When we think of a Princess
, the most common association is the archetypical princess
, the perfectly good, innocent, and beautiful princess, who is practically a saint with a royal title. These are largely associated with Fairy Tales
, and are considered to be as old as those types of stories.
Actually, this character started in the Victorian Era
. In that time when stories were being shaped by Disneyfication
, the concept of Courtly Love
was warped to take all the sexual Sub Text
out, and turn the noble lady into an ideal of the times
. All to provide only the most positive and uncomplicated
image to children, and even adults as well.
has many general traits (the first two points are required):
- Being actual royalty, by birth or marriage, or adoption.
- She is innocence personified. All virtue, no vice. More than likely, she's a virgin (if that even comes up). She's good and kind, no matter what, and would be an All-Loving Hero or even a Messianic Archetype.
- She is always beautiful, whether or not she is the World's Most Beautiful Woman. In animation, her beauty can shower her with sparkles and flowers, and make birds and small woodland creatures flock around her. Nice Mice are common, as is the Bluebird of Happiness.
- Her clothes are always elegant, whether simple or opulent (and either white, pink, blue, or purple). If she ends up in rags, she still makes the rags beautiful on her.
- When she wears her Requisite Royal Regalia, it tends to be dainty, to represent her demure and delicate nature. Particularly, her Cool Crown will often be a tiara or small crown.
- If it's a musical, her singing voice is gorgeous and probably a soprano.
- She is shy and demure, and so delicate that she usually can't lift a finger to defend herself. That's what the brave knight is for.
- She lives Happily Ever After with her prince, whom she always falls in love with, even if it's an Arranged Marriage.
- If the story is for children, she doesn't die at the end. If the story is for older audiences, she may die—but she will definitely be Too Good for This Sinful Earth.
Now changing values
have eroded the idealism that this character represented. So even though this character has only slightly more credibility than the geocentric universe theory
, she's not a Dead Horse Trope
yet. She's still around in some fiction for really young children due to the Grandfather Clause
. And even in everywhere else, there is still the belief that Everything's Better with Princesses
Also, there is still the important fact that Tropes Are Tools
, and this trope doesn't mean a princess must lack Character Depth
. She can still be well-rounded while having some of these traits.
One the other hand, some girls who grew up on this trope apply some of the above traits to their Fan Fiction
, meaning a lot of the traits of this character match the traits of a Purity Sue
. Heck, mix and match this trope with being better than everyone else at their skills, and with suddenly being the Spotlight-Stealing Squad
, and there you have the archetypal Mary Sue
These days, if she's played straight in a story, it's highly unlikely for that story to be taken seriously. Most writers would give her some flaws, some depth. She could be sheltered and demure, but not a Flat Character
Also, being ground zero for any Princess Tropes
, she can get an upgrade
to Badass Princess
if the story requires her to (and can even overlap with Kicking Ass in All Her Finery
). Likely to browbeat Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!
into any Grumpy Bear
A Sister Trope
to Yamato Nadeshiko
, The Ingenue
, Proper Lady
, (those two are also archetypes built of idealistic views), Southern Belle
, The Pollyanna
, The High Queen
, Sheltered Aristocrat
, Prince Charming
(the latter two being her Spear Counterparts
Compare Idle Rich
, Parasol of Prettiness
, Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date
Contrast Tomboy Princess
, Rebellious Princess
, Lady of War
, Badass Princess
, Royal Brat
, Politically-Active Princess
, Daddy's Little Villain
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Anime and Manga
- Rose of Versailles both deconstructs this, through the filter of Marie Antoinette's actual history, and invokes it when Maria Theresa orders a PR campaign to make her daughter seem like this.
- Princess Charlotte in the Berserk anime, and the origin arc of the manga, is the sheltered and demure version of this. After the Eclipse, the Kushan empire took Wyndham and Charlotte was taken prisoner by Ganishka. Griffith rescues her after being reincarnated back on earth. She's now part of his new Band of the Hawk.
- Code Geass:
- Nunnally Lamperouge looks the part at first glance, but the moment you begin going below the surface she suddenly becomes more of a deconstruction than anything.
