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Gratuitous Princess

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Little girls love princesses. Writers put princesses (not queens, duchesses, countesses, or milkmaids) just about everywhere, even if it isn't needed for the plot and might not make a whole lot of sense for the setting. There's just something glamorous, magical, and fantastic about them that causes them to be included regardless.

Some common ways this occurs:

  • A character who wasn't a princess in the original story is made one in an adaptation or marketing, often with a Girliness Upgrade.
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  • Characters are given princess titles in a setting that doesn't call for it. The work could be set in High School (a Royal School), outer space, or a culture that doesn't have princesses, but they'll be there anyway. Often this involves making The Chief's Daughter a princess, or having the character be a princess In Name Only, with no royal responsibilies or obligations.
  • A work has a very large number of characters who are princesses.note 

Supertrope to Princesses Rule and Save the Princess, where a character who could be a queen, or just any Damsel in Distress is made a princess. Subtrope of Garnishing the Story.

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In works with The Smurfette Principle in play, the Token Girl is often a princess to appeal to the princess-loving female Periphery Demographic.

See also Dragons Prefer Princesses, Gratuitous Ninja, Honorary Princess, Kid-Appeal Character, Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot, and Princess Protagonist.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch: Each ocean on earth is ruled by a mermaid princess — the protagonist, Lucia, is princess of the North Pacific Ocean, and has to recruit the other oceans' mermaid princesses. The status of "princess" itself is fairly irrelevant, as the girls aren't seen doing much ruling.
  • Sailor Moon: The Nine Sailor Senshi are all the Princesses of their respective planets, even though the Solar System is gathered under the two kingdoms of the Earth and Moon, and the other planets' princesses' jobs are to guard the Moon Kingdom Princess.

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman:
    • In the late Golden Age and early Silver Age stories most of the one shot allies and friends from other planets, planes and countries Diana meets are other princesses. Some of them even got recurring appearances.
    • Wonder Woman and the Star Riders is murky on all the characters' backstory due to its truncated nature but in addition to Diana being a princess as always Dolphine, Ice and Solara also wear tiaras indicating themselves to be princesses meaning that out of the five Star Riders only one isn't presented as a princess.
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    Fairy Tales 
  • The Twelve Dancing Princesses features not two but twelve princesses, all of whom sleep in the same room and are basically interchangeable. The large number seems to add to the mystery of why they are able to disappear each night and dance the night away - it's less plausible that such a large number could sneak away undetected.

    Films — Animation 
  • Anastasia: In a Russian context, the tsar's daughters are referred to as "Grand Duchess" and "princess" is a noble, not royal, title. However, this film uses the titles "Grand Duchess" and "princess" interchangeably when referring to the missing Anastasia.
  • The Disney Princess franchise is one of the best known examples, as it has a long history of marketing non-princess characters as princesses:
    • Mulan: Mulan herself is a notable example, as she is a tomboy and was never a princess in the entirety of her film, but was nevertheless included in the Disney Princess canon and received girlier, more princessy merchandising.
    • Other non-princesses included in the Disney Princess lineup at various points include Esmerelda of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Alice of Alice in Wonderland.
    • Pocahontas: Pocahontas is The Chief's Daughter, but she was marketed as a princess from the very beginning, including merchandising showing her in a Pimped-Out Dress that contrasts with her expressed interest in simplicity and disinterest in the trappings of society.
    • Tangled swaps around the royalty, as Rapunzel was a peasant in her original tale and had a prince as her love interest. Here Rapunzel is a long lost princess, and the male lead is a forest bandit.
    • Moana is very clear on distinction between "The Chief's Daughter" and "Princess" but Maui mockingly calls her one anyway because she wears a dress and has an animal companion.
    • Brave - Pixar's first film with a female protagonist of course had her as a princess. Although in this case it does show the difficulties associated with being a princess. Merida still got inducted into the line.
  • Disney's The Black Cauldron, an adaptation of The Chronicles of Prydain, takes the character of Eilonwy - who was a princess in the books but ran away from her family to marry a commoner - and ignores this by having her declare she is a princess multiple times.
  • Barbie as Rapunzel (which came out several years before Tangled) likewise turns Rapunzel into a kidnapped princess. Mother Gothel's motivation in this was also Rapunzel's father not loving her back, therefore preventing her from becoming a princess.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bill & Ted: The duo have a time machine in which they can bag any historical babe they wanted. They pick two princesses, who don't really do anything but seem hot.
  • Our Friend Power 5: Among the turtles is the princess of BattleStar, Princess Yesular, the magic-wielding leader of the team.
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: Princess Tamina, who is apparently the princess of a city. One comment by her suggests that for some reason, each woman who guards the time-reversing dagger is called a princess.
  • Star Wars: Princess Leia. The plot of the series could have been exactly the same were she not a princess (the princess of a planet that is brutally destroyed in the first movie), and yet she is, despite being the adopted daughter of a Senator of the Old Republic. The prequels reveal that Leia's adoptive mother Breha was Queen of Alderaan and her biological mother Padmé was Queen of Naboo, but these explanations come over a decade and a half since Leia was introduced as a princess.
  • In DOA: Dead or Alive, Kasumi is said to be the princess of their ninja clan, rather than just the daughter of the former leader.
  • Van Helsing: Anna Valerious's father was said to be king of the gypsies. Anna is therefore referred to as a princess.

