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King Incognito

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"You mean, the guy who collapsed on the side of the road and mooched food off of us was the son of the emperor?"
Edward Elric, Fullmetal Alchemist

The heroes and/or villains run into a seemingly unimportant person, usually a beggar or common criminal. Later we discover this person is actually someone of great fame and importance (a king/powerful wizard, etc), and that they had disguised themself to walk among the general populace unnoticed.

This may be a Rags to Royalty situation if the king must stay hidden for his own safety. However, it is never a case of a Secret Legacy; the king always knows that he is the king, and is generally plotting for when the Rightful King Returns, or has been using a Decoy Leader to rule. If he doesn't know he is the king/emperor/etc. then the situation is I Am Who?

It can lead to a Right in Front of Me moment. God Was My Copilot and Angel Unaware are the supernatural versions of this trope.

Very common for Royals Who Actually Do Something as it allows the king to leave the stuffy confines of his castle and interact with the people outside without drawing too much potentially dangerous attention to themselves. If this character isn't good at passing for common, he may be Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense.


Compare Body Double, Modest Royalty, Secretly Wealthy. Compare also Hidden Backup Prince, who is likewise hidden but often without knowledge of their Secret Legacy, and Really Royalty Reveal, where the information that a character is royal is not known until he or she has been in the story a while. Contrast with Ermine Cape Effect and Mock Millionaire. Sub-Trope of Secret Identity.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX,
    • Manjoume runs into a scruffy-looking guy outside North Academy who tells him about the requirements to get in. When he finally does get in and beats every student in the school, the scruffy guy reappears and reveals that he's actually the one who runs the academy.
    • In season 2, Judai beats Edo Phoenix, supposedly the best duelist in the world. He doesn't learn Edo's name until Sho tells him.
  • In Chrome Shelled Regios, queen Alsheyra Almonise pretends to be a normal, lazy professor all the time, leaving Kanaris in charge of most of the things in the palace.
  • My-Otome plays a double case of this with Mashiro and Takumi both sneaking out be among the general population and unknowingly meeting up with each other while their bodyguards try to keep up the Masquerade.
    • The prequel Sifr features a male example.
  • Crusnik #3/Methusela Empress Augusta Vradica/Seth Nightlord in Trinity Blood; She poses as a human tea vendor around her city using an Amidala/Padme decoy system (though the decoy looks much older, this isn't much of a problem because only a handful of people have even the slightest idea what the Empress actually looks like, two of them being her brothers and the rest being her most trusted advisorsnote ).
  • The Principal in Great Teacher Onizuka learns of Onizuka's true nature this way.
  • In The Twelve Kingdoms, Shoryuu the Emperor of En does this a lot. He claims that listening to gossip in brothels is a good way to find out what's really going on. It seems to work.
    • Also, the recently crowned Yoko goes on a sabbatical like this early on to familiarize herself with her empire. She ends up joining a revolt against her own government (which had become choked with corruption before her ascension).
  • Hotohori in Fushigi Yuugi is always doing this. And has, on occasion, intentionally combined it with Dude Looks Like a Lady.
    • Also, his half-brother Tendou, who would have been the successor to the throne if not for a) his parents fearing for his safety and sending him away and b) Hotohori's overbearing mother pushing him onto the throne instead) lives as a peasant and even shared a relationship with the woman who later became Hotohori's wife.
  • Used absurdly straight in Moetan, where the Badass Longcoat Dandy is revealed to be the King of the vaguely defined Magical Kingdom all along. Ridiculously shounen battles ensue.
  • In The Rose of Versailles, Queen Marie Antoinette tries to go to a party incognito (just not revealing she's the queen since she's still clearly a noble in a Pimped-Out Dress), but her bodyguard Oscar just has to challenge the guy chatting her up. And so began another one of the series' sources of drama.
  • Lelouch, of Code Geass. Slight subversion in that he's only a prince, and not even close to being the crown prince. (He's 17th in line for the throne, at least he is at the beginning of the series.)
    • It runs in the family. At the series' beginning, he lives with his sister, a princess. As well, Euphie meets Suzaku whilst pretending to be a commoner so she can see the settlement.
  • The Pretty Cure franchise has several cases of Princess Incognito, with the Cures who are princesses of the season's fairy kingdom going to school as normal students and walking around in public without batting an eye. The royal characters like Hime and Towa also stand out from the other students by having longer, more colorful, and "upper-class" hairstyles.
  • Happens frequently in The Five Star Stories. It's a favorite activity of Emperor Amaterasu, but then, disguising yourself is the easiest thing in the world to do when you're a literal divine emperor.
  • In K: Return of Kings, Tenkei Iwafune was actually the Grey King, who was believed to be dead. He didn't want to be a King anymore after the Kagutsu Crater happened, so he hid his identity and supported the Green King.
  • Shi Ryuuki from The Story of Saiunkoku does this a lot. Not that he always succeeds; Shuurei saw through his disguise immediately when they first met (he was using the name of someone she had met not ten minutes ago, among other things). He does manage to pull it off at other times, though — at least once so well that when he reveals his identity, his subjects don't initially believe him.
  • Ling Yao and May Chang in Fullmetal Alchemist, although in May's case, being the emperor's daughter doesn't really get her all that much. Ling on the other hand is such a dork that when the other characters find out who he is, they picture him in pantaloons with a white horse and a shiny crown and almost injure themselves laughing. It's mostly Obfuscating Stupidity, even if the falling-over-and-demanding-food thing is later Ling's Something Only They Would Say in a plot-relevant way.
  • The fifth episode of the second season of Strike Witches is essentially an extended Shout-Out to Roman Holiday.
  • In the manga adaptation of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Link, during his trip to Hyrule Castle Town, meets a little girl and plays with her all day (including going on a semi-disastrous Bombchu Bowling excursion). She's actually Princess Zelda, of course, who snuck out of the castle to have some fun.
  • In The Heroic Legend of Arslan anime, Arslan is hoping to get some information out of some prisoners his forces recently captured, so he disguises himself as a servant and arranges things so that he gets assigned to deliver food to each of the prisoners he's most interested in. Estelle/Etoile confides in the "servant" that she has heard that Arislan is evil. He responds by feeling the top of his head. When she asks him why, he replies that he's checking to see if he has horns, giving away his identity.
  • Queen Dianna in ∀ Gundam is incognito amongst the Earthrace for most of the story, due to a practical joke she played getting more than a bit out of hand (she switched places with an Identical Stranger and they were separated before she has a chance to switch back). The leaders of the Earthrace do become aware of her situation, as does her personal bodyguard back with the Moonrace, but the general public on both sides has no idea. By the end of the series the switch becomes permanent, as Kihel (the Identical Stranger) was happy posing as Dianna in order to give her life meaning and to help society progress, while Dianna wished to live the rest of her short life in peace and quiet. Only a handful of people know the truth.
  • Doll, the childish girl who joins the Odd Squad early in ½ Prince, turns out to be a real-life princess outside of the game world.
  • Ferio in the manga version of Magic Knight Rayearth. He's Princess Emeraude's younger brother in both anime and manga but the anime version doesn't count because his memory of being royalty was erased there.
  • Pokémon uses this a lot with Gym Leaders:
    • The first is Misty, who meets Ash at the beginning of his journey and travels with him for a long time after. Until they get to Cerulean City, Ash and the audience don't know she is the Gym Leader.
    • Clemont went 8 episodes as part of the main XY cast without either him or his sister Bonnie slipping that he's the Lumiose City Gym Leader.
  • Shogun Iemitsu occasionally sneaked out of the castle in Ooku: The Inner Chambers, dressed in woman's kimono with only one bodyguard. As this happened before the fact that the Shogun is a woman became public knowledge, this was a very effective disguise.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, the leader of Aogiri Tree is a mysterious figure known as the One-Eyed Owl. During the finale, the One-Eyed Owl is revealed to have been there the entire time disguised as the child-like Eto, a seemingly lower-ranked member of the organization, and even makes several appearances in another identity, horror novelist Sen Takatsuki, allowing her to manipulate the protagonists without anyone being the wiser.
    • In the sequel, it's revealed that the founder of Pierrot is none other than Roma Hoito, the Fake Cutie waitress of Anteiku. Not to mention that with all of her comedic antics throughout the series, she is an SSS-rated ghoul (Dodgy Mother) as well and is over fifty years old, and even faced Tsuneyoshi Wasshu during his prime.
  • Fairy Tail. The king of Fiore is disguised as the pumpkin-headed mascot of the Grand Magic Games.
  • Char Aznable in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam wore a pair of shades and used the name "Quattro Bageena" when he joined the Anti-Earth Union Group to fight against the Titans. Only a few people in the AEUG know who he is and his heritage as Zeon Zom Deikun's son. It's only when he went to Earth where the former members of White Base recognized him and late in the show, he had to use his true identity as Casval Rem Deikun to give a speech at Dakar and expose the atrocities that the Titans committed.
  • One Piece:
    • In the Alabasta arc, Vivi has to hide her identity as the princess of Alabasta with long hooded robes; not only was the country on the verge of civil war, but she was also travelling with the Straw Hat pirates.
    • In the Dressrosa arc, the gladiator Ricky is actually the former king of Dressrosa, Riku Dold III. Since he was deposed following a Frame-Up, he and his family became hated by the general public, forcing him to hide his identity.
    • In Zou, it is revealed that Momonosuke, who's been traveling with the Straw Hats since Punk Hazard, is not actually Kin'emon's son as they both claimed; Momo is really the heir to the Kozuki clan, the former leaders of Wano, and Kin is one of his retainers. Their conflict with Kaido and his subordinates is because they want to depose the current leader of Wano, Orochi (who usurped leadership of Wano thanks to Kaido) and put the Kozuki family back in charge.
    • Played with when it comes to Sanji. The Straw Hats learn in Zou and Whole Cake Island that Sanji, as the fourth child/third son of the royal Vinsmoke family, was born a prince. However, he hated his father and brothers due to their horrible treatment of him, and when he was nine, he ran away, with he and his father mutually disowning each other, meaning that Sanji really wasn't a prince anymore for all intents and purposes, and didn't see himself as one. However, Sanji's family forced themselves back into his life to marry him off to a daughter of Big Mom, so Sanji's noble background (which he never told his friends about because 1. he didn't want to remember it, and 2. it didn't seem relevant since he never expected this part of his past to come back for him) does become very plot-important for these two arcs.
  • In Sacrificial Princess And The King Of Beasts, the Beast King and his human consort await the arrival of a powerful and dangerous noble, Duke Galoa. The Duke is a fearsome fighter and defender of the oceans in the Beast King's domain. Until the Beast King's predecessor, the demon-fish tribe that Galoa came from was kept away from the royal palace, essentially exiled. The Duke, fearing the King was making an unwise choice, has his lieutenant, a powerful-looking shark-demon play the role of human-hating extremist "Duke Galoa". The true duke, who was barely taller than a human woman, played the role of an old soldier and servant to the "Duke." Saliphie's kindness and actions showed the King had made a wise choice, but as punishment for deceiving the Crown, the Beast King makes them swear loyalty to the King for all time.
  • In the Magi: Labyrinth of Magic prequel series Adventures of Sinbad, King Rashid of Balbadd first meets Sinbad while pretending to be a normal merchant named "Harun".
    • His son, Alibaba, would later do something similar, though in that case, he intended to abandon his heritage completely and chose not to tell people about it.
  • Retired Heroes: Chris faked his death and hid in a random village basically because he didn't want to be king. He left his old friend Jean in charge, who does seem to be doing a better job than Chris ever did, but Jean is still annoyed by it.
  • Princess Principal: Ange and Princess have been stuck in an unintended Prince and Pauper situation for the past ten years. The former, as far as anyone else knows, is just a poor kid who became an elite spy through prodigious skill and training; ironically, the latter had to work even harder to pass as genuine royalty. This is implied as early as the first episode but not explicitly revealed until halfway through the series. Things get especially confusing when the bad guys, who don't know about any of this, are out for royal blood.
  • In the Super Mario Land arc of Super Mario, Princess Peach hides in a robot in order to tag along with Mario and rescue Princess Daisy.
  • In Episode 6 of Izetta: The Last Witch, Archduchess Fine and the White Witch, Izetta do this. It then turns out that Fine did this regularly as a princess because she likes the taste of fresh pies in a cafe. It turned out that her Royal Guards and the cafe owners saw through this but didn't blow her cover because of the smile on her face.

    Comic Books 
  • In the World of Warcraft comic, Lo'Gosh, an amnesiac human with uncanny fighting skills who was forced into being an Orc gladiator, turns out to be Varian Wrynn, the kidnapped and subsequently shipwrecked king of Stormwind.
  • In one issue of The Sandman, Augustus Caesar disguises himself as a beggar to make plans that will not be overheard by the gods.
  • For a few issues Tony Stark decided he didn't want to be Iron Man any more so he gave away his fortune and went to Silicon Valley under the alias of Hogan Potts. He worked as a normal grunt at a company. He really didn't last that long.
  • The X-Wing Rogue Squadron arc Warrior Princess starts with the news that one of the Rogues is actually the lost heir of Eiattu IV, most of the rest of her family having been murdered in a revolution. Who is it? Plourr Illo, the butch, tempestuous mechanic-turned-pilot and last person in the galaxy any of the characters expected. She's a take on Anastasia and initially disguised herself to escape, then made herself into what she wanted to be, far from the self-serving decadence of the court, but is convinced to return and take her rightful place as the empress-apparent.
  • In Fables #150, Rose Red dons a hooded cloak and wanders among her troops on the eve of the battle, in a scene that directly homages the same scene in Henry V.
  • Iznogoud: This is the premise of "Incognito"; Iznogoud has been taxing the citizens of Baghdad into poverty, and persuades the Caliph to go out dressed as a beggar to learn what his people think of him. While he is gone, Iznogoud orders the guards to arrest all beggars trying to enter the palace, whatever reason they give. The Caliph is horrified to learn of how much his people are suffering from the excessive taxes and decides to make immediate reforms when he returns to the palace, but he gets lost trying to return. The impatient Iznogoud disguises himself and Wa'at Alahf as beggars to go looking for the Caliph... who gets the idea to ask passers-by to direct him to the palace and returns while the guard is changing, thus escaping detection. The Caliph resumes his position as ruler and makes good on his promise of immediate reforms, while Iznogoud and Wa'at Alahf are arrested trying to re-enter the palace thanks to Iznogoud's own decree.
  • Princess Mari from Frozen: Breaking Boundaries is first seen walking around the neighboring kingdom of Arendelle in a hood. Anna doesn't recognize her as royalty until later.
  • Legends of the Dead Earth: In Aquaman Annual #2, the first storyteller claims that King Aquaman disguised himself as a peasant so that he could visit the city of New Phoenix and discover what its people thought of him.
  • One SpongeBob SquarePants comic has King Neptune go down to Bikini Bottom to grant one of the citizens a boon (his boon closet was overfilling). When one fish casually greets him, he disguises himself so he could blend in.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In "King Thrushbeard", the eponymous king goes through several disguises to get (and to get back at) the princess.
  • In Andrew Lang's Sicilian fairy tale "Paperarello", the title character is a king who finds work as a goose-boy in another kingdom. Paperarello (derived from Italian papera meaning "gosling") is the nickname given to him.