- Euphemia also fits in the oozing virtue and sweetness and light way until Lelouch accidentally Geasses her and sends her out on a killing spree.
- Screwed around with in Revolutionary Girl Utena.
- Subversion in the various incarnations of Sailor Moon. Usagi/Serena wants to be like this and at times comes close despite herself. Being the Dojikko and a part-time Person of Mass Destruction doesn't help. She went to "Princess Classes" in an attemp to be like this, naturally she fails (and in the process manages to out herself as Sailor Moon to the Monster of the Week).
- Princess Fala of Go Lion (aka Princess Allura of Voltron), even when fighting the bad guys.
- Kaori Makimura, from City Hunter.
- Princess Rune Venus of El-Hazard: The Magnificent World is played this way most of the time, although she's considerably more savvy, politically, than the usual princess.
- A Certain Magical Index has the youngest royal daughter, Villian, who is an apparently timid but virtuous young woman.
- Played with at every turn in Princess Tutu. Neither Princess Tutu nor Princess Kraehe are actually royalty - the only reasonable explanation for their titles is that they both assume they're going to marry the Prince. Tutu might fit the model aside from that (replacing "amazing singer" with "amazing ballerina", naturally)...except that she's actually a duck, and she inadvertently causes misery for the whole cast, if not a Downer Ending. Suffice it to say that Kraehe isn't exactly innocent. And Kraehe gets the Happily Ever After.
- While she isn't actually royal, (though being a principate is pretty close) Monaco from Axis Powers Hetalia grew out her hair to give off this vibe according to Word of God, though the actual word used is Grand Duchess, not Princess.
- One Piece: Princess Shirahoshi meets most of the criteria. She's the actual princess of Fishman Island. She's so utterly committed to peace between Fishmen and humans that she doesn't reveal the identity of her mother's killer for a decade. Her beauty is said to rival that of Boa Hancock. Her clothing is about as pimped-out as the traditional mermaid sea-shell halter would allow. About the only way she doesn't play this trope straight down the line is that she turns out to be not so defenseless, having the nigh-apocalyptic power to control Sea Kings. She's also about 20 feet tall.
Film - Animation
- Daria from The Princess and the Pea.
- Most of the princesses in the Barbie films are this trope.
- Of the "core" Disney Princesses, the three earliest, Snow White, Cinderella and Aurora, fit this trope (even though Cinderella is a princess by marriage). Others like Ariel, Belle and Jasmine have stories that are a bit more complex.
- In The Care Bears: Adventure in Wonderland, the Princess of Hearts is like this, to the point where the purity of her touch can revive withering flowers.
- One half of the soul and fiber of Shrek is about subverting this one by turning Princess Fiona into The Lad-ette. It is deconstructed further in Shrek the Third. Sleeping Beauty is narcoleptic, Cinderella is an obsessive-compulsive cleaner, Snow White summons woodland creatures with Led Zeppelin, and Rapunzel wears a wig and is also The Mole.
- Princess Oriana of Felix the Cat: The Movie.
- Odette from the Swan Princess is a slightly more wise version of this. Much of the plot is driven by her refusal to marry her Love Interest until he can list a reason to love her beside her beauty. Other than that though, she's sweetness and light personified, especially in the sequels.
Film - Live Action
- Sara Crewe in the movie versions of A Little Princess is about as close as this trope gets without any actual royalty. But in the book she isn't sweetness and light. Part of why she is disliked is because of her ability to make adults uncomfortable by standing up for herself. Unfortunately, the Shirley Temple version completely destroys what made the character great, while adding in an inability to face reality. Whereas in the book she is remarkably competent and tough for her age. The 90s version seems to fix that though.
- Enchanted: Giselle is a spoof of this, but a loving spoof, in that Giselle is determined against all odds to make the best of her situation.
- The titular mouse in The Tale of Despereaux searches for and finds one of these in the beautiful but useless Princess Pea.
- The princess of Snow White and the Three Stooges. Her first scene shows her sweet as a little girl and sweet as a young woman, both in different white skating dresses trimmed with ermine.
