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Impoverished Patrician

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They wouldn't go out gathering wood in such fancy dresses, or even gather wood at all, if they could help it.

"I suppose most people would call me a failure and all my people failures now; except those who would say we never failed, because we never had to try. Anyhow, we're all poor enough now; I don't know whether you know that I've been teaching music. I dare say we deserved to go. I dare say we were useless. Some of us tried to be harmless."
Elizabeth Seymour, The Tales of the Long Bow by G. K. Chesterton

A character comes from the bluest of Blue Blood; they may be descended from royalty or at least from the highest circle of aristocracy or Old Money. Their family name is loaded with history.

Unhappily, that family name is pretty much the only thing they have left. The great estates have long since been lost or sold off, the servants have left (except, sometimes, for the Old Retainer), and the mortgage is due on the family castle. Whether by war, revolution, or simple bad luck, the noble dynasty is left penniless. This is made even worse since there are usually things their noble blood obliges them to spend money on, such as clothing befitting their roles or the upkeep on a needlessly large house that the family cannot sell without shame. Even worse, though some take the Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job, others feel that doing a hard day's work is below them, or actually are legally forbidden to take up an occupation, or any one at which they could make real money — or are incapable of making their own money. They feel obligated (or may even be legally obligated by their title) to preserve the Good Old Ways, although the author often disagrees with them about how good they really are.


The official term for this status is genteel poverty.

Often crops up in Arranged Marriage storylines as rich merchant families would buy their daughters impoverished noblemen as husbands. Impoverished daughters marrying a Self-Made Man himself is also a possibility, although less common since he can get only connections and not the title (though his children will). True love must face the bitter fact that a poor suitor or patrician is Unable to Support a Wife.

Not to be confused with Moses in the Bulrushes. Here the aristocrat (and generally everyone else) is all too aware of his heritage.

This is a more long-term version of Riches to Rags. It can occasionally lead to the Rightful King Returns. If the aristocrat deeply laments the situation, may be a Princess in Rags; otherwise can also be a Fallen Princess. The Gentleman Snarker's prodigal ways make him likely to end up as one of these. Can easily be Land Poor: in this case, the aristocrat does have (possibly extensive) estates but they're unprofitable to keep up and can't honorably be sold or disposed of.


Contrast Nouveau Riche, Simple, yet Opulent.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Lovelaces from Black Lagoon, to a degree. While they still have quite a bit of money due to plantations, it's still not compared to what the clan used to have in the past, due to their Lawful Good political beliefs and the harassment of the Colombian cartels.
  • Butterflies, Flowers: Choko's family lost their fortune 13 years before the series' beginning and now only own a small restaurant.
  • Crest of the Stars: Jinto Linn becomes this soon after the war between the Abh and the Four Nations Alliance begins. He's still technically nobility and is referred to as a Count, but his territory was among the first ones captured by the United Mankind. This means that his officer's quarters on the warship he serves on are literally the only home he has, which his fellow crewmembers tease him about by putting up a sign labelling it "The smallest noble mansion in the Empire". He does get his territory back later in the story but is forced to accept a "Lord-in-Exile" arrangement, since none of the locals want him as their leader, so it really doesn't do him any good.
  • William Twining from Devils and Realist becomes one when his uncle's business fails, leaving the family bankrupt.
  • This is one of the driving reasons behind Donquixote Doflamingo's Dark and Troubled Past in One Piece. Even "better", the Donquixotes used to be freaking World Nobles.
  • Florian and his mother in Gorgeous Carat, though she tries to hide it.
  • Margot from the Germany arc of Hana no Ko Lunlun, whose family is knee-deep in debts nevermind their nobility. For worse, a Nouveau Riche Dirty Old Man really wants to force her into marriage...
  • Roderich Edelstein a.k.a. Austria from Hetalia: Axis Powers. Under the Habsburgs, the Spanish Empire became the first in world history to declare state bankruptcy... and the first to declare bankruptcy four times in less than forty years. And that's not counting him after the ends of WWI and WW2.
  • The Durant family a.k.a. Jeudi's grandparents and mother in Honoo no Alpen Rose. While they still have their Big Fancy House, it's the only thing left of their former power and wealth, which is greatly diminished due to Those Wacky Nazis and the pressure from Arms Dealer Michel de Toulonchamp.
  • Lynn's father Sir George Russell in Lady and its sequel Lady Lynn. In the first series, he is being pressured into marrying the very rich and mean-spirited Baroness Madeleine Weatherby to alleviate the Russells' economic troubles, and in the end he refuses. In the second one, he has lost his Big Fancy House and his daughters Lynn and Sarah actually are staying with others (Sarah lives with her grandfather, Lynn lives with her great-aunt, but he's working hard to buy Mansion Marble back.
  • Lapis Re:LiGHTs has two very different examples. Rosetta of LiGHTS is working numerous part-time jobs as her family has fallen on hard times. Ratura of Sugar Pockets, however, is working because her parents refuse to give her an allowance that can support her lifestyle.
  • Many characters in Ooku have this background, especially ones from Kyoto where the Imperial court has been rendered largely irrelevant by the Tokugawa Shogunate. Yunoshin, the main character of the first few chapters, comes from a poor samurai family in Edo. He also refuses to charge money for his stud services in an era devastated by a Gendercide plague where good-looking fertile young men could name their own price, so his getting sent to the shogun's harem is a big stroke of luck for his family.
  • Overlord (2012): Arche's parents were Imperial nobles stripped of most of their fortune by the Emperor yet still cling on to their finery (and even spend money they don't have on Conspicuous Consumption). They're the reason their daughter Arche needs to take unpleasant, immoral and occasionally illegal jobs to make ends meet, and thus leads to her death in Nazarick. Not only that, but they sell off their two youngest daughters into slavery.
  • Kaisar Lidfard in Rage of Bahamut: Genesis, a fallen aristocrat knight-turned-bounty hunter; his father was executed and his family name disgraced (due to their failure to protect a royal treasure) at the hands of Kaisar's best friend or so he thinks, anyway.
  • Shuurei's family in Saiunkoku Monogatari. Her father Shouka is the oldest son of one of the powerful founding clans of Saiunkoku, but a period of civil war and famine, compounded by Shouka's general ineptitude at managing money, completely destroyed his household's finances. Notably, Shuurei is not above doing a hard day's work, and with Old Retainer Seiran at her side holds down a staggering number of part-time jobs doing everything from playing the erhu to teaching to accounting (for a brothel!) to cleaning bathrooms in order to try to make ends meet.
  • In The Secret Agreement, the Hanayashiki family is incredibly respected, but having lost the family head and much of their fortune during the last war, they've been slowly having to sell off valuable possessions on the sly to generate income. The only male heir, Iori, is set up for an Arranged Marriage with a much wealthier but lower in status bride, but this is complicated by the fact that the person who has been selling off their antiques for them is actually Iori's lover.
  • Snow White with the Red Hair: Mihaya grew up as the third son of the earl of Sisk, who was manipulated into losing almost all of the family's money and then stripped of his lands and titles by Izana shortly after the prince came of age. Mukaze is also a former noble who now lives as an outlaw in the mountains of Tanbarun, his daughter however was born after he and his wife had been outlawed and stripped of their titles so she never had any titles to lose.
  • In Strike Witches, after the liberation of Gallia from the Neuroi, Perrine spends all of her family's sizeable fortune on rebuilding her homeland.
  • Natsuhi from Umineko: When They Cry. Being from a family of impoverished Shinto priests and having married the eldest son and heir of the very rich Ushiromiya clan in an Arranged Marriage (which came from Kinzo's Scarpia Ultimatum), her Rich Bitch sister-in-law Eva looks down on her and calls her "manservant".
  • Lux and Airi in Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle. They used to be part of the imperial family of the Old Arcadia Empire but lost their wealth in two stages. First, their maternal grandfather Wade angered the emperor, causing the two siblings and their mother to be thrown out of the imperial court. Second, and much more drastically, the Empire was destroyed in a rebellion and replaced by the New Kingdom, which treated Lux and Airi as criminals. They were released on parole but saddled with a huge debt (equal to a fifth of the national treasury), which they have to work to pay off.


    Comic Books 
  • In Disney Ducks Comic Universe, this is part of Scrooge's background, especially obvious in Don Rosa's The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, specifically written to explain why, if Scrooge came from an impoverished background, his family also has a huge ancestral castle.
  • Spider-Man villain Norman Osborn was born into a wealthy family but his father squandered the money.
  • Batman: Several members of the Rogue's Gallery.
    • The Penguin, also known as Oswald Cobblepot, hailed from a once-wealthy family second only to the Waynes, but they squandered all of it somehow. Penguin seeks to regain his family's wealth and status, using illegitimate means to do it.
    • Victor Zsasz inherited a fortune from his family and lost it all gambling (In one continuity, to Penguin).
    • Roman Sionis inherited his family's business empire and lost it because he wasn't a very good businessman (though as Black Mask, he turned out to be a very good crime boss).
    • Lady Vic (a.k.a. Lady Elaine Marsh-Morton) is an aristocrat who is descended from a long line of mercenaries and assassins. Unfortunately, names don't pay the bills, and she's practically broke and carries on the family tradition solely to keep the family estate from being foreclosed upon.
  • Jughead Jones is one of these in Archie Comics (2015). His family lost their wealth after investing in a scam involving a water bottling plant called "Purejug," and said incident is the source of his nickname.
  • Superman:
    • Pre-Crisis story The Krypton Chronicles shows twenty generations of the House of El ruled over one whole continent millenia ago. One civil war and a natural disaster later, and they were wearing rags and living off harvesting seaweed.
    • In Strangers At The Hearts Core, Supergirl's enemy Gravity Lord is the last scion of an English aristocratic family which lost their fortune during the American Revolution and were unable to get their wealth back.
    • Different continuities go back and forth on it a lot, but for a while, the standard Lex Luthor backstory was that the Luthors used to be one of the most powerful families in Metropolis, until Wallace Luthor lost everything in the '29 stock market crash, resulting in Lex growing up in Suicide Slum (or possibly Smallville) hearing his drunken father ramble about the family's former greatness. Lex therefore became determined to do what his father couldn't and rebuild the Luthor name.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Beverly Hillbillies story "The Big Shindig", a subplot has Sonny Drysdale engaged to the daughter of impoverished English baronet Sir Wastrel Mendicant.
  • Earth and Sky: It's implied in the story (and confirmed by Word of God) that Prince Blueblood only married Diamond Tiara because he needed money and her family's one of the richest in Equestria. For her part, Tiara only married him for the prestige; neither pretends to be in love with each other.
  • The Klingon House of Chel'toK in Red Fire, Red Planet. Their only holding of note is a nearly depleted segment of asteroid belt, and the house "fleet" consists of two Birds-of-Prey and an ancient relic of a D7 battlecruiser that they can't even fully crew.
  • This is Baroness Adagio Dazzle's situation at the beginning of When It Rains. After her parent's death, Fancy Pants was appointed to manage her affairs until she came of age. He has driven her Barony into the ground, to the point where her only hope is the upcoming Festival of Remembrance in Ponyville.