    Fan Works 
  • In Sunny Skies All Day Long, Princess Celestia tires of everypony constantly kowtowing to her out of fear and respect. At her sister Luna's suggestion, Celestia spends a day in Ponyville disguised as an ordinary pegasus named Sunny Skies. This particular fic is famous enough in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fandom that later stories where Celestia goes incognito almost invariably use the name Sunny Skies as a shout-out.
  • The Myst fanfic "Midnight in Shamathen" takes the King Incognito rumors about Lemashal and covers a pair of con artists—one masquerades as Lemashal masquerading as a beggar and the other is an off-duty royal guard pretending to be on guard duty. A merchant gives two generous coins. Four days later, it turns out that King Lemashal sometimes masquerades as a commoner further up the ladder—he tries to scout out the lives of commoners of every level, not just the poorest of the poor—and was the "merchant" in question.
  • The Pony POV Series gives us Celestia's most scathing critic, a Pegasus named Sunny Day, who for some reason takes advantage of Nightmare Whisper's Fountain of Youth scheme to give a good day of childhood to those ponies who really needed it, only to poop all over Celestia for the incident afterward. And then we find out the reason: Sunny Day IS Celestia, and is Taking the Bullet for others (such as Fluttershy at the time) so the masses will leave them alone.
  • In Weightless, Aria spent almost all of her POV's chapter explaining why she does this.
  • In Girl Genius fanfic The Birthday Present Gil, Tarvek and Agatha try to visit Paris without altering anyone to their true identity. They even book hotels and buy opera tickets under false names. Too bad they don't make any actual effort to disguise themselves, so they get recognized almost immediately after their arrival and become headline news the next morning.
  • The Frozen (2013) fanfic Frozen Wight has an early scene where Anna and Elsa, respectively princess and queen of Arendelle, do this while entering a tavern to see what some of the citizens of Arendelle think of being ruled by an ice queen like Elsa. It works until Elsa inadvertently tries to drink hot chocolate and finds it too hot, causing her to spill and freeze her drink.
  • In the Ben 10 Fan Fic Hero High: Earth Style it is revealed that Gwen's boyfriend is actually the CEO of Sphinx Corp and the Big Bad in the worse possible way.
  • In A Peccatis, Justin Finch-Fletchley brings "a friend from the RAF" to the Leaky Cauldron to meet Neville and Hannah. The "friend" turns out to be Prince William.
  • In The Bridge it's zig-zagged by Godzilla Junior. While being yanked into Equestria gave him a unicorn body, he's still as tall as Princess Luna, is built like a tank, and has a distinct crocked horn. And because his picture has been in the newspaper, everyone in Equestria knows what he looks like. So when Captain Blueberry Frost puts a disguise on him with a big cloak, goggles, cough mask, and hood; it doesn't fool anyone on account of him being about twice the mass of even most large stallions. What it does do is clue any passersby that he doesn't want to be bothered so they leave him alone.
  • A variant is found in Skyhold Academy. Almost no one knows that the Commander of Ferelden's Grey Wardens is actually the First Lady of Ferelden. The Reveal stuns the school staff.
  • In In Sotto Voce, "Sheik" is a disguise historically used by Zeldas:
    • Princess Zelda dresses as a sheikah named "Sheik" while out with her guard Impa.
    • Zelda, more specifically, the previous Zelda (the current's mother), would sneak out as Sheik in order to meet her secret lover Tikala (Impa's mother).
    • There's a throwaway reference to the Zelda from Ocarina of Time disguising herself as the original Sheik in order to stop Ganondorf.
  • Princess Zelda and her adopted brother Link go into town once a week in Their Bond. Others notice the odd hooded duo, but no one knows who they are.
  • In Those That Carry On the military attache to the provisional governor of Zeon is in fact the governor wearing a wig — she's been getting away with it for years as it lets her get things done when the Federation would prefer she doesn't get out or do too much governing.
  • The siblings in To Belong knew that Charming was a wealthy man, but they didn't know he was a lord until later on. They find out after someone, trying to kill Charming, mentions that he's a lord.
  • Sunsplit Saga: In Sunspawned, after it's been revealed that Princess Celestia was somehow a random mare at a bathhouse, she explains:
    "I put on a disguise so I can socialize without being a 'princess,'" Celestia explained deadpan.
    "What? But—you have a wealth of knowledge and power and, and wealth!"
    "I'm also surrounded by self-absorbed idiots and nopony respects me for myself."
  • In The Farmer's Truth, the eponymous farmer is not the human Salaryman of canon but the Elf King. The villagers are shocked and scared when they realize this...although given that their valley is also home to dwarves, walking skeletons, and magicians, they should probably have seen it coming.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: Or rather, Queen — Page Turner has been hiding her true nature and status as the Changeling Queen essentially her entire life.
  • In Heir to the Bruce Quest, Melissa Steiner travels from Tharkad to Somerset in to visit Rhiannon and travels back to attend the Nagelring, A military academy on Tharkad in disguise as Rhi's cousin Mary Bruce
  • Princess Cadance uses an illusion to become "Etna Devotion" when she goes to her therapist's visits in Chemistry. She tweaks her coloring and removes her horn. Cadance had been born a pegasus anyway, so pretending to be one isn't that hard.
  • In Solarhood, Duchess Elise ran off with Sonic the Hedgehog for protection. She is living as a civilian and is assumed dead by her country.
  • The weird guy Alek keeps running into in Affably Evil is Darth Revan, Dark Lord of the Sith, who wants to keep checking up on his amnesiac best friend and Dragon, Darth Malak. Revan doesn't have an alias, under the logic that there are a million people named Revan in the galaxy who are not that Revan. On a more general note, Revan wears a Cool Mask for public appearances as a Jedi/Sith so that nobody recognizes with it off; he told Malak that he can't get a date if the girl knows that he could have her tortured and killed if it went badly.
  • A Diplomatic Visit: It's explained in the epilogue of the third story, Diplomacy Through Schooling, that the princes and princesses of Laronda go out among the civilian populace to experience life without the trappings of royalty and learn to be humble, without people knowing who they really are. Caplan, the gargoyle who teaches at Twilight's school, is revealed to be the younger prince of the Larondan royal family, which even Twilight didn't know.
  • The protagonist of With This Ring isn't precisely hiding his identity as the second in command of the Orange Lantern Corps when he goes to dinner with his girlfriend, but several guests have no idea. One, impressed by his contribution to the meal, asks whether he's a professional chef (his ring can create pretty much anything non-magical on request), and another is curious about how he reached the planet they're on (he can teleport across the galaxy to anyone whose desires he can recognise).
  • When HellCaller in A Demon in Equestria is first introduced to a formal gathering:
    "Presenting, her Imperial Majesty, HellCaller, Empress of Kapul-uzg!"
    Striding into the hall, the demoness stopped mid-step, her head snapping down as she glared at the soulblade on her belt, "Vhat?" the sword replied defensively, her voice ringing loudly in the momentary silence, "Vhere ve keeping that a secret?"
  • Parting Words: Celestia has a means of disguising herself so nobody will notice her as an alicorn, letting her move about in public freely without being mobbed.
  • A Moon and World Apart: Cadance uses a disguise to hide her horn in public, letting her go out as "Love Hearts", a pegasus; she meets Shining Armor for the first time in this form, and he doesn't find out her true identity until they get back to the castle.
  • Luz and her family in Luz Belos: Princess of the Boiling Isles have taken great pains to hide the reality that she is Princess of the Isles after a failed assassination attempt by her own uncle Nathaniel when she was a baby. Her own friends didn't even now about this until they happen upon this fact via various extenuating circumstances.
  • A Wrinkle in Time (Naruto): Naruto is not only the son of the Yondaime Hokage, but also the "Prince of Whirlpool" (the rightful heir of what's left of the Uzumaki Clan) and the one half of the remaining Senjus through his mother Kushina. It's pointed out that the only Hokage he isn't blood-related to is the Sandaime.
  • It's halfway through the first story of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars fanfic By the Sea before Cody reveals that he's the king of Mandalore, partially because he didn't seem to find it that important- and perhaps just wanted to get to know Obi-Wan without the barrier of status -and partially because he didn't have the words to convey it to Obi-Wan until then. Obi-Wan has a minor breakdown about it and just sees it as yet another reason why Cody, a king, most certainly could not possibly care at all about him, a weird human commoner who has "fits".

    Films — Animation 
  • In Disney's Aladdin:
    • Princess Jasmine is running away from the palace when she first meets Aladdin, who thus doesn't learn that she's the princess until the royal guard tries to arrest him for kidnapping her.
    • When Jasmine puts two and two together and confirms that the "Prince Ali Ababwa" who's courting her is in fact the street-rat Aladdin she'd met beforehand, he explains it away as a case of this trope, claiming that he really is a prince but was pretending to be a poor man to escape the pressures and restrictions of royal life.
  • In Barbie in The Princess and the Pauper, King Dominic disguises himself as a page so he could glean a little bit more about his betrothed Princess Anneliese.
  • In the Cosgrove Hall adaptation of The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, Princess Alexeya disguises herself as a humble servant in order to get a chance to talk to Piotr the Fool and learn how he came about the flying ship and his strange travelling companions.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Becomes a major part of the plot of The Adventures of Robin Hood. King Richard arrives back in England and is disguised as a common man in a simple cloak with his retainers. When he encounters Robin, and Robin not recognizing him, it allows Richard to verify the falsehoods John has spread about Robin and know him to be a genuinely loyal servant to Richard.
  • In Bachelor Mother, David Merlin, the "Son" in large department store Merlin and Son, insists to spunky store clerk Polly that Merlin's will take a return on a broken toy duck, without a receipt. To prove it, he takes the duck to customer service, while in disguise. He fails utterly, and he's about to be arrested for shoplifting when security figures out who he is.
  • Barbarella: Barbarella is rescued by a knife-wielding prostitute who tries to come on to her. Later she's brought to the palace of the Black Queen, who Barbarella recognizes as her savior from before. The Black Queen explains that she likes to go out in that get-up to mingle among her subjects and amuse herself.
  • In Cinderella (1997), Prince Christopher sometimes leaves the castle in a peasant's guise, to discreetly interact with his subjects in person; he and Cinderella first meet during one such outing.
  • In Cinderella (2015), Kit, after becoming king, disguises himself as part of the party looking for Cinderella, just to make sure the Grand Duke leaves no stone unturned.
  • Prince Akeem in Coming to America. Unsatisfied with how passive his bride-to-be is, Akeem and his friend Semmi travel to New York, where they pose as working-class African college students so that he can find a woman who will love him for who he is, rather than what he is. His cover is almost blown at a basketball game when an immigrant from his home country passes him in the hallway and instantly recognizes him.
  • In The Circle (2017), Mae meets someone at the company after-party and they start making jokes with each other. She meets him again a couple of months later and he introduces himself officially. He's actually Ty Lafitte, a begrudged ex-employee who developed software for the company and occasionally haunts the workplace.
  • In Exam, Deaf was the CEO all along.
  • In From Hell, Albert Sickert is Prince Albert Victor Edward, the grandson of Queen Victoria.
  • Get a Clue, set in New York City 2002, has a homeless man as a recurring background character. It is revealed in the end that he is a city councilman, who has spent the last month living as a homeless man to better understand the plight of the poor.
  • In Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress (which later went on to influence Star Wars: A New Hope), a princess and a general of a defeated kingdom disguise themselves as peasants in an attempt to smuggle themselves and their kingdom's treasury to safety.
  • He may be a toy store owner instead of a king, but Mr. Duncan from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York fits the trope fairly well. He poses as an ordinary store employee while talking to Kevin, who doesn't wise up until he sees a portrait of Duncan, who has already disappeared.
  • Kaamelott: Premier Volet: King Arthur (who disappeared at the end of the series) is found among slaves on a coast of the Red Sea. He seemingly didn't mind being enslaved.
  • A Kid in King Arthur's Court has King Arthur posing as a peasant to save his younger daughter. It also has his elder daughter masquerading as the Black Knight.
  • In The King's Speech, Duchess Elizabeth makes her first visit to Lionel Logue under an assumed name and without a retinue. When she finally has to reveal her identity to make Logue see the gravity of the situation, he is naturally taken aback. The movie also notes that Prince Albert served under this name during his service in the Royal Navy.
  • In A Knight's Tale, William faces a certain "Sir Thomas Colville" in a jousting match in which the latter is injured. Rather than either finish him off (which would shame him) or have him withdraw under the threat of same (again, a shameful act, as he has never not finished a match) he tilts against him, but neither man strikes the other, allowing Will to progress on points and Colville to withdraw having finished his match. In the next tournament, William and his rival Count Adhemar are again matched against "Colville", but Adhemar bows out of the joust at the last minute to William's confusion. It turns out that Colville is in fact Edward, The Black Prince of Wales and future King of England. Both Will's earlier mercy and his refusal to withdraw upon learning his secret lead to Prince Edward becoming one of Will's greatest allies.
  • In Lady Ninja Kaede, the Shogun Tadesuke wanders around disguised as a ronin, keeping an eye on Yumeama's progress
  • The female protagonist in the Russian comedy Man with a Warranty (or Man with a Guarantee) has a wealthy businesswoman make a bet with her long-time rival that she can meet and marry (it's still not uncommon in Russia to have a Fourth Date Marriage) a "normal" man in one of her shopping malls in 5 days while pretending to be a new employee with no residency. While she starts off as a terrible employee, she quickly gets the hang of it. The "normal" man she picks is a security guard who literally lives at the mall and absolutely loves everything about his job. Her cover is nearly blown by a friend (the wife of her rival) who sees her working at a lingerie store. The protagonist claims that she's merely undercover to find out how her business works firsthand. Naturally, her rival crashes the wedding and reveals the truth to the security guard. The guard is angry at her for lying but, of course, ends up forgiving her when she tells him that she doesn't need all her millions (which she will lose to her rival) to be with him. They end up getting a marriage license one minute before the bet deadline. She then goes to live with her husband at the mall (which she owns anyway).
  • In Napoléon, the title character sneaks off into the crowd and asks what's going on when a crowd gathers to celebrate him for saving the National Convention. He gets taken for an ignorant peasant and is told that General Bonaparte saved France.
  • Princess Yang Kwei-Fei: Emperor Xuan Zong is attracted by the beauty of Yuhuan the concubine, but they really bond when she sneaks him out of the palace and into the lantern festival, a big carnival going on in town. They walk around, they have snacks, she dances for the crowd while he plays the lute, none of the onlookers aware the emperor is in their midst. At one point they have to duck into an alley to avoid being spotted by people from the court.
  • The twist at the end of the Sherlock Holmes movie Pursuit to Algiers is that Holmes has disguised the about-to-be-crowned-king prince as a ship's deckhand and a cop as the prince to throw the prince's enemies off the trail. He doesn't tell Watson because he fears that Watson would give it away by treating the "deckhand" with the sort of respect he would normally show royalty.
  • In Robin Hood (2010) King Richard does this while still in France and encounters Robin and his group talking disrespectfully about some actions the King had done during the Crusade. Richard has the lot thrown into the stockades for this action.
  • In Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn plays a princess who escapes her bodyguards and handlers to have fun touring Rome with a journalist played by Gregory Peck.
  • Star Wars:
    • Queen/Senator Padmé Amidala frequently disguises herself as one of her own handmaidens. In this case, it's just so that the assassins will shoot the wrong woman, which proves to be entirely justified.
      • For the majority of The Phantom Menace, Padmé is posing as one of her handmaidens while the visible Amidala is actually a decoy played by Natalie Portman-look-alike Keira Knightley. This allows "Amidala" to send "her handmaiden" Padmé with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan to keep tabs on them, with no one (except Qui-Gon) the wiser until later on.
      • In Attack of the Clones, the assassin who targets Padme at the beginning of the movie manages to kill off her decoy instead.
    • It's not just Padmé who does this kind of thing. In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke goes to Dagobah to find the Jedi Master Yoda. After crash-landing in a swamp, he encounters a bizarre green Muppet who talks funny and manages to annoy the poodoo out of Luke. Even after revealing that he knows Yoda and promising to take Luke to him, he still pushes the impatient Jedi-wannabe to the limit — before revealing that he is in fact Yoda and was testing Luke the whole time.
  • In The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, King Richard rides into Robin's camp dressed as a black knight (in a scene probably inspired by Ivanhoe) and receives pretty short shrift from the outlaws until he removes his coif and reveals his true identity.
  • Subverted in Alexander Korda's The Thief of Bagdad (1940), in which the vizier convinces the king to walk among his people dressed as a commoner—and then takes over the kingdom in his absence. He's gone for a day. Easiest. Usurpation. Ever.