- Lyssa from Krull, who rebukes the advances of The Beast, holding faith in The Power of Love, which does bear out, although ultimately in a pretty violent way.
- Princess Lili from Legend starts out as a quintessential Princess Classic, only to go through a Break the Cutie process, accumulating in an intense case of Corrupt the Cutie, only for this to be revealed as a ruse she put on in order to trick Darkness into letting her get close enough to free a captured unicorn.
- George Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Also deconstructed in Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthurs Court, where Morgan realises the ladies are as rude and crude as the not-so-noble knights.
- Princess Alexandra from A Hole in the World is this. She's also a lesbian. Her Prince Charming is a girl named Bianca.
- In Xanth, Princess Irene was a Royal Brat. Her daughters, Ivy and Ida are straight examples.
- The Lady Amalthea in The Last Unicorn acts like this as she loses her memories of being the last unicorn.
- Averted in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books by Princess Elspeth, who starts off a Royal Brat and becomes a tomboy after she's broken of the brattishness. Eventually she abdicates her position as heir when it becomes obvious (to her, at least) that she'll serve her country better as a Herald-Mage than as its queen.
- Belinda in The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope is certainly meant to reflect this trope. She's Spoiled Sweet - not any sort of royalty, but the Queen Bee of all the court she surveys, while still being friendly (and uncommitted) to everyone. That is, until a certain involuntary haircut happens...
- Poked fun at in Angry Lead Skies, when Garrett ponders Kip Prose's childish fantasies about saving beautiful princesses, and how, despite having run into everything else on his weird cases, he's never met a Princess Classic. Near the end, Garrett does catch sight of two genuine royal daughters, and they're both quite unattractive, yet are praised and fawned upon constantly by political kiss-ups.
- The Paper Bag Princess has Princess Elizabeth starts as this type of character, but becomes an Action Girl later on, especially when she finds that Prince Ronald is an Ungrateful Bastard.
- Firebird Trilogy: Princess Carradee Angelo is gentle, honorable, sweet, and rather uninterested in politics. Unfortunately for her, as eldest, she is the heir to the throne, which leads to her being thrust into ruling before she is truly ready for it. She contrasts with her sisters Phoena, who is a Politically-Active Princess, and Firebird, who is a Badass Princess.
- Played With in the tale of Vivenna and Siri from Warbreaker. Vivenna was raised as a Princess Classic but ended up getting pushed into a Badass Princess role, while her Rebellious Princess sister Siri ended up in the Princess Classic slot. Both do excellently in their new role.
- The Princesses of Sweet Rhyme and Pure Reason in The Phantom Tollbooth. They are universally loved for their "great beauty, their gentle ways, and their ability to solve all controversies fairly and reasonably." Even better, their unjust exile from the Kingdom of Wisdom is what sends Milo on his quest in the first place.
- Beautiful, royal and good — Princess Paulina in Why Polly? fits this trope to a tee. Polly is unsure how to relate to a princess classic in real life.
- Used in the most famous Halloween episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy dresses up as one of these on the Halloween when Ethan Rayne conjures up a spell that causes her and all of her friends to get turned into their costumes. So Willow, who dressed as a ghost, becomes a ghost and Xander, who dressed as an Army Guy, becomes an actual Army Guy. Ethan lucked out when she chose the Princess costume: the powerful Slayer becomes a simpering, helpless bundle of nerves and snobbery.
- Played with on Merlin with the portrayal of Princess Mithian. Characterized as the embodiment of a Princess Classic, she's genuinely lovely, as well as beautiful, royal, elegant, talented and with an extensive wardrobe of gorgeous outfits; yet it's all done in order to provide more impact to the fact that King Arthur turns her down for the sake of the blacksmith's daughter.
- Princess Ariadne from Atlantis, though she gets a bit more spunk than this trope usually implies.
- Queen Anne from The Musketeers may technically be a queen (and occasionally passes into The High Queen territory) but for the most part embodies all the traits of a Princess Classic instead.
