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Adopted into Royalty

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"You have to practice anyway, because that's what's expected of a prince...Or a step-prince, actually."
Soren to Callum, The Dragon Prince

Conventionally, being a King, Queen, Prince or Princess requires you to be born as one, Royal Blood is valuable after all, and as far as most monarchs are concerned, they have to make sure their bloodline keeps going if they want their kingdoms to last.

But when you're this character, it's another story.

Maybe you got a father who was lucky enough to marry a queen, maybe you reported and helped stop a coup attempt and the royal family saw adopting you as a way of thanking you, maybe you're already of some position and are adopted into the family as political fodder, or maybe you just befriended a prince and he liked you enough that he came to his father and begged him (if not outright demanded) you get adopted into the royal family so you and he could spend more time together. This gets an extra layer of drama when this overlaps with Oblivious Adoption - The Reveal or Internal Reveal that they are merely adopted into royalty (depending on the timing) would be a big twist for the adoptee, which will lead to many complications. However it happened, you're suddenly now at the top of the food chain of society, we hope you're comfortable (and you likely will be.)

Like adoptions everywhere else, being adopted into a royal family can have varied results ranging from being straight up Happily Adopted to their adoptive royal parents viewing them with contempt and outright abusing their adopted child. Though regardless, usually the adoptee still gets to enjoy all (or at least some of) the luxuries and privileges that go with their newfound status and tend to have similar royal duties that go with it as well. There's usually unlikely the adoptee will ever inherit the throne as their adoptive siblings are blood heirs destined for it anyway, and most royal adoptees tend not to be bothered by this and even appreciate that fact as it means they won't have to worry about the pressures of being a king or queen.

...unless a coup attempt or some other freak disaster wipes out their royal adoptive family and the following Succession Crisis leaves the entire kingdom desperate enough to put the sole-surviving adoptee on the throne, to their own surprise and possible dismay. That is, if the adoptee didn't orchestrate the disaster itself, with the intent of taking over the throne.

A subtrope of Rags to Royalty. Contrast Really Royalty Reveal, where the character was royalty all along.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ōoku: The Inner Chambers: When the shogun Iemetsu dies of the red pox without descendants, his nurse/surrogate mother/regent Kasuga sends for the Child by Rape he'd produced several years before, raising her in Iemetsu's place until she can produce an heir and continue the Tokugawa bloodline. As the red pox continues to ravage Japan until one man in five is lucky to reach adulthood, the pretense of a male shogun is eventually lifted and women openly occupy government positions, while the shogun's harem is exclusively men there to guard her and father children.
  • In The Seven Deadly Sins, the king of Liones adopted Elizabeth after she was carried out of the ruins of Danafor because, paradoxically, he saw that he would. Also, he just really likes being a dad. No one's really worried about inheritance shenanigans because he has two elder daughters from his bloodline. Though he ends up leaving the crown to Elizabeth's husband anyway.
  • In Tenchi Muyo! GXP the protagonist, Seina Yamada, an Ordinary High-School Student, gets adopted into the royal Jurai family after bonding with the Humongous Mecha holding at its heart the seed of Juraian Royal Tree — this is actually the one and only way Juraian royalty is made, as per their ancient pact with Tsunami. The royals' relatives just have a privilege in bonding. Later on, his Childhood Friend and Love Interest Kiriko Masaki, a very distant relative of the royal family, gets an official bonding and adoption ceremony because it was decided to be politically expedient. Ironically, all this happened while the heir of the clan, Tenchi Masaki, Seina's other Childhood Friend, was still a nobody, because his grandfather and the formal Crown Prince, Yosho, was still considered officially missing.

    Comic Books 
  • Kiyi from the Avatar: The Last Airbender comics is the maternal half-sister of Fire Lord Zuko and is treated as an official member of the royal family despite not having a single drop of Royal Blood in her veins (Zuko's claim to the throne comes from his father's side of the family). The fact that Zuko is both a shameless Momma's Boy and happy to have a little sister who isn't constantly trying to murder him definitely played a huge role in his decision to take her and her parents in.
  • In the Black Panther comics, Hunter is adopted by King T'Chaka after Hunter's parents die in a plane crash in Mohannda, just north of the Wakandan border. T'Chaka treats Hunter like a son and Hunter develops a deep love of Wakanda despite many Wakandans treating him with suspicion because of his white skin, which marks him as a clear foreigner. However, upon the birth of T'Challa, it becomes clear that Hunter will never ascend to the throne. Hunter is instead made the leader of Wakanda's secret police, the Hatut Zeraze, and assumes the title of White Wolf. Throughout his life, he struggles to balance his love of Wakanda with his resentment of T'Challa.
  • Wonder Girl Donna Troy was an orphaned toddler saved from a fire by Wonder Woman and made princess when she was adopted by the royal family of Paradise Island.