  • In the older versions — pre-twentieth-century — of Robin Hood, the king (who may be Richard The Lion Heart or, if the ballad is old enough, a King Edward) disguises himself to get Robin Hood to capture him. Due to Robin's role in the Rightful King Returns in twentieth-century works, this has become less common, but not unknown.
  • King Matthias the Just (aka Matthias Corvinus) of Hungary has hundreds of tales depicting him as this, using it to expose corrupt lords or to learn about the problems of his people. One example: He was incognito in his birth town of Kolozsvár (today Cluj Napoca/Cluj, Romania), and was just sitting on a bench minding his business, when a gendarme came along and, taking him for a poor local, forced him to come along to the mayor's house where the mayor forced him and many other locals work for him cutting and piling up firewood without rest and, at the end of the day, without pay. The next day Matthias came along in full royal regalia and pomp, and when he mentioned he heard of abuses from the mayor's part, the mayor denied it. Matthias pointed to one of the heaps of firewood, which his entourage checked out to find entirely of logs marked with Matthias' name written with soot (Matthias having done the marking the day before.) The mayor was arrested on the spot.
  • Popular tales about Polish king Casimir III the Great ascribe him the habit of wandering in beggar's disguise and asking for food. After such a visit he always re-visited said people with his whole court and revealing the results of previous test to public. The most popular version involves the king visiting a mean noble who mocked his poverty and a poor peasant who shared his last loaf of bread with a stranger and asking him to come to the baptism of his child. The following Sunday, the king's carriage stopped by the knight's castle just to warn him about underestimating people and then the king, with his whole court in tow, come to the peasant's cottage and throw a party to celebrate the peasant's son's baptism. The king becomes one of the child's godfathers, promises to take care of the whole family, and gives them a loaf of bread in exchange for the one that he had eaten before. It was made of pure gold .
  • Czech peasants in the late 18th and the 19th century circulated such tales about the emperor Josef II. For example, one story recorded by Božena Němcová says he travelled in the guise of an itinerant craftsman learner when he came into a cottage in a village in the mountains and asked for some food. The woman in the house was just in the middle of baking bread, so she told him she did not have anything to give him right now but would give him one of her small loaves later if he helped her place the loaves into the oven, which he did. When he received his small loaf of bread and a glass of milk, he asked her, surprised, why she had such a black bread and such blue milk (dark bread with low wheat content and low-fat milk). She replied that it was because the rich aristocrats took all the better food, and proceeded to rant and exclaim that if only she could tell the emperor about it, she'd give him something to think about; at which point the emperor revealed his true identity. She was horrified, fearing retribution, but he thanked her for opening his eyes to the true state of affairs in the country, and proceeded to do the reforms for which history remembers him.
  • In Chinese folklore, famous government officials (especially ones well known for a strong sense of justice) were said to disguise themselves in plainclothes to better spy understand the people he was ruling over. This is also a very common thread in Arabian or Islamic folktales, too.
  • The Jewish folktale "The Sword of Wood" has a king visit a cobbler without him knowing who he is.
  • Toyama Kagemoto is celebrated in both folklore and Jidaigeki for Wandering The Earth (well, Japan at least) in disguise and righting wrongs after he reveals his true identity in dramatic fashion.
  • A story goes that Napoleon was wandering around his army's camp incognito and saw an officer carving a sword blade out of wood and gluing it to the hilt before putting it back in the scabbard. When asked about it, the officer replied that he'd lost the blade in battle but could not afford to have it replaced, so he would content himself with the wooden one until he had saved up enough. The next day, a soldier was sentenced to death by beheading, with the officer ordered to do the deed. Sweating bullets, the officer called out "Lord, if this man is truly innocent, let this sword of mine turn to wood!" and drew his sword. Naturally, the soldier was spared, and the officer found a brand-new (metal) sword in his tent that evening with a congratulatory note signed "N.".