    Films — Animation 
  • Corpse Bride:
    • Victoria's parents Lord and Lady Everglot are, to paraphrase their introductory song, "land-rich, bankrupt aristocracy without a penny to their name". Their enormous house suggests that they once had wealth to go with their title but size aside, the house is dilapidated and almost completely empty of furniture.
    • Lord Barkis Bittern has a title but no money, one reason he murdered Emily on the night he told her they would elope—unfortunately, both Barkis and the Everglots are under the mistaken impression that the other party is in possession of great wealth.
  • Prince Naveen's family in The Princess and the Frog is plenty rich; he's just been cut off due to his carefree lifestyle.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Rose DeWitt Bukater (and her mother Ruth) in Titanic. In fact, the entire reason Rose was on the Titanic was to travel to Philadelphia to marry Caledon Hockley at the behest of her mother so she could return to her lavish lifestyle.
  • Victor Fargas, the Portuguese nobleman in The Ninth Gate. His family mansion is run-down and devoid of furniture, and he apparently makes ends meet by selling off his book collection piece by piece.
  • Lord Wessex in Shakespeare in Love. He wanted to marry Viola de Lesseps because her family's merchant wealth would provide him with enough money to operate his tobacco plantations in America. Viola's family, meanwhile, would gain the social advantage of marriage to nobility. Although it is implied that he is more representative of the "new men" who rose to the top of English society, displacing the old nobility, under the Tudors. The title of his family, quite possibly awarded for military service, may go back no further than to the reign of Henry VII or VIII. Worth noting that the colonies of this era all failed and wouldn't succeed until 20+ years later.
  • Count Arisztid in Three Smart Girls is a Hungarian noble who is flat broke, as well as being a dissolute alcoholic, and thus cheerfully accepts a mission to seduce a Gold Digger fiancee away from the father of the titular three girls.
  • In Penelope (2006), the titular character's parents are seeking this type, as they need to marry her off to a blue-blood to break her curse of pig-nosedness, but need one poor enough that a sizable dowry is incentive enough to marry a girl with a pig nose.
  • Leopold from Kate & Leopold has no money, which is why his uncle pressures him to marry a rich American. He complains about it in the beginning but in the end, he understands that there are some things that a person just needs to do.
  • Graf von Droste-Schattenburg in One, Two, Three. Played for Laughs — he works as a bathroom attendant and is paid to adopt the Communist Otto, who married (and impregnated) the daughter of the Coca-Cola boss.
  • Bard from The Hobbit is descended from the last King of Dale, ruler of one of the richest kingdoms in Middle Earth. Bard meanwhile makes much of his living on smuggling.
  • Dark Shadows: The Collins family fell on hard times and couldn't even afford to keep the whole manor warm until Barnabas Collins showed them the secret compartment where his parents hid their valuables. It's unclear what became of them after the climax. Though the treasure room was below ground and seemed framed by stone, so it had a more than decent chance of surviving. Certainly enough to work with if they ever decided to capitalize on the Sequel Hook at the end.
  • Ever After: Baroness Rhodmila of Ghent externally acts like she has money to burn when in actuality she secretly sells possessions and even a servant to pay off her debts.
  • Joseph Cotten in Citizen Kane is described as coming from an old, rich family where one day the old man shoots himself and they discover they have nothing.
  • In The Magnificent Ambersons, Major Amberson dies, leaving behind a worthless estate and numerous debts, with George's Aunt Fanny losing everything due to bad investments, resulting in the Ambersons' home and belongings being sold off.
  • Mr. Maranov in The Whales of August is a Russian nobleman who had to flee after Red October. He has survived ever since on his mother's jewels and the kindness of strangers.
  • Jupiter Ascending:
    • "Impoverished" is a relative term here, but all three heirs stood to lose a portion of their inheritance once Jupiter ascended. A few lines also make it clear they're no longer even in the line of inheritance if she dies, her Earth family would Ascend. Given that Kalique's scheme hinged on this, it can be presumed that the lion's share of Jupiter's inheritance would come out of Balem's holdings. Titus in particular is this: while he maintains an expensive lifestyle, he's running out of money and failed a recent financial enterprise, which is why he competes with his siblings for control of Earth.
    • While at the house of a wealthy client, a young woman is dithering over the prospect of receiving a marriage proposal from one of America's richest bachelors. She compares herself to Cinderella. The irony is lost on her, though clearly not on Jupiter.
  • In Back to the Future, if we take his remark about "it taking his entire family fortune" to build his time machine at face value, then Doc Brown's family was quite well off when he was younger. In fact, the 1955 version of Doc lives in a fairly large house with a fair bit of land under it. By 1985, the only structure of the old property remaining is the garage, which is next door to a McDonald's. The Tell Tale Games series shows Doc's father was a judge and expected his son to be the same. If canon, that means Doc likely comes from a line of very successful lawyers.
  • The two little girls from the flashbacks in Sleepy Hollow (1999) were members of a local rich family, but their lands were rented, and confiscated after their family was evicted and their mother was executed as a witch, forcing them to live in the woods. One girl grew up into Katrina's Wicked Stepmother, Mary van Tassel, and the other into the Witch of the Western Woods.
  • The O’Hara cousins, in the middle section of Gone with the Wind following the invasion by the Union Army.
  • In A Knight's Tale, after William is exposed as a Fake Aristocrat, Edward the Black Prince steps forward and declares that his personal scholars have discovered that William comes from a now-impoverished line of nobles. He thus pronounces that William is indeed allowed to participate in the tournament. He also preempts any attempt to question the "discovery" by stating that, as a prince, his own word is beyond question.
  • The Penguin: According to the portrait of the Penguin presented in both Batman: The Animated Series and Tim Burton's Batman Returns, Oswald Cobblepot is impoverished because he was ostracized by his own social class (and by the human race in general) for looking like a penguin. In Batman Returns, the Penguin is perfectly aware of his degradation and is determined to get revenge on society, while in the animated series he is simply in denial about how the world views him.

