"Even though the king and queen are totally dead, she still technically calls herself 'Princess'. How does that work? If you're the ruler of a nation, you're a fucking queen."As it says in Everything's Better with Princesses, occasionally in fiction, a princess is shown to be the absolute ruler of a realm, despite the fact that, logically, that would make her a queen. There could be a few reasons why she hasn't been crowned queen, such as the realm is explicitly a principality, they are waiting until the princess comes of age (although historically this doesn't usually happen), or the princess is only acting ruler, as regent for an incapacitated monarch, or she's ruling a feudal fiefdom granted by and subordinate to her parents (who are still the reigning monarchs overall). However, in fiction-land, this set-up doesn't usually even get a hand-wave. The ruler just is a princess for some inexplicable reason. Likely done to avoid associations with evil queens, as pretty young girls are less likely to be evil than older women. (It tends to be a popular trope in works by and for little girls still in their Princess Phases.) Notably, the word princess (and its spear counterpart, prince) is derived from the Latin word "princeps", which means "first citizen". It was one of the titles of the Roman Emperor. Some real life countries—mostly small nations such as Andorra and Monaco—continue to refer to their leaders as "Prince" in this context. This is what we call a principality, as opposed to a kingdom. Note: Queens (consort) who are the wives of regnant kings might be referred to as princesses. That does not fit this trope. Nor does a queen referring to herself as a prince. Only a princess ruling as a princess counts. Contrast God Save Us from the Queen! Compare Politically Active Princess.
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Anime & Manga
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny: Princess Cagalli might count, though she prefers a different title, and she both averts and plays it straight in the series. Neither changes the fact that she's a princess and the highest official in her nation.
- Princess Adina (Mokuba's virtual Opposite-Sex Clone), ruler of Simlow in the virtual world in Yu-Gi-Oh!
- In El-Hazard: The Magnificent World, Princess Rune Venus and Fatora seem to be the co-rulers of Roshtaria (though it's uncertain how much political power Fatora holds).
- In Magic Knight Rayearth, the Pillar of Cephiro is named Princess Emeraude. Curiously, her younger brother is Prince Ferio. So there may be something else in addition to being Pillar, like a royal family with titles.
- Cornelia and Euphemia of Code Geass both reign as Viceroys of Area 11 on behalf of their father, the Emperor, and it's shown that they're given pretty broad authority to rule as they see fit. In the second series, Nunally also briefly becomes one, at least until Lelouch's rebellion finally succeeds. And averted in the finale, as Nunally is elevated to the rank of Empress despite being near the bottom of the line of succession. Considering her brother Lelouch usurped the throne and became Emperor and died without any heirs, that would make her next in the line of succession.
- In Saint Seiya, Polaris Hilda in Asgard saga is called princess in many foreigners dubbing, although she's an orphan and the official monarch of Asgard.
- Sailor Moon:
- In the manga, the Inner and Outer Senshi are revealed to have been the princesses (and also appear to be the main rulers) of their respective planets. This is somewhat offset, and possibly explained, by the fact that they are subordinate to Princess Serenity.
- Prince Endymion is a possible male example, since he appeared to be the main ruler of the Earth during the Silver Millennium. To make it even weirder, he eventually does become King of the Earth in the 30th century, with Neo-Queen Serenity, where he is implied to be a glorified consort.
- Princess Allura from Voltron.
- Plourr Illo of the X-Wing Series is revealed to be the last, lost princess of her homeworld, the rest of her family being dead. At the end of Warrior Princess she is acclaimed as Empress Apparent-Heir—but in later comics she's called Princess or Princess of the Realm.
- An unusual male example, the Batman villain the Joker has declared himself "The Clown Prince of Crime" but is the leader of his gang, which should make him "The Clown King of Crime" but then he'd lose the pun.
- This is discussed in Bad Future Crusaders when Twitch, one of Lightning Dust's wingponies in the R.E.A.F., can't understand why Princess "Celestial" went by Princess instead of Queen.
Twitch: So what about Princess Celestial? She was top dog, so why weren't she a queen? Ain't that how it works? I mean, it's king or queen, then prince or princess, then uh... baron, I think...
Crimson Sky: You think too much about the wrong things, Twitch.