  • The King and the Duke from Adventures of Huckleberry Finn claim to be this, but Huck can tell they're just con men on the run almost immediately after meeting them.
  • In The Adventures of Strong Vanya, the old blind Tsar passes himself as a beggar twice: when he appears before Vanya to tell him he can become Tsar; and six years later when he explains Vanya's weird behavior to his father Vasili.
  • In Akarnae, the protagonist Alex eventually discovers that her antisocial roommate D.C. is actually Princess Delucia Cavelle, the heir to the Medoran throne.
  • The Connatic, benign dictator of the Alastor Cluster in Jack Vance's Alastor trilogy, not only frequently goes out into the public in disguise, but makes sure that the people know of this habit. He only appears as his official self once in the series and it is implied that Ryl Shermatz, a government agent who appears in two of the books, may be one of his cover identities.
  • In Greg Costikyan's book Another Day, Another Dungeon Vic, the senile old man who tells long, pointless stories and begs for spare change, turns out to be the last polymage, a type of sorcerer thought to have died out more than ten thousand years ago. This definitely counts as a Deus ex Machina, but it's completely forgivable because it's hilarious.
  • Arabian Nights:
    • "Two Sisters Who Were Jealous of Their Younger Sister": The Sultan, having just buried his father and assumed the title, disguises himself to check out how his people are receiving the change. He overhears three sisters discussing their "If I could have one wish" fantasies, in which one says she'd marry the Sultan's chief baker, the next says she'd marry the chief cook, and the youngest says, "Nothing less than the Sultan himself" — so the Sultan decides to make their wishes come true.
    • According to these stories, caliph Harun al-Rashid also liked to do this. He wasn't necessarily good at it, though, nearly getting himself killed in The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad for asking nosy questions while forgetting they didn't know who he was.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: Blue Priests are usually the less desirable children of noble families or more desirable members of those families who chose the job to get away from politics to an extent. A character introduced as a Blue Priest eventually turns out to be none other than the duchy's archduke, who chose that false identity precisely so he could walk among commoners with a little more ease than what his real status would allow for.
  • In Bernard Cornwell's Azincourt, a disguised Henry V talks to his soldiers the night before the battle. Almost certainly an homage to Shakespeare's use of the trope.
  • The Belgariad: In The Malloreon series, Zakath's default state is Modest Royalty. Except when forced to ride around in expensive robes, wearing a heavy crown, he prefers wearing simple white linen — both when travelling and when dealing with the day-to-day work of being Emperor of Mallorea. As a result, no-one ever recognises when he does travel around the city. When he joins Garion's group, the last thing they want is to have Zakath recognised at every turn but, because of his usual spartan style, they don't have much to work with. When they conclude that the main problem will be the fact his face is stamped onto every single coin in the empire, the only change he ends up making to his appearance to make it even harder to recognise him is... to grow a beard.
  • In The Book of the New Sun, the Autarch is (at least) several of his own minor officials, a brothel keeper, and a conspirator against the throne.
  • The scarred woman in A Brother's Price, later identified as Cira, turns out to be the missing princess Halley, in disguise.
  • Captive Prince:
    • After Prince Damianos is Made a Slave and sent to the enemy country of Vere, he takes pains to hide his true identity, since he would be as good as dead if found out. Turns out his new owner recognizes him immediately but keeps quiet until the final book.
    • Damianos and Prince Laurent both go undercover to avoid the Regent's agents and Akielon soldiers, including one memorable occasion when Laurent pretends to be a prostitute.
    • Played for Laughs in "The Adventures of Charls, the Veretian Cloth Merchant" when Damianos and Laurent travel incognito with the title character, who knows Laurent's true identity but not Damianos', and whose efforts to make Laurent's journey more comfortable tend to be at Damianos' expense.
  • A variation occurs in Catch-22, Major Major Major Major, bored and lonely, puts on a disguise and insinuates himself into the base's basketball game. In true Catch-22 fashion, this backfires spectacularly: once the other players realize that it's their commanding officer in disguise, they play even rougher with him, knowing that they can get away with abusing him by pretending they didn't recognize him afterwards.
  • Chalion:
    • In the backstory of The Curse of Chalion, Royse (Prince) Bergon dy Ibra was kidnapped by agents of his elder half-brother and sold to Roknari slavers. Had they learned of his identity he would have been given every comfort as treasure and political concessions were extorted from his father, so he kept to a childhood nickname and resigned himself to a truncated life in an anonymous Slave Galley.
    • Ista's vaca-*ahem* pilgrimage in Paladin of Souls was taken using the surname of a distant cousin and most minor noble title available to avoid the entourage deemed fitting for the sister of a ruling Provincarnote  and mother of Royinanote  Iselle.
  • In The Chronicles of Amber, some of the Nine Princes of Amber did this, riding into shadow and taking up places away from court.
  • The Chronicles of Prydain:
    • Prince Gwydion and Fflewddur Fflam both travel around the countryside in simple traveling garb. Both cases are heavily subverted, though. The protagonist of the series, Taran, recognizes Gwydion within minutes of meeting him and is actually shocked and disappointed to not find him in more regal attire. Gwydion uses it as a lesson to not judge others by their appearance alone. Fflewddur, meanwhile, makes a point out of boasting how he is a king (of a rather small kingdom, but a king nonetheless), thereby voiding the "Incognito" portion of "King Incognito".
    • Princess Eilonwy, on the other hand, plays the trope completely straight. She introduces herself as "Eilonwy daughter of Angharad," and Taran spends the entire first novel thinking she's a foundling peasant not unlike himself. It's only on literally the last page that his master, Dallben, casually mentions that she's actually royalty. Her title becomes a plot point in the third book.
  • The Cinder Spires: At one point, a shabbily dressed tea house patron is unthinkingly rude to Gwendoline. She instantly demands either an apology or a duel. Benedict has to introduce her to "His Majesty Addison Orson Magnus Jeremiah Albion, First Citizen and Spirearch of Albion". Addison is quick to claim that he has very little real power anymore and just likes the tea shop and its owners. However, for all his protests that his position is obsolete and merely formal, he has no difficulty in wielding large amounts of power and influence behind the scenes.
  • In the Codex Alera series:
    • Tavi starts out as a Secret Legacy, but is finally told the truth about his heritage early in the fourth book. However, it fits this trope for the fourth book, as he travels around the country as a soldier or spy rather than openly admitting who he really is.
    • The First Lord Gaius Sextus does this whenever he feels like delivering a message personally. It's actually justified since having powerful watercrafting allows him to shapeshift. It then gets subverted in that Tavi and Marcus see right through it despite the shapeshifitng, because they know the First Lord's mannerisms and body language and the First Lord fails to change them when he's incognito.
    • Princeps Septimus, son of First Lord Gaius Sextus, is revealed to have dressed below his station a few times to tour the camps he commanded. As a man who regularly defended the weak from the upper class and magically powerful nobles, he found many people to help. He saves two women who are being mistreated and offers them to work in his private area of the camp and even weds one of them out of love.
    • One noblewoman, Invidia Aquitaine, gives her husband Attis a dancing slave girl as an anniversary present. He gives the girl to one of his servants, Fidelias, for the night, as a reward for some services rendered. Once they're alone, Fidelias reveals he figured out she was Invidia. They discuss business and she says she's going to sleep with him anyway, as ordered. Ironically, Aquitaine makes a remark about what his wife might say if she were there, and Fidelias concurred, though he had already figured it out by that point.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Be Born", Salome throws the head of a murdered man to a deaf beggar and casually discusses the true queen's imprisonment. Not only is Valerius not a beggar but a leader of La Résistance, he's not deaf.
  • King Arthur does this in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, to no one's benefit. However, it does give King Arthur a positive moment, when he knowingly exposes himself to infection by carrying a smallpox-stricken child to die in the arms of her equally ill mother.
  • During the Time of Troubles arc of the Deverry novels, in order to reach Cerrmorr in his (ultimately successful) attempt to gain control of that faction of the civil war, Prince Maryn has to travel through territory held by the rival Cantrae faction. So he disguises himself as a common mercenary (Thankfully, his bodyguard is a mercenary unit on long term retainer, so they come with him to extend the disguise and provide security).
  • Discworld
    • In a way, Captain Carrot. While no one knows for certain, everyone suspects and generally doesn't care. He doesn't want to be king and they are fine with that. It helps that the last guy to press the matter is killed by Carrot, who jammed his sword through the man and into the stone pillar behind him.
    • Elsewhere in Discworld, Nanny Ogg reflects on an (unrelated) story that fits this trope and her suspicion that the King in question sent his people around beforehand to make sure everyone knew what was really happening "in case anyone tried to get too common."
    • Prince Heinrich of Zlobenia in Monstrous Regiment serves in his own army as Captain Hortenz, and tries to get too common with a serving girl (actually the heroine disguised as a boy disguised as a serving girl), who naturally kicks him in the "Royal Succession".
    • In Raising Steam there is occasional mention to one of the shovelers on the trains. He is one of the best there is and helps defend the train during an attack in the climax. He is really Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork.
  • In Dorothy Must Die, Ozma is the brain-fried rightful ruler of Oz. The boy she grew up as, transformed as a baby by Mombi, still resides in a corner of her mind, and sometimes emerges, transforming Ozma's body. His mind is intact, and he renamed himself Pete.
  • Nat Whilk in The Dragons of Babel. It helps that he's been gone for a number of years and no one saw that much of him to begin with. And at the end, Will comes back after twenty years or so and does the same thing.
  • In the Dreamscape Voyager Trilogy, Cassidy learns that Miria is actually the Empress' daughter. Later, Zayne and his crew meet her but aren't aware of the significance. Later still, when Zayne and Jacques find a portrait of Miria, they don't recognize the subject and start comparing the similarities to an unrelated colleague. This is ironic, because Zayne's mission is to kidnap her, and he doesn't even realize she has gone Incognito in the first place.
  • The Dresden Files
    • In Summer Knight Queen Mab, Queen of Air and Darkness, assumes the moniker of Ms. Sommerset to meet with Harry Dresden in his Private investigator's office. While she still dresses in what looks like a $3,000 pantsuit, Mab is a genuine Physical Goddess and needs to see Harry's character before hiring him for a job.
    • Winter Lady Molly Carpenter is fae royalty who was once a mortal, but was bestowed the powers of a Physical God. She still hasn't told her mortal family of this transformation and pretends to be just a normal person around them.
  • 'Brian' a traveller in An Encounter and an Offer, is actually King Richard Edward Plantagenet. His pseudonym turns out to be pretty pointless though.
  • In the short story "The Fable of the Three Princes" by Isaac Asimov it's the Emperor's Daughter who does this. When foreign princes come to undergo trials to impress her and win her hand, she always disguises herself as a serving maid (she's a powerful sorceress) assigned to them as a way to judge their true characters as well as a way of finding someone who would love her for her and not her title or inheritance (she's the Emperor's only child). This is how the youngest Prince wins her affection, by being kind to the serving maid and telling the undisguised Emperor's Daughter (he doesn't realize they're the same person) that he intends to wed said serving maid.
  • Fire & Blood:
    • During King Jaehaerys I's regency, some members of the royal court hide his niece Princess Aerea (or possibly her sister) in the stables of King's Landing as a stablegirl, to prevent Rogar Baratheon using her as a Puppet King when he thinks Jae is unsuitable. Aerea, whose later life kind of sucked, would recount it as being the happiest time of her life.
    • Young Prince Maelor has this done to him during the Dance of the Dragons (since Maelor isn't even three years old, too young to disguise himself). Unfortunately, due to a greedy innkeeper, his bodyguard Ser Rickard Thorne is rumbled as a member of the Kingsguard and Maelor as a Targaryen (the dragon egg was a dead giveaway) before he can get to friendly territory, resulting in a flash mob, and Maelor getting killed.
    • Maelor's father, Aegon II, later had to sneak onto Dragonstone disguised as a beggar. There's some hints the man who snuck him there did a little bit of this as passive-aggressive revenge against Aegon.
  • The Grisha Trilogy: Loveable Rogue Sturmhund, the privateer/pirate who got hired by The Darkling turns out to be prince Nikolai, the second son of the Ravkan king.
  • Murtagh of the Inheritance Cycle, despite seeming to be an ordinary rogue, is the son of the Empire's most powerful general, the Dragon Rider Morzan, who died fifteen years earlier.
  • Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe features King Richard I going around as a mysterious knight searching for adventure upon his return to England. His loyal retainers' advice not to risk his life in this manner is ignored.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars: In Chessmen of Mars, Gahan the Jed of Gathol met, and rather repulsed, John Carter's daughter Tara. He disguised himself as a panthan, a wandering swordsman, named Turan when they met again.
  • Journey to Chaos: When Princess Kasile wants to go out in public unnoticed, she puts on commoner clothing and sneaks out. She has to add a hood or a hat because otherwise her hair and eye color would give away her Royal Blood. During A Mage's Power, she tries to pass herself off as a cowgirl but Mia sees right through it because it's only skin deep.
  • Frequently used by Judge Dee, though with the local magistrate rather than a king, and being the judge was just one of his duties. His favorite disguise is a "drug dealer" (doctor), though he's also gone as a teacher of martial arts, and in one case as a wandering fortune-teller (causing some awkwardness when a witness who'd met him in disguise is horrified that an astrologer is responsible for the town's administration). He has committed valiant deeds while disguised and gotten into trouble due to this habit.
  • The Medieval Dutch epic poem Karel Ende Elegast recounts the adventures of Charlemagne, disguised as a common thief, and his companion Elegast, who may or may not be an elven king. Charlemagne takes advantage of his thieving alter-ego to break into the castle of his brother-in-law, who he then conveniently overhears plotting regicide.
  • In The King's Avatar, because he was forced to give up his old gaming account, no one on the tenth Glory sever knows that the avatar Lord Grim is being used by the famous Ye Xiu. Subverted in that the savviest professional players are quickly able to deduce his identity, having played against Ye Xiu before. Likewise, when other pros migrate to the tenth server to challenge Ye Xiu, they also have to use new accounts to hide their identities
    • When Su Mucheng and Wang Shaotian go to see Ye Xiu at the Internet cafe, they have to disguise themselves as regular patrons due to their fame as professionals. Shaotian even lampshaded how everyone knows what he looks like but only a few professionals have ever seen the reclusive Ye Xiu.
  • Henry VII (supposedly) posed as a leper in "The King's Job" (aka The Tudor Monarchy) by Rudyard Kipling.
  • In Scott Westerfeld's novel Leviathan, Alek turns out to be the rightful heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire. Not a king, but close enough.
  • When we first meet Aragorn, the rightful king, in The Lord of the Rings, he's a ranger named Strider. We don't find out his true identity for quite some time. Tolkien himself didn't know at first: in the first drafts, he was considering making the character a Hobbit badass who had had adventures with Gandalf and been captured and tortured in Mordor.
    • And before the events of Lord of the Rings, there was this mysterious advisor to Steward Ecthelion (Denethor's father) of Gondor...
    • And before that, when Théoden was a child, there was a mysterious foreigner who rode with the Rohirrim and just up and left one day...
  • In The Lost Prince, many generations of the legendary Lost Prince's descendants have lived incognito while preparing for the day they can pull a Rightful King Return without some Sketchy Successor immediately arranging for them to get lost again. When the protagonists are formally introduced to the Returned King at the end of the novel, it turns out to be someone they've met before on multiple occasions without knowing his heritage.
  • In The Malazan Book of the Fallen, a highly competent but otherwise unassuming servant turns out to be the Elder God of the Seas in disguise, who decided to live among humans in an attempt to avert Who Wants to Live Forever?.
  • Tip in The Marvelous Land of Oz. Kind of. It's complicated.
  • Spoofed in Mogworld: The King of Lolede disguises himself twice to help the cause of La Résistance, but everyone recognizes him anyway. Wearing his crown quite visibly under his hood probably did not help matters.
  • In Anne Rice's The Mummy, the eponymous character reminisces about advising Cleopatra that a good ruler has to do this, on account of never really getting the complete picture from their advisers on the state of the kingdom.
  • In Nevermoor, Ezra Squall is considered to be the single most powerful person in the Wintersea Republic, next to the President, as the CEO of Squall Industries, which supplies the whole country with Wunder. However, most people have never seen him in person, and he prefers to communicate through letters or his staff. The end of the first book reveals that he's actually been appearing in public as his own assistant, Mr. Jones.
  • Old Kingdom:
    • In Sabriel, Touchstone, the Human Popsicle that Sabriel rescues, doesn't mention that he's the last living member of the royal family out of guilt. Sabriel only finds out thanks to something her father mentions.
    • In Lirael, Prince Sameth takes a stab at this when he decides to sneak out of Belisaere. It doesn't go very well, due to him not thinking his disguise through completely.
  • The Overstory: Neelay Mehta goes undercover as a "normal" character in an MMORPG that he himself designed. The avatar we see him talking to doesn't fall for it due to his insane amount of buffs.
  • Another Mark Twain piece, The Prince and the Pauper, features the eponymous prince swapping places with the eponymous pauper, effectively becoming this.
  • In Andre Norton's Ruritanian novel The Prince Commands, Michael Karl, soon to be King of Morvania as a result of his cousin Urlich Karl's death, is captured by a bandit known as The Werewolf, a prime suspect, who makes no secret of his dislike for the royal family. Protests too much, methinks, because The Werewolf is Urlich Karl, using that role to build a loyal army while also posing as an American journalist to ferret out traitors among the nobility.
  • John Ringo and David Weber's Prince Roger: Prince Roger and his surviving bodyguards do this in We Few, literally remolding their bodies with supertech to go undercover.
  • In "Gylfaginning" of Prose Edda, King Gylfi of Sweden travels in search of Ásgarðr disguised as an old man and calling himself Gangleri.
  • Ranger's Apprentice:
    • Selethen invokes this trope in Erak's Ransom, having his clerk pretend to be him and explaining that he feared that Princess Cassandra was part of a Skandian deception. If she is a true princess, she will see through his deception and will call him out on it if she's honest, and go along with it if she's not.
    • Princess Cassandra herself pulls this in The Burning Bridge, pretending to be her own serving-girl as a precaution after her retinue is ambushed and most of it killed. Which pays off when she and Will are captured by hostile pirates.
    • Halt, of all people, is revealed to have been pulling one of these for over fifteen years in The Kings of Clonmel. He is the rightful heir to Clonmel's throne, but left the kingdom after his twin brother Ferris tried to assassinate him. By the time events force Halt to reveal his true identity, he's built a new life in Araluen, which he vastly prefers to the idea of being a king. Thus, when Ferris is assasinated and the truth comes out, he hands the throne off to their much more competent nephew and washes his hands of the entire mess.
  • In "A Scandal in Bohemia", Sherlock Holmes takes the young King of Bohemia as his client. He shows up wearing a mask and going by a fake title, but once Holmes reveals that he knows exactly who is seeking his services, he gives up the masquerade.
  • In the Chivalric Romance Sir Orfeo, Orfeo wanders in the wilderness because of his grief at the loss of his wife, kidnapped by the king of Fairy. However, when he finds the fairy court, he exploits it to present himself as a ministrel. When the king promises him a reward, he asks for his wife back. The king objects because he is so tattered. Orfeo says that breaking his word would be worse, and gets her.
  • In Claire Madras' Sissi in Ireland, Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary (aka Sissi) disguised herself as a "mere" Austrian countess to travel through a highly fictionalised Ireland of the late XIX century. Only her original hosts know who she is... but due to the gossip of their household staff, Sissi's cover is revealed to a local noble yet very simple-living Irish family, whom she had befriended, and who then swear secrecy. In the last chapter of the book, Sissi willingly presents herself as the Austro-Hungarian Empress in a high-class ball, much to the shock of these who still didn't know.
  • In "The Sixty-Two Curses of Caliph Arenschadd", the vizier's daughter befriends a boy she meets in the palace garden and assumes is one of the pages. He turns out to be the son of the Caliph.
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's Smith of Wootton Major, in Smith's first meeting with the queen, she does not reveal her identity. Also, Alf is the fairy king.
  • In The Southern Reach Trilogy, at the beginning of Authority, it's revealed that the psychologist in Annihilation was the director of the Southern Reach.
  • The Eternal Emperor, Ruler of the Court of a Thousand Worlds, in the Sten series by Chris Bunch & Allan Cole, liked to take a break from the Imperial rulership thing by dressing up as a seedy starship engineer named "Haroun al-Raschid" (in a deliberate homage to the Arabian Nights) and go out bar crawling. And getting in bar fights.
  • Wizards in the Sword of Truth seem to make a second profession out of this. Zedd (several times), Adie, Richard (several times, never of his own volition, and invoked by the books), Ann, Nathan, Nicci (with Richard), Kahlan (in the Chainfire arc).
  • In Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno, when Sylvie and Bruno chase after a beggar driven off by their uncle, aunt, and cousin, they find it's their father — who has become the King of Elfland.
  • A variation in the Tales of Dunk and Egg. The stories follow the hedge knight Ser Duncan the Tall (or Dunk for short), who has taken the boy Egg as his squire. Egg is short for Aegon, as in Prince Aegon Targaryen, who is later crowned King Aegon V and is nicknamed "the Unlikely".
  • Fiona Patton's Tales of the Branion Realm: In The Painter Knight, the mildly insane king goes bar-crawling. This doesn't work, however, because members of the royal family are quasi-divine and have literally flaming eyes. Whatever tavern he enters is required to uncomfortably maintain the fiction, under pain of having the bar burned down. When he is assassinated and his daughter and heir is on the run from her enemies, her eyes are disguised by blindfolding her with a thin cloth, so that she can see but others will think she is blind. Her distinctly red hair, another family characteristic, is darkened with dirt.
  • Talion: Revenant: It turns out that Nolan is a prince, and has a claim to the throne of Hamis.
  • Tortall Universe:
    • Prince Jonathan, in the Song of the Lioness quartet, takes to hanging out with George at the Dancing Dove inn, posing as Johnny, a rich merchant's son.
    • Protector of the Small: Kel didn't know that her friend Princess Shinkokami was part of the Imperial bloodline of the Yamani Islands until after the latter arrives in Tortall to meet her future husband Prince Roald. Shinko explains that her family was out of favor with her uncle the Emperor at the time and she loved it that Kel treated her like an ordinary person, so never told her.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: One of these will almost invariably appear on a Tour, usually hidden away or mislaid in infancy. However, at times they have had their memories removed so they're not even aware of the fact they have a royal title, while in the more extreme examples may even have been transplanted into another body.
  • This trope lies at the center of a stymied deportation case in G. K. Chesterton's story "The Unmentionable Man".
  • The initial love interest in Variable Star is addicted to this in an almost literal fashion, discovering just how much she can find out if nobody realizes who she is. (She's not technically royal, but her financial status is about a step above Richie Rich.)
  • Vorkosigan Saga:
    • In Barrayar, the five-year-old Emperor Gregor is hidden from the usurper Vordarian's forces by being passed around various 'parents' and 'guardians' in the backwoods of Vorkosigan District.
    • In The Vor Game, Emperor Gregor has a crisis of confidence and runs away from home for a while.
    • At several points in the books, Gregor of Barrayar uses his title of Count Vorbarra for the 'avoid irritating protocol' variant of this trope.
  • In Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series, this happens a few times:
    • In The Path of Daggers, Queen Morgase passes herself off as Maighdin, a simple lady's maid (which she's bad at), to escape being made a puppet.
    • In Lord of Chaos, we learn that Tigraine, heir to the throne, was given a prophecy that says she must leave and disguise herself as an Aiel Maiden of the Spear.
    • Nynaeve and Elayne, the Crown Princess of Andor, spend some time undercover as performers in a traveling show. This causes Elayne some vexation when she tries to reveal her true identity to Birgitte and gets brushed off. The traveling show is also joined by Amathera, the deposed Panarch of Tarabon.
    • Rand al'Thor does this at least once, in The Gathering Storm, wearing plain clothes and walking the streets of a city ruled by his enemy, only to find how happy and peaceful everyone is.
    • In Crossroads of Twilight, Tuon, the heir to Seanchan, is kidnapped by Mat and passed off a a bad-tempered servant.
  • Used by Thomas, Lord of the obscure British castle of Magnus, in Sigmund Brouwer's Wings of Dawn; officially, he's terribly sick and close to death for the last six months, while in reality he's been in hiding from the Druid conspiracy that seeks his castle and his books, and terribly sick of being stuck inside that long, so he goes undercover to get some fresh air and find out what's happened in the meantime. Good thing, too, since the Druids strike while he's gone.
  • The Witchlands:
    • Merik decides not to reveal that he's survived an assassination attempt and goes on a journey into the Sirmayan mountains pretending to be yet another refugee in search of food.
    • After Safi and Vaness' ship is destroyed, the two decide to hide the fact that the latter is the Marstoki Empress. Played for Laughs when Safi suggests that the best way to do that is to refer to Vaness as "The Unempress".
    • In a non-royalty example, Safi is later shocked to learn that Habim, one of her teachers, whom she'd known since she was little, is actually an accomplished Marstoki general, with enough influence for his arrival to interrupt Vaness' diplomatic meeting.
  • Subverted in Yulia Latynina's Wizards and Ministers, when the naïve young emperor Varnazd tries to be this and ends up being coerced to join a street gang which then just betrayed him and took him hostage, easily recognising who he was. His Prime Minister was honestly relieved that this was as far as it went, having previously noted that all the wannabe Haroun ar-Rashid emperors in the Wei Empire tended to end up as irresponsible Robin Hood-wannabe gang leaders with complete immunity from law enforcement that was afraid to arrest anyone right or wrong for the fear of accidentally arresting the Emperor.
  • The Royal Diaries:
    • Cleopatra would often dress as a commoner and wander the streets with her maid to find out more about the people and what they think. The only person who ever saw through her disguise was Marc Antony.
    • Kristina of Sweden disguised herself as a boy a few times so she didn't have to ride sidesaddle and the stableboys wouldn't treat her as their sovereign.
    • Mary, Queen of Scots at one point traveled with Diane de Poitiers with none of the trappings of nobility and royalty.
    • Kazunomiya once catches her bethrothed, Shogun Iemochi, disguised as a trash collector so he could be with the woman he loves. This would later inspire her to disguise herself as a commoner so she could go to the temple and see her own love, Arisugawa.
    • Isabel of Castille, to escape her brother's wrath and make her way to Aragon to marry Fernando, would disguise herself and her entourage as first minstrels and then monks.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On The 100, when Jaha and Kane are taken prisoner by the Grounders, a timid servant girl is left to watch over them. At the end of the episode, it turns out the girl is actually the Grounders' Commander, posing as a mere servant so Jaha and Kane would talk freely to each other in front of her, letting her get a better assessment of their characters.
  • This trope is the primary conceit behind the long-running Jidaigeki series Abarenbo Shogun. The eponymous Shogun disguises himself as an ordinary samurai to hang out with firefighters, uncover corruption, and solve mysteries. Every episode ends with a Big Reveal where he confronts the evildoer of the day, which nearly always results in a big sword fight.
  • Babylon 5:
    • In one episode, Commander Sinclair goes looking for information in disguise — mainly changing out of his uniform into more nondescript clothing. Nobody recognizes him as the station commander (But then, the station does have a population of 250,000, and most of them have probably never seen his face).
    • Delenn is secretly a member of the Grey Council (the Mimbari ruling body), keeping an eye on Sinclair.
    • Garibaldi, the chief of Station Security, does this from time to time too, adding a fedora to help conceal his face. He justifies it by pointing out that most people dealing with cops don't see an individual or even a face, just a uniform and a badge.
    • Cartagia, the Centauri emperor, mentions he keeps a small hair crest specifically to pull this... And go through low-class brothels. He's The Caligula, by the way.
  • On Baywatch, Mitch starts to fall for Catherine, who appears to be a foreign tourist visiting. Hobie sees a newspaper story telling him Catherine is really the princess of an island nation but keeps quiet in hopes the two hit it off. Mitch and Catherine get closer as Mitch ends up stopping an attempt by Catherine's bodyguard to overthrow the king. It's at the end of the episode that Mitch is "introduced" to the princess and stunned to discover her true identity. Catherine admits she just wanted a day of freedom and, while she cares for Mitch, she has to go through with a marriage to a businessman for the good of her country.
  • Subverted in the first season of Blackadder; Edmund, Baldrick and Percy visit a plague-ridden village to visit an informative old crone, and after several people greet Edmund, Baldrick suggests that he disguise himself so no one will deliberately infect him. Edmund then places a strip of cloth over his eye, and the peasants just play along.
  • In the K-Drama Boys Before Flowers, the old doctor who drops by Jan Di and Ga Eul's porridge shop turns out to be the ex-President of South Korea, plus the grandfather of one of Jan Di's two love interests.
  • In The Crown (2016), the Queen Mother goes to Scotland as part of a vacation. On a walk with friends who know who she is, she meets their neighbor and owner of a rundown castle on said neighboring lands. The castle's owner recognizes her but can't place from where, and the queen opts not to inform him to keep their friendship more natural. He eventually decides she must be an actress or other celebrity and is naturally taken aback when he learns the truth.
  • In Designated Survivor, President Tom Kirkland is presented by his Secret Service detail two options for leaving the White House: a convoy that snarls up traffic and lets everyone know where he's going, or a "baseball cap and jacket". In two episodes, he actually takes up the latter option, though unlike most examples, it's not so much a secret test of character for the people he meets, but an example of Kirkman's What You Are in the Dark. In both times this method was used, Kirkman wants to thank people doing difficult tasks for the nation without the media commentary (in the first case, cleaning up the wreckage of the Capitol Building, which the latter way ended in a media disaster for him. In the second case, he was thanking a commando team who was conducting a raid on a terrorist involved in the bombing of the Capitol Building and offering sympathies for a fallen teammate.). Dialog reveals that Kirkman's predecessor did the same thing on one occasion where he attended his estranged son's concert in private, wishing to hear his son play without the media frenzy the president's visit would entail. Kirkman implies that the previous President also donned a cap and jacket and got away with it.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Nightmare in Silver": It turns out that Porridge is the Emperor.
    • "The Witchfinders": The mysterious masked man seen at the beginning of the episode turns out to be King James, indulging his flair for the dramatic.
  • King Sukjong in Dong Yi likes to inspect his country in such a manner. And it was in one such tour when he bumped into the eponymous character. Hilarity ensues when she acted rather rudely (albeit not on purpose) in front of him, unaware of his real identity.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • At the start of Season 6, Tyrion and Varys do this to gauge the mood on the streets of Meereen (basically starvation, anger, rebellion, and religious fanaticism = not good). Varys has to point out that Tyrion is still strutting about like a noble, so he's not fooling anyone.
    • Mance Rayder, the leader of the Free Folk, who held the title "King-Beyond-The-Wall", is this when he first meets Jon Snow. In the books, in this scene Mance also revealed that he used his non-assuming appearance to enter Winterfell itself during King Robert's visit, posing as a bard.
  • Goodbye My Princess: Cheng Yin, son of the Emperor of Li, pretends to be a merchant when he first meets Xiao Feng.
  • The Irregulars: Prince Leopold, the youngest son of Queen Victoria, wants to escape his stifled life at the palace. He joins the Irregulars as "Leo". They all know he's posh but they have no idea of his true identity.
  • Trick, the bartender in Lost Girl, is secretly the Blood King of the Fae.
  • In the Merlin (2008) episode "The Once and Future Queen", Prince Arthur discovers the other knights are letting him win duels and jousts, so disguises himself as an ordinary knight to compete in a tournament, to prove that he doesn't need special treatment.
  • Deconstructed in an episode of The Musketeers, in which King Louis XIII goes out incognito for a night on the town to see how the working class live, and gets kidnapped by slavers. The result is an enormous mess that leaves a huge body count, and the King unambiguously fails to learn any kind of humility, compassion, or decency.
  • Emperor Qian Long in Princess Returning Pearl goes on an incognito inspection trip around the country. This is Truth in Television as he is an emperor famous for these trips.
    • Yong Qi, Er Kang, Zi Wei, and Xiao Yan Zi also try to keep their royal (and fugitive) status secret in series 2, not always to great success.
  • Queen for Seven Days: Happens to Chae-gyeong twice. The first time, she thinks Lee Yeok is an arrogant commoner. The second time, she mistakes Lee Yung for a warrior and ends up having a meal with him and rescuing him from robbers.
  • The Rise of Phoenixes:
    • Ning Yi accidentally invokes this trope when he first meets Zhi Wei in his disguise as a tailor. Everyone in the House of Lan Xiang knows who he really is, but Zhi Wei assumes he really is a tailor.
    • Shao Ning attempts to be this. But she spends so much time demanding "Do you know who I am?" when someone annoys her that everyone already knows she's a princess.
  • In keeping with the older Robin Hood ballads, King Richard does this in the Robin of Sherwood episode "The King's Fool".
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Defector" has this as a theme. At the beginning of the episode, Data is performing the scene from Henry V as the incognito Henry as part of his ongoing studies of the human condition, and he and Captain Picard discuss the scene on their way to the bridge after being called. The Enterprise ends up taking on board a Romulan defector who claims to be a low-ranking logistics officer, but actually turns out to be an admiral.
  • The premise of Undercover Boss, a reality(ish) show where a CEO works in an entry-level role of his own company while in disguise.
  • In Victoria, Victoria and Albert go for a ride in Scotland and, despite Albert's "excellent sense of direction", get completely lost. By nightfall, they end up happening upon a farmhouse and are taken in by an elderly couple. They keep their identities secret and end up enjoying the simple fireplace-cooked meal and the company. While the elderly couple can tell that they're not from around there (Victoria is clearly English, and Albert is clearly German), they claim to be factory owners in London (well, Victoria corrects that she owns the factory, and Albert helps with the paperwork). The soldiers, sent by the local Scottish lord (who's freaked out that the Queen got lost on his watch), finally manage to locate the farm by morning, although the soldiers fail to recognize their queen at first. As soon as she says her name, though, they stand at attention, and the farmer removes his hat.
  • The Greek, an international crime boss in The Wire, does this by pretending to be a common customer at a cafe he owns, while his dragon is the one pretending to be the boss making deals within earreach.
  • In Wolf Hall, while shooting with his court Henry suggests that he should sneak onto Cromwell's estate in disguise to shoot on his archery team in their annual competition. Cromwell's response is polite but less than enthusiastic. (Henry is recorded as going around incognito at jousting tournaments—the visored helmet probably helped.)
  • Xena: Warrior Princess and a princess who looks just like her had to switch places and the princess had to learn what it's like to live like a warrior peasant.
  • in Magnificent Century, Sultan Suleyman often dons a 'peasant' disguise (just a somewhat less fancy robe and less ostentatious turban) to walk amongst his people in the streets and get their opinions on the empire and his rule without them knowing they're talking to the Padishah. Often the people cheer his name in the streets, and he also once sees a poor boy selling water on the street and arranges for a pension for his family and for the boy to be educated.
  • The Wheel of Time: It turns out that Lan, full name al'Lan Mandragoran, is the king of a country named Malkier, which was lost to the Blight decades past in his childhood. Though, in the Borderlands it's no secret and everybody knows of him. It's only news to the Two Rivers characters.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology:
    • Zeus, and others of the Greek Gods, would also occasionally walk the earth in the guise of old hags or beggars, so they could reward those that showed them kindness, or punish those that didn't. The most famous story of this is the tale of Baucis and Philemon, where Zeus and Hermes, disguised as beggars, are shown Sacred Hospitality by the poor, elderly couple Baucis and Philemon after their richer neighbors had shut their doors to the gods. This leads to Zeus providing some Laser-Guided Karma to the rich people and one of Classical Myths' most heartwarming endings. For a story where it backfired spectacularly on the mortal being visited, look no further than Lycaon, who served the visiting Zeus (whose actual identity he was suspecting to be the king of gods) a dinner of human stew. Made of a boy who in some versions of the story was Zeus's own son. By Lycaon's daughter no less. Small wonder Zeus literally flipped the table on him and turned him into the first werewolf. And now you know the etymology of "lycanthropy".
    • One of the founding myths of ancient Athens was that its semi-legendary last ruling king, Codrus, heard a prophecy that if the city was to be saved from the attacking Dorians, an Athenian king would have to die. Codrus therefore disguised himself as a peasant, found a Dorian encampment, provoked the garrison, and was killed in the ensuing quarrel. After this, everyone agreed that this was a Tough Act to Follow and that therefore Athens would never again have a king; his descendants were instead given a hereditary post in the judiciary with additional religious duties.note 
  • Norse Mythology has Óðinn doing this a lot as well, sometimes accompanied by Loki.
  • Japanese folklore has youkai which fill this role.
  • According to the New Testament, God the Son became a mortal man in order to reconcile with fallen humanity, and even after his return to heaven remains The Son of Man as much as of God.
    • Some interpretations of Jesus' parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46) see the King in this story as using this trope to test the goodwill of his subjects.
    • Elements of the story reinforce this: born in a manger, working at a trade, being an itinerant preacher, "Having no form or comeliness that we should desire him", not being able to afford his own grave, etc.
  • More than one Catholic saint has an encounter like this in their legends.
    • Saint Martin of Tours, one of the most popular Catholic saints, was converted after having shared his cape with a freezing beggar, who turned out to be Jesus.
    • Saint Christopher, was an ex-Genius Bruiser turned Gentle Giant who converted to Christianity after finding out that the cute little boy he once helped cross a river was actually Baby Jesus, and that said baby was actually the Lord and Master of the Universe.
    • Both St. Francis of Assisi and St. Elizabeth of Hungary, among others, are said to have encountered Christ in the unpleasant form of a leper.
  • King Solomon, of Jewish history/mythology, was said to have been thrown down from his throne and replaced by a demon impostor. He was forced to roam the land as a commoner, so rather than by choice, this one was against his will.
  • The prophet Elijah favored this trick, doing it willingly to gauge the temper of the Israelite people. On the other hand, he was often forced to do it (he was hunted by King Ahab, so he had to hide).
  • Angels are said to do this, as in the story of Lot.
  • Also used by Odysseus in The Odyssey, to gain entry into Troy (as well as his home, after the suitors took it over).
  • King Alfred the Great of Wessex traditionally infiltrated the ranks of his Danish enemies disguised as a minstrel; more famously, in disguise, he was taken into a poor woman's hut and told to watch her baking cakes, and slapped by her when he burned them. (Both incidents are included by G. K. Chesterton in The Ballad of the White Horse.
  • The Bible:
    • It features this in 2 Choronicles 18:28. Ahab, the king of Israel at the time, disguised himself in battle against Ramoth-gilead. He had Jehosaphat put on royal regalia instead. Ahab's intention was to avoid being killed despite the fact Michaiah the Prophet explicitly stated that he would be and that God had in fact put a lying spirit in the mouths of Ahab's prophets to entice him to enter battle and die. The disguise doesn't work long. Ahab is killed.
    • Saul also disguised himself upon going to see the witch of Endor. The woman is reluctant to conjure the dead for him and explains that Saul would put her to death for practicing witchcraft. When Saul asks for her to conjure up Samuel however, she realizes who it is she's talking to.
  • Played with somewhat by the narrative of the Christian hymn The Stranger and His Friend, also called A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief. Taken literally, the protagonist keeps encountering a beggar, who they don't know the name of, in various perilous situations (starving, collapsed from dehydration, stuck outside in a blizzard, wounded from assault next to the road) and showing hospitality to him at considerable personal expense. It ends with the beggar falsely accused on death row, and the protagonist futilely trying to argue his innocence. The beggar asks the protagonist if they would be willing to die if that would mean the beggar would be freed and, when the protagonist says that they would, the beggar unmasks himself as Jesus and congratulates the protagonist. However, the hymn is a reference to Matthew 25:40, which says that service to people who are in need is service to Jesus, and therefore usually understood as allegorical.