    Fairy Tales 
  • Tatterhood: The Queen has an adopted daughter whose friendship with the beggar woman's daughter leads the queen to meet the beggar woman and learn how to have children. She's forgotten after Tatterhood and her twin are born.

    Fan Works 
  • Becoming Free: Queen Elsa adopts an orphaned girl named Katja and raises her as her own. Her wife-in-all-but-law Freya also helps, though they keep that part a secret.
  • A Diplomatic Visit: Cadance, per series canon. In chapter 8 of the sequel Diplomat at Large, Prince Blueblood specifically states that she was adopted by Celestia upon her ascension to alicornhood.
  • I Am Skantarios: The Byzantine empire keeps adopting adult generals into its royal family because they never seem to produce male heirs.
  • A Moon and World Apart: Cadance reveals early on to Shining Armor that she was born a pegasus and ascended to alicornhood, after which she was adopted by Princess Celestia as her niece (and Luna's by extension).
  • Varian in The Moon Calls is treated as an honorary prince by the kingdom of Corona due to him and Rapunzel considering themselves siblings as a result of raised together in captivity by Mother Gothel. This becomes a lot more official when King Fredric more-or-less adopts Varian after Quirin becomes trapped in amber.
  • SAPR: Sunset Shimmer was raised by Princess Celestia in this version of her backstory. She doesn't remember her birth parents or any day at all before she arrived at the palace in Canterlot. Naturally, she comes to consider rejecting Celestia to be one of her biggest failures.
  • In the Sailor Moon prequel fanfic Serenity's Story, a young and orphaned Queen Serenity is adopted off the streets into the royal family of Okeanos after it's discovered that she possesses the Sailor Crystal of Theia, Okeanos's star.
  • Subverted in A Tale of Two Rulers. The princess regent Zelda claims that her daughter, Rinku, is adopted. In reality, Rinku's a Child by Rape with a tutor. It's an Open Secret amongst her court that Rinku is really Zelda's, with the court often complaining behind Zelda's back about Zelda having a bastard for an heir.
  • In Their Bond, Link was adopted by Hyrule's king as a child after he turned up near the castle, but he refuses any princely recognition. Link sees Zelda as his sister, but he sees her advisor Mikal as his adopted father.
  • Who's This White Kid?: In this crossover, Harry Potter becomes King T'Chaka's adopted son, making him a Composite Character of himself and Hunter. It's stated that, as an adopted member of the Royal Family, there's no way he or his future heirs will have a chance to become the ruler unless everyone with Wakandan Royal Blood dies.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh Resurrection: Bakura was adopted as a child by Pharaoh Aknamkanon after the destruction of Kul Elna.

    Films — Animated 
  • Early in The Prince of Egypt, baby Moses is found and adopted by the wife of Pharaoh Seti. It's made clear that he won't be inheriting the throne, as that's the birthright of Seti's natural-born son Rameses, but they get along so well that it's not an issue.
  • In the fifth The Swan Princess, Odette and Derek adopt an orphaned woodcutter's daughter named Elise.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Little Mermaid (2023), Prince Eric was adopted by Queen Selina after being found as an orphan in a shipwreck as a baby.
  • Dastan, a street urchin in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, is adopted by King Sharaman after showing courage.
  • Star Wars:
    • As shown in Revenge of the Sith, Leia Amidala Skywalker was adopted by Alderaanian Viceroy Bail Organa and his wife, Queen Breha. Leia's birth mother Padmé actually had been the Queen of Naboo, but that's an elected position that she left a while prior.
    • In the novel Leia, Princess of Alderaan, it's shown that Leia being adopted is no barricade to her inheriting the throne and that there is even a variant of the traditional Day of Demand ceremony specifically for adopted heirs, meaning she was not the first adopted Crown Princess or Prince of Alderaan.
  • In Thor, Odin adopts an infant Frost Giant (a species that were long-standing enemies to his kingdom) to be raised as his son and a prince of Asgard, apparently out of compassion for the abandoned infant and in hopes of eventually promoting peace between the two species. Unfortunately, he never bothered to tell either of his children that Loki was adopted or to teach them not to view the Frost Giants as monsters, resulting in a very unhappy revelation for the now-adult Loki.
  • The Ten Commandments (1956) depicts Moses this way, adopted by Princess Bithia and being treated as a son by Pharaoh Seti. Unlike in The Prince of Egypt, however, Moses and Rameses really don't get along, at least partly because Moses is actually a contender to be Seti's heir and is frequently shown to be far more competent than Rameses, further threatening the latter's perceived birthright.