    Literature 
  • Princesses of the Pizza Parlor: Discussed, and In-Universe. A preteen girl gets her uncle to run a tabletop roleplaying game, with her and her friends all playing as princesses, as a main part of the game:
    If they were playing a fantasy story game, then there had to be princesses.
  • Tara Duncan: Exaggerated. All the female prominent characters are princesses more or less officially. Tara is an heiress of the imperial category (along with her long-lost sister) while her friends Sparrow and Fafnir are respectively a non-heiress princess and The Chief's Daughter. The female dragon Charm is later revealed being a princess too, like the demon Sanhexia.
  • In-universe example: in A Song of Ice and Fire, the southern nobility insists on calling Val a "wildling princess," plotting political marriages for her, and generally treating her as they would a princess of any of the southern realms. This despite the fact that she is merely the sister of the wife of the former "king" of a loose tribal coalition ruled by Elective Monarchy with no tradition of hereditary nobility. She herself has no interest in their political games or the fineries associated with southern nobility, but the southern lords just plain can't wrap their heads around the idea that she's 1.) hot, and 2.) associated by family with the ruling class except by assigning her the "princess" role.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger: The only female in the Five-Man Band is Princess Mei. The rest of them are titled are Warriors... well, except Geki, who is a Prince.
  • Power Rangers Wild Force: Princess Shayla is the mentor for the Power Rangers. No particular plot-relevant reason for her to be a princess.
  • Red Dwarf: There's inexplicably a princess in the middle of World War II, apparently there solely so Ace Rimmer can rescue her while fighting Nazis. What a guy.
  • Once Upon a Time is based on fairy tales (specifically the Disney versions) and repeatedly features princesses as characters. As following above, Rapunzel becomes a long-lost princess, Belle (who only becomes a princess by marriage at the end of Beauty and the Beast) appears to already be one, the Snow Queen (who was a demon just named 'Queen' by legend) was a princess in her youth, and Ursula being the princess daughter of Poseidon. This is also reversed for some characters who were princesses in their movies (Ariel, Tiger Lily) who get downgraded into non-royals in the series.
  • When the Vampiric Council in What We Do in the Shadows is introduced, Evan is specifically called "The Immortal Princess of the Undead" in her introduction for no real reason; Wesley is the only other one referred to by a title ("Daywalker") and she even says there's no need to use her full name.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess... isn't a princess. Not that she couldn't kick your face sideways if you dispute her right to the title, of course,

