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Fallen Princess

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"To have learnt to live on the common level
Is better…
To be rich and powerful brings no blessing;
Only more utterly
Is the prosperous house destroyed, when the gods are angry."
Nurse, Medea

She's got everything: brains, good looks, perfect hair, shiny white teeth, and a body most people would kill for. Of course, this genetic good fortune comes with social perks — so it is that our beautiful heroine is on the cheerleading squad of her local school and dating a hunky jock who is team captain. She also does her best to avoid the nerds and outcasts, though usually just because she can't afford to lose status in her peers' eyes rather than because she's a bully. This is usually emphasized by making her best friend the Alpha Bitch.

But then something happens. Her family loses its fortune, she turns out to be The Chosen One, gets covered in radioactive green goo that gives her superpowers, or whatever. For whatever reason, the very thing that makes her a hero also makes her an outcast. Now she sits on the outskirts of her school's peer groups with a rag-tag bunch of fellow "losers". At first she regrets not being able to rejoin the cool "jet set", but her drop in status opens her eyes to the goodness and decency of the people she once rejected. She becomes a better person, the geeks get a cool friend and all of them save the world and solve mysteries together.

Alternatively, the Fallen Princess can be a secondary character who's initially portrayed as the Alpha Bitch, but is revealed to be insecure or to have other sympathetic traits that make the audience like her, prior to her taking a leap down in the social strata.

This trope appears a lot in science fiction and fantasy shows since their target audience is generally exactly the same kind of geek outcast that the princess ends up hanging out with. Thus they can simultaneously fetishize the cheerleader image while assuaging their perceived audience by confirming their beliefs that all cheerleaders (and people in the higher strata of the school system) are stuck up snobs, with few exceptions. It also lionizes the viewer by showing the geeks to be more interesting and "cool" in their own way than the cliques. Of course, the character doesn't have to be a cheerleader for it to work — just someone who's in a clique of attractive, desirable, and deeply unpleasant people.

Also could work perfectly with actual princesses (or just an upper-crust heroine). A low-life "peasant" or modern equivalent may fall in love with her. But in a random wave of unsurprising angst, says this line, most of the time word-for-word:

"She's a princess… and I'm… just a street rat…"

If a miracle doesn't interfere, he will then give up completely.

Compare the Ojou and Break the Haughty, and contrast Alpha Bitch and King of the Homeless. Princess in Rags is a similar character, but while the Fallen Princess has her eyes opened by her loss of status and adapts to her situation, the Princess in Rags doesn't, remains arrogant and will keep fighting to regain what she lost until the bitter end, but without becoming wiser in the meantime.


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    Comic Books 
  • Jadina in Les Légendaires; she was originally princess of the Kingdom of Orchidia, but her relationship with her parents started to be strained when she refused an Arranged Marriage to instead become an adventurer and form a team of heroes with a knight that shares her ideals. After said team accidentally provoked a magical incident that turned everyone on the planet into children, she was banished from her kingdom, disowned, and forced to live like a peasant until she and her friends decided to reform the team despite their Hero with Bad Publicity status.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In "Adalmina's Pearl", this is the main plot. Adalmiina's fall is very hard, too: she goes from a spoiled, ultimately intelligent, extremely beautiful, unbelievably rich princess to literal rags in a moment (A faerie godmother did it.), and also loses her looks, smarts, and even her memory.
  • The Brothers Grimm's fairy tales have some of these:
    • The main character from "King Thrushbeard" is a princess who is such an Alpha Bitch that she doesn't consider any of her suitors worthy of her hand. Eventually, her frustrated father forces her to marry a poor peddler. One Humiliation Conga and a "My God, What Have I Done?" later, the peddler is revealed to the eponymous king, whom the princess had mocked earlier, and who officially marries her once she has stopped being a Rich Bitch and become a better person.
    • The protagonist from "The Six Swans" is a princess who must run away after her six brothers were turned into swans, trying to fulfill the huge tasks that will lead to her undoing the spell and attempting to put herself outta the reach of their Wicked Stepmother. The brothers also count, as they're princes stripped from their human forms for years.
    • In "Maid Maleen", the titular princess is imprisoned in a tower by her father, who hopes to force her into accept an arranged marriage. When Maleen breaks out of the tower, her father's kingdom has been destroyed, and she finds herself wandering around the countryside and living off nettle leaves until she manages to get a job as a scullery maid.
  • The above mentioned "The Six Swans" has several similar variations ("The Twelve Wild Ducks", Hans Christian Andersen's The Wild Swans", etc.) with near-identical plots involving a Fallen Princess who struggles to release her also fallen and now bewitched brothers from spells.
  • In Catherine and Her Fate, Catherine, the beautiful only child of a rich merchant, chooses to be happy in her old age rather than her youth. And then she finds that she can be very, very miserable and poor in her youth.