  • In The Gamer's Alliance, the dirty bum Howdy later turns out to be King Byron Kagawest of Aison in disguise who wishes to liberate his conquered kingdom from the Yamato Empire. Oswald Flynn, a masked leader of the resistance movement, turns out to be Prince Geraden Aurelac of Maar Sul.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Forgotten Realms divine minions do it frequently — Elminster more often than Khelben, and Erevis Cale constantly lives as a "head butler" of a wealthy merchant family.
    • Azoun IV Obarskyr of Cormyr, before he became king, joined an adventuring group fittingly named "the King's Men" soon after it was founded, as a swordsman named "Balin", but revealed his identity to them after a few months. The Royal Court Wizard, of course, both kept an eye on and covered for the prince, pretending he's on an expedition or pilgrimage.
    • Elminster's scribe and general manservant Lhaeo, secretly the last living royal heir of Tethyr after civil war plunged that realm into chaos and staying at the Old Mage's tower (with Elminster's knowledge and permission) for his own safety.
  • In the Ravenloft setting, the vampire darklord Count Strahd von Zarovich maintains a few alternate personas under which to interact with living folk. Vasili von Holtz, a supposed agent of the Count, is his usual alias when passing on orders to Barovians, travelers, or others he doesn't care to intimidate excessively by appearing under his own name.
  • In Traveller this is a common fashion among Imperial nobles and is perfectly legal as long as their incognito is registered should mail arrive. Generally they will use in-jokes like literary characters for their incognito.
  • Elisabetta Barbados, the Holy Sacred Empress of the Empire of Abel in Anima: Beyond Fantasy. She loves to leave the palace to know firsthand how things are going on her domains alone (she's just thirteen years old) and carrying the Imperial Sword, as a daughter of traders named Anna Never having even fought against her own Empire and entered into many messy situations. At most, her main bodyguard knows both her location and when she's in danger.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Aeldari followers of the Laughing God Cegorach believe that their patron travels the Webway disguised as a regular Harlequin player to personally fight against the forces of She Who Thirsts.
    • "The Last Church" features the God-Emperor of Mankind (just Emperor back then) visiting the, well, last church on Earth (at Lindisfarne) before he destroys it as part of his global atheistic policy. Unusually for the trope, the priest not only understands he's talking to someone important pretty quickly, he actually rebukes most of Big E's arguments, and ends up staying in his church as it's destroyed.
  • The swords and sorcery expansion of Grave Robbers from Outer Space has a character with literally the same name as this trope.