  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: As the protagonist is born a commoner in an extremely stratified society, this trope is what allows the rise in social position that gets her past the point where she's she only allowed to do a job usually given to unwanted children of nobility because of a major labor shortage.
  • In the Age of Fire series, the Copper is adopted into the Imperial Line of the Lavadome as Tyr FeHazathant's grandson, a position solidified by marrying the Tyr's granddaughter Halaflora. Despite this, he's so far down the potential line of succession and is looked down on for his various personality quirks and crippling injuries, that no one ever expects him to become the Tyr himself, instead seeing the adoption as an honorary reward. However, by the end of his focus book, everyone above him in the line is either dead or in exile, allowing him to take the throne.
  • In The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Jadis the White Witch persuades Edmund to bring his siblings to Narnia by promising this. She will adopt him as her son and make him Crown Prince, and so that his siblings are still of sufficient rank to socialize with him, she will make Peter a duke and Susan and Lucy duchesses. It's all a lie, of course - she wants to kill them - but he buys into it with ease.
  • Suggested but defied in Taran Wanderer, the fourth installment of The Chronicles of Prydain. King Smoit, who is a childless widower, offers to adopt Taran as his son and make him heir to the throne of Cadiffor. Taran is truly grateful but is determined to continue his quest to find out who he really is and who his parents were.
  • The Heroic Legend of Arslan: Arslan is adopted by King Andragoras III and Queen Tahamine, something he himself doesn't even know.
  • The first Safehold book, Off Armageddon Reef, ends with King Haraahld of Charis dying of a wound incurred Taking the Bullet that a nine-year-old midshipman had tried to take for him. To honor this act and the king's death, the boy, Hektor Aplyn, is adopted into the royal family by Haraahld's successor Cayleb and made a Duke in the process. It's noted that Hektor Aplyn-Ahrmahk stands outside the line of succession, but his title and deeds as he grows as a naval officer make sure he can take care of his biological family while being of use to his new step-family.
  • Shades of Magic: Kell was adopted by the Mareshes, the Royal family of Red London, due to being an Antari, an extremely powerful magician, so that they might manage him and use his abilities for their own gain. While the King and Queen mostly see him as a useful asset instead of a son, Prince Rhy genuinely sees Kell as his brother.
  • In the Temeraire books, Temeraire is of a bloodline of dragons who by tradition take as their companions only members of the Chinese royal family. Temeraire hatched from a twin egg—his brother is companion to the Crown Prince. In order to prevent Temeraire's companion from becoming a rival claimant to the throne, his egg was sent as a gift to the ruler of France, chosen for being (1) royalty and (2) very, very, very far away. When Temeraire ends up taking a non-royal person as companion, certain Chinese people are very upset. The eventual resolution is for the Chinese ruler to adopt Temeraire's companion.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • In The Bible, Moses is a Hebrew slave adopted by Pharaoh's daughter—meaning that he's the one Hebrew boy to escape Pharaoh's genocide. He grows up, chooses to throw his lot in with the Hebrews, and is called on by God to lead them out of slavery.
  • In the story of Oedipus, he was abandoned by his father due to a patricidal prophecy that ended with him marrying his mother. However, he was found and adopted into the Corinthian royal family instead. Played With in that Oedipus was actually already royalty by birth.
  • The Saga of the Jomsvikings: To hush up an incestuous affair, Jarl Arnfinn of Saxony abandons his newborn son in a forest so he will be found by king Gorm of Denmark. Gorm, who at once infers from the costly garments and the gold found along with him that the boy is of noble birth, has him raised like a son and eventually names him his heir. The boy, Knut, becomes king and gives his name to the royal house of Knytlings.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Princess: The Hopeful: While for most courts "Prince"/"Princess" is a purely honorary title, it's mentioned that all Radiants of the Court Of Hearts are actually legally adopted by the Queen of Hearts as part of an old custom from the days when Andarta was still a mass of independent city-states. 99% of the time it's irrelevant, but should you happen to run into a curse that only an actual child of a queen can break...