  • The Hobbit: Bard's royal lineage is mentioned in the original novel as well, and supplementary materials written by Tolkien hint that he is descended from the ancient men of Numenor. How his family went from there to Bard being a mere city guard captain is never made clear... perhaps he's from a cadet branch. Dale being destroyed and looted and Laketown apparently not having any kind of formal nobility probably has something to do with it.
  • Bunny Manders, the narrator and Deuteragonist of the Raffles stories, came into wealth some years before the start of the story, but he squandered it all and is forced to rely on journalism and theft to support himself.
  • The permanent fear of Thomas Buddenbrook in Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann, that comes to define his entire adult life. Unlike his father and grandfather, who made the families business big but grew up in more humble conditions, he is obsessed with the family's status among the rich and powerful families of the city. His interest in his wife and son is based mostly on their role in continuing the family's legacy, and when the success of the business declines due to changes in the economy and he can't afford to maintain the mansion, he is left with nothing that would matter to him. Similarly, his sister Tony also has delusions of grandeur and ruins all her relationships and contact with her daughter, because she can never cope with the idea of living under any conditions less glamorous than her childhood because that would be below her high born station.
  • In the medieval Chivalric Romance Sir Amadas, Amadas, already poor, paid a dead man's debts with his last money. Fortunately, a White Knight appears to help him, he wins the hand of a princess, and the knight reveals that he is the dead man's ghost. In fact, this is a standard theme in Chivalric Romance and reflected Real Life (of the period) in that 'knights errant' were invariably younger sons whose options for bettering themselves were limited to carving out a fief in Outremer note  or marrying an heiress.
  • In the medieval Chivalric Romance Cleges, the knight Cleges is impoverished. He prays for help and receives miraculous cherries in winter. When he sets out to give them to Uther, three royal servants demand a third part of the reward to let him in. Therefore he tells Uther that the appropriate reward is some number of blows — and explains how he promised to share them. Uther has the servants receive the beatings, summons Cleges's wife, and rewards her for her loyalty to her husband.
  • Family de Luce in Flavia de Luce can show off an impressive pedigree and has meddled in the social and state affairs of England for a long time, but the current sisters de Luce still grow up in a mansion that is increasingly decrepit and constantly threatened with bankruptcy.
  • The Last Days of Krypton: In the past, Mauro-Ji's family invested heavily in a vineyard that was wiped out by a blight, and an earthquake destroyed one of their mansions. He's still prominent enough to have a spot on the Kryptonian Council, but his family isn't very rich anymore.
  • The anonymous third employer of the satirical novella Lazarillo de Tormes. The interesting twist is that the character refuses to admit just how screwed he is, out of family pride.
  • In Jane Austen's Persuasion, the plot is driven by Sir Walter Eliot's need to retrench. He has to give up his country estate, go to Bath, and lease the estate.
  • You also get the distinct impression at the end of Pride and Prejudice that this is the kind of lifestyle Jane Austen foresees for Lydia Bennett and Mr Wickham, due to their social exile.
  • Sir Basil Sprout-Dumpling in Pugs of the Frozen North is the son of the last winner of the Race To The Top Of The World, who wished for a fortune upon winning. Basil lost the fortune by spending it all and has entered the race to reclaim it by any means he deems necessary.
  • D'Artagnan of The Three Musketeers is poor and proud; but his family, like all of the Gascon petty aristocracy, were never wealthy to begin with. The other Musketeers are also nobility and constantly stuck for cash given their general lack of income and careless lifestyle.
  • William Makepeace Thackeray's fiction is full of shabby-genteel characters with telling names like "Lord Bareacres" and "Viscount Castlemouldy." The whole plot of "Barry Lyndon" is about the title character, raised poor but with some modest claim to a gentleman's rank, struggling to regain what he believes is the place in society to which his birth entitles him.
  • The Marches of Little Women were once very well-to-do. Amy March acts like they still are.
  • Sherlock Holmes stories:
    • The Roylotts of Stoke Moran in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band". Once exceedingly wealthy, the family was brought to ruin due to four heirs in succession being too spend-thrifty, the last squire living out his days as "an aristocratic pauper". His son was a Deadly Doctor who lived on his late wife's money and resorted to murder to prevent his stepdaughters from being able to claim any of it on their marriage, as specified in the wife's will. He does kill one of his stepdaughters before she marries, but the other recognizes the danger, escapes, and contacts Holmes.
    • Lord St. Simon in "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" plans to marry an American woman because her father struck it rich in the California gold rush. Too bad the woman's thought-to-be-dead husband showed up at the wedding...
    • In "The Three Students", one of the students is the son of an aristocrat who spent the family fortune on horses and alcohol.
    • Holmes himself is hinted to be a milder version of this. His family were "country squires" — not a terribly wealthy brand of nobility to begin with. His older brother Mycroft lives much more comfortably (though given that Mycroft's entire life centers around his desk job, his flat, and his club, he likely doesn't have much in the way of expenses).
  • In G. K. Chesterton's The Tales of the Long Bow, Elizabeth Seymour's Back Story.
    I suppose most people would call me a failure and all my people failures now; except those who would say we never failed, because we never had to try. Anyhow, we're all poor enough now; I don't know whether you know that I've been teaching music. I dare say we deserved to go. I dare say we were useless. Some of us tried to be harmless.
  • In Lord Dunsany's The Charwoman's Shadow, the hero's father sends him off to a magician in hopes of his learning how to turn lead into gold and thereby make a sufficient dowry for his sister. She later tells him to make a Love Potion instead. It works, albeit not quite as she expected.
  • William Faulkner is fond of the trope, used especially with the Compson family in The Sound and the Fury and the Sutpen family in Absalom, Absalom! (additionally, the story of the Sutpens is narrated by Quentin Compson, one of Faulkner's many "crossover" characters).
  • Just about every suspect in Agatha Christie's extensive works fits this trope. In fact, Dame Agatha makes the English Gentry, technically her own classnote , look like the most useless and amoral set of people who ever lived. Incapable of getting or holding a job but quite ready to off Aunt Gertrude for the family money.
  • Dorothy L. Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey:
    • In the novel Murder Must Advertise, Peter gets a job at an advertising agency, and due to his aristocratic air his co-workers assume that he falls into this trope (when in fact he's there to investigate a murder).
    • In "The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste", an impoverished French Duc arranges to sell his formula for poison gas to Wimsey. The Count was perhaps also a bit of a Gentleman and a Scholar, and not really impoverished, as a major plot point was blind testing of rare wines from his own cellar and in the end, he refused to sell the formula to a foreign country.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars, Tan Handron. Then, he still chose to be a soldier.
    As a family we are not rich except in honor, and, valuing this above all mundane possessions, I chose the profession of my father rather than a more profitable career.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series:
    • "The Merchant Princes": The family of Barr was largely killed off by the Empire for participating in a planetwide rebellion (ironically, one to return the planet to Empire rule). He lives alone, on the fringes of society when Hober Mallow finds Onum Barr.
    • "The General": General Riose, of the Galactic Empire, approaches Ducem Barr to learn about the Foundation, due to the rumours of what happened to Onum Barr during his impoverishment. He promises to restore the family's lands and titles if Ducem agrees to cooperate. He works against them because his family has already decided that it would be better to join the Foundation than to stay with the Empire.
  • Flannery O’Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge: The mother and son live in the Southern U.S. in the '60s. They are poor, but she grew up rich in a mansion full of black servants. She tells her son that what matters is who your family is. He's a liberal intellectual who rebels against her. (O'Connor is full of contempt for both of them.)
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude: Fernanda del Carpio was from an aristocratic family that moved to the New World several generations ago and had steadily lost their riches since then, with the last of the family money spent in educating Fernanda to be a queen (more specifically, Queen Victoria, judging from her prudishness). Nice crash with reality when you marry into the new money of the Buendía family, Fernanda!
  • Dorothy Gilman's The Clairvoyant Countess: After losing the family wealth when they fled the Russian Revolution, the countess has since been wealthy and lost it again; she has settled down to working for her living.
  • The Vampire Chronicles: Lestat is old money, and the second book talks about how he grew estranged from his family and effectively lost his noble title. In the first book, Louis (a plantation owner in Louisiana) initially doesn't believe Lestat's claims of nobility. In Louis's mind, an aristocrat should be refined, not sleep with his hunting dogs. On the other hand, Louis is a nouveau riche who doesn't really know how aristocrats are supposed to act and is basing his knowledge on how other plantation owners act.
  • Robin McKinley:
    • In Beauty, a retelling of "Beauty and the Beast", Beauty gives a family history early in the story; this is the sort of marriage her parents had. Subverted in that it resulted in a rare case of Happily Married:
      "My mother came of a fine old family that had nothing but its bloodlines left to live on. Her parents were more than happy to accept my father's suit, with its generous bridal settlements. But it had been a happy marriage, old friends of the family told us girls. Our father had doted on his lovely young wife...and she had worshiped him."
    • The same author picks this trope up again in The Blue Sword. When it opens, Harry, the heroine, does not expect ever to marry:
      "She was proud, and if she had not been, her parents would have been proud for her. And there is little market for penniless bluebloods of no particular beauty — especially when the blueness of the blood is suspected to have been diluted by a questionable great-grandmother on the mother's side."
  • Sturm Brightblade in the Dragonlance books. His father was a nobleman and a Knight of the Rose, the highest rank of the Knights of Solamnia. But one uprising later, and Sturm's working for a scribe far away from home, trying to help his mother and wondering how his father died.
  • The backstory of Kethry from the Heralds of Valdemar books is a nasty version of the Arranged Marriage version of this trope. The nobles were two orphaned kids (an amoral teenaged boy and his innocent younger sister) stuck with a "falling down old heap they could not even sell" while the Self-Made Man was a banker old enough to be their father with a thing for young girls. Kethry's old nurse smuggled her out (along with everything she could steal) after the wedding night (husband and brother kept the fiction of her being at a country estate going), she was sent to a Wizarding School when she started manifesting mage powers during the resulting nightmares, was handed a somewhat problematic sword by an old guard when she set off some years later, and the rest was history.
  • Lucius Cornelius Sulla from Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series starts as one of these but ends up running the Roman Republic. Probably Truth in Literature, since it's based on real events.
    • McCullough loves this trope. Other examples include the first Gaius Julius Caesar who marries his elder daughter (happily) to New Man Gaius Marius. Also one of the several Appius Claudii who, left dirt poor with four younger siblings to provide for, recoups the family fortunes through rich marriages for his two sisters (which turn out badly) and himself marrying the plain thirty-something Porcia who earned her huge dowry by acting as foster parent to a litter of wealthy orphans. Touchingly he comes to love her very much and so poor Porcia's story ends happily.
  • Redwall's Squire Julian Gingivere, descendant of a feline prince-turned-farmer, lives in a ramshackle barn and only owns a small patch of land; he disdains his circumstances and repels Matthias's sympathy because he knows nothing of loneliness or trying to preserve standards.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen are pretenders to the Iron Throne, their family having been deposed in the previous civil war. Viserys is called "the Beggar King" because he travels to various courts seeking support to help him take back his throne. He's forced to sell most of his family heirlooms to support him and his sister.
    • Numerous petty noble houses are still wealthy by peasant standards but nowhere near what their families used to be, often as the result of backing the wrong noble house in a schism. The Westerlings, the Waynwoods, and the Florents are all examples.
    • Jalabhar Xho is an exiled prince of the Summer Isles who has become a courtier at King's Landing, where begs for support to help him take back his throne.
  • Tales of Dunk and Egg: Ser Eustace Osgrey. The Osgreys were once a very powerful house, but their influence waned over the centuries until they were only a fairly minor house by the time of the Blackfyre Rebellion. Eustace backed the Blackfyres, who lost the rebellion, which lowered his station even more. At the start of the story, he has lost his lordship and his ancestral castle, now ruling as a lowly landed knight over a small tower and a handful of peasants.
  • In The Little Stranger, the once uber-wealthy Ayreses have fallen on hard times and are planning to sell some of the land to pay the bills. Their house, once big and fancy, has become old and decaying (and possibly haunted).
  • Several in Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
    • Most critically Edward d'Eath in Men at Arms, who blames the modernisation of the city for this, and not the fact his forefathers all found interesting ways of spending money as fast as possible. He has one servant, who is too loyal to leave, even when Edward orders him to be tortured. (The d'Eaths haven't had a torturer for years, so he tortures himself.)
    • Vimes himself is somewhat one of these, with the twist that the family name is not very well esteemed. At first. (Although it is infamous, in the same way as Cromwell is.) Though after Vimes marries Lady Sybil Ramkin, the only child of a family that owned a significant fraction of Ankh-Morpork, and is named His Grace the Duke of Ankh by the Patrician, he's both insanely wealthy and the highest-ranking noble in the city other than the Patrician himself. Vimes didn't actually want to be a Duke (he detests the notion of hereditary privilege in general and most of Ankh-Morpork's Upper-Class Twit population in particular) but went along with it partly for Sybil's sake but mostly because it means he now outranks most of the aforementioned twits. The Patrician finds the idea of a man with such an anti-authoritarian streak possessing such extensive authority as himself "practically Zen".
    • During the brief period in Feet of Clay that Nobby believes himself to be the Earl of Ankh, he's disappointed to find he's one of these as well. After the reveal that his lineage was faked by the villain, his inner monologue reveals that he intentionally covered up much better evidence of his status to avoid the headache.
      Colon: I thought the upper crust had pots of money.
      Nobby: Well, I'm the crust on its uppers.
    • Carrot is technically a king, but his family lost the throne generations ago. He honestly doesn't care (and goes to some effort to prevent the public from officially recognizing him as royalty and offering him the termite-ridden throne of his forefathers), and is quite content to live on his Watchman's salary.
    • And the Patrician himself, because, well, the entire city of Ankh-Morpork is flat broke. Hardly anyone pays taxes, thanks to the incredibly complex tax laws which allow anyone able to hire the Guild of Accountants to get away with almost no taxes whatsoever. The people who are the most wealthy pay very little (Vimes excepted, of course), and everyone else is pretty much too poor to be taxed. As Vetinari himself puts it in Jingo, Ankh-Morpork is a very poor city that is the home of some very rich people.
  • In the Aunt Dimity series:
    • Aunt Dimity and the Duke opens with just such a scenario: young Grayson has been upset to learn his impoverished father (the thirteenth Duke of Penford) has been selling off family heirlooms and dismissing staff, and he seeks advice from Dimity Westwood (still very much alive at this date, some twenty years before the rest of the book's events). Grayson himself grows up planning to restore his family's fortune, and does so by creating a crass rock musician alter ego with the help of his former staff. They make a fortune, then "kill off" the musician so they can retire to the ducal estate and live on income from the proceeds and other endeavours.
    • In Aunt Dimity and the Lost Prince, the snobbish blue-blooded Boghwells make ends meet by renting out their creepy-looking estate to film crews for low-budget horror films. Dimity also mentions that impoverished Russian aristocrats came to Britain in several waves between the Revolution of 1917 and the end of World War II.
  • In Harry Potter, many pureblooded wizarding families have fallen to this state:
    • The Gaunts, who include Voldemort's mother Merope, are an example of this. Once a powerful and wealthy family, their delusions of grandeur and mental instability caused by cousin marriages to retain their pure-blood status reduced them to squalor. The last generation is living with some old heirlooms Merope's father was too proud to sell.
    • The Weasleys are viewed as having as pureblooded a lineage as any other pureblooded wizarding families, but are barely making ends meet and other pureblooded families look down on them.
  • In Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, this is Snow Flower's family life, which she keeps hidden from her friend Lily and her family. Lily's family, though they're farmers, are steadily moving up the monetary ladder, while Snow Flower is finely educated and has every refinement you could ask for, but can barely afford new clothes. The two girls are laotongs, which binds them in a way similar to a marriage, so that both of their families will benefit, although it ends up benefiting Lily far more than Snow Flower. Lily winds up married to the eldest son of one of the wealthiest families in the district, while Snow Flower becomes the wife of a butcher, a person considered impure and very low-status in 19th-century China.
    • For clarification, Lily's family was to learn how to be nobility from Snow Flower; Snow Flower was to learn how to be a good working-class woman from Lily's family.
  • In Patricia A. McKillip's The Bell at Sealey Head, Gwyneth suspects the Sproules are this because Raven Sproule is courting her, a merchant's daughter.
  • In Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth, Wang Lung's increasing good fortune as a farmer is tied into the fall of The House of Hwang, whose royal offspring's frivolous spending forces them to sell off their properties to Wang Lung. The ending implies that Wang Lung's spoiled children will soon end up the same way.
  • The Baron de Sigognac, hero of Le Capitaine Fracasse by Théophile Gautier, is the last descendant of an aristocratic family but lives in quasi-poverty in his dilapidated castle. He decides to join a troupe of wandering stage comedians.
  • An extreme example is found in Tess of the d'Urbervilles: The Durbeyfields, a peasant family, turns out to be the descendants of the D'Urbervilles. A character observes at one point that "many former owners of the land are now tillers of it".
  • Don Quixote: Alonso Quijano is an Hidalgo that still has the ancient arms of his ancestors, but has so little money that almost most of them is spent on food. What can he do? He is very smart and talented, but to work is beneath an Hidalgo. He is poor and bored. It does not help that he spent a lot of them in those silly chivalry books. Sure, they help him with the boredom, and the knight life is certainly exciting, but they are only absurd tales, right? Lampshaded in Part II, chapter 44:
    "Poor gentleman of good family! always cockering up his honour, dining miserably and in secret, and making a hypocrite of the toothpick with which he sallies out into the street after eating nothing to oblige him to use it! Poor fellow, I say, with his nervous honour, fancying they perceive a league off the patch on his shoe, the sweat-stains on his hat, the shabbiness of his cloak, and the hunger of his stomach!"
  • In The Wyvern's Spur, second book of the Finder's Stone Trilogy, Giogioni Wyvernspur's family is said to be old money that's rapidly fading. Now if only someone could rise up to adventure to bring back the family fame and fortune...
    • Though Giogioni himself was comfortably well off, his father having married a woman from a well-to-do merchant family.
  • Older Than Feudalism: The narrator of Juvenal's Satires is an extremely bitter and stuck-up literal Impoverished Patrician: he is a member of the Roman class of patricii sick of all the upstarts running Rome in the early days of the Empire, and he's running out of money.
  • Soraya in the Farsala Trilogy becomes one when her father is killed in battle (the entire deghan class suffers a heavy blow).
  • Another literal example, courtesy of the Marcus Didius Falco novels: Decimus Camillus Verus was just wealthy enough to qualify for the Senate, but maintaining the lifestyle expected of a senator keeps his family on the brink of bankruptcy. His son-in-law once described him as "having his whole life in hock".
  • Vorkosigan Saga:
    • Count Vorfolse in A Civil Campaign has the misfortune of having had his predecessors for the last several generations consistently choosing the losing side in every Barrayaran rebellion or civil war. So now, despite being the effective Head of State for a small country, he lives in a small apartment with a single, aging Armsman.
    • Ghem-Lord Yenaro in Cetaganda is in similar straits, being descended from the general who was responsible for the ultimate failure of the Cetagandan invasion of Barrayar. He allowed himself to be used as a pawn by the Big Bad in the hopes of getting a minor court position, and from there hopefully repair his family's fortunes. Miles rather sadly notes in his internal monologue that Yenaro didn't need any help to restore his family's financial fortunes, as he had genuine creative talents that he could easily have spun into a lucrative career if he'd put his mind to it, but he was so fixated on restoring the status of the family name that the idea seems not to have even occurred to him.
    • This is actually fairly common for a number of the ghem, especially those who are lower-ranked or younger. Due to Cetaganda being a hierarchical society and a gerontocracy, most of the actual wealth is in the hands of the haut or upper-ranking ghem.
    • While not technically true in the absolute sense, most Barrayaran nobles consider the Vorkosigan family to be poor, as many other districts were far wealthier. This is due to a number of justifiable factors. First, the Vorkosigan district suffered the most intense fighting during the war against Cetaganda, causing the better part of a generation's efforts to be spent in repairing the damage (some areas are still dangerously radioactive three generations later). Second, the Vorkosigans had, for at least three generations, spent most of their time serving the empire as a whole, rather than their own district in particular, which is patriotic but not conducive to bringing in wealth. At the end of his regency, Aral even makes a point of giving away enough money to reduce his family's personal net worth to exactly what it was at the beginning of his regency. Third, Mark was literally the first member of the family in five generations to go into business and turn a profit.
    • Ekaterin Vorsoisson spent a book and a half effectively penniless as an unemployed widow whose husband blew his life savings on bad investments (luckily, she managed to avoid inheriting his debts). Fortunately, she had better off relatives willing to support her while she took classes to be able to qualify for a decent job. Then she remarried into the Vorkosigans.
    • This is common enough on Barrayar that Kareen Koudelka noted an established social protocol when visiting. If a 'Prole' host is shorthanded when preparing things the guests are encouraged to lend a hand, whereas the 'Vor rules' are to sit patiently and pretend one does not notice the lack of servants.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The Phoenix on the Sword" Volmana's motive for revolt is to get money and escape this.
  • Pedro de Valdivia in Isabel Allende's Inés of my Soul is born into an impoverished hidalgo family. He becomes a soldier in an effort to make a name and some money for himself and his family. He winds up conquering Chile and becoming an extremely wealthy man (none of which, unfortunately for him, does him any good when he's captured and killed by the Mapuche).
  • The Brown/Fossil family in Noel Stretfield's Ballet Shoes—it's not drawn attention to much (and the sisters themselves are presumably not Blue Blood, as they're adopted) but constant reference is made to their financial struggles. The girls are withdrawn from school, the household take in several lodgers, the two older girls start working for wages, and only after years of this can Sylvia think of moving out of a large house in a highly select district of London, getting a job and laying off two of her 3 servants (the remaining one is her own nanny, who has become surrogate grandmother to the Fossils and hasn't actually taken any cash payment for years). It's not entirely ignored that this isn't real poverty, especially when the novel was set (late '20s-'30s). The brilliant, unpretty, unlucky Winifred's family are actually poor by normal standards. As the house originally belonged to Sylvia's Uncle, she was essentially acting as a caretaker. It was only after she discovered that title had been put in her name that she could think about selling it.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • Shallan Davar and her family are in desperate financial straits due to her now-dead father racking up a ton of debt and ill-will before his death. Shallan's entire plotline in the first book of the series is about her attempt to get the family out of their dire situation.
    • Vorin societies have the "tenners", the lowest rank of lighteyes. While they are still lighteyed, and as such have access to certain privileges and opportunities that are denied to darkeyes, they have no lands or great wealth and as such need to work for a living.
  • Crops up often in P. G. Wodehouse's stories: Sir Buckstone Abbott in Summer Moonshine and Chuffy Chufnell in Thank You, Jeeves are two typical examples, both trying to unload their white-elephant mansions on rich Americans.
  • Two of the several villains in Mary Roberts Rhinehart's The Man In Lower Ten are a brother and sister of the old slaveholding Southern gentry seeking to entrap the wealthy young heroine in a forced marriage. To make it even better the brother is already married to a girl he rather likes but who has no money.
  • In The Bible, Joseph is from the lineage of King David, but he earns a modest living as a carpenter.
  • In P. G. Wodehouse's Uneasy Money, Lord Dawlish. His fiancee is quite annoyed with him for handing a beggar a shilling.
  • In The Unhandsome Prince, the king has a severe gambling problem, which is why the family is having money troubles.
  • Zhang Liang in Will of Heaven is descended from one of the most powerful families in the state of Han/Hann during the late Warring States Period— and then Hann gets conquered by the First Emperor during his unification of China. Zhang Liang spends his family's remaining fortune trying to kill the First Emperor, fails, and lives the years that follow in hiding and hardship. This is very much Truth in Television.
  • It turns out that the fer Roth family in Tamora Pierce's Will of the Empress had gambled away most of their estate. This is why Shan aggressively courts and then attempts to marry Sandry, after his family's first plan to have him woo the Empress herself fails.
  • In I Capture the Castle, the main character's family, though genteel, are not merely impoverished but perilously close to starving. At one point, she and her sister try to list skills that anyone in the family could use to make money, and come up with absolutely nothing useful.
  • The title character in Coral Lansbury's Sweet Alice was reduced to shoplifting by the time she was evicted from her family estate, while her illegitimate son desperately pursued one money-making scheme after another.
  • In Viper At The Fist the Rezeau family is depicted as very impoverished and Land Poor and the father, Jacques Rezeau, has to hire Private Tutors instead to send his three sons to a private school.
  • In Captive of the Red Vixen House Darktail thanks to Countess Highglider sabotaging their infrastructure out of petty revenge. Part of the reason Rolas was captaining their freighter himself, and why his family couldn't pay the ransom.
  • In The Beyonders, Galloran actually makes Jason and Rachel into these by giving them the signets of a long-since worthless estate. However, the title alone is enough to grant Jason and Rachel some legitimacy in the world of Lyrian, even if they don't have cash. Moreover, to those in the know, it suggests that they are allied with Galloran himself.
  • The book The Countess Under Stairs has two different examples of this trope. Anna Grazinsky's family was one of the most opulent in Russia with a priceless collection of jewels, but after the Russian Revolution they are lost and the family settles in England with an old governess of theirs, poor and humbled. Most of their family and friends share the same fate; Anna's cousin Prince Sergei becomes a taxi driver then a chauffeur, and Anna becomes a maid. At the same time, the money has been sucked out of the estate of Rupert, the Earl of Mersham, Anna's employer, so much so that Rupert is dependant upon his fiancée, a nouveau riche heiress. Luckily, Anna regains her jewels and wealth by the end of the story, so she and Rupert are free to wed in peace and save Mersham using Anna's money instead of Muriel's, but since Anna is not a budding Nazi it's okay.
  • In Valley of the Dolls Jennifer marries one of these. She appears in public in a diamond necklace (belongs in his family), luxurious fur coats (free for the publicity for the fur company), they have a whole floor at the Waldorf (paid for by a wine company — he's kind of their goodwill ambassador), and so on. He told Jennifer he was rich because an American wife is a status symbol in Europe. To earn more money, the prince wants Jennifer to play up to a wine merchant — even go to bed with him if necessary. Jennifer sensibly walked.
  • In Mercedes Lackey's One Dozen Daughters series, the ruler of a small kingdom has thirteen children before his wife finally produces the male heir he needs. Because he can't afford twelve royal dowries, all the daughters are expected to leave the country and seek their own fortune on their eighteenth birthday (He does provide them with a first-rate education in whatever craft they desire first).
  • One of the 1632 novels had a Polish man claim to be nobility - which meant that his family owned four pigs while their common-born neighbors only owned three.
  • When the father of Artemis Fowl disappeared on a business trip to Russia, everyone who owed the family money started disappearing, while people who they owed money to started demanding prompt payment. The ten-year-old acting head of the family had quite a bit of trouble keeping their finances above water until he was able to locate and rescue his father (Among other things, he had to let go of all the servants except for the Old Retainer and his sister).
  • Marius from Les Misérables inherits the title of Baron from his late father who earned it at the Battle of Waterloo. He becomes a Bonapartist to honor his father.
  • Defied in "De skandalösa" by Simona Ahrnstedt, where the Gripklos were really close to losing everything. But luckily, Gabriel was clever enough to make a new fortune through trade. (His family weren't exactly thrilled by him "lowering himself" so much, but they did need the money.)
  • In Guns of the Dawn, the Marshwic family was once fairly wealthy, but a series of misfortunes left it in dire financial straits (and led to the head of the family shooting himself). The family blames much of this on their old rival, Mr Northway — the fact that his fortunes went in the opposite direction (he's now governor of the city) is, to the Marshwics, a great injustice that will surely be corrected as soon as the king learns how wicked Mr Northway is. Mr Northway, while not denying his own corruption, says that Emily's late father was just as bad and that the king cares more for obedience than integrity. He's right.
  • Vorobyaninov from The Twelve Chairs was born an aristocrat in Czarist Russia but since the Revolution, his family has fallen into poverty. He had also been well on the way to reaching this status before the revolution, having blown through his own fortune and started working on his wife's.
  • In The Cinder Spires series, Admiral Tagwynn was one of the greatest heroes in the history of Spire Albion. That was five generations ago. His descendants are butchers whose last claim to nobility is a tradition of sending one child in every generation to serve a tour of duty in the Spirearch's Guard.
  • In the Village Tales series, the present Duke of Taunton's father and predecessor was "a rather skint brigadier" with nothing but his Army pay and a stipend from the family trustees until, when the current Duke was in his early teens, the abeyance was terminated in the Brig's favor and the dukedom fell to the Old Brigadier … along with all the cash and land. The aged Lord Mallerstang, who succeeded two cousins in turn to that peerage title, remained proudly impoverished until the current Duke was finally allowed to help, and get back some of the Mallerstang lands for the old man. And that was because one of the prior Barons Mallerstang was the father of the Duke's sister-in-law, who married the Duke's brother to get out of "real, not merely 'aristocratic', poverty" – and her eldest son is heir presumptive both to the Duke and to Lord Mallerstang, it being for the heir's sake that old Hugo Mallerstang swallowed his pride.
  • In The Goblin Emperor the Danivada are this. They cannot even afford the coal to adequately heat their quarters in the palace in winter.
  • In the Drake Maijstral series by Walter Jon Williams, Drake is minor nobility, but his father spent the last of the family fortune trying to fund the counter-revolution and restore control of humankind to the Khosali empire. (Which is not entirely unreasonable, since it was the Khosali which ennobled the family in the first place.)
  • Spenser encounters two versions of this in Paper Doll. The first is Jumper Jack, once a well-regarded horse breeder, now reduced to owning nothing but his house and his dogs. His Old Retainer stays with him out of a sense of loyalty, and the fact that Jack is probably incapable of taking care of himself any more. The second turns out to be his own client, who lost a lot in the '87 crash, and his wife spent/gave away the rest. He is in extreme denial about his situation, refusing to acknowledge the truth even in the face of multiple bank statements to the contrary.
  • In Pavane In Pearl And Emerald, the main character Kide is this. His land is no longer a part of the Borgim Empire, but he's still considered an aristocrat there and expected to stay at the emperor's palace. Because he has no income, Kide's dependent on his social visits for food and runs a school teaching girls how to be palace servants.
  • Disc-One Final Boss Penthero Iss in the Sword of Shadows used to be this; his family were of noble blood but lost all their fortune generations ago and by the time Iss was born they'd been reduced to onion farming. By the time the series starts, however, Iss had clawed his way out of poverty and become Surlord of the city-state Spire Vanis by the usual way. Notably Iss's dragon, Marafice Eye, was born as an actual commoner; though they both pulled themselves up from humble origins through sheer determination, bloody-mindedness, and ruthlessness, the wildly differing backgrounds of their families gives them very different perspectives on things and serves as a source of tension between the two men.
  • Naples '44, by Norman Lewis. The author says that Alexandre Dumas noted in 1835 that in Naples, Italy there were only four noble families with real wealth, around 20 comfortably off, and the rest struggling to keep up appearances. Things had hardly changed in 1944, thanks to a stigma among the nobility against physical work or going into trade. As a Field Security officer in WW2, Lewis is sent to investigate a noblewoman who wants permission to marry a British soldier. He finds a beautiful gracious lady wearing a Pimped-Out Dress in a Big Fancy House with luxuriant furnishings, and writes an accordingly glowing report. Later he makes an unexpected visit and finds the house bare and the woman dressed in cheap clothes. She bursts into tears and informs him that the luxuries were loaned from all the other Impoverished Patricians, who are just holding onto a few clothes and an heirloom or two to keep up appearances. Lewis assures her that his recommendation has already gone through, so it won't make any difference.
  • Journey to Chaos: The noble Darwoss family used to have high status and great fortune, but they diminished in stature over time. The current head of the family cannot afford to keep his ancestral mansion in good condition and most of his "servants" are actually employees for his newspaper.
  • Prince Ellidyr, who appears in the second book of The Chronicles of Prydain, is a total Jerkass, but it's explained that this is in large part because his ancestors squandered a lot of their wealth, and his older brothers took the rest, leaving him with a cloak, a sword, and a horse...and that's about it.
  • Harry Flashman is a member of the gentry who considers it degrading to have to marry a factory owner's daughter. In fairness(!) he first seduced her out of lust and was forced to marry her to make amends. Only later does he come to appreciate her father's wealth, after his own father reveals the family is broke. He refers to his wife (who is from Scotland) as a "Scotch pension."
  • In Cooking With Wild Game, Ai Fa is the Noble Savage version of this trope. Her culture doesn't place much value on money, but it is clearly understood that if you don't work, you don't eat. Support networks (usually one's clan) are vital for those who can't work, or who get seriously ill...and Ai Fa's clan members all died some time ago. So she still has the grand house they left to her but at the same time, she is constantly on the verge of starvation.
  • Squire Haggard, the protagonist of Michael Green's Squire Haggard's Journal (and the TV adaptation Haggard), is an aristocrat who's drunk away whatever money remains to his family, and is constantly dodging bailiffs and unpaid bills.
  • In The Knocker on Death's Door by Ellis Peters, the Macsen-Martel family still have their name and the family home, and not much else. The individual members of the family vary a bit on how much they've acknowledged and adapted to their reduced circumstances.
  • The Hundred and One Dalmatians: Cruella De Vil. Her family's ancestral home is in disrepair, the servants working there receive no pay other than the right to live there and say the TV must be kept on at night because they don't have light bulbs. Most of her jewels are fake. When the furs her furrier husband keeps at home are destroyed by the Dalmatians, it's revealed most of them aren't paid for and the De Vils must sell their ancestral home to pay their debts. Cruella also has to sell their real jewels to be able to start a new business.
  • House Ladrian in Wax and Wayne can trace its ancestry to heroes who overthrew a tyrant and saved the world. By The Alloy of Law, Lord Waxillum Ladrian is heavily in debt due to his uncle's poor management. Interestingly, Wax would rather work for a living than live as a nobleman; the only reason why he doesn't sell everything off and continue his career as a Cowboy Cop is that his house runs factories and employs a lot of people, and going bankrupt would put all of them out of work. Wax only pays his debts by getting married.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: The Supernatural Elite is made out of three strata of decreasing status and wealth: archnobles, mednobles and laynobles. The poorest laynobles have little enough money that the richest among the commoners are better off than them and children often learn the arts from their parents while having a proper teacher is the norm for mednobles and archnobles. When the protagonist's Giving Radio to the Romans results in the introduction of a luxury item intended to be sold to nobles, she needs to account for the fact that many laynobles will only be willing to spend a limited sum for it or may not be able to justify the cost at all.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Beverly Hillbillies episode "His Royal Highness", an impoverished ex-king schemes to marry Elly-May for her money. His entire "fortune" is in "Glotny's", which, according to Miss Hathaway's book of world currencies and exchange rates, is "absolutely worthless." In fact, on two occasions in the episode, they're even used as table napkins!
  • Arrested Development: The Bluth family was once a wealthy
  • Game of Thrones: Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen have grown up as this after Robert's Rebellion, formerly members of the Royal Family, but now moving from city to city and benefactor to benefactor, always fearing betrayal and assassination. The stress of it may have contributed to Viserys' madness. It was to the point that the luxury Daenerys finds herself in, as Illyrio's honoured guest, at the start of the series is bewildering. It changes once she starts conquering and pillaging three cities and by the time of Season 7, one can assume that she's quite well-off and independently wealthy to the extent that she values money and currency.
  • Law & Order had a case involving a poor old money family having married a new money family.
  • Blackadder. Several Blackadders are noblemen, but they're inevitably not that well off, and attempts to improve their station inevitably end in disaster or no net profit at all. Prince Edmund the Black Adder is the son of the king of England, yet apparently has no lands of his own, spending most of the series skulking around his father's castle. Lord Blackadder in Elizabethan times has a title and a place at court, but lives in a pretty modest house and is constantly losing money for ridiculous reasons. (He claims that his father blew the family fortune on "wine, women and amateur dramatics. At the end, he was eking out a living doing humourous impressions of Anne of Cleves".) In an extreme example, Prince George in the third series was such an Upper-Class Twit that he went bankrupt buying socks (although he also believed that the object of card games was to give away as much money as possible, which hardly helped matters). He is the regent of multiple countries.
  • In El Chavo del ocho it's implied that Doña Florinda and Doña Clotilde were from richer origins, judging by the snobbish attitude of the former and the many references to married sisters who live abroad and send her gifts to the latter. Doña Florinda seems to have married beneath her class and when she was widowed her family denied her and Quico any monetary support, so she ended in the Vecindad, living solely off her widow pension. Doña Clotilde, on the other side, appears to suffer the sad destiny of the Old Maid who get stale; instead of play the "Old Spinster Aunt" role in her married siblings' homes, she preferred to live on her own.
  • Monarch of the Glen is largely about a family barely holding on to their ancestral holdings, largely by encouraging tourism. The expenses involved in just heating their ancestral home are a big part of the early seasons.
  • Pete Campbell of Mad Men comes, through his mother, from the Old Money New York WASP/Dutch Dyckman family that once owned half of Upper Manhattan.note  His family is shown early on to have fallen on hard times (his grandfather lost the property in the Crash of 1929 and his father apparently squandered the remaining fortune), which is why he's working as a mid-level ad exec and marries Trudy Vogel, whose father had worked his way to become a higher-up at Richardson-Vicks (makers of Clearasil and, well, Vicks. As in NyQuil and Vap-O-Rub).
  • Audrey fforbes-Hamilton in To the Manor Born.
  • Colonel Klink of Hogan's Heroes is implied to be this trope. Though it is mentioned that he comes from an old Prussian family, it is also stated that he has money troubles.
    Klink: (Believing that he is going have a fortune in oil) After the war, I won't just have a 500-year-old aristocratic name, but for the first time, some money to go with it.
    • Old Prussian families being in money trouble is actually one of the stereotypes about them — one of the reasons so many of their members joined the army was that they needed the money.
  • The Major in Fawlty Towers may be an example. Though he comes across as an officer and a gentleman, not only is he reduced to living in a hotel, he's reduced to living in one run by Basil Fawlty.
  • Power Rangers RPM has Summer's parents, who lost most of their vast holdings due to that whole robot apocalypse thing. They want Summer to give up her job and marry into a stately family that still has some cash; the fact that her job involves keeping the last city on Earth from being overrun by robots doesn't seem to factor into this demand.
  • Kamen Rider Kabuto has Tsurugi (AKA Kamen Rider Sasword), the last descendant of the proud Discabil family of England (though he's obviously at least part Japanese...). He's also completely broke, hence his freelance work for ZECT, though it takes some time for him to find this out because his faithful servant Jiya is going out of his way to keep it from him.
  • In the short-lived ABC family series Three Moons Over Milford, the main characters are a woman and her two children who were once the wealthiest family in town. But one near-doomsday cataclysmic event later, and her husband decides to abandon them to go on a spiritual journey of self-discovery. Leaving them completely broke and unemployed.
  • The Pruitts of Southampton, starring Phyllis Diller, was a short-lived sitcom where a rich family on the Hamptons is found, after an IRS audit, to be completely broke. However, revealing this would cause economic shockwaves, so the IRS, apparently considering them too big to fail, lets them live in their posh home keeping up appearances and taking in wacky boarders. Lasting one season before turning into The Phyllis Diller Show, it has recently surfaced from complete obscurity since its catchy theme song (by Vic "The Addams Family" Mizzy) was used as the basis for an outrageous Cold Open on Batman: The Brave and the Bold...
  • Robin Hood: This is a common fate for Guy of Gisbourne in retellings of Robin Hood where the plot necessitates him as a guard, but they want to keep the "Sir Guy" title he picked up in the '30s.
    • Poverty with nobility was a constant source of angst for the Robin of Sherwood incarnation. He's fallen to a "lowly" steward, watching over other people's lands, compounded by his father's lack of acknowledgement.
    • It was a driving motivation for the 2006 version, in his opposition of Hood being that he wants to keep Locksley for himself to avoid such a shame.
  • King George in Once Upon a Time is flat-broke, trying his best to hide it, and willing to do any ruthless dog-kicking stunt to make sure he seals an alliance with the wealthy King Midas.
  • This crops up twice in Downton Abbey:
    • In the backstory, Robert's father, the 6th Earl of Grantham, was running low on cash but still had to maintain the eponymous ancestral estate (a Big Fancy House), which is why he arranged for Robert's marriage to Cora Levinson, the daughter of a Jewish dry-goods magnate from Ohio (can't get more American than that). He also insisted that her fortune be entailed to the Grantham estate; this backfires and leads to the Succession Crisis that drives the first three series of the show.
    • In the third series, it turns out that Robert idiotically invested the whole fortune in the Grand Trunk Railway, which crashed and was nationalised by the Canadian government — leaving the family's assets at almost nothing. The family gets ready to sell Downton Abbey and move to a smaller place (which was still a gracious home), but Robert's son-in-law/third cousin once removed/heir-presumptive Matthew unexpectedly inherits a large sum from his late ex-fiancée's father (yes), allowing him to invest in the estate and keep it in the family. Phew.
    • Additionally, numerous one-off characters, all peers and friends of Lord Grantham, are shown to suffer the fate that he narrowly avoided. A major theme of the show is how the aristocracy is transitioning into the modern age, becoming less and less able to enjoy their previous lifestyle as landlords living on massive estates staffed by small armies of servants. At one point, the estate is studied by a government official doing research on aristocratic bankruptcies.
  • Meet The B*stards was a Channel 4 reality TV-show based around one impoverished noble family; the thing was (as the title implies) they were extremely rude, often blurring the lines between the perceived distinction between working-class and upper-class.
  • In Your Dreams: The von Hasenbergs live in a castle but are constantly fighting bankruptcy.
  • Schitt's Creek: The premise of the show is that the Rose family loses $500 million to their crooked financial adviser and must now live in the crappy little town of Schitt's Creek that the patriarch once bought as a joke and forgot about.
  • Poldark: The Poldarks are a noble family from Cornwall in the late 18th Century, who have traditionally made their money from farming and mining copper. At this time, Wales was starting to produce more copper: driving down the price. At the same time, smaller farms are being bought to create massive industrial wool farms: wool being the other traditional product of Cornish estates. Combine this with the predatory (and highly discriminatory) judicial system of the time, and things get hairy pretty quickly. The story follows Ross Poldark, and many of his adventures revolve around getting money to pay loans.
  • On Elementary the Holmes family are friends with an elderly king of a country that ceased to exist more than a century ago and is now divided among multiple democracies. The king's ancestors managed to keep the royal titles but had to earn their own living. The king himself avoided this trope because of excellent investment advice provided by Sherlock's father. However, the king's son has not been so good with money and decided to restore his finances through a royal adoption scheme. He legally adopted more than a dozen wealthy Americans in exchange for thousands of dollars in fees. The adoptees can now legally claim to be princes/princesses. When the king finds out about this scheme he is not amused and on Sherlock's advice, he disowns his son. This revokes any noble titles held by the son and his heirs and opens up the son to lawsuits from his disgruntled "offspring".
  • Murdoch Mysteries featured the Newsomes, a family of Upper Class Twits who were for the most part Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense. Unfortunately, one of the relatives lost most of the family fortune on an investment in San Francisco that went pear-shaped after the 1906 earthquake...and embezzled the rest of the fortune to try and make up the loss. Ruth Newsome comes to terms with it, getting a job of her own to supplement her husband Henry's constable income, while Rupert Newsome becomes the Henpecked Husband to a domineering wealthy woman.