  • In Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado Prince Nanki-Poo disguises himself as a minstrel to escape the advances of Lady Katisha, a much older woman who wants his hand in marriage.
  • A favorite of Shakespeare:
    • Several characters in King Lear.
    • In Henry V, King Henry dresses as a common soldier and wanders the camp the night before the battle so he can hear what the foot soldiers think of him. It is not always complimentary.
    • The Duke of Vienna in Measure for Measure spends most of the play disguised as a friar in order to spy on his subordinate, Angelo, who he has left in charge of governing the city. Good thing, too, since Angelo proves to be ruthless and corrupt..
    • Lucentio, son and heir of the famed merchant Vincentio, disguises himself as a language tutor in The Taming of the Shrew.
  • Played for laughs in Offenbach's La Perichole. The Viceroy disguises himself as a common man to find out what the people really think of him. His courtiers, however, have tipped off everyone in the town and bribed them to say how much they love the Viceroy. When he finally realizes he is being lied to and finds La Perichole reviling the government, he is rapturous at "beautiful, beautiful truth!"
  • Rossini's operatic version of Cinderella features a twist on the classic tale where the Prince Ramiro goes looking for a loving wife (rather than a sycophantic toady) by switching places with his valet. He soon discovers that the way Cinderella's sisters treat him as a valet is very different from how they treat his valet as a prince. Cinderella, on the other hand, falls in love with Ramiro as a valet, capturing the Prince's heart forever.
  • The Rose of Algeria: The Rebellious Princess Zoradie disguises herself as a fortune-teller named Miriam in order to discover the identity of a mysterious poet.
  • There are stage adaptations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that pull this in conjunction with Composite Character to explain how Charlie Bucket manages to find the last of the five Golden Tickets despite his dire straits. In the 2005 stage musical Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka and the 2010 opera The Golden Ticket, a candy vendor/sweetshop owner whom Charlie meets and befriends in the early going is actually Willy Wonka in disguise — a concept not that farfetched as the novel has Charlie live in the same town as the Wonka Factory to begin with. In both versions, he has a lot of Pet the Dog moments with the boy in both his identities, in an effort to soften a character who has a notorious dark streak.

  • In one of BIONICLE's on-line serials, we learn that Velika, a highly eccentric Matoran inventor who always spoke in riddles, was in fact a disguised Great Being, one of the creators of the Matoran Universe. However, this had next to no importance in the story, as the serials sank into a permanent hiatus before this could have been officially revealed.

