"I just found out. That's what this says. I'm an honest-to-God prince! Will you marry me?"
She loves him. He loves her. But they can never marry
, because she's a princess
, and he's not a suitable match for a princess
Maybe they're hiding it from each other, because "I can't allow myself to love someone like him"/"A princess could never love a guy like me". Maybe she'd like to run off with him, but can't because her people need her
. Or maybe he just can't afford marriage
— at least in the eyes of her social circle. But their marriage is forbidden — not by her parents, but by law or the rules of society.
And then, his real parentage is discovered, and he's really a prince
. Or he inherits enough to pay the Bride Price. Or maybe her royal father, realizing the law is unfair to his beloved daughter, repeals it.
If society would not accept it, the characters may resolve on defying it — and then get this as an added bonus
Differs from Parental Marriage Veto
in that it isn't the parents making the rules, and just sucking up to them won't fix it. Can lead to I Want My Beloved to Be Happy
by one or both parties. If the Aesop
has been divulged and is suddenly Broken
, it's a bad case of Sweet and Sour Grapes
. Expect spoilers afoot!
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Anime And Manga
- Faked in Vampire Game. Yujinn manufactures a royal pedigree for Darres so he and Ishtar can get married.
- In King Ralph, a commoner likes Ralph for who, rather than what, he is, but even being seen with her is scandalous, since they can't marry until he resigns the crown.
- Island Princess Barbie film had this. She's actually the main character. Who turns out to be the missing daughter of a queen.
- Spaceballs, as shown in the page quote.
- In Disney's Aladdin, by law Princess Jasmine may marry only a prince. Once it's revealed that Aladdin isn't a prince, that rules him out...until the Sultan changes the law so that she can marry whomever she wishes. Ironically, Aladdin WAS a Prince of a sort already...thanks to his Dad, you might as well call Al The Prince of Thieves.
- Razoul actually does call him such.
- In Sleeping Beauty, Briar Rose is told she can't marry whom she wants because she is actually Princess Aurora and already betrothed to a prince. On the other hand, when Prince Phillip is told that he can't marry a peasant girl because he's a prince and already betrothed to Aurora, he makes it clear he doesn't care and means to marry the girl of his choice anyway, and his father seems helpless to stop him. Fortunately for all involved, this turns into a Perfectly Arranged Marriage when the participants discover that the "peasant girl" is in fact Aurora and the prince she's betrothed to is Phillip.
- Disney's Cinderella is an aversion—it's never required that Cinderella be a princess or nobility, the king just wants his son to settle on a girl, any girl, so the only thing that matters is that she prove she's the girl the prince fell in love with by fitting into the glass slipper. Every woman in the kingdom is tested, and Cinderella is discovered while she's still a servant to her family. (Cinderella is actually of perfectly respectable birth, but it's never brought up one way or the other as being even potentially an issue.)
- In Thoroughly Modern Millie, it is revealed that Jimmy is actually a billionaire, and more so, Muffy's stepson, and MORE SO, Miss Dorothy's brother! So Millie can marry for love and still end up with loads of dosh!
- In Coming to America, Eddie Murphy plays an African prince who is arranged to marry a general's daughter, who has been groomed from childhood to be the "perfect wife" (i.e. a pliant, willing sexual partner with no independent thoughts or wants). He wishes for a woman who is more his intellectual equal and goes to New York to find one. He meets and falls in love with the daughter of a fast food restaurant owner and she falls for him as well, but the King (James Earl Jones) arrives and explains her the situation. She tells the prince they are from two different worlds and that she can not marry him, even though he offers to abdicate his throne and renounce all his titles. He finally leaves with his parents back to Africa and his mother berates the king for messing with true love, but the king replies that he can not violate tradition. She points out that he is the king and can do anything. The wedding day comes, and the prince meets his bride only to lift up the veil and see his love.
- The Belgariad: Garion and Ce'Nedra (humorously inverted in that, once his parentage is known, it becomes an Arranged Marriage...and they've been thrown together all along with the intent that they fall in love).
- Even funnier is that Ce'Nedra had been starting to have feelings for Garion (despite knowing it would be completely impossible politically for her to marry so far beneath her station), until she discovers that he's the hereditary Emperor of the West and as such is not only an eminently suitable suitor but actually outranks her, at which point she becomes furious because now an ancient treaty means she has to marry him.
- Belisarius Series: Shakuntala and Raghunath Rao (partially subverted in that she needs to be pushed into the wedding, and then just ignores the rules).
- Book of Swords: Mark and Kristen. Something of a subversion, in that it is suggested that the real reason the Tasavaltan nobility decides that Mark would be a suitable consort for Kristen is less that he is the bastard son of a mythical wandering clown, and more that they need a real warrior on the throne, and use that he is the son of the Emperor as a fig leaf.
- This is a plot point in the first two books of Christopher Stasheff's A Wizard in Rhyme series. Complicated by the fact that the "divine right" to rule actually exists, as a talent for selecting the correct military/political decision for your country. But it has to be pointed out to the new queen that love and marriage are personal, even for royalty, and that in this case following her heart is not only good for her, but her country as well.