    Pro Wrestling 
  • This was Prince Nana's motivation for returning to Ring of Honor in 2008, the loss of his crown being the straw that broke his pride (don't worry, it got better after Barack Obama's stimulus package).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted: The background of Cynis Denovah Avaku is that he came from a branch of the decadent (even by Dynastic standards) House Cynis that had been marginalized for centuries due to their inability to produce Dragon Blooded members. Between the expenses of even the basic Dynastic lifestyle, the increasingly piddling stipend they received, and the rest of the House providing no aid in financial opportunities, the family was so poor that they were reduced to living in a crumbling manse on the edge of a cliff. One of Avaku's main goals is to help bring his family back to some semblance of prosperity. Like many things in Exalted, this requires him to choose between moral and expedient behavior, and he suffers a crisis of faith when he is forced to kill a child Solar to protect his family's drug money.
  • Common in Unhallowed Metropolis, where the Victorian Era has more-or-less continued intact into 2100. Backwoods aristocrats often have nothing but their Big Fancy House to their name, and that mansion may have a curse on it, but it would still be a horrific scandal if they were to actually work for a living.
  • Gary Gygax suggested this as a background for many adventurers in a Dungeons & Dragons setting. The second and third children in a family may not stand to inherit much from the estate, so they become adventurers to earn their own fortunes. Alternately, their family may have fallen on hard times and they become adventurers to win enough gold and/or glory to restore the family's prestige.
  • Fairly common in BattleTech, for several reasons. First, there are a lot of wars and a noble's holdings (which can range in size from a manor house to an entire planet) might be attacked and destroyed or conquered. This was especially true during the Clan Invasion when numerous planets were overrun by the Clans, who operate in a caste-based command economy. Second, nobles sometimes fall out of favor after backing the wrong side in a power struggle or just because whoever's in charge of the Successor State they belong to doesn't like them. Third, quite a few noble titles really aren't worth anything. It's quite possible for someone to be "rewarded" for their services with a barony that consists of a patch of rock that can't be farmed and has no mining or industrial value, thus earning no money.