- The Bridge, a crossover between My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and Godzilla, pokes fun at the former's constant use of this trope—while dimensional transplant Xenilla is able to wrap his head around Celestia and Luna both being princesses via the justification of them being co-rulers, he simply can't understand why Cadence is still called Princess even when she's ruling the Crystal Empire, asking why she isn't an "Empress". And hilariously, when he points this out, no one is able to explain it to him; it seems it never crossed their minds as being odd. Doesn't stop him from constantly referring to Cadance as "Empress Cadenza" under the justification of "just because you guys got it wrong doesn't mean I have to."
- It's later zig-zagged as a Justified Trope since it appears this is a recent development in Equestrian history. When Celestia banished Nightmare Moon she actually was offered the title of "Queen", but turned it down as not to appear unapproachable by a populace that was scared of her power. The implication is 1,000 years of great leadership by Celestia caused "Princess" to be the de-facto highest royal title for a female ruler.
- In Equestria: A History Revealed, after Chrysalis is born as a dark Celestia clone as the result of baking gone wrong, she questions why Celestia calls herself a princess when she's the only one ruling. Celestia says its because the title of princess brings up the image of youth and beauty. Chrysalis interrupts and says that's stupid, and chooses to call herself a queen, leading to an argument between the two.
- Like the The Bridge example above, the The Legend of Korra fanfic Book 5: Legends pokes fun at this trope with Cloud Cuckoolander Princess Koko (implied to be a descendant of King Bumi from Aang's era). She downright ''insists'' on being addressed as a Princess despite ostensibly being a Queen, and a figurehead of a Queen who answers to a Minister anyway. She's equally insistent on this title being used with Korra, despite her Avatar title generally superseding mere mortal titles.
- It's implied in RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse that Luna and Celestia used to use the title of Princess because they were co-rulers. Especially since when Celestia went off the deep end and became Corona, she insisted on being referred to as a Queen. Presumably Luna refrained from claiming the title of Queen after her sister's defeat to avoid the traumatic associations the title had picked up for Equestria's ponies.
- In The Elements of Harmony and the Savior of Worlds, Celestia and Luna say that the reason they're princesses instead of queens is because princesses are closer to their people than queens. Though Celestia later admits that in reality, they view themselves as regents holding the throne until Queen Majesty's true heir eventual comes forth. There are hints that Twilight Sparkle may be the one they're waiting on, but there's been no confirmation on that one way or another yet.
Films — Animation
- Princess Oriana in Felix the Cat: The Movie (see page quote.)
- Wreck-It Ralph appears to intentionally invoke this trope with the world of the Sugar Rush game being ruled by Princess Vanellope. It doesn't last long, though, as she decides she would rather be president instead.
- A Rare Male Example may be Prince Eric of The Little Mermaid. His parents are never shown, but he's still called Prince. In the musical, it's actually stated that he's still a Prince because he was out sailing when his father died and just hasn't been crowned King, but in the movie, he's a ruling prince for no stated reason. Unless his nation is a principality, in which case "Prince" would be the highest possible rank.
- Subverted with Unikitty, princess of Cloud Cuckooland from The LEGO Movie. While she is the host for travellers to her country, she also states that it doesn't actually have any government or even rules.
- In Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers, Minnie is cast in the role of Princess Minnie. Despite this, she's pretty much queen in every other aspect.
- In Barbie and the Secret Door, this is played with, as Big Bad Princess Malucia only rules the kingdom while her parents are away.
- In Barbie: Princess Charm School, the land of Gardenia is a kingdom, as late monarch Isabella (Blair's biological mother) was called a queen. Still, her niece Delancy is supposed to sit on the throne while being called a princess.When finally Blair is crowned instead of her, she is referred to as a princess rather than a queen by everyone, certainly to fit the movie's title.
Films — Live-Action
- The Princess of Alamut from the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time film.
- In The Last Airbender the voiceover explicitly states that the Northern Water Tribe is ruled by a princess because her father was killed. In the original series her father, Chief Arnook, was alive and ruling himself.
- In Cinderella (2015), this is implied to be the case with Princess Chelina, as Zaragoza was historically a principality and the fact that her parents are never mentioned. This could suggest that she is directly involved in her engagement to Kit, and that it is her way of being Queen.
- In A Brother's Price, the ruling system is quite complicated. For one, there are several queens, all sisters. Their princess daughters take over some of the rulership tasks. Ruling is something like a family business in which everyone takes part.