    Video Games 
  • Conviction (SRPG): Byin is actually the prince of Landar Kingdom, but dresses as a mercenary in order to accompany Leed in his quest to seal the Dark Elf.
  • In Jade Empire, the hero encounters a mysterious female ninja named Silk Fox. She later turns out to be Princess Sun Lian, trying to discover the source of corruption in her father's government.
    • Also, Master Li of a rather small martial arts school, starts off as a somewhat important character (master of your school, but it's out in the middle of nowhere and all). Early in the game, he reveals to you that he is Sun Li the Glorious Strategist, brother of the current Emperor. Over the course of the plot you have a few opportunities to tell people this when they ask about Master Li, but most of them — including the above-mentioned Silk Fox — won't believe you.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Tiber Septim, who founded the Third Empire of Tamriel and ascended to divinity upon his death, is believed to have made a few incognito appearances in the series. To note:
      • Morrowind: Toward the very end of the main quest, you may meet an old man named Wulf in Imperial armor hanging out inside of Ghostgate. If you talk to him, he'll ask that you take his "lucky coin" with you to Red Mountain. If you accept, you'll gain a new power which dramatically increases your Luck attribute for a time. Later, you can speak to the Imperial Cult Oracle about your encounter with the old man. She'll tell you that the old man was really an avatar of Tiber Septim. You'll gain two Reputation points and disposition increase with Imperial aligned characters for having seen an incarnation of Septim.
      • Tiber Septim is also suspected to be the true identity of the ragged old prophet from Oblivion's Knights of the Nine DLC, as well as the "mysterious friend" who sends the Player Character letters with the locations of words of power in Skyrim.
    • The player character's history stories in Daggerfall generally involved the player helping one of the Emperor's sons without knowing who he was, and later being rewarded by the Emperor for it.
  • Several Fire Emblem games have a prince/princess joining the party in the guise of a bard, a healer, or swordsman.
    • In Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, the wind mage Lewyn turns out to be the Prince of Silesse.
    • In Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, L'Arachel tries to hide her identity as a princess, but enjoys drawing attention to herself too much. Joshua from the same game did this far more successfully, hiding his identity as the Prince of Jehanna for years.
      • A more downplayed example, as it's less actively than the above two, but Erika claims to be a mercenary named "Erina" at a couple of points.
    • In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn there's Micaiah. While she knew she was Branded, it isn't revealed until the Endgame that her ancestor was in love with the deceased Apostle of Begnion, thus making her the true Empress. Played with in that she ends up ruling the kingdom of Daein instead, as her younger sister Sanaki is already doing a good job as Empress.
    • Prince Myrddin of Etruria/Elffin the bard from Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade does this out of necessity, since he's gone Faking the Dead after being almost killed by agents of the kingdom of Bern.
      • In the prequel to Binding Blade, Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, Hector, Eliwood and Lyndis (the heirs of three local kingdoms) have to do this to pass through several territories.
    • Fire Emblem Awakening has Princess Lucina, Chrom's future daughter, though she more takes the appearance of a Mysterious Waif literally disguised as her ancestor. Virion also plays this role, claiming to be "The archest of archers" when he joins the Shepherds, but is later revealed to be the Duke of Rosanne.
    • Jeorge from Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon initially joining Marth's Army as a traveler before being revealed to be the Son of the Menidy family, one of five powerful noble families in Archanea.
  • Princess Nadia of Chrono Trigger disguises herself and takes on the pseudonym Marle in order to see the Millenial Fair. It's only after they're sucked into the past that the heroes figure out who she really is when she's mistaken for her ancestor Queen Leene.
  • Get in the Car, Loser!: The ending reveals Sam is actually the princess of the unnamed country the game takes place in. Her royal lineage is also implied by one of the road stories using her deadname.
  • Quite a few times in The Legend of Zelda:
    • Zelda while disguised as Sheik in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
    • Tetra in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. She has no clue about her royal lineage at first, and some time after finding out she continues to disguise herself as her normal Tetra persona.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, there's Midna, who happens to be the eponymous Twilight Princess. But we don't find that out until near the end of the game. Zelda herself is somewhat disguised, but not for long.
    • Ralph is revealed near the end of Oracle of Ages to be the heir to the throne of Labrynna and a direct descendant of Queen Ambi. Early on, he dodges the question of how he knows so much about the nation's history and the palace layout, so clearly he is actively hiding it, though it's harder to hide that he looks exactly like Ambi.
      • Additionally, both the eponymous Oracle of Ages and her Oracle of Seasons counterpart are divinely-empowered priestesses who have disguised themselves as common performers for safety.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the ghostly King Rhoam disguises himself as a mysterious Old Man when meeting Link on the Great Plateau to give the latter some time to adjust to his amnesia.
      • The above is worked into the character's fighting style in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, where he switches between his noble outfit with a royal greatsword or his hermit disguise with a humble woodcutter's axe on command or during combo finishers. Most of his sidequests for upgrades describes in detail him going out in disguise to help the people of Hyrule and learning from them in return.
  • In Final Fantasy IV Tellah is looking for his daughter Anna who has run off with a no-name bard. When the party arrives at Damcyan castle, Tellah immediately attacks the bard on sight. After Anna's interference, we learn that he's actually Edward, the prince of Damcyan.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, by Post-cataclysmic Edgar. The heroes, having met him before, see right through the ruse. After several denials, he finally fesses up.
  • Final Fantasy XII is full of these. Lord Larsa starts out pretending to be a mysterious boy named "Lamont", Princess Ashe masquerades as Amalia, and Judge Zecht forfeits his rank and title and becomes the Pirate King Reddas. Baltheir was also a Judge in the past and gave it up long before the game started
  • In Tales of Vesperia we have a subversion, Estelle thinks she's this, but the only one who didn't figure out that she's a princess on his own was Karol.
    • Gaius becomes this in Tales of Xillia 2 so he can learn the daily lives and living conditions of the Elympions.
  • Early on in Baldur's Gate you meet an unassuming "Old Man" in some very obvious bright red wizard getup. This being an RPG set in the Forgotten Realms and the old man's penchant for Cryptic Conversation, you should have no trouble figuring out that it's an Elminster cameo. Don't worry if you do, though — Elminster and Drizzt have cameos throughout the entire series (when it's clear who they are). Another of Elminster's cameos has him taking the pseudonym "Terminsel" during Jaheira's personal quest. She figures it out quickly enough.
  • Tears to Tiara 2: the leaders of the Canaanites does this to travel to the Rhenus frontiers to look for allies. Monomachus says he can just announce who he is and his intentions. But Hamil says he wants to test them and want to make them believe and follow him from their heart.
  • RealityMinds: Rasheed Glaudia is actually the prince of Cielcanto, but poses as an ordinary soldier.
  • Suikoden IV: Soon after making landfall on the Island Kingdom of Obel, the Player Party is given directions to the King's place by some guy on the street wearing worn sandals and an open, salmon pink vest. Congratulations! Hello, [Insert Name Here] was just introduced to King Lino en Kuldes, one of the fan-favorite characters. The only things that would even hint that Lino might be a story-relevant character are that he's the tallest and buffest guy in town.
  • Quest for Glory II: Trial By Fire had one when the poet Omar is revealed at the end to be the Sultan of Shapeir.
    • Similarly, in Quest for Glory IV, The Dark Master disguises herself as a peasant when she has business outside of the castle.
  • Dragon Age
    • Alistair in Dragon Age: Origins, although it's because he's the illegitimate heir to the throne. If he does become King, one epilogue reveals that he often sneaks out of the palace in order to head down to the local taverns, where he proceeds to buy everyone a round of drinks. The people love him for it.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition has a somewhat humorous example. He can't be sure, but Iron Bull thinks that "Grim" from his mercenary company is some kind of wandering royalty.
  • Joshua in The World Ends with You. Instead of being a regular player, he's actually the freaking Composer of Shibuya. Doesn't stop him from being any less of a Jerkass though.
  • Roan in Grandia II, who first appears as a bratty Tagalong Kid. When the party reaches his hometown, he's revealed to be the crown prince. In the epilogue, he plays the trope really straight when he ventures out of his kingdom to visit his old friends.
  • Fable III will live and breathe this trope once you succeed in overthrowing the corrupt king of Albion and take his place.
  • Persona 4: Remember the gas station attendant who, other than making your controller vibrate and causing you to feel dizzy, seemed just like any other attendant? Well, turns out she's Izanami, the Big Bad and the True Final Boss. And you don't find out about this unless you decide to go for the True Ending.
  • Touhou has the youkai Rabbit, Tewi Inaba. As a mere Mid-Boss, fans interpreted her as a lowly servant and, indeed, based on Perfect Memento, it's assumed in-story that she serves under Reisen's command. Of course, the truth is that Tewi barely listens to anyone at all. When Reisen finally had enough of her in Cage In Lunatic Runagate, she asks her master Eirin why they even allow Tewi to run around freely in Eientei. For whatever reason (possibly pride) Eirin doesn't tell her the truth: in reality, Tewi is the master of the Bamboo Forest of the Lost, where Eientei was built. Tewi is the leader of all the youkai Earth Rabbits, who only serve as Eientei's servants because Tewi tells them to and wouldn't listen to the Lunarians at all otherwise. Furthermore, Tewi is basically treating the Lunarians as tenants; she approached them long ago with the deal that she and her rabbits would help the exiles hide from the whole world, so long as the Lunarians shared their knowledge with Tewi. Ergo, it's not the Lunarians who tolerate Tewi running around freely in Eientei; it's Tewi who tolerates them.
    Eirin: It was clear that Tewi wasn't just a normal youkai rabbit. All the earth rabbits listened to everything she said. Though there was nothing at all dignified in her appearance, the idea of her being able to control a great number of rabbits at will brings to mind the image of an ascetic who has achieved enlightenment.
  • N from Pokémon Black and White is actually the king of Team Plasma. He reveals this to the player just before you get your fourth badge in Nimbasa City, while on the Ferris wheel.
    • A non-royalty example from the same game: the president of the Battle Company likes to pose as a janitor to scout strong Trainers.
  • In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Heng Sha triad boss Tong Si Hung impersonates a bartender in his own nightclub to screen people who are seeking an audience with him.
  • Huepow of Klonoa: Door to Phantomile. You don't find this out until the last world!
  • According to one of the D'ni history notebooks in Uru: To D'ni, King Lemashal was said to wander the city incognito to see how people treat each other.
  • In the King's Quest series:
    • Whenever he goes adventuring, King Graham doesn't bother letting people know he's a king, though it's usually because he's outside his own kingdom at the time.
    • In the sixth game, Alexander can either make a point of using his princely status to try to make things go his way (it doesn't work, but it's an important plot point) or remain incognito. Generally, he doesn't bother to call himself "Prince Alexander" unless his status would help him somehow.
  • The kingdom of Hamelin in Ni no Kuni once had two princes: Fiery, clever, and standoffish Gascon and Shy, sweet, and magical Marcassin. However, the elder Gascon vanished, leaving Marcassin alone. So what happened to Gascon? He grew up into the drifting thief known as Swaine, who's been traveling with you since you acquired you boat, and had been troubling you for a not-insignificant time before that. The player figures this out long before the characters do.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky features not one but two actual royals. The First Chapter reveals White Magician Schoolgirl Kloe Rinz is actually crown princess Klaudia von Auslese. She would rather help the people with a more hands-on approach than ruling. In the Second Chapter, we learn that the eccentric hunter of love-slash-musician Olivier Lenheim is in reality prince Olivert Reise Arnor of Erebonia. The party probably wouldn't believe the latter if it wasn't for the Erebonian army corps and their lieutenant general behind Olivier backing this claim.
  • In Dragon Quest V:
    • The Player Character, a bonafide king who wanders the land wearing literal rags. And although it's convenient to be treated as a traveler instead of royalty, he wears them because he had worn rags for his entire life — both as a child and as a slave — and likely feels uncomfortable in anything else.
    • Similarly, his father King Pankraz of Gotha travels around the world posing as a mercenary to find his kidnapped wife.
  • In the fluff for Rise of the Reds, a popular mod for Command & Conquer Generals Zero:Hour, there's an amusing story of a young try-hard Lieutenant that pissed off the wrong person. He ran into a man walking around in basic unadorned chocolate chip fatigues, assumed that he was an NCO, and tried to chew him out for not saluting him. Four Star General Thorn, head of US Covert Operations, was not amused; The officer got ordered to a month of latrine duty in Saudi Arabia.
  • In the character comic series for Darkest Dungeon, it's revealed that the Leper was one of these prior to joining the Heir's Redemption Quest. And was The Good King of his land, at that. He chose to exile himself after contacting leprosy to join the expeditions in and around the Darkest Dungeon, knowing that it would likely kill him.
  • In Grand Theft Auto Online, the X over a player's radar blip is the only indication that a player is leading an Organization or Motorcycle Club. Otherwise, they tend to function identically to their subordinates and do the same dirty work. In the case of Motorcycle Clubs, roles other than President are indistinguishable from others entirely.
  • In Princess Maker series, every princess ending requires your daughter to encounter the human prince as frequently as possible (so you can propose and marry him at the end) because he won't reveal himself as a prince until he decides to do it.
  • In The Legend of Dragoon, Albert becomes this when he joins the party, insisting that he's travelling as a Dragoon instead of the King of Serdio. This is actually addressed when Dart asks why he doesn't use his royal status to get an audience with King Zior in Fletz early in chapter two. It comes as a surprise to Meru when she learns he's a king, as well.
  • The Tiamat Sacrament: The scholar, Xandra, is actually Princess Alexandra of Ildria. After the coup that killed her father, she had to live in hiding to avoid being captured by Ry'jin, who wants to force her to endorse his rule over Ildria.
  • At the beginning of Paper Mario: The Origami King, King Olly infiltrates Peach's Castle while disguised as a yellow origami Shy Guy.
  • The CEO in Say No! More is quite loud and plays everything up dramatically, but she is not the actual CEO. The female intern was the real CEO all along and observed the company disguised as a regular employee to see how the company handled itself without their presence. They get upset at the results and they crack down on people who say no instead of yes.

    Web Comics 
  • In Air Force Blues, the 69th Pre-Emptive Nuclear Intercept Squadron receives a visit from its commander's "father." When protagonist Captain Dahl objects to a civilian visiting this highly classified unit, the colonel spells out the truth and asks him whether he wants to put up with the protocol of hosting a general officer.
  • Charby the Vampirate: Sadick is really Prince Sadick Palmer Porter of Eldenlon and his little sister Fay is the runaway princess.
  • Collar 6: Sixx admits to being a high ranking mistress, but not to being incredibly rich.
  • In Gaia Viviana is the presumptive Queen of Illeasar, assuming that province regains its independence from Cania. Double Subverted as she actually bears no royal blood; she's just the leader of the resistance and the daughter of two prominent citizens who were also leaders of the resistance, and she has the professed support of the legitimate heir.
  • Farryn in Crimson Knights is the daughter of Filloro, the Grand-Prince of Vusea.
  • Impure Blood No one needs to know who I am.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! Princess Voluptua (ruler of the solar system, although humanity doesn't know it) finds herself on Earth, in human disguise, for a few hours with nothing in particular to do. She decides to explore the town a little and see what her unknowing subjects are like.
  • In Moxie, Mari reveals that she is on noble status to the barkeep when she asks where Choco is.
  • The titular Noblesse zigzags this. It is already hinted early on that the Noblesse is a highly important noble, but later it's shown that he does not hold an authoritative position, which is instead held by a separate noble addressed as the Lord. However, the Noblesse is still a highly-revered, ancient noble, so the trope still applies because, until his personal bodyguard explains to the rest of the cast, absolutely nobody has any idea how important the Noblesse is.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of the Gummi Bears has Princess Calla leaving the castle in disguise multiple times for adventures, including when she secretly participated in a trial for a royal protector for herself, only to find her challenging her own father, King Gregor, in disguise himself as the final test. Both eventually revealed their identities and King Gregor is deeply impressed at how formidable his daughter is.
  • Alfred J. Kwak: When Alfred and Professor Paljas visit one of Rameses's relatives in Egypt, they are also introduced to that man's granddaughter. She's later revealed to be the reigning Pharaoh.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Hiding from his Psycho for Hire sister in enemy territory forces Zuko to trade in the role of Prince for Loveable Rogue (and occasionally Ninja-with-a-Cool Mask).
    • As we learn in the first episode of season three, the deposed Earth King and Bosco began Walking the Earth as commoners.
    • While it wasn't intentional on either Zuko's or Azula's part, some people didn't recognize them in "The Beach" and Azula quickly decided to play along.
      Zuko: So why didn't you tell those guys who we were?
      Azula: I guess I was intrigued. I am so used to people worshiping us.
      Ty Lee: As they should!
      Azula: Yes, I know, and I love it. But for once I just want to see how people would treat us if they didn't know who we were.
  • Dungeons & Dragons (1983): The heroes once met a travelling merchant looking for his missing daughter. In the end, the Dungeon Master revealed the "Merchant" was actually a King going Incognito to make the search easier.
  • An episode of The Flintstones contains an unintentional example. Fred finds out what costume his boss will be wearing at a costume party, but unknown to him, his boss decides to switch costumes with an employee at the last minute. He then mocks his boss, not knowing he's talking to him wearing an employee's costume.
  • The Number 9 Man of Futurama. Also, Nibbler.
  • Justice League: Villainous example. When Grodd's secret society broke in the headquarters of Crime Lord Morgan Edge, Edge tried to escape by disguising himself as a servant but it failed because he forgot to put on shoes that weren't too fancy for a servant.
  • Kim Possible had a prince whose life was threatened and so he was sent to Kim's school to blend into the student population. It worked well (well, as much as it could with the prince not disguising his arrogance), until Ron Stoppable, who didn't get the concept of "incognito" until it was too late, called the press to announce the prince's presence at Middleton High.
  • In keeping with other versions of Robin Hood, The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo's telling of Robin Hood has King Richard show up in disguise. This leads to a funny moment where Mr. Magoo (playing Friar Tuck) is punching men in the jaw for losing at an archery contest, and when he tries to punch King Richard, he discovers the hard way that Richard has his armor on underneath his hood.
  • A very dark example in Rick and Morty where the king of a planet Rick and Morty visit in "Meseeks and Destroy" rapes children in private while posing as an ordinary citizen. Needless to say, Rick didn't appreciate it when he tried to do this to Morty.
  • Steven Universe: Pink Diamond, one of the four co-rulers of the Gem Empire, shapeshifted into a more common type of Gem to have fun with her subjects without the other Diamonds knowing. This ended up becoming her "Rose Quartz" identity before deciding to break off from the other Diamonds and liberate the Earth.
  • Done once in Transformers: Generation 1 with the young Hassan (real name: Prince Jumal).