    Video Games 
  • This is seen in the Golden Ending of Cute Knight. The player character is the long-lost daughter of the king and queen, so for her it's a Really Royalty Reveal. However, when she disappeared, they quietly adopted the peasant boy Kirelan, letting the kingdom believe the queen had given birth to a boy instead of a girl, so the trope applies to him. Rather than let the truth get out (because they love Kirelan and don't want to disinherit him), they instead betroth their adopted son to their newly restored daughter, so they can someday rule together.
  • One of the codex entries in Dragon Age: Inquisition talks about this trope. Allegedly, sometime in the past, an Empress of Orlais was so determined to protect her infant daughter from potential assassins that she adopted a pair of lookalikes so that no one would be able to identify the real heir to the throne. "Three Little Empresses" is the name of a sort of nursery rhyme about the trio, two of whom are picked off during the course of the song; only the three girls themselves seem to know which of them is the real Empress, but the one left alive at the end is the one who inherits the throne.
  • A Happily Adopted case with Cecil Harvey of Final Fantasy IV as he was adopted as an orphan by the king of Baron after he found Cecil as a newborn, abandoned by his older brother Theodor due to Zemus' influence. The position he was in growing up led to him becoming childhood friends with Kain Highwind and future Love Interest Rosa Joanna Farrell. This eventually leads to him becoming the king of Baron as the former king had no actual heir when he died, leaving him essentially heir by default.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics has Princess Ovelia Atkascha, who was adopted when it appeared that the King of Ivalice was too sickly to sire an heir. He did, not long before his death, but debates over whether or not the Prince was truly his son led to the outbreak of war. Both Ovelia herself and the public at large remain unaware of Ovelia's adopted status, though the Princess learns the truth not long before the war breaks out.
  • GreedFall: It's eventually revealed that De Sardet is actually a Teer Fradee native who was adopted by the Prince d'Orsay's sister, making them royalty.
  • This happens in Lost Odyssey when Gongora takes over Uhra after killing (so the Uhrans think) Tolten. Because Tolten had reinstated the monarchy and had no heir, Gongora was in line and became part of the royal family through a blood ceremony.
  • Captain Lorimette, in Queen at Arms, is the Happily Adopted version of the trope. She was the teenage bride of an elderly nobleman, and after his death continued to care for his people; the childless Queen Charlotte adopted her and installed her as heiress presumptive. They love each other dearly. This is only seen in certain story paths, however.
  • Throughout much of the Total War franchise (particularly Rome and Medieval II), Captains are the default leader of an army when no general or royal family member is present. If they win an epic battle, they may be adopted into the ruling family. They are treated as a son and can be named Faction Heir, eventually even becoming the Faction Leader. Promoted Captains almost always come with a command rating of 3-4, sometimes come with other beneficial traits such as "Brave" and "Battle Scarred," and typically come with no negative traits (unlike those born into the ruling families, who are far more likely to develop negative traits). Because of this, promoted Captains in enemy armies can be quite difficult as foes.
  • Trillion: God of Destruction: Mammon, the Overlord of Greed, was noted as having been adopted into the Overlord's family, becoming cousin to Zeabolos and Ashmedia. However, as a former slum child, she still often snuck away from home to visit her friends, which caused a number of issues between her adoptive parents and herself. Part of her story is gradually addressing and quelling these issues.
  • Undertale: Chara/the Fallen Child is adopted by Asgore and Toriel, the king and queen of the monsters, after falling into the underground.

    Visual Novels 
  • The heir in "The Royal Romance" in the Choices: Stories You Play collection is technically an example of this if the main character (her mother) marries someone other than the king, as he refuses to marry simply for politics.
  • Rod and Emelaigne from Cinderella Phenomenon became prince and princess in the game's backstory after their mother Ophelia (previously a baker) married Angielle's King Genaro Britton III.


    Web Original 
  • In the Dingo Doodles "Fool's Gold" campaign the NPC Bouclaire, originally an impoverished orphan, somehow managed to get herself adopted by the royal family of Kylandia. She then apparently murdered the king and queen and usurped the throne from her adoptive siblings.