- Land of Oz:
- Princess Ozma from the Oz books. There's no consistent title for the ruler of Oz, so this could actually mean that she's a princess as a fairy rather than a princess of Oz. We don't see enough of other fairies to be sure.
- Princess Langwidere from Ozma of Oz is a justified example, as she is only acting ruler until the return of the Royal Family.
- Princess Jenna from the Septimus Heap series. She will, however, become queen. When the Time is Right.
- Played with in the Wheel of Time when Elayne effectively rules Caemlyn (the capital city) for several months as Daughter-Heir (the term princess exists, but is considered old-fashioned). This happens because there's a conflict over who should be Queen.
- Gender-flipped with the lands of Emerald and Corisande in the Safehold series. The countries are ruled by their princes, however they are also specifically referred to as Princedoms, not kingdoms.
- Princess Desmia in Palace of Mirrors, although she is a mere figurehead. By the end of the book, the kingdom is ruled by a council of thirteen princesses, all of whom have equal right to rule.
- For some never explained reason the monarch of the Fomalhaut system in Edmund Hamilton's The Star Kings is 'Princess' Lianna.
- The Black Company: In the later books, the Fantasy Counter Part Culture version of India is ruled by a prince. (At some point in the distant past, it was part of a now-defunct much larger empire.)
- The Princes of Gwyneth (a Wales expy) in Tales of the Branion Realm are commonly female due to Gender Is No Object and She Is the King. For part of the series Gwyneth is independent and has eight Princes at any one time.
- The Rhoynar, including the ruling family of Dorne, are late additions to Westeros in A Song of Ice and Fire compared to the Andals and the First Men, and continue to style their rulers "Princes" after the fashion of their original homeland in Essos. They were allowed to continue this tradition, as well as that of absolute primogeniture (the eldest child inherits regardless of gender) upon joining the Seven Kingdoms by marriage. It is therefore entirely possible, and presumably even common, in Dorne for a princess to rule in her own right. The most recent one was the mother of the current Prince Doran. His own heir is his daughter Arianne, who sometimes rules for her father when he's away from the palace, which is quite often in recent years.
- Princess Glisselda becomes acting monarch and regent in Seraphina after her grandmother becomes incapacitated.
- First Sword Chronicles: after the death of her brother the Emperor, Princess Romana ascends to the throne; however, as she wishes to reinstate the faith of the Divine Empress, Romana rules only as Princess Imperial, mortal steward of the Empress' will.
- This would seem to be the case with Princess Mithian from Merlin. She arrives in Camelot for an Arranged Marriage to King Arthur, with no sign or mention of either parent. When Arthur breaks off the engagement because he's still in love with Guinevere, he gives her full rights to the lands that were in dispute between their kingdoms, at which point Mithian says: "I would give up my own kingdom to be so loved." Presumably, she's the ruler of her own kingdom, but is still referred to as a princess. When she returns to the show in Series 5, her background is expanded on and it's revealed that she had a father the whole time. However, the example still stands, as when she first appeared the writers had no plans to bring her back again, nor gave any indication of her parentage. For that one episode at least, she was a straight example of this trope.
- Once Upon a Time: Snow White and Prince Charming are the rulers of their kingdom but are not referred to as king and queen.
- The male variation of this trope is featured in Emilia Galotti by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. The antagonist, Prince Hettore Gonzaga is the king and regent of Guastalla in all but the title. Lessing probably did that to avert any obvious parallels to the regents of his time (the piece, albeit set in renaissance Italy, was a warily subtle commentary on the corrupted politics of the then-contemporary 18th century German states).
Mythology & Religion
- A male example: The Devil is often referred to as the "Prince of Darkness".
- Inverted male example. Belshazzar, referred to as the King of Babylon in The Bible book of Daniel, even though he was never officially enthroned as king (a separate ancient text called Nabonidus Chronicle called him "the crown prince") and was only serving as a temporary ruler while his father, King Nabonidus, was away. As such, Belshazzar was only able to offer the position of "third ruler in the kingdom" to the person who can give interpretation to the handwriting to the wall, because he's not actually the highest authority figure and would not have been able to give "the second highest authority in the land", as was the case with Joseph and the Pharaoh.
- Super Mario Bros.:
- Princess Peach in many of the games. The original game's English-language instruction manual referred to her as the daughter of the Mushroom King, but the games never mention him again after that.