  • The title character of Cyrano de Bergerac is a classic example. Swashbuckling as a genre in general is full of young, poor nobles seeking their fortune with their blade.
  • The title character of William Shakespeare's Timon of Athens begins the play this way, but is ruined when word gets out that his extreme philanthropy has brought him to this state, and his creditors all call in their debts at once. After an epic Freak Out, Timon is reduced to living in the woods, eating roots, and throwing insults and rocks (and, in one notable production, feces) at anyone who passes by.
  • The Duke of Plaza-Toro, Count Matadoro, Baron Picadoro from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers boasts an impressive lineage as a Castilian hidalgo of ninety-five quarterings, but he's still practically penniless. However, he manages to resolve this problem by incorporating himself as the Duke of Plaza-Toro Ltd.
  • Major-General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance is not an example directly, but still invokes the trope: he lives in a house he purchased from such a family. At one point he's brought to tears by the fact that he's brought shame on his ancestors in the crypts. It's pointed out to him that they're not actually his ancestors, to which he replies that he bought the house, which included the crypts, which included the ancestors, and they're bloody well his ancestors now.
  • In Richard Strauss's opera Arabella, Count Waldner's family is dirt-broke because of his love of gambling and luxury: now they live in a hotel and can't pay the bills. The only solution is to marry off their daughter for money.
  • Several in Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, like Madame Lyubov Andreyevna Ranevskaya (also The Woobie), her older brother Leonid Andreevich Gayev and specially their common friend Boris Borisovich Simeonov-Pischik.
  • The Count in Beaumarchais' The Barber of Seville.
  • The Eynsford-Hills in George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. Shaw writes that they live on a pension so small he hasn't the heart to reveal what it is.
  • In Molière's play Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, one of the characters taking advantage of Monsieur Jourdain's combination of money, vanity, and gullibility is Dorante, a cash-strapped count. He claims to have mentioned Jourdain's name to the king at Versailles, and in return Jourdain is happy to lend him enormous sums of money; meanwhile, he tells Jourdain that he is courting a widowed marchioness named Dorimène on his behalf by plying her with rich gifts purchased by Jourdain, when in reality he is trying to win Dorimène's love for himself. Jourdain's wife sees Dorante for the parasite that he is, but cannot get past her husband's vanity to stop him from giving the count an unlimited line of credit.
  • The Mrs. Hawking play series: Cassius Evans in the comedic spinoff Gentlemen Never Tell. He’s the third son of an earl who has been selling off family lands to maintain their style of living for years now, and so makes his way by staying in the houses of his rich friends, earning his keep through charm and throwing entertaining parties for them.