    Film — Animated 
  • Anastasia, though she doesn't know she's one due to Trauma-Induced Amnesia.
  • Cinderella was more of a noble girl than princess, but had lived a life of happy luxury before her father remarried and then died, the family wealth was squandered, and she was abused and forced to become a servant by her Wicked Stepmother.
  • The Lion King features a Fallen Prince, in the form of Simba: Once a naive, curious cub, now a guilt-ridden lion who's lost faith in himself. Fortunately, he's encouraged by his father's spirit (and getting beaned in the noggin with a stick) and pulls through.
  • Snow White was born a princess but, like Cinderella, was forced to do the chores, dress in rags, and never leave the castle by her Wicked Stepmother and local Witch, who hoped to ruin her good looks. After nearly being murdered, she's forced to go through the scary forest and hide out in a cottage, where she takes over housework for the Dwarves. After the death of the Witch and being given a True Love's Kiss, she probably reclaimed her birthright with the help of the Prince and reinforced it by marrying said Prince.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, Vanellope is revealed at the end to have been this.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Adventures of Galgameth: Prince Davin is forced to disguise himself as a peasant to escape the evil knight El El, who murdered the king and usurped his throne as regent.
  • The movie Heathers revolves around the sole non-Heather member of a clique of girls named Heather, who, with the help of an attractive but weird loner, decides to get back at them for their bullying ways with pranks which, though initially innocent, quickly turn into a killing spree.
  • A variation happens to Cady in Mean Girls where she's a loser to start the film off, then she becomes the Alpha Bitch and realizes how much that life sucks before going back to her original self. Also happens to Regina who discovers that the whole school actually hates her but then reforms, joining the field hockey team to work on her anger issues. The end implies that she is a bit nicer as well. Janis used to be popular, but her reputation was destroyed by a rumor and she now willingly embraces outsiderdom.
  • Glinda in Oz the Great and Powerful, her father, the King of Oz, is murdered after being poisoned by Evanora, who frames Glinda with the crime of Patricide, forcing her to flee from the Emerald City to the South.
  • Lilli in Snow White: A Tale of Terror. She's forced to run away and try and live in the wild.

    Myths & Religion 
  • According to Kabbalah mysticism, the Shekhinah ("Presence"), a feminine divinity, was cast out when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and now wanders the world disconsolate. Jewish fairytales involving exiled princesses may be seen as metaphors for this idea.
  • In Japanese Mythology, a girl named Hachikatsugi-hime ("the princess with a wooden bowl hat") runs away from her rich household after the death of her mother and the arrival of a Wicked Stepmother. She ends up working as a maid for another rich family, then the son of her bosses falls for her... The wooden bowl hat hides a Bag of Holding with the stuff Hachikatsugi needs to bypass her boss' Parental Marriage Veto and become a princess again.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Fabula Ultima: One of the introductory Press Start adventure's premade characters is Lavigne Fallbright, a princess who lost her family and kingdom to the invading empire of Elonia. She now fights to prevent other nations from suffering the same fate as her homeland.

    Visual Novels 
  • Lucette from Cinderella Phenomenon starts out as a cold-hearted princess who treats everyone around her with contempt. She becomes cursed by a witch to go from Riches to Rags with almost everyone losing their memories of her being the crown princess and the rest of the story focuses on her long, slow journey to learn how to perform three good deeds to break her curse.
  • Shirogane Le Bel Sakuya can fit into this trope, or "Fallen Prince" anyway, in Hatoful Boyfriend. He is the young, arrogant heir to the powerful noble Le Bel family and is a wealthy, prideful brat with a love of music, which has been forbidden to him by his father. His route consists of a rather gentle Break the Haughty/Defrosting Ice King as he comes to depend more and accept different things from the heroine, including the idea that he can and should pursue his passion. In the perfect route when he tells his father, at the end, he is disowned and has to live with the heroine in a cave on some straw... but he performs in concerts.
  • Visual novels under the Purple Moon banner. Try to make friends with the Alpha Bitch, and every single time, something will backfire and make her hate you.

    Web Comics 
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! this apparently happened to Princess Voluptua at some point in her youth. Her feelings about the experience seem mixed.
  • In No Rest for the Wicked, it comes as a great blow to November to realize that Princess Colette really doesn't believe her to be a princess because of her rags. Of course, Colette married the Marquis de Carabas, further proof that her Blue Blood-dar is out of order (unlike November's).

    Web Animation 
  • The Most Popular Girls in School: The Season 2 finale reveals Deandra’s backstory before she came to Overland Park High School. She used to be not only a student at the rival Atchison High, but she was head cheerleader and one of the most popular girls in school, if not the most popular of them all. But after an incident involving Pop Rocks triggered a poorly-timed Potty Emergency, her reputation went down the toilet, pun intended, and she transferred out in disgrace.

    Web Original 
  • Aki from Sailor Nothing. Her Yamiko destroys her popularity by announcing to the school how Aki really feels, like Himei being her one real friend and how the Fashion Club exploits people. This ends up being beneficial to Aki in the long run. While she's disgusted by the Yamiko's method, Aki's nevertheless grateful to finally be free of the Fashion Club and all the other trappings of popularity that were making her miserable.
  • Phase, of the Whateley Universe. Once a member of the richest family in the world, he becomes a mutant and gets kicked out. He ends up at Whateley Academy hanging with the Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits that is Team Kimba.
    • Jadis (codename She-Beast) probably counts, too. She had to leave her fancy Montessori school as a child when it came out that her dad is the notorious supervillain Dr. Diabolik.

Alternative Title(s): Fallen Prince