    Western Animation 
  • The Dragon Prince: Callum became part of the royal family following his mother Sarai's marriage to King Harrow. While Soren teases him for being a "step-prince" and he is implied to harbor some insecurity regarding his relationship with Harrow, his stepfather and half-brother treat him well.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Princess Cadance, the eventual ruler of the Crystal Empire and the third alicorn introduced is not blood-related to her aunts Luna and Celestia. As revealed in Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell, Princess Celestia adopted her niece Cadance as a foal after witnessing her ascension to alicornhood. This explains Cadance's origin, as Luna is Celestia's only sibling and was trapped in the moon for a millennium.
  • Season 8 of Ninjago reveals that Ninjago has a royal family, and that their Jade Princess, Harumi, is adopted. It later comes out that Harumi was orphaned back during season 1's Great Devourer incident, so her adoption very well could have been politically motivated. Harumi resents being an orphan, resents the Emperor and Empress simply for not being her biological parents, and resents the ninja for not stopping the Great Devourer. Therefore, she uses the resources she's gained by being a princess to start a biker gang set on resurrecting Lord Garmadon and ruling Ninjago. Oops.
  • Sofia the First gives us Sofia, who was a commoner until her shoemaker mother married King Roland II and became his queen. Roland did not outright adopt Sofia, being identified in the show as her stepfather, but he gave her the title of a royal princess and they are quite fond of each other.
  • The Thunder Cats 2011 version of Tygra is Lion-O's older brother, who was Happily Adopted by King Claudus. Interestingly, King Claudus actually favors Tygra, thanks to him being more of The Dutiful Son in his eyes than Lion-O is.

    Real Life 
  • Three of the first five Roman Emperors, and four of the "five good Emperors", were adopted as adults by their predecessors, explicitly to name them as successors. Adopting an heir was accepted practice in general in Roman society; if a family failed to produce an heir or the heir died prematurely (even barring assassinations, this was a major risk since military service was thoroughly intertwined with Roman politics and thus any upper-class young man was expected to go to war), adopting a worthy heir was the expected alternative. In the eyes of both law and society, an adopted heir was fully equivalent to a biological son. This also meant that adoption was serious business, and not to be done lightly. Of course, these heirs were generally already members of a high-born family, even their predecessor's own, before being adopted.
    • The Julio-Claudian Dynasty: Julius Caesar was Just the First Citizen but his adopted heir Augustus named himself the first Imperator. Augustus was succeeded by his stepson Tiberius and Tiberius adopted his great-nephew Caligula. The Praetorian Guard killed Caligula's entire family save for his uncle Claudius, whom they installed as Emperor. Claudius named his stepson/great-nephew Nero heir until his natural son came of age, but Nero's mother assassinated the boy before that could happen.
    • The "Five Good Emperors": Nerva was appointed by the Senate after Domitian's assassination, Nerva adopted Trajan to head off a civil war, Trajan allegedly adopted his relative Hadrian on his deathbed, Hadrian wanted Marcus Aurelius to succeed him but thought him too young so he adopted Antoninus Pius on the condition that he adopt his relative Marcus. Marcus was the second Roman Emperor to pass the throne to a natural son (after Vespasian, Domitian's father).
  • Charles XIV John of Sweden was actually a French general of common birth named Jean Bernadotte who rose through the ranks of the armies of Revolutionary France, eventually becoming a member of Napoléon Bonaparte's inner circle. When the Swedish royal house found itself without heirs around that time, Bernadotte was adopted into the Swedish nobility and was shortly thereafter elected the heir to the throne. Ironically, Napoleon at one point considered adopting Bernadotte himself as heir to the French Empire (rather than trying to establish a hereditary Bonaparte monarchy), but decided against it. (To heap irony upon ironies, one of the first things Charles XIV did upon taking the Swedish throne was join the War of the Sixth Coalition against his homeland and former commander and comrade-in-arms.) Further irony is that Bernadotte had been an ardent republican (ie opposed to the very concept of monarchy) in his youth before becoming a king.
  • Gustav Badin was a slave taken from the Caribbean and was eventually gifted to Queen Louisa Ulrika of Sweden when he was ten years old. The Queen took an instant liking to the boy and decided to take him in as her son rather than a slave. She couldn't legally adopt him, but she cared for him just as much as her own children, taught him how to speak, write, and read Swedish on her own, and even had him baptized in the royal palace's chapel. He grew up with the same rights as his foster siblings and became their closest most trusted friend. When he became an adult he worked a page for the Queen, as to repay her for raising him and even managed to reunite her with her first born son shortly before she died. He came to the country intended to be a slave but lived as a nobleman for the rest of his days.
  • Used by the Japanese Imperial Family throughout much of their history; if the emperor failed to produce a male heir, he might adopt a member of a lesser branch of the imperial clan to become his heir and there were even official cadet branches in order to facilitate such adoptions, with similar practices occuring among the nobility. Averted nowadays, though, as the practice has been abolished along with the cadet branches.
  • Generally averted by most modern day royal families, most likely to avoid confusion over the succession to the throne as most monarchies require a blood relation to the monarch.