn't want a king, and Sam Vimes, his boss, really doesn't want kings. So he isn't the king, and everyone is happy. Well, everyone within reason.
    • Wyrd Sisters also has Tomjon, the King's son, who was taken out of the palace so Felmet couldn't kill him, and then found by the witches and given to a troupe of actors so that he would move around the Discworld and not be noticed until it was time for him to retake the throne. He didn't; he preferred to stay as an actor, but there was another lost royal orphan: Verence, the Fool. (He's not actually the son of the king, though; he's the son of the queen by the previous Fool.)
  • Aegon Targaryen, a.k.a. the Young Griff, a.k.a. the Walking Spoiler in A Song of Ice and Fire, is supposedly an orphan and the adopted son of an exiled knight. The orphan part is completely true, though. He is well aware of who he really is, and his adoptive father is preparing to put him on the throne.
    • However, some fans think he may be a Blackfyre descendant, Illyrio's son, a combination of the previous two, or just a random kid with Valyrian features raised to believe that he is Aegon Targaryen, son of Rhaegar, in an elaborate plot cooked up by Varys and Illyrio.
    • If fan theory is true and it does prove to be true in its TV adaption, Game of Thrones, Jon Snow is the hidden son of Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, potentially making him the heir to the Iron Throne after the death of Viserys, but nobody — save for very few people — know this. Jonís biological father died in battle before he was born and his mother died after giving birth to him, but not before she asks her older brother Ned Stark to make her a promise. As is shown in the TV adaption and speculated in the book series, Ned promises his dying sister that he will protect her son from the new king, Robert Baratheon, as Robert would kill Jon if he found out his true parentage. Ned brings his nephew Jon home with him to Winterfell, raises and loves Jon as his own child alongside his trueborn offspring, and claims him as his own illegitimate son in order to keep him safe from the fatal wrath of their family's enemies, namely the Baratheon regime. As a result, while Jon is raised as the highborn bastard son of Lord Eddard (Ned) Stark and receives a highborn upbringing in a loving family, virtually nobody has any idea he is royalty, just the illegitimate son of a lord, and he also has no idea of his biological parentage as Ned has devoted the rest his life to protecting Jon by hiding this dangerous truth that would threaten Jonís life.
  • The First Festil isn't as careful as he should have been to get every single on of the Haldane King's several sons. This comes back to bite his descendants big time.
  • In the Jacob's Ladder Trilogy, the servant girl Rien, who was raised as a Mean orphan in Rule, discovers that she is actually an Exalt noble from Engine, a member of the royal Conn family who was given away as a hostage as part of a past arrangement between the kingdoms. Being a Conn means she is eligible to claim the empty throne of the Captain of Jacob's Ladder.
  • According to The Marvelous Land of Oz, Princess Ozma is this - she was the daughter of the last king of Oz, whose father sold her as a baby in exchange for an immortality potion. The witch to whom he sold her disguised and raised her as a boy named Pip. She gets her rightful name, title, and body back at the end of the story. note 
  • In the Prydain Chronicles, Eilonwy turns out to be this. Her royal status isn't revealed until the absolute last page of the first book, but eventually Taran (and the reader) learns that she is the last Princess of Llyr, whose parents have been dead for years and who was stolen as an infant by the evil Queen Achren. There isn't much of a kingdom of Llyr left for her to claim, but she still has the Royal Blood and all the inborn magical powers of its true princess.
    • Taran himself is a subversion of the trope. He's definitely an orphan, and he was definitely lost as a baby - but when Dallben finally reveals what he knows of Taran's origins, he confesses that he has absolutely no idea who the boy is. He may or may not be of Royal Blood. Regardless, he ends the series by being named High King of Prydain.

     Legend and Mythology 
  • King Arthur, at least in most versions of his story, is this. He grows up knowing that the nobleman raising him isn't his real father, but neither he nor anyone else has any idea that he's actually the missing son of the late Uther Pendragon until he pulls a certain sword out of a certain stone.
  • In Greek mythology, Oedipus was of the 'sent away by the king and queen' variety. A prophecy foretold that the baby prince would one day kill his father and marry his mother, so they sent him away to prevent it. As a young man, he learns of the prophecy - and believes it means his adoptive parents, since he has no idea he was adopted. Horrified, he runs away to try to prevent it. No prizes for guessing what happens next.

     Video Games 
  • Slackjaw from Dishonored. He was raised by a whore and the heart reveals that he is actually a prince, but that he'll never know.
  • Alistair in the Dragon Age games believes himself to be this, being the son of the late king and "a star-struck maid." Whether he makes an attempt to claim his father's throne or not is largely up to the player character in Dragon Age: Origins. However, the trope is subverted because, unbeknownst to Alistair, his mother isn't dead. (She's also not a maid.)
  • In Queen at Arms, protagonist Marcus is actually Princess Callista, whose parents were murdered when their throne was usurped. This particular orphaned royal is so very lost that most people don't even realize she exists.

     Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony Tales: "Princess Problems" revolves around the King and Queen of the Isle of Pony coming to Ponyland as part of their long search for their lost daughter. Naturally, Patch matches all the descriptions. She's not happy about it at all, as she's Happily Adopted and scared of the prospect of losing her adopted parents. Subverted when it turns out she wasn't the lost princess; her old friend from the same orphanage Rosy is, and is reunited with her long lost parents.