    Video Games 
  • Hyper Princess Pitch is about the fight between a spoiled brat and a mechanical Santa Claus. How this has anything to do with princessing is never explained; nor why she is one in the first place, as the child of a goddess and a miner.
  • Kingdom Hearts has seven characters whose hearts do not have any darkness in them referred to as the Seven Princesses of Heart, although only five of them (Snow White, Aurora, Cinderella, Belle, and Jasmine) are actual princesses, and two of those only by marriage. The other two spots are filled by Kairi, a character original to the games, and Alice, who doesn't really have any justification.
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: Zelda's the only maiden with a name and personality, and she happens to be a princess. Although her father was the King of Hyrule, her status as the Princess has no relevance to the story aside from giving Link bad publicity for the villagers.
  • Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords: Only two of the potential party members are female, and one, Serephine, is a princess. She's arguably the most useless of them all, and is possibly only there because of this trope.
  • Rule of Rose: Part of the game's Fairytale Motif, as the ruling rank in the Red Crayon Aristocrats is the Princess of the Red Rose, who is supposed to fulfill all the stereotypical princess-tropes. There's also the game's insistence of calling every single female character save for the protagonist a Princess in the narration.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006): Elise is technically a duchess, but this is only mentioned a few times. She's mostly treated as the modern princess of a small nation.
  • Touhou, due to having an Improbably Female Cast and Loads and Loads of Characters, naturally includes a number of princesses, including Yuyuko (princess of the spirit world), Kaguya (former princess of the moon), the Watatsuki sisters (current princesses of the moon), and Shinmyoumaru (princess of the inchlings).
  • Vindictus: One of the playable classes is Delia, a former princess who was cast out of her kingdom because she took more interest in learning combat training instead of learning how to properly rule her country. Each character class in the game is characterized with a backstory that explains how they became an adventurer, but those backgrounds play no further part in the story, and being an exiled princess doesn't factor into Delia's playstyle of smashing things up with a BFS.
  • Yoake Mae Yori Ruri Iro Na: Feena Fam Earthlight is a princess, despite the fact that matriarchal monarchy seems to be an unlikely government type for a country that was founded by humans who had colonized the moon. Royal politics do come into play later in the story, however.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: There are dozens and dozens of minor characters who are princesses. There's a princess of every flavor, including some pretty odd ones like Slime Princess or Hot Dog Princess, which might be a Stealth Parody of the trope. However, the most prominent of them, Princess Bubblegum, is not an example of this trope because she does, in fact, do a lot of ruling.
  • Around the World with Willy Fog: Romy is an Indian princess who gets rescued by Mr Fog and his companions and then travels with them around the world. Everybody is impressed that such a beauty is also an aristocrat. She, however, says she's a daughter of wealthy merchants and she has her title of princess via marriage. She was a Rajah's wife, so normally she would be a Rani. Rajah is sometimes translated as Prince, so Rani can easily be Princess.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Hereditary monarchy seems to be the go-to system of government in the setting. In the Northern Water Tribe, the leader's title is "Chief", but his daughter is referred to as a princess. In the Fire Nation, the leader's title is "Fire Lord", but his children are referred to as a prince and princess.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic started out with only two ruling princesses, sisters Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, who are called "princesses" even though they really should be queens. The second introduced their adopted niece, Princess Cadance, who rules a city-state in Equestria. The ordinary Twilight Sparkle was eventually crowned princess and Cadance later had a daughter, Princess Flurry Heart. In the final season, the Royal Sisters retire and leave Twilight the ruling princess of the country.
  • Played for laughs in Reboot with Princess Bula. When Captain Capacitor is asked whether Princess Bula is actually a Princess, he has this to say;
  • The main characters in Sea Princesses are all from royal families that rule over different species of marine life. This leads to a lot of royalty crammed into a small area.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Any girl with a connection to a runestone (which grants them magical powers) is referred to as a princess. Most of them are explicitly in the line of inheritance for their nations (or ruling already), but many others are not. While some of the princesses might have lost their kingdoms to the Horde, Adora never had any kingdom and is still referred to as a princess, because she's the Chosen One. Even Scorpia, who gave up her runestone and her kingdom, is still called a princess and invited to the annual Princess Ball.
  • SpacePOP revolves around five princesses from outer space battling to reclaim their planets after an evil empress takes over and kidnaps their parents.
  • Thundarr the Barbarian: Ariel is a princess, but we never learn what she is a princess of. We never see a kingdom or any kind of nation-state in any of the episodes. In all of Thundarr, Ariel and Ookla's wanderings, they never encounter a society larger than a tribe or a village.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: Allura was princess of Altea before the planet was destroyed and she was put into cryosleep. After she wakes up she isn't technically princess of anything, but is still consistently referred to as one.
  • Winx Club: Pretty much every main character is some kind of princess: Stella is the princess of Solaria. Aisha is the princess of Andros. Galatea is the princess of Melody. Crystal is the princess of Linphea. Amentia is the princess of Downland. Tressa is the princess of the mermaids of Andros. Bloom is revealed to be the princess of Domino at the end of season 1. Musa is not a princess, but 4kids called her one, so when her not being a princess became important her dad was stated to be a former prince. Flora is not a princess, despite her saying she is the princess of Linphea in Magical Adventure. Tecna is a princess in the comics, but her status as a princess in the show has not been confirmed one way or the other. They all spend most of their time at school or on some adventure so their titles are rarely relevant.

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