- There are also the Shroobs from Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, who have a Princess Shroob but no King Shroob or Queen Shroob. She even has an older sister who is also a princess rather than queen.
- Prince Dreambert of Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is a male example. He is shown to be the leader of the Pi'illos, yet his domain is called the Pi'illo Kingdom, not the Pi'illo Principality.
- The Sprixie Kingdom from Super Mario 3D World is ruled by the seven Sprixie Princesses. No king, no queen.
- The Legend of Zelda goes all over the place with this:
- In Twilight Princess, supplementary material say that Princess Zelda was about to be crowned queen before everything started going to hell; the Super Smash Bros. Brawl manual also refers to her as "queen", for what it is worth. In contrast, Midna, the titular "Twilight Princess" herself, seems to have been a straight example before she was overthrown by Zant.
- While the Princess Zelda of Spirit Tracks is technically the ruling monarch, it's implied that she's not old enough to be crowned queen yet, with Hyrule functioning under a regency instead.
- Princess Zelda in A Link Between Worlds is portrayed as the ruler of her kingdom, and the same thing applies to her Lorulean counterpart Princess Hilda.
- Princess Zelda actually outright averts this in several games:
- In A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, The Minish Cap, and Breath of the Wild, her father is the one on the throne when the Big Bad rears its ugly head.
- The Wind Waker is a peculiar example, as there she's just the descendant of an earlier Princess Zelda and what would be her kingdom is frozen in time beneath the seas. She doesn't actually become any sort of monarch until after Phantom Hourglass.
- Skyward Sword also deserves mention, as Zelda in that game is a normal girl attending school with Link. Although she is the headmaster's daughter, there is no royalty to speak of in Skyloft.
- In a few games, like The Legend of Zelda I, it's left vague whether Zelda or one of her parents is the reigning monarch.
- Hyrule Warriors plays it straight with numerous returning princesses. While Zelda is treated as The High Queen and developer interviews even call her "queenly", she is still only called a "princess" in-game.
- Princess Gutrune of Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City. In her case, it's stated by locals that the Senatus is seen as holding all the real power, particularly Senator Flowdia, while Gutrune is seen as a pretty figurehead.
- The hierarchy of the Aristocrat Club in Rule of Rose ends in the Rose Princess, which is justified considering that these are young girls playing a long-winded game—obviously Princess sounds better to them than a Queen.
- Justified in Xenoblade with Princess (and later Crown Princess) Melia Antiqua. Turns out that even after his father died, she wants to become a royal who actually does somethingnote by joining Shulk's party (she's got her duties covered via substitute); even though, as the Crown Princess, she should be the next ruler of the High Entia. This puts her duties taken temporarily by her brother who, in turn, averts this trope himself by becoming the regent of the High Entia and not the prince.
- Due to her father's insanity, Hilde is this for her nation in SoulCalibur IV. She's technically regent, however, not the monarch.
- Imperial Princess Arlier, the leader of the Tiamat race in Knights in the Nightmare.
- Discussed in Yggdra Union. Princess Yggdra is the de facto leader of her nation throughout the game, as her parents were both killed in battle with Gulcasa before the narrative actually begins. In all the excitement of getting her throne back (and then rescuing her from the aftereffects of a momentary Idiot Ball catch), there just hasn't been time for her to be crowned, and when this is brought up even Yggdra herself is rather nonplussed about it. She officially becomes Queen a little bit later, but personally refuses to accept the title until the war is over—probably for the same inexplicable reasons listed above.
- Sonic the Hedgehog (2006): Soleanna is a duchy, and Princess Elise's father is referred to as the Duke of Soleanna. Elise, despite being the ruling monarch, is referred to as Duchess precisely once. In the Japanese dialogue.
- Until the ending (if you live that long) Elodie of Long Live the Queen is titled Crown Princess, as she isn't quite old enough to legally take the throne. Since it's only a few months and everyone knows she will be Queen very shortly, most of the time it makes no difference.
- Averted in Fallout 3, where the children of Little Lamplight reject the reign of Angela, who proclaims herself a princess after being elected mayor and is removed after only five minutes.
- In both timelines of Radiant Historia, Queen Protea is deposed one way or another, but Eruca continues calling herself Princess. Justified, as there's bigger issues preventing her having time to be coronated, and Stocke being being her older brother Ernst makes her claim to the throne unclear for a while.