    Video Games 
  • Fire Emblem has lots of these.
    • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Greil was once General Gawain, one of the Four Riders of Daein, which implied that he was of noble birth because commoners were not allowed to become generals at the time. This is partially a subversion, in that Greil willingly threw away his family name (as opposed to his family name being all he had left), and the fact that he had once been a general of Daein, let alone a noble of Daein, is hardly ever mentioned.
    • Implied in Queen Hellene's background in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade. She and her old friend/distant relative Louise are mentioned to be very minor nobles, but she is lucky enough to get into an Arranged Marriage to King Desmon of Bern. Louise is genuinely luckier and ends up Happily Married to Lord Pent.
    • Ricken's family in Fire Emblem Awakening. He comes from the lower aristocracy of Ylisse and his Blue Blood house is currently bankrupt. He joined the Shepherds to try and regain some honor for his family name, specially after having been abused by other young nobles until Prince Chrom took him in. Maribelle, a fellow noble from a higher station, tries to cheer him up by telling him to take solace in his blue blood, no matter the state of his finances.
    • Ingrid's family in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, since the lands they hold are not good for agricultural use. As a result, Ingrid's father often made sacrifices so that his daughter would be provided for, and while Ingrid doesn't want to commit to an Arranged Marriage for the Galatea family's financial gain, she realizes she's indebted to her father.
  • This trope is one of the possible backgrounds of your character in Mount & Blade. At least there's some recognition of your nobility with the ability to own your own banner right from the start and a slight boost to starting fame (which means more troops).
  • This is averted in Final Fantasy Tactics. You come from a rich and powerful family that is still rich and powerful. Unfortunately for you, most of them are varying degrees of evil. Also subverted with Argath, who fits the trope and is deeply resentful of commoners for this reason.
  • Played for humor in Suikoden V in the personage of one Egbert Aethelbald. Did you know that the AETHELBALD FAMILY was once the most PRESTIGIOUS in the LAND before those FILTHY GODWIN DEVILS CONSPIRED TO TAKE IT ALL AWAY? If you didn't, you will. He yells about it to anyone who will listen. He wears a battered uniform and lives in a sewer of all places. Furthermore, the fall of the family happened one hundred years ago; it isn't entirely clear if he is actually an Aethelbald or just believes he is.
  • Dragon Age:
    • The noble origin stories in Dragon Age: Origins. As a dwarf, you are accused of treason and stripped of everything, despite being the king's son/daughter. As a human, your rich, amazing family and those loyal to you are slaughtered.
    • The Hawkes start off as this in Dragon Age II, due to their uncle Gamlen having squandered the Amell wealth by the time they arrive in Kirkwall. The first act of the game is focused around obtaining enough riches to be able to move your family from the slums.
    • According to "World of Thedas", this is Sister Petrice's backstory. She comes from an aristocratic family, but they lost their holdings when she was young. Her determination to scale the Chantry hierarchy is likely her way of reclaiming the power and influence to which she feels entitled.
  • An unusually optimistic example in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. On Windfall Island, there is a rich man whose daughter Mila has been kidnapped. He's a bit stuck-up, but he says he'll do anything to get her back. She is rescued by Pirates, who demand an enormous sum for her return, which he pays. He ends up dirt-poor and living in the streets, but he's happy because his daughter is back. He plays a direct Foil to a Nouveau Riche man on the same island: see that trope page for details.
    • The very same pirates mentioned in the above example are themselves an example as they're descendants of Hyrule's royal family, which Tetra secretly being Princess Zelda.
  • Pokémon
    • Pokémon Black and White has Grimsley, an Elite Four member from the Unova region. Word of God says he's the son of an important family that lost everything, causing him to develop a gambling habit.
    • Acerola from Pokémon Sun and Moon is apparently the last living member of the Alolan royal family. She dresses in a ragged purple dress, seemingly by choice, and lives at the Aether House orphanage.
  • Part of Karen's backstory in Shadow Hearts: Covenant.
  • Roxis Rozencrantz from Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis. The latest descendant of a long line of famous alchemists, his family hasn't produced a worthwhile alchemist in a century or so, and in one scene, he mentioned that his father earned the money they lived on by playing cards. He's at Al-Revis to redeem his family name by becoming a great alchemist himself.
  • Electra and Beatrix in Rune Factory Oceans are part of the extremely wealthy De Sainte-Coquille family featured in every other game in the series. Despite their heritage and living in the biggest mansion on the island, Beatrix's eccentric tendencies have left her and Electra with so little to their name that Electra has to work part-time at every store in town in order to make ends meet and pay wages to the one maid who hasn't left them.
  • In Act 2 of The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: First Chapter, you learn that the mayor of Ruan is from an aristocratic royal family, but he blew all of his family's money on gambling until he's broke and in debt, a fact that he's desperately trying to keep hidden from the public. When you run into him again in the following game, after he was ousted as mayor he opened a shop in the city of Grancel, intending to make his family's money back the slow but honorable way. From the same series, the Capuas are nobles whose fortunes have fallen so far that their title was revoked. Their assets consist of a single airship, which they use to go into piracy. After going straight, they become freight haulers.
  • Lian from Paladins is the sole heiress of House Aico, a once-powerful family that has lost much of its power and she has taken it upon herself to restore her House to its former glory. Downplayed in that she is well off enough to avoid being reduced to wear rags and has armies to command.
  • You don't get to see it in their attire or anything, but this is how the Heir starts out in Darkest Dungeon: the Ancestor has long since blown the family fortune on dabbling with the unnameable, studying demonology, suppressing the Hamlet's Torches and Pitchforks by hiring bandits with giant cannons, digging too deep and buying moustache cream so good it increases your blight resistance. Then his excavations were successful in unleashing eldritch evil, meaning that the family home is a twisted and hellish ruin and so anything valuable that was left in it has to be wrung out of it by a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits going Dungeon Crawling. By the time the Heir arrives, there's about enough in the kitty to fund one dungeon delve, maybe two; the Hamlet is virtually ruined, with nearly every building falling apart; and the only servant you still have is the Caretaker, who is not quite all there.
  • In Stellaris, any upper Strata pop left unemployed long enough will drift to a lower one, angering them.
  • In Victoria, POPs whose needs are left unsatisfacted can demote to a lower class.
  • Breath of Fire II: Nina is the disowned princess of the kingdom of Wyndia. By the time the party finds her, she's comfortable enough boarding at the school of magic she attends. Because her father the King sent her there and pays for her housing and education. She was excommunicated to save her life.
  • Yes, Your Grace: King Eryk is a relatively early phase of this, but enough into it that acts of welfare towards the general population, maintenance of the army being prepared for a war, and any luxury purchased for the royal family comes out of the same fairly tight budget. One of the ways to lose the game is to get in an Unstable Equilibrium caused by the population paying fewer taxes because too many people were refused help, and Eryk not being able to help many people (if any at all) because the taxes don't bring in enough money to do so until a Torches and Pitchforks crowd shows up and kills Eryk if he can't promptly give its members a large quantity of both money and food.
  • Cyberpunk 2077: A V from a corporate background is essentially the genre equivalent of this trope. They start off as an executive in the Arasaka Mega-Corp — essentially the most privileged position in the setting, — but fall victim to an incompetently executed courtly intrigue-slash-corporate power play, thrown under the bus by their superiors, and stripped of everything but clothes on their back. With the help of their streetwise friend Jackie Welles, V then starts over from zero, taking on odd jobs as a mercenary in the underworld of Night City.
  • Zeke in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. He's the prince of Tantal, but has a poor relationship with his father and has been living in exile for at least a decade. Part of this is done intentionally, as he never uses his background or heritage to get favors even in situations where he's starving or being mistreated.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Fate/stay night, it's stated that despite coming from a very reputable family and owning a Western-style mansion, Rin Tohsaka lives rather modestly. This is mostly caused by the lack of any income-bringing parents (her dad Tokiomi was messily killed some years ago according to Fate/Zero; her mother Aoi suffered severe brain damage afterwards and is implied to have died some time later), and the fact that her form of magic requires the use of absurdly expensive precious jewels to store her power in. This would not have been so bad ordinarily, as most of the Tohsaka wealth came from various properties they owned; but after assuming Rin's guardianship, Kirei (purposely) mishandled the estate and most of the properties were lost.
  • The Zaberisks in Animamundi Dark Alchemist is not completely broke, but they are in crippling debt to an All Devouring Black Hole Loan Shark — unlike most examples, Georik is really only concerned if they have enough to live on, he doesn't seem to give a rat's ass about keeping up appearances.