- In the Sherlock Holmes story The Sign of the Four, Watson falls in love with Holmes' latest client, Mary Morstan. Then she inherits a treasure worth a large sum of money, and Watson feels it would be improper for him to make his feelings known. When the treasure is lost in the Thames and Watson confesses his feelings the two then got married.
- In Walter Scott's Talisman, the protagonist, a seemingly normal poor knight who loved an English princess, is finally revealed to be a Scottish prince.
- In Reader and Raelynx, by Sharon Shinn, Cammon, a common man, and Amalie, the princess, fall in love. They then subvert this trope by persuading another noble to pretend Cammon is her bastard son to make him into this trope.
- Jane Eyre, though of respectable family, is penniless, friendless, and must work for her own living, and all these distance her irrevocably from her love, the gentleman Mr. Edward Rochester. He doesn't mind, and is happy to marry her anyway, but she herself cannot abide the thought of being utterly dependent on (and dolled up by) her husband. However, once Jane comes into her rights as a substantial heiress, and Rochester is maimed and spiritually humbled, they are considered more equal, leading to that most famous and triumphant line, "Reader, I married him."
- Well, not exactly. Jane finally gives in and agrees to marry Rochester when she realizes how in love they both are. Though she is still uncomfortable with all the finery, she makes a few deals with him about keeping her modesty and the plan the wedding. Things get called off though when it is revealed that Rochester is already married. To a mad woman who still lives. Unable to marry him and refusing to be a mistress, Jane flees. When they meet again at the end of the book, Bertha Rochester has died, making it morally and legally ok for Jane to wed him.
- However, it's still strongly implied that she really was foolish to agree to marry him earlier, but has a much better shot at happiness with him once they are on more of an equal footing.
- A variant occurs in one of Robert E. Howard's King Kull stories: the law forbids a certain young noble from marrying the girl he loves, because she's a slave. Even the King can't change the law, although he's thoroughly sympathetic to the lovers. And then the girl learns of a plot against Kull, and her lover rushes to the King's aid ... and Kull, at the end of the story, smashes the tablet on which that law is inscribed.
- In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Monster Men, Virginia is willing to love and marry Bulan even if he was a product of her father's experiments; Professor Maxon, while horrified by what he did while mad, concedes they may once he finds out that Bulan is actually a human with Easy Amnesia; but we still learn at the end that he's the son of a very wealthy American. (To be sure, neither he nor she dwell on that — they are chiefly glad that his amnesia did not hide that he was already married.)
- In Gene Stratton Porter's Freckles, Angel would take him without such a background, but Freckles refuses. So she dug it up.
- In Rudyard Kipling's "The Three-Decker", the "crew of missing heirs" turn out to be legitimate after all, when the "Wicked Nurse confessed."
- Jerin turns out to be suitable for Ren and her sisters fairly early in A Brother's Price, since she finds out that his grandmothers abducted Prince Alannon before that entire wing of the Prince's family was killed for treason. This does make them third cousins, but that's okay.
- In The Blue Castle, when Valancy marries Barney Snaith, the rest of the Stirling clan(except Cousin Georgiana) pretty much ignore the fact of her existance, until towards the end of the book, when it's revealed that her husband is actually Bernard Redfern, son of millionaire and patent-medicine maker Doc Redfern.
- In The Wheel of Time, Aviendha has a self-inflicted case. While she has technically married Rand al'Thor, she wont allow herself in his presence until she completes her training as a Wise One, viewing herself as not worthy without the title.
- Rand al'Thor actively finds and deduces his own obfuscated family tree, confirming both that he is "worthy" to marry Elayne Trakand and that she wasn't a close genetic relationship. He doesn't know many things about being the Dragon Reborn, but he does know that sheep shouldn't mate with close relations, and assumes it's true for people.
- The royal house of Caederan in A.L. Phillips's The Quest of the Unaligned is elementally unaligned as a result of an ancient magical pact. In order to preserve this elemental impartiality, the Crown Prince must marry an unaligned mage. This has the potential to cause an utter disaster when Crown Prince Alaric falls in love with the fire-mage Laeshana. At his coronation, things come to a head and it seems that he'll have no choice but to break Caederan's law to pieces or give up his love... until he Takes a Third Option and uses the power of the Prince's Crown to actually change Laeshana's magical alignment, causing her to become an orah (mages of light, and as Laeshana points out, elementally unaligned). They marry and have lived happily ever after for around a year so far (as of 8/27/13)
- In the earliest French literary version of Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve, the story doesn't end when the Beauty cures the Beast. The Queen is appalled that her son actually intends to marry the riffraff who rescued their kingdom, but luckily, it turns out that whoops, she was adopted all along! And her mother is a fairy princess and her father is the king of an island utopia! And they're all related! Needless to say, this lengthy and improbable denouement did not make into the famous versions of the tale.
