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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, or a 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.

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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 a 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.)

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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.

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


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ooku: 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.
  • 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 another Childhood Friend, was still a nobody, because his grandfather and the formal Crown Prince, Yosho, was still considered officially missing.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 a 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 see 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.

    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 
  • 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. 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 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.

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 it 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 
  • 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 Harvey 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.
  • 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.

    Webcomics 

    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 Celestia's only sibling has been trapped in the moon for a millennium.
  • 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 ThunderCats (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.
    • 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 Nero heir until his natural son came of age but Nero's mother assassinated him 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 of Sweden was actually adopted into the Swedish nobility and eventually was elected the heir to the throne.
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