  • Girl Genius:
    • It's implied that a few of the Fifty Families of Europe have only their titles left, and no longer have any Spark members (which are the true measure of power in the Girl Genius universe). The fact that their power has been significantly reduced by the Baron's Peace is also a great source of ire to them.
    • The families the children on the Castle come from are not so much impoverished and still rule minor principalities (as does Tarvek Sturmvoraus now that his father Prince Aaronev is dead) but their issue is that the Baron expects them to stop destroying the countryside fighting each other and become Royals Who Actually Do Something (other than exploiting the peasants and blowing things up, that is); they don't really like this idea.
    • There is also mention of various noble families that have nothing but their names because some Spark conquered their lands at some point back. Other nobles often grant them a place in their own households, because it is considered bad form not to, but if the landless nobles are sufficiently irritating their hosts will try to find them a dangerous task that gets them out of the court and possibly into an early grave to get rid of them.
  • Sylvester and Mortimer in The Mansion of E, though Sylvester is plugging away at restoring their family's financial status.
  • Khun Aguero Agnes from Tower of God. Though his family is still one of the most influential ones in the Tower, his side branch got exiled and ended up impoverished after Khun Maria became a Princess of Jahad. Considering he wanted her to be that all along and made it happen, it was his own damn fault.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: The Västerström family, that had its Riches to Rags moment at least four years ago when the story starts. Siv calls her and Torbjörn's house "the last nice thing we own".

    Web Original 
  • Subverted in the Furry Basketball Association. Lord Joseph Trundle, the 12th Baron Overstone (a.k.a. His Dudeship to his surfer teammate), is a player for the Bradford Bantams. Knowing his uncle's gambling left the family in serious debt, he became a basketball player to earn money of his own — which resulted in him being named the heir, in hopes that he would restore the family fortune. With his contract, he's doing well.

    Web Videos 
  • Draven Rowe, one of the four protagonists of Tales from My D&D Campaign, is the rightful Marquis of Rowan, a small but wealthy region in the human kingdom of Verandi. Unfortunately, the evil homicidal Kua-Toan Empire overran Rowan, and all the rest of Verandi, a hundred and forty years ago, driving Draven's ancestors north to the allied human realm of Vistria. Draven works for the Hand of Sirius, a semi-secret order dedicated to protecting humanity across the world, and dreams of one day gathering the resources and numbers to reconquer Rowan and Vistria, and drive the Kua-Toa back to the abyss that spawned them.

    Western Animation 
  • DuckTales (1987): Implied to be the case with the unworldly Grand Khiske of Macaroon, in "A Drain on the Economy". The windows in his palace are boarded up, and the whole building is in a state of disrepair.
  • Bill Dauterive and his one remaining relative in King of the Hill are the last surviving members of a formerly prosperous, wealthy and influential Louisiana familynote . They had originated senators and statesmen, but Bill is now a military barber and the object of mockery amongst his friends. When Bill discovered the potential wealth that could come from the selling of their family's traditional barbecue sauce his cousin vetoed the idea, considering the idea of them selling off their name abhorrent, even though the name itself is worthless. His family in Louisiana fits the trope better than Bill himself does, though they still seem to have enough wealth to live in idleness.
  • Batman Beyond:
    • It was never definitively established in the series, but DVD commentaries and behind-the-scenes featurettes revealed that Bruce Wayne had lost the majority of his vast fortune in the years between the original series and the current show. He survives on the returns of his stock holdings in Wayne-Powers, and he could sell his shares for a considerable fortune, but he would never do such a thing because he would lose what little control he still had in his family's company. Though after returning to controlling the company he seems to have regained the fortune.
    • In "King's Ransom", it is revealed that other than his exquisite art collection, the CEO Paxton Powers barely has any money. Most of his assets are in investments and he survives on company perks.
  • The Penguin:
    • In The Batman, the Penguin's family, the Cobblepots, used to be rich, but they blew off all their money. The Penguin tries to regain his wealth by committing bird-themed crimes.
    • According to the portrait of the Penguin presented in both Batman: The Animated Series and Tim Burton's Batman Returns, Oswald Cobblepot is impoverished because he was ostracized by his own social class (and by the human race in general) for looking like a penguin. In Batman Returns, the Penguin is perfectly aware of his degradation and is determined to get revenge on society, while in the animated series he is simply in denial about how the world views him.
    • This was even mentioned in the Batman: Arkham Series. The Cobblepots were originally quite wealthy, to the point where between them, they and the Waynes pretty much bankrolled the construction of most of Gotham in the 19th Century. They fell into decline because they insisted on competing with the Waynes directly, resulting in their new businesses failing because they were in areas they didn't know how to run properly while the Waynes did, and their old businesses failing because they were being neglected in favor of the poorly run new businesses. Penguin refused to acknowledge his own family's role in their decline and chose to blame it all on the Waynes.
  • Hey Arnold! has one episode where Rhonda's family's stocks suddenly fall (not that that would really DO anything) and her family is forced to sell everything and move into Arnold's boarding house. It doesn't last, though. It would matter if her family had been living off of margin loans. Their cash flow would be cut off, and they'd have a short time to come up with more capital to avoid having their stocks liquidated by the broker to cover the loans.
  • In the Rugrats episode "The Case of the Missing Rugrat", Tommy is mistaken for a foundling and taken in by the Pendragon sisters, a pair of dotty old ladies who live in a crumbling mansion with no one around for company but each other and their butler Max. After the sisters boast about making Tommy heir to "the Pendragon millions", Max dryly informs Tommy "The millions part is somewhat exaggerated; I haven't been paid in years."
  • Count Duckula has a teleporting castle and a noble title, but is thoroughly strapped for cash. Presumably his evil prior versions just stole whatever money they needed from their hapless victims, but the current Vegetarian Vampire incumbent doesn't prey on people and must resort to various hare-brained schemes to make money.
  • Samurai Jack and his family certainly qualify as this. Jack was the imperial crown prince of Japan until Aku broke free, kidnapped Jack's father (the Emperor), destroyed their kingdom, and eventually sent Jack into the far future. With his home long gone, Jack is not only an impoverished, would-be emperor without an empire; but he is also a Rōnin, a samurai without a master.
  • Steven Universe: Sapphires are rare aristocratic gems in the Homeworld hierarchy and have poofy Princess Classic dresses as their Shapeshifter Default Form to reflect this. However, neither of the named Sapphires in series have been members of the aristocracy for thousands of years/ever - Garnet's Sapphire due to running away with one of her Ruby guards, and Padparadscha due to being born with a defect that let her predict the past.
  • Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero: In "Trading Faces", it's revealed that Larry's manor is Old Man Middleburg's ancestor home and the latter was forced to sell it because of financial troubles.