Live Action TV
- Played with in Arrested Development. George Michael finds out that his Aunt Lindsay was adopted, so his beloved Maeby is not biologically his cousin. His father tells him that she's still family and they can't have a relationship. Also, when Gob finds out that Lindsay was adopted, he immediately tries to hit on her. For her part, she immediately hits on her "brother" Michael
- Interestingly averted in Merlin. As many fans have pointed out, Elyan being knighted should have elevated Gwen's status enough that her romance with Arthur would be more acceptable. This is never addressed in series, however, and the two have to overcome many an obstacle to be together due to their relative stations.
- In The Winter's Tale, the young prince falls in love with a shepherdess who is eventually revealed to be the believed-dead princess of the neighboring kingdom. The subtext there is that the prince could never have fallen in love with a real shepherdess, since she would've been vulgar and coarse; what he falls in love with are her inherent royal qualities shining through.
- Even older than Shakespeare is the classical Sanskrit play The Recognition of Sakuntala, King Dushyanta laments that he cannot marry Sakuntala as he is a Kshatriya and she a Brahmin; however, he later rejoices on hearing that she was adopted by the sage Kanva and is really a Kshatriya too.
- Gilbert and Sullivan used this device in H.M.S. Pinafore and The Gondoliers.
- Also in The Pirates of Penzance. In the final scene, Ruth reveals that all the pirates are "Noblemen who have gone wrong." The Major General is suddenly eager for the buccaneers to marry his daughters, as are the girls themselves. "For all our faults, we love our House Of Peers!"
- Parodied in Ruddigore, where becoming not a Baronet makes Sir Despard highly eligible, because all Baronets of Ruddigore have to be evil.
- In The Importance of Being Earnest, Jack can't marry the woman he loves because he's an orphan who as a baby was left in a handbag at a railway station. At the end of the play it turns out his parents actually were of good standing, and left him by accident, thus making it acceptable for him to marry a high society lady. Probably a parody of this trope considering the silliness involved. With a side of Values Dissonance: How do they know he's of appropriate social standing? He's the woman's cousin.
- A slight variant occurs in Arsenic and Old Lace: "Darling, I'm a bastard!" Since all the real Brewsters are Ax-Crazy, this is a good thing.
- In Stuart Pattison's version of Cinderella, Cinders rejects Prince Charmless in favour of Callum the stable boy. Who then turns out to be Lost Orphaned Royalty of a neighbouring kingdom.
- Dragon Quest VIII: The princess who was a horse throughout the game has to marry Prince Charmless (literally) because of a political alliance between the two kingdoms. But wait! It appears the main character is Prince Charmless's cousin. What luck!
- In a RuneScape quest, when Bob the Cat finds out he was once a human warrior, Neite agrees to elope with him.
- In the Neverwinter Nights expansion "Shadows of Undrentide", you physically enter a story where the damsel in distress is sent away to a monastery (and subsequently sacrificed to a demon) because her father disapproves of her loving a blind beggar. On the second read-through you can change the story so the beggar is actually a knight (with functional eyes) disguised as a beggar, because he wanted to be certain she loved him for himself, and not his title. As an added bonus, this also means that he'll save her before she's sacrificed.
- Spoofed a bit in Codename: Kids Next Door. Numbah 3/Kooki and Mushi go on a Rainbow Monkey water ride with automatronic monkeys playing a kid-friendly version of Romeo and Juliet (no tragic deaths). The girl monkey is of royalty and can't marry the charming boy monkey, but he tells her a long family tree explanation that he's actually royalty. "That means..." A Rainbow Monkey wedding with its iconic theme tune!
- Scooby-Doo in Arabian Nights: In the gender-flipped version of Aladdin, the Prince was supposed to marry the Princess of Serendibe but she disappeared back when she was a little girl. Aliyah-Din was eventually revealed to be the lost Princess.
- Gender-swapped: The Duke and Duchess of Windsor. She was an American divorcee. He was the King of England. (And, as such, head of the Church of England, and forbidden from marrying a divorcee.) Solved by having him abdicate the throne in favor of his younger brother George, father of the present sovereign, Queen Elizabeth.
- His grand-nephew Prince Charles then ended up in a similar boat, in love with Camilla Parker-Bowles. They both married others, then divorced, and (now that they have married each other) there is still debate about what will happen when Charles takes the throne; some have suggested he should remove himself from the succession over this.
- Some historians suggest that the real reason that the government wasn't willing to change the rules and let King Edward marry Mrs. Simpson and retain the throne was her sympathy towards the then-current German Administration. Whether anyone in England in those days would have known enough to see this as a major liability is a potentially contentious issue.
- Possible, but his chats to the German Ambassador about his chats with the Prime Minister and his very pro-German views were more concerning, which was why he was made a royal duke after his abdication, to politically neuter him.
- George V himself, while alive, felt his younger son would make a much better King than Edward and expressed his hopes that Edward would never marry and produce an heir, so that eventually younger son "Bertie" and later Bertie's daughter "Lisbeth" would inherit the throne. Which they did, as George VI and Elizabeth II respectively.
- Maybe everyone just decided at once that he was a Royal Brat and ought to be taken down a peg and told he can't have everything he wanted?
- He already knew that. Because he was the heir to the throne, he wasn't allowed to go into battle with his platoon (or whatever). He did what he could to help, but he wasn't allowed to do the one thing he actually wanted to do.