- Fairytale imagery featured on Taylor Swift's second album, Fearless. She explored the disconnect "between fairy tales and the reality of love": "We're raised as little girls to think that we're a princess and that Prince Charming is going to sweep us off our feet". Seen in "Love Story", "White Horse", and "Today Was A Fairy-Tale".
- Princess Sarah of Final Fantasy I is a kind gentle lady and All-Loving Hero according to her subjects. She wears a golden dress, is demur in person and gives away an ancient family heirloom without a second thought to the heroes as thanks for saving her life.
- Super Mario Bros.'s Peach and The Legend of Zelda's Zelda may have started out like this, but Peach is sometimes a parody (or at least heavily lampshaded version) of this (see the Paper Mario games), and Zelda got more depth to her character. Zelda even lampshades this in Spirit Tracks by saying that waiting for the hero to do his job is a "family tradition."
- Rozalin in Disgaea 2 is what you get when you take a Princess Classic and throw her in the boondocks without warning. Disgaea 3's Sapphire, on the other hand, gleefully decapitates this trope with a chainsaw.
- Princess Shine from Super Robot Wars often struggles to maintain the image, particularly in her language, and of course, the fact that most Princesses don't take on threats to her Kingdom head on in a (oddly cute) Humongous Mecha.
- Fire Emblem 4's Princess Yuria. Royal Blood? She's got it. Innocent? Definitely (Virgin? Well, she cannot marry without really knowing what you're doing.) Pretty? Well, extremely cute would be the line here. Elegant Clothing? She wears long white robes with a purple cape held by intricate gold shoulder wraps. Good and Sweet? Usually when she's not Brainwashed and Crazy. Shy and Demure? Check. However she's a Lady of War, of the Caster Variety. Notable that her ultimate weapon summons a dragon to do the fighting. Marries the Prince and lives happily ever after? She Can. If the player knows what to do. Note that there aren't many countries for her Prince to be from... and all the other countries' Princes are taken... Doesn't die? Ummm... Anyone Can Die in this game. Too Good for This Sinful Earth? No. If she dies, it's a tragedy that should've been avoided.
- Princess Satera from Shining Wisdom is this. Daughter to the King, described as beautiful, prone to kidnapping, always wears an elaborate dress with magical tiara, shy and it's hinted that she has a thing for the hero.
- Princess Bubblegum of Adventure Time is mostly an Affectionate Parody of this trope, but is often played straight. She is prim, proper, poised, is frequently a Damsel in Distress, and loves pink. Later seasons have been subverting it more and more, revealing her to be a Lady of War Action Girl, Pragmatic Hero who will do ''anything'' to protect her people, and teetering very close to becoming a Mad Scientist.
- Princess Clara from Drawn Together is the comical Deconstruction of this kind of princess.
- Played straight with Lady Lovely Locks.
- Princess Yue from Avatar: The Last Airbender who ends up Too Good for This Sinful Earth by way of a Heroic Sacrifice.
- Angelica Pickles in Rugrats suspects she may be one but decides to take three tests to prove it. First is by having Phil and Lil try and climb up her hair. Second she attempts to see if she can feel a pea through a series of pillows but Chuckie eats the pea so they use a fork instead. And finally they check to see if a slipper fits her foot.
- The titular Sofia from Sofia the First, she fits perfectly within the characteristics mentioned in this page. She is known to stand up to what she think is wrong and is not always a perfect girl, but at the end she always do what is right and learn a lesson along the way.
- Debatable if there are actual examples in Real Life (that weren't this from being sheltered and not taught about the world), but Queen Victoria of England did her best to make royal ladies appear to be that way. To the point of the Urban Legend of noble women being advised to "Close your eyes and think of England".
- On the subject of Saints with a royal title, Saint Catherine of Alexandria provides a very early example of this trope (her name even comes from "Katharos", the Greek word meaning "pure"!. It is a somewhat unusual one, however, as the virgin princess is wed to Jesus Christ in mystic marriage (ie. a dream-vision) and chooses martyrdom rather than betraying her vows to Him!