    Real Life 
  • Emperor Kangxi was famous for doing this. As was his grandson, Qianlong. In fact, these visits spawned a gesture still found in southern China. Qianlong tended to serve his companions tea and do other little things. A person receiving such a huge honour would have compelled themselves to kowtow (a deep, kneeling bow where one's head touches the ground) to show their gratitude, but in doing so it would have blown Emperor's cover. In order to keep his identity secret, they developed a more discreet way to say "thank you": tapping the table several times with the knuckles or fingers, also known as the "finger kowtow". This eventually became a common gesture for thanking anyone for pouring tea, especially in southern China.
  • King Frederik VIII (1906-12) of Denmark died suddenly on a street in Hamburg while travelling under an alias, and had to be located by the director of the hotel where he stayed and sneaked out of the public morgue by his servants. Since the place where his body was found was very close to a high-class bordello, this immediately led to scandalous rumours about the circumstances of Frederik's death.
  • Several Swedish kings have done this, particularly in The House of Vasa:
    • King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, aka Captain Gars.
    • King Charles XI. According to folklore, his disguise was a simple grey cloak, which he would throw aside to show his royal garb at the right dramatic moment — earning him the nickname Gråkappan, The Grey Cloak. This was likely inspired by the stories of Óðinn's penchant for incognito wanderings, and King Gylfi's disguise as Gangleri as recounted in the Prose Edda, which also inspired Gandalf's design.
    • The first King Gustavus. Although he did it, allegedly, while trying to escape imprisonment and execution as a rebellious noble outlaw, but still...
    • After abdicating, Christina of Sweden dressed as a man and traveled through Europe.
    • After being forced to abdicate, Gustaf IV Adolf settled down in Switzerland under the name Colonel Gustafsson.
    • Played (sorry) with by Gustaf V, who was a keen tennis player, but obviously couldn't officially compete under his royal title, so he would use the Sue Donym Mr. G.
    • His son, King Gustaf VI Adolf (r. 1950-73) was a noted archaeologist, specialising in pre-Roman Italian history, especially Etruscan history (he's often called an Etruscologist as a result). Naturally, he kept a low profile whenever going off to digs in Northern Italy—don't want anyone to know that the King of Sweden is getting his hands dirty digging up old bits of Italian pottery and bone!
  • Peter the Great of Russia spent several years on tour of Western Europe, often going incognito as an ordinary worker to learn the skills he wanted to take home. It's said that he never fooled anybody since he took a posse around with him. It's also said no-one was fooled because Peter the Great was 6'8" and people that large aren't common today, much less during Peter's time. And that he paid them well enough everyone pretended to not notice.
  • It is said that the Doges of Venice had permanent reservations at various establishments as places where they go incognito, as for a Doge to just go out for a drink like a normal person was considered unfitting to the City's dignity.
    • ...While one Polish king did leave his chambers frequently, go out for a drink incognito, get into barfights, and do similar funny (if unkingly) stuff.
  • Queen Elizabeth II has done this a few times.
    • She did this recently, to enjoy a trip on a steam train.
    • On V-E Day after the defeat of Germany, Elizabeth — then a Princess — and her sister Margaret wandered amongst the celebrating crowds anonymously.
    • She once did this unintentionally; while vacationing at Balmoral, she was on a walk in plainclothes with a security guard when she ran into a family of American tourists, who, not recognizing her, asked her for directions. During their chat, they asked if she'd ever met "the Queen", to which she replied she hadn't but the security guard close by had. In the same conversation, she was asked what brought her there that day and answered with that "(she has) a house very close by".
    • Another time at Balmoral, she ran into a local, who, not recognizing her, commented on her resemblance to herself, to which she only replied "How reassuring".
  • Queen Elizabeth II's mother, also Elizabeth, did this. As documented on the show The Crown (2016), she went on a holiday to stay with some friends in as far north Scotland as one can go. There, not dressed in any formal wear but suited for the cold windy days, she meets the owner of a neighboring castle and while he thinks she looks familiar cannot place where he might know her from. She doesn't inform him of the truth in order to maintain their developing friendship. She is only found out when Prime Minister Churchill sends an aide to bring her back early and he calls out her title in front of the man.
  • There were both a Bourbon Prince and a Bonaparte prince who served in the Free French Foreign Legion during World War Two, as both their families were officially forbidden French citizenship for fear that they might cause a succession crisis. Specifically, France has been a republic since the (Bonapartist) 2nd French Empire ended in September 1870, and there was worry that such princes might try to stir up a movement to restore either the Kingdom or the Empire.
  • Empress Elizabeth of Austria (also known as Sisi) had the habit of traveling under a pseudonym such as the Countess of Hohenembs. It caused a great deal of trouble for a lot of people when she decided to drop in unannounced on her royal relatives (something absolutely unheard of in those times) with only her lady-in-waiting in tow, and got herself arrested until they returned home and identified her. She also had the habit of going on extensive walking tours and hikes, and demanded to sleep in whichever pretty villa she found when she got tired. She was once chased away from a villa by an umbrella-wielding old woman who did not recognize her. Her exasperated husband, Emperor Franz Josef, even wrote to her that she deserved it because she shouldn't just walk into people's homes like that. For her part, Elizabeth found both incidents amusing and was very understanding of the reactions she witnessed.
  • Nero was said to have done this and gone around beating people up (and robbing them), in a Paper-Thin Disguise that everyone saw through but could do nothing about. After one senator beat him up anyway, he started having bodyguards follow at a distance.
  • Richard I, the Lionheart, traveled incognito after returning from The Crusades, trying to escape capture (he wasn't successful).
  • Neither was King Louis XVI of France when he tried to escape from France as a servant travelling with a large party (actually his family). He was stopped in Varennes, allegedly because someone recognized him by comparing his face to his portrait on a coin.
  • King Henry V of England. He used the pseudonym "Harry Leroy" which is an Incredibly Lame Pun on two accounts — "Harry" is colloquial for Henry and le Roi means "king" in French.
  • James V of Scotland was said to wander his kingdom as "the Guidman of Ballangeich". ("Guidman" = "Goodman" = "Mister".) For this, he was known as "the King of the Commons."
  • As mentioned above, Haroun Al-Raschid.
  • Also, probably in direct imitation, Abbas the Great of Persia.
  • Haroun al-Rashid was actually following the tradition of Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second Caliph, who was famous for touring whatever city he was in (usually Medina) by night more or less to check its pulse and particularly to see that nobody was being cheated and that the city's poorest weren't too poor (if they were, the Islamic pillar of Zakat—either charity or a poor-tax depending on whom you ask—wasn't working). Umar himself was famous for living the simple life, generally wearing a shabby, patched robe and giving away nearly all his (colossal) income towards the relief of war orphans.
  • After the Battle of Worcester Charles II spent six weeks attempting to flee the country, dressing as a regular citizen as he did so. He did usually have allies with him, who would help him move on and point to who could help him (including many Catholics, hence his general appreciation toward them later — and deathbed conversion), but he also had to stand up to scrutiny to those not in the know and occasionally be almost by himself, even talking with Commonwealth supporters about that rogue Charles Stuart. He is said to have seen the time as quite character-making for him.
  • King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands once participated in a legendary 200-kilometer ice-skating endurance race while he was Crown Prince under the pseudonym W. A. van Buren. After a while he got recognized; both Queen Beatrix and his father were present when he finished.
    • He also has had a part-time job as an airline pilot for KLM for over two decades, flying the Fokker 70, and is training for the Boeing 737. He has stated that most people don't recognize him when he's in uniform and that when he gives the pre-flight safety briefings, most people don't even pay any attention to him, though sometimes people mention that they've heard the co-pilot's voice somewhere before.
  • Sigismund of Luxemburg loved doing this. He preferred having fun over his kingly duties and often snuck out dressed as a commoner whenever he wanted to party.
  • Mathias Corvinus would occasionally travel dressed as a commoner. Rumours also claim he did some vigilante work this way. One particular story even made him into a thief, due to a fortune teller telling him that he will die the following day if he doesn't break into somebody's house — he broke into the home of one of his advisors and came across a conspiracy to assassinate him.
  • There is a story about the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII — a hotel in Swanage, Dorset (England) claims that he traveled incognito without a retinue and arrived at the hotel only to find it full. They managed to find him a couch to sleep on — and he never let on that he was the son of Queen Victoria. That was, of course, in the days before even illustrated newspapers could print photographs of anyone, including the royal family.
    • While still Prince of Wales, he also quite regularly traveled on the continent under the alias "Baron Renfrew"note  which was a semi-subversion/Paper-Thin Disguise — it was an "official incognito" meant as a designation that he is travelling as a (noble) private person, not as an heir to the British throne, thus sparing him (and countries he visited) any official ceremonies, not a complete concealment of his identity.
  • King Bansah, a King of several tribes from Ghana works in an automobile repair shop in Germany. (Note: He also worked there before he became king. He became king because, after the death of his predecessor, he was the only one of his family who could become the king according to law. So, this is also partly Unexpected Inheritance. After he became king, he wanted to continue life as a commoner, and so, he stayed in Germany living a normal life while doing his work as a king.)
  • Prince Harry, younger son of Charles and Diana, once came as close to this trope as he could ever get in this day and age by participating in a "homeless for a day" event with a load of other volunteers. The half-dozen MIBs loitering at a discreet distance probably didn't improve the already dubious authenticity of the stunt.
    • He's somewhat more successful at this in his Army career, given that everyone in a helmet and camouflage looks the same.
      • One newspaper revealed the secret of where one of the Princes was serving and was harshly criticized by people who pointed out that not only were they putting his life at risk, but they were also risking the lives of the other people in his unit. And, in fact, Harry was a priority target. They somewhat remedied this by making him a helicopter pilot. Since helicopters are high-priority targets regardless, it didn't matter at all if the guy piloting it was royalty or not.
  • Doing this can have embarrassing results. During a visit to the theatre in the 1920s, King Alfonso XIII of Spain was unceremoniously pushed aside by a deputy mayor's bodyguard that didn't recognize him. One can only imagine his face when he got told.
  • Alfonso XIII's grandson, King Juan Carlos I of Spain, likes to motorbike incognito around the Spanish countryside.note  There are several Urban Legends about His Majesty bringing fuel to fellow bikers who'd run out on lonely roads.
  • In 1755, Frederick the Great of Prussia traveled to the Netherlands pretending to be a musician of the king of Poland. He was not recognized by Swiss student Henri de Catt, who was quite surprised to be invited to the court in Potsdam and asked to serve as reader to the king.
  • It was not uncommon for monarchs to travel under an "official incognito" that everybody knew in order to forego elaborate and time-consuming ceremonies, calling out of guards of honour, etc. Czar Alexander I of Russia, for instance, travelled as the Comte du Nord (Count of the North, since Russia at the time was seen as the great Northern, not Eastern power), while Prussian kings would go as the Count of Ruppin (actually one of their many lesser titles). Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II traveled abroad as Count von Falkenstein.
    • Similar things are done in some military units, particularly in Special Operations. The commanding officer of a larger military unit may receive a visit from his "father" or "brother", and the CO will treat his "father" or "brother" to a tour of the base. Of course, the "relative" is actually a senior officer or high-ranking civilian official, and, as in above, the masquerade is done to streamline the visit from the ceremony required by a senior officer or high-ranking civilian official visiting, particularly if the unit's mission (or very existence) is classified.
  • Certain celebrities, particularly those in British Indie music, can pass pretty much unnoticed in public, as from a distance they look like anyone else (short hair, plain clothes, etc). It is not uncommon for fans of the band to not notice them until realizing a short while later who it was. Conversely, world-famous people with a distinctive appearance (e.g. the late Michael Jackson) have been seen in public with very conspicuous disguises that make them more noticeable than if they went out plain clothed.
    • A lot of celebrities do this, for various reasons (comfort in their personal life compared to the sometimes painful high-fashion looks they frequently wear, hiding from the paparazzi, etc.,) can sometimes dress not just simply, but often kinda shabby. It's led to the joke that sometimes people who are poor often dress beyond their means to look wealthy, whereas the rich and famous, by contrast, will dress like they're homeless.
  • Supposedly, when Dolly Parton wants to make sure Dollywood is being run the way she likes at ground level, she goes out without makeup and wearing a muumuu.
  • Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah (1477-1488) of Malacca was famous for regularly going undercover at night to check on the well-being of his people. He was even rumored to have once chased after a thief on one such occasion.
  • Walt Disney was in Disneyland at least once a week disguised as a tourist to check out the park and make sure everything was working smoothly. Despite the fact that he hosted a TV show, apparently nobody recognized him once he put on a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses. When he hired Disneyland's upper management, he made it clear that he didn't want them sitting behind desks all day—he wanted them in the park, riding the attractions they'd overseen the construction of, eating the food, and talking with guests about how their day is going.
  • A Belgian monarch is reported to have attended a performance of Le Petomane, a flatulist, incognito at Paris' Moulin Rouge.
  • Emperor Akihito of Japan has a vacation home in Nagano prefecture and has been known to visit local farmers incognito to buy fresh produce.
  • Secret shoppers at retail chains are a form of this.
  • More recently, the Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg played taxi driver for a Friday.
    One passenger: When I see you from behind, you look a lot like Stoltenberg.
  • Pope Francis has been known to go out at night dressed as a parish priest and help the needy and homeless.
  • Benito Mussolini tried this while attempting to escape into the Alps, he disguised himself as a private, although he left his striped General's trousers uncovered. However, at Dongo, he was arrested by Partisans, recognized, and hanged.
  • A less pleasant version of the trope on par with Nero's above was practiced by Philip IV of Spain, who would dress like a commoner and sneak into nobles' houses to sleep with their wives. Most were aware of that, but pretended not to, to not get in trouble with him. This worked until one day, when one noble actually didn't like the idea, and instead grabbed a cane and hit the king until he ran him out of his home, acting like he had not recognized him and treating him like he would with a common burglar. The king never tried to identify himself during the incident, nor did he ever take any action against the noble. Recognizing that he was sleeping with his subjects' wives was more shameful than actually doing it.
  • After participating in a Game of Thrones panel at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con, Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) later joined the crowd at Comic-Con, wearing a Spider-Man mask so she could tour the convention floor without being recognized. Matt Smith did the same with a Bart Simpson mask.
    • Bryan Cranston once did the same wearing a photo-realistic Walter White mask.
    • Adam Savage routinely tours Comic-Con in a costume that hides his face. Though he announces #AdamIncognito on Twitter before he sets out, and has prizes (often tickets to his panel) for anyone who can identify him.
    • William Shatner - as detailed in his autobiography Get A Life! - once went around a Star Trek con dressed as some random guy in a mask. He wasn't revealed until the actor for the Gorn made him laugh.
  • A disguised Henry VIII and several courtiers met Anne of Cleves after she arrived in England but before she arrived in court. Henry was hoping to invoke Love at First Sight as per the Courtly Love tropes of the day, but unfortunately no one tipped off the German princess, so she gave this strange overweight man who was making advances the cold shoulder. It was not an auspicious start.
  • In the early years of the WWE (back when it was called the World Wrestling Federation), Vince Mcmahon in his younger days was known as a color commentator and interviewer. It wasn't until the Montreal Screw Job, that people found out he was the owner and CEO of the whole operation.
  • Ring of Honor head booker Gabe Sapolsky worked as the commentator "Jimmy Bowers" while the owner of RF Video, ROH's initial parent company, Rob Feinstein acted as a cheerleading type manager to The Christopher Street Connection, going by "Fun Athletic Guy". Cary Silkin, the eventual owner who did away with the two founders to save their creation, was the only one who didn't use an alias, although he also didn't publicly reveal who he was, preferring to just watch the show rather than take part in or credit for it, until circumstance kind of forced him to take the reins.
  • The Bella Twins were believed to do this in The Trafford Centre between 2008 and 2013, according to people who work in the centre. But it isn't just them — there's also reports of Taylor Swift (during the Tom Hiddleston relationship), Beth Phoenix and One Direction having been there amongst the thousands of shoppers. In 2014, one motorist claimed that Taylor Swift tried to steal his parking space, making this trope questionable in the case of Taylor.
  • Miley Cyrus has done this on occasion, even asking people what they thought about her.
  • Unintentionally done by Mark Hamill, when Jeremy Renner was signing autographs and thought Mark was a homeless person.
  • Timur the Lame was known to love playing chess. There is a legend that he was unsure whether he was really a good player or it was a case of Let the Bully Win, so he dressed up as a beggar and went to a chess club. He still defeated everyone.
  • When Joan of Arc first sought an audience with Charles VII, he tested her claims of being sent on a Mission from God by disguising himself as one of his courtiers when his court assembled for their meeting. She identified him immediately, despite never having seen him before, and bowed low and embraced his knees, declaring "God give you a happy life, sweet King!" This, combined with a private conversation where she reportedly proved she knew secrets of him he had only said alone in prayer, convinced him to lend her his support and thus led to French victory at Orleans.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Queen Incognito


I am Queen Amidala

Padme reveals that she is the real Queen of Naboo.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / KingIncognito

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