    Real Life 
  • 78-year-old "Big Edie" Beale and her 56-year-old daughter "Little Edie" Beale, subjects of the famous documentary Grey Gardens. Big Edie and Little Edie were members of the very rich Bouvier family. They were, respectively, the aunt and first cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Unfortunately, husband/father Perce Beale left them, and Big Edie's father John Bouvier disinherited her, and Little Edie never married. By the time the film finds them, they are Crazy Cat Ladies living in a filthy, dilapidated mansion that is all they have left.
  • In the United Kingdom, it was very common for a family with a lot of land to squander it on women, horses, gambling, and alcohol.
    • Many, many aristocratic families have ended up paupers. A particular example came in the first half of the 19th century: cheap grain from the United States and Canada (and to a lesser extent South America) started to crater the price of food in Britain. While this was good for most British people, it was a disaster for the aristocracy, who were mostly large farmers and earned most of their income from selling grain. They managed to pass the Corn Laws restricting the importation of foreign grain for a time but eventually these were repealed, and the bottom fell out of the grain market, leaving the fortunes of the British aristocracy to fall with it. Rising wages, inheritance tax, and the reduced influence of the House of Lords in the late 19th and early 20th centuries did the rest.
    • This was sometimes resolved by marrying into new money families, like an American young lady named Consuelo Vanderbilt marrying the Duke of Marlborough.
    • Or Jenny Jerome marrying the Duke of Marlborough's uncle, Lord Randolph Churchill Definitely a marriage that had its effect on history, given that Lord Randolph and Jenny's son was none other than Sir Winston Churchill. Despite his reputation as the Quintessential British Gentleman, Winston was very proud of his American heritage, once upbraiding British military brass for insulting the US military in his presence. The fondness for America definitely helped his special relationship with FDR, and no doubt his American ancestry contributed to the Congress' decision to grant him honorary citizenship of the United States (the first person so honored).note 
    • A couple of notable recent examples of British aristocrats who ended up impoverished were Edward FitzGerald, 7th Duke of Leinster, who was part of one of Ireland's oldest noble families but died by suicide in a bedsit in London in 1976 and Angus Montagu, 12th Duke of Manchester, who on his death in 2002 had lived in a flat in Bedford for many years. Ironically, Lord Manchester's great-grandfather had earlier married one of those American heiresses, and that lady was also called Consuelo.
    • A lot of rich Americans made their way to Britain in the 19th century, creating a lot of Anglo-Americans in the British gentry (the most famous being the aforementioned Winston Churchill). Another famous one is the Astor family, a family of German immigrants to the US who made their fortunes in the US (you may have heard of their hotel in New York, the Waldorf-Astoria...) who managed to not only marry British nobles but have the male line ennobled itself (as the Viscounts Astor). Nancy Astor, the first female MP in Britain and inveterate House of Commons opponent of Churchill note , was herself an American who married into this family (confusing ain't it).
    • In 1478, George Neville, 1st Duke of Bedford, was stripped from his peerage for lack of money to maintain the style of a duke.
    • Coming at this from the opposite direction, Louis of Battenberg—a junior German prince and son-in-law of Queen Victoria who decided to become fully British and join the Royal Navy—disclaimed all his German titles (and what little German property he had) during World War I. His nephew George V insisted that Prince Louis be made a British peer in compensation (and in recognition of his skill as a naval officer), and initially wanted to make him a duke; Louis had to beg the king to give him some other peerage, as his only income—his naval salary—was not enough to support the style of a duke. George obliged—but made him a marquess (only one step below duke) to show his gratitude.Postscript 
  • By the time James the First came to the throne of England in 1603, a century of war and inflation had practically bankrupted the Crown. He quickly began selling knighthoods (and inventing the concept of a baronetcy so he could sell those for more cash) and demanding money from the nobility. The nobility, in turn, were running out of money, increasingly leaning on the rising merchants... You can see where this is going, right?
  • Many common last names from Eastern Ireland (such as Fitzgerald, Morell, D'Arcy, Grace, Burke, and Russell) can be traced back to old powerful Anglo-French and Norman noble dynasties who lost all of their wealth, land, and power during the English Civil War and ended up as poor serfs and farmers under the rule of the Tudors and the plantation system.
  • Many of the early Conquistatores came from landless hidalgo families. When you have all the military training and constrained career choices that other nobles have, but no land, the New World sure seems like the place to be.
  • Pedro de Valdivia and many other Spanish hidalgos fell into poverty in the Renaissance times and later, so they came to America in search of riches, lands, servants, and especially honor and a name for themselves. The results were... well, varied: some did become famous and powerful, others died in either poverty or the war, etc.
  • Japan:
    • Happened with a lot of aristocratic families in Japan around the Sengoku Jidai, to the point where lords and even emperors were reduced to selling their calligraphy for money. Also, around this time merchants were the ones with all the wealth; unfortunately they were despised and rules had to be made so they wouldn't look wealthier than their betters.
    • In the Tokugawa period, low-ranking samurai could easily be as poor or poorer than the peasants they were supposed to rule over (A key part of this was that the daimyos traditionally paid the samurai in rice, which the samurai would resell for whatever else they needed. When the rise of the merchant class caused the bottom to drop out of the rice market, the buying power of their salaries went down with it even though their pay was technically unchanged). Many went so far as to sell their swords or replace the metal blades with wood or bamboo.
    • Happened yet again in the Meiji era, with the (at least outward) abolition of the feudal system. The daimyo (feudal lords) managed okay (for instance, the Tokugawas, who had been overthrown as Shoguns, are today shipping magnates). A lot of the samurai didn't.
    • Some Japanese Emperors were forced to work to pay for their own coronations. One's wife had to sell flowers to pay for her husband's coronation. Since the Japanese Emperor has been little more than a figurehead for centuries, this is hardly surprising.
  • Baron Sir Benjamin Slade, the (childless) last scion of a British noble family that had fallen on hard times, famously announced in 2006 that he was holding "open auditions" for an heir who would be able to afford to maintain the house's ancestral holdings after he died. The following year, he named distant cousin Isaac Slade, lead singer of The Fray, as his successor.
  • The Roman Republic was full of them:
    • Julius Caesar and Lucius Sergius Catilina. Both were pretty fair examples of people who thought that their family's position should have granted them a higher station in life than they actually had and led them to challenge the system. It worked out pretty well for Caesar (until the end), but less so for Catiline, who would be on the receiving end of one of the greatest condemnatory speeches in human history. There is no real consensus on Catilina. Depictions vary from just another corrupt politician using the poor for his own gain to someone along the line of the Gracchi brothers.
    • Lucius Cornelius Sulla definitely started out as one of these.
  • H. P. Lovecraft came from a wealthy family that fell into poverty while he was a child. His grandfather was very rich but after his death, his fortune was badly mismanaged by relatives.
    • To wit, his middle name Phillips represents his lineage to one of the "Boston Brahmin" families, a nobility whose roots date to the landing at Plymouth Rock. Many of his traits—His Anglophilia, his distrust of the "dark" other—were linked to that, as did his inability to find work (since he found menial labor to be beneath him).
  • The descendants of Napoléon Bonaparte (or rather, the descendants of his relatives) fit this trope. One of the (disputed) heirs to the throne has studied management. The other is an economist. Napoleon himself grew up as this.
  • Many, many royal families were overthrown and lost their stuff after the two World Wars:
    • Tsar Simeon of Bulgaria was forced out of Bulgaria when it became a satellite country under the watch of the USSR... and made a comeback by becoming Prime Minister half a century later. He is the only person to have been a hereditary monarch and then an elected head of government. A few others have been both, but usually it's the other way around.
    • While King Peter II of Yugoslavia spent the war in England, the Yugoslavian resistance fractured became between Communist partisans and royalist Chetniks. By the end of the war, the Communists had gained control of the country, and Peter was prohibited from returning. As a monarch in exile, he managed his money poorly and was in frequent need of funds. His wife suffered depression and attempted suicide twice. Peter became an alcoholic and died at the age of 47 from an unsuccessful liver transplant.
  • More than one Catholic saint of either gender had a background like this too. For example, Saint Alberto Hurtado came from a well-off family, but once his father died when he was a kid his family soon went into bankruptcy and had to sell their land, which was a big deal among Chilean elite back then. He went to become a Scholarship Student in both school and university, growing up into a lawyer and Jesuit priest and the advocate for social Christianity in Chile.
  • Audrey Hepburn, whose mother was a Dutch baroness. During the war, her Dutch/Belgian family's property, bank accounts, and even heirlooms were confiscated by the Germans. Audrey and her family suffered greatly from the Dutch famine of the winter of 1944-45, and the effects of malnutrition remained with her all her life.
  • During the 19th century in Spain, nobility lost their privileges, most notably tax exemption. This hit the lower nobility, whom often became landless laborers as a result, particularly hard.
  • The small town Bethlehem during Antiquity. It was known for farmers and shepherds who were descendants of King David.
  • The von Trapp family — yes, The Sound of Music guys. It wasn't in the movie, but it's described in Maria von Trapp's book. Financial difficulties after the "Anschluss" (annexation of Austria) caused a lot of bank failures — including theirs — and all of Captain von Trapp's savings were wiped out overnight.
  • One of the last members of the Timurid dynasty which ruled Central Asia and India (as the Mughals) is a tea vendor in Calcutta.
  • Angelo Roncalli's family were sharecroppers, but they descended from a very secondary branch of an Italian noble clan. Angelo himself would go the Rags to Riches (sorta) way and become Pope John XXIII.
  • Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was born to a well-to-do old-money family: his father was a count and an insurance executive (France, having long been a republic, got used to working nobles long before Britain began thinking about it). However, he died when Antoine was 3 years old, leaving the family with far less income. As a result, his mother had to severely cut back in order to send her children to good schools.
  • Pu Yi, the last ruler of a pan-Chinese Empire, spent time in various prisons and sanitariums after being deposed. After being released from a Communist prison, he was allowed to live in an ordinary residence in Beijing. He spent the last three years of his life working as an editor for the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference for 100 yuan per month (which was a pretty high pay for 1967 Beijing).
  • Unsurprisingly, impoverished nobles formed the bulk of Anarcho-Communism, Communist, and Socialist groups' leadership in Imperial Russia. This is because the middle class was equally prominent among Anarcho-Capitalist, Classic Liberal, and Social Liberal groups and the two kind of hated one another. The countryside-dwelling peasants who made up the vast bulk of the Russian population tended to be suspicious of the Impoverished Patrician-led groups because Anarcho-Communism was basically advocating a way of life (village communes) that they already had but with some unwanted changes (i.e. the collective ownership of all property), Socialism and Communism focused almost exclusively on urban issues, and Communism also was against private property. The Anarchist Bakunin and Communist Vladimir Lenin were of noble birth, albeit lesser nobility, as was Felix Dzerzhinsky (the founder of VChKa).
    • Author Alexey Tolstoy, for example. A member of the famous Tolstoy clan, but quite poor when growing up. After fleeing Russia after the Revolution, he decided that being a poor artist, his aristocratic heritage didn't matter too much, and came back. He became a staunch supporter of Stalin and was considered a major figure in Socialist Realism, although his reputation fell by a lot after the fall of the Soviet Union. However, his work of science fiction and children's literature are still regarded fairly highly.
    • Similarly to the Hungarian example below, there existed a whole social class of "Odnodvortsi", or "One-yard nobles" — that is, basically common farmers with a noble title, usually received as a military award or descended from the minor nobility tasked with the military service, which in 1866 was largely folded into Cossacks. One chief distinction that separated them from common peasants was that they had the right to own land (and sometimes even serfs), even though few held more land than an average serf.
    • After the revolution, some Russian nobles exiled in France ended up as taximen; in Shanghai, they ended up as bodyguards or even caring for running dogs.
    • Felix Yusupov, Rasputin's assassin and sole heir to a colossal fortune larger than that of the Romanovs, found himself forced to sell off piece after piece of family heirlooms and priceless paintings in order to escape poverty. His wife, princess Irina, niece of the tsar, would go to parties wearing a string of black pearls given to her husband's family by Catherine the Great herself, after which she would come home, eat the food stolen for them by a gypsy friend and wash the family's underwear in the bathtub of their apartment. Their gardener was a Russian count who would work wearing a suit and a top hat, to the bewilderment of their visitors.
  • Some section of the Hungarian nobility, the nobles with one parcel were merely farmers and craftsmen with noble titles and lived in separate villages.
  • In medieval Poland, nobles were allowed to add a -ski to the end of their family names (the equivalent of an English knight adding a Sir in front of his name). Many of the lower nobility were rather poor which became an issue during the Elective Monarchy period when all the nobles had the right to vote on major laws and who would become the next king. Foreign powers would bribe the lower nobility into voting against the country's best interest which eventually led to Poland being taken apart by its neighbours. Once the nobility lost their power, most people stopped caring about enforcing the naming conventions and many non-nobles added -ski to their names in order to improve their social standing. This was so prevalent that it is mostly impossible to tell on the basis of names alone who is descended from impoverished nobles and who from upstart peasants.
  • The country nobility of France under the Ancien Régime often fell under this. For instance, Louis-Nicolas Davout, future Marshal of the First Empire, could trace his lineage back to the 11th century but he was born in a rented farmhouse.
  • Given the length of time that nobility in some form has existed and the way human populations work, it's safe to assume that very close to every poor person is the descendant of at least one noble house. Be it the Egyptian Pharaohs of the twelfth dynasty, Charlemagne or some chieftain in the Americas a millennium before Columbus. It's just that some people know it and think they're special because of it.
    • On that note, many Brits and Americans of British descent, including all the U.S. presidents (even Barack Obama), can trace their ancestral lines to William the Conqueror. Of course, not all of them are official members of the Royal Family, and, with the passage of nearly ten centuries, few of them are rich, let alone filthy rich.
  • Until his death in October 2016, Kigeli V, the exiled last king of Rwanda, lived in Section 8 (government) housing in Virginia and received food stamps. During the 1980s while living in Nairobi, tourists gave him schillings in exchange for being allowed to photograph someone who once wore a real crown. His "chambellan" (read: driver), meanwhile, worked at Sears in his 80s.
  • The Védrines family, aristocrats ennobled on 1828, became this as a result of being brainwashed by cult guru Thierry Tilly, who met them in 1999 and who pushed a persecution complex on them, while fleecing them. As a result, they lost around €5 million, including their family castle in Montflanquin, which they owned for four centuries.
  • 3rd century Chinese politician and military leader Liu Bei spent a good portion of his youth making and selling mats and sandals with his mother despite being a distant relative of the currently ruling emperor, although he later managed to lift himself out of poverty due to his hard work, cunning, natural charisma, and a little bit of luck, and he died as a ruler of 1/3 of China.


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