- Monument Valley has Princess Ida, leader of the bird people.
- Explained and excused in Deviantart Extended Universe. The land they inhabit is intentionally made a principality so the newly appointed Princess Emerald of Gem World does not have to give up her title. Later becomes a co-principality when her sidekick, Antisapien the Christian Dinosaur is appointed as prince. His role is more of a mayor than a prince, being a direct surveyor of the land and how the people are working on DA-Land.
- Adventure Time:
- Princess Bubblegum rules over her kingdom. Interestingly, a tie-in comic about time travel shows her as "Queen Bubblegum" in the future. What exactly causes this change of title is uncertain.
- Most of the other princesses seem to be this way, too (as we see a huge gathering of them discussing political matters). Lumpy Space Princess seems to be an aversion, though, since we actually see her parents.
- Things get complicated with Flame Princess, who deposed her father and seized the throne herself. She officially now uses the title Flame King, but is still referred to as Flame Princess by characters outside the kingdom and the show's credits.
- A self-styled King of Ooo has appeared in the show, but he acts more like a cult leader and petty confidence trickster than a monarch, and most of those who accept his authority are overtly naive individuals. During his reign over the Candy Kingdom, he designated himself Princess King of Ooo.
- Princess Starglo from Care Bears: Share Bear Shines is described as "the mother of all stars," yet is only a princess for some reason.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, all Alicorns are given the title of "Princess" and assigned different areas to govern: Princess Celestia and Princess Luna are the rulers of Equestria (also an Exaggerated Trope since their power is close to that of deities, moving the sun and moon each day and night), while Princess Cadance retains her title when she becomes ruler of the Crystal Empire, which was once overseen by her ancestor, Princes Amorenote . The show makes an In-Universe explanation that the "Princess" title isn't exclusively passed down from a bloodline, but is handed out based on talent and worthiness. Still, Word of God says the decision to use the title in the first place is due to Executive Meddling dictating that little girls think princesses are good but queens are evil.
- Princess Berrykin from Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures.
- Princess Candy from Dave the Barbarian is ruling Udrogoth until her parents come back from destroying all the evil in the world.
- Played with in Captain N: The Game Master. Princess Lana is the only ruler in Videoland, but her father is still alive, he's just trapped in another dimension.
- Similarly, Princess Sally from the Sonic SatAM series would be ruler if Robotnik hadn't taken over. Instead, she leads the resistance movement.
- Aladdin: The Series: Prince Uncouthma of Odiferous rules his people and there's no mention of a King or a Queen.
- Graciella the fairy princess in Barbie: A Fairy Secret.
- In Gawayn, Princess Gwendolyn is portrayed as the rightful ruler of her kingdom. Her parents have never even been seen or mentioned.
- The first episode of Elena of Avalor explains that the title character can't become queen until she comes of age according to the laws of their nation. As such she is crown princess with a council to help her rule until then.
- This was historically a perfectly accurate description of the title "prince". It was often just used as a general term referring to a ruler (i.e. Machiavelli's The Prince), and did not specify their actual rank or even their system of government. Any ruling individual was a "Prince". Given that female rulers are far more common nowadays (and were tentatively accepted in certain cases in other societies), that means that there are many "Princesses" who rule today, from Queens Regnant to female Presidents or Prime Ministers (although the male/gender neutral term "Prince" might be technically more appropriate). This concept can easily explain female ruling princesses seen in this trope, at least the historical fictional examples.
- There are actual principalities amongst some of the smaller states of Europe (such as Monaco and Lichtenstein) whose head of state is referred to (or translated as, in Lichtenstein's case) as "Prince", instead of another title like "King", so it would be reasonable that any female inheriting the position would, if possible, be referred to as "Princess".
- In German, the term "Fürst" is used for the reigning monarch ("Fürstin" being the female version), while "Prinz"/"Prinzessin" refer to the children of monarchs. Thus, no ambiguity between the two positions exists in German-speaking Lichtenstein. In French-speaking Monaco, on the other hand, both the reigning monarch and children of the monarch are referred to as Prince/Princess. The term "Prince Souverain" ("Sovereign Prince") is used to clarify things. Or Sovereign Princess in one case, because unlike Lichtenstein there has actually been a reigning Princess of Monaco.