Basically, the Lady of War is a female fighter who retains an air of grace and reserve not usually associated with violence. If not an actual Princess, she tends to be otherwise highly placed, or at least look and act like it. If she's not gentle-mannered she may be an Aloof Dark-Haired Girl or arrogant and generally prissy and might become subject to a Defrosting Ice Queen scenario. Often, she's simply The Stoic.
In RPGs, female roles tend to be limited to magic use, but sometimes women get to take on more physical roles in combat, and that leads us to a different Odd Couple pair: the Lady of War and the Cute Bruiser.
Character-design wise, she doesn't tend to be overtly sexualised in the way that other types of female warrior often are, or at least not to such an unsubtle degree. The Lady of War does have her own charm in a cool, collected, Nicole Kidman way. She's also very unlikely to be paired with the protagonist — that's what White Mages are for — unless there is no White Mage. In any case, she almost certainly occupies a firm place in the hearts of at least a minority of the fandom. (see Amazon Chaser)
A Lady of War is almost always given an elegant weapon that emphasizes her femininity — often a bow, rapier, naginata, steel fan, or even an umbrella, all weapons that have a certain choreographic element in the way they're wielded. They also allow her to avoid getting her hands dirty and usually invoke Wouldn't Hit a Girl as a result. If guns are the norm, she's likely to prefer an easily-concealed revolver with deadly aim, as opposed to an automatic. If the story deals with martial arts, she'll use a "refined" fighting style like Tai Chi or Aikijutsu, or will be given the gymnastic prowess to engage in some variant of She-Fu.
In terms of physical capabilities, she's usually some form of the Fragile Speedster (and/or Glass Cannon, if a ranged fighter), but it's not unheard of for her to be a Jack-of-All-Stats or Mighty Glacier/Glacier Waif, especially if she wears armor. It is possible a degree of Sarashi will be necessary to deal with an inescapable physical reality which might impede free movement in combat.
If she were a preteen, she'd be a Little Miss Badass.
Contrasted by Short Tank or Bokukko Cute Bruisers. Where the Lady of War is about grace and reserve, the tomboyish Cute Bruiser is more about unrestrained passion and power. The former also tends to be older than the latter. There is the possibility of having the Cute Bruiser grow up into a Lady of War, but it's not that common. See also Girly Bruiser.
Expect anyone with the title "Lady" in an Action Adventure story to be this.
Compare Royals Who Actually Do Something, Rebellious Princess, Pretty Princess Powerhouse, Kicking Ass in All Her Finery and Officer and a Gentleman. Contrast Princess Classic, Prince Charming. Compare/Contrast Modest Royalty. If she's based on Joan of Arc, she's a Jeanne d'Archétype. Compare Silk Hiding Steel, for a woman who does her fighting in the court or parlor and with a fan and words instead of spear and shield.
A subtrope of Action Girl, though not all Action Girls qualify as Ladies of War if they lack the calm, dignified demeanor. Essentially, she's the Distaff Counterpart to an Officer and a Gentleman. A Lady of War who uses magic rather than a melee weapon is a Lady of Black Magic, although a female Magic Knight can fit both. May be the female half of a Battle Couple. Like a male Cultured Warrior, some incarnations have a chance of being developed into a Warrior Poet.
Please list examples in alphabetical order.
- In Starboard Captain Saeth of the outlaw ship Taranau commands her crew with efficiency and strength, and most of them are undyingly loyal to her as a result.
- Winged Victory of Astro City is an outspoken advocate of women's rights and equality, and predictably draws controversy to herself as a result. She flies into battle with a broadsword and full armor.
- Lady Shiva from Batman and related books. Possibly the deadliest martial artist in the world, her fighting style is a masterpiece of elegance with no wasted motion whatsoever.
- In The Incredible Hulk, Caiera from Planet Hulk fits many of the requirements, being fast, graceful, and wielding an elegant weapon. She breaks from standards however, by being one of the few non-Asgardians who can not only take a punch from the green goliath, but return the favor in kind.
- Lady Sif from The Mighty Thor. In some portrayals the Goddess of War is distinctly a lady-like fighter, but remains one of Asgard's best warriors and swordsmen nevertheless.
- Peggy Carter, a competent agent who manages to be composed even in the heat of battle.
- Wonder Woman, who is a master of many forms of combat and stated by Batman to be the best melee combatant in the world. She uses her bulletproof bracelets and Lasso of Truth to great effect and, while unarmed, graceful maneuvers and powerful blows, all while having a regal demeanor as Princess of Themyscira.
- Psylocke from X-Men. She's stoic and ruthless, and her mastery in martial arts gives her movements a sense of smooth, graceful lethality. Her Psychic Powers tend to manifest as butterfly motifs, and allow her to form an elegant telekinetic katana as her weapon.
- Wanda Maximoff. She is very inquisitive, controlled and elegant, and she usually tends to arrive in battle wrapped in red gowns and capes, but is also one of the most powerful superheroes in the Marvel Universe.
- Brave is often subverted when Merida, a "plucky princess" with a heart of gold, has a fighting style similar to Rose Quartz (sword) and Belldandy (bow and arrow), fighting alongside her "collected queen", Queen Elinor (after being turned into a bear by a witch as a part of the curse).
- The titular character from Shrek comments how feminine Fiona looked after she kicked the butts of Robin Hood and his men. She indeed makes a good job looking graceful when doing her Waif-Fu.
- Matsu in the Female Prisoner Scorpion films is an interesting subversion in a few ways. First, she's the protagonist. Second, she's a prisoner for much of the series, so stuff like social position, weapon and costume choice don't really apply, but despite this, her basic attitude exudes grace and reserve, she's aloof by nature and she's certainly stoic. Thirdly, on occasions when she does have some choice of how she equips herself, she totally rejects the idea of keeping her enemies at a distance, and opts for a knife and a Badass Longcoat with a Nice Hat, all in black, which contrives to be very feminine without being overtly sexy.
- The Gamers: Dorkness Rising has Daphne, the Lawful Good Fragile Speedster female fighter in the game-within-a-show Her fighting style emphasizes speed and precision over brute force, and she generally behaves with more dignity than her fellow PCs, although there are times when she lightens up a bit.
- Mothra of Godzilla fame is a butterfly-esque Kaiju rather than a human woman, but qualifies for this trope nonetheless. In contrast to most kaiju, she's a Gentle Giant who is nearly always kind and careful (though if you know what's good for you, don't touch her eggs), and in combat scenarios favors a combination of high-flying acrobatics and Air Jousting, creating a graceful combat style that contrasts against the Mighty Glacier style of the Big G himself.
- Pictured above is O-Ren Ishii from Kill Bill, "Queen of Tokyo's Underworld". She's polite, demure, and keeps a stone cold expression throughout the movie, even when decapitating one of her subordinates for insulting her heritage. When fighting the The Bride to the death, she wears an elegant kimono and uses her katana with an air of cool and honor. She's even the Expy of Lady Snowblood another notable Lady Of War.
- Star Wars:
- Padmé is this in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. She's a refined, dignified noblewoman who prefers negotiation and discussion, but is a dead shot with a blaster when she needs to be.
- Her daughter Leia follows in her footsteps, though she is less dignified and more of a firebrand, especially in A New Hope.
- Even though Selene from the Underworld can rip most her enemies to shreds with her bare hands, she always prefers killing them more elegantly, with weapons and acrobatics, if she can avoid it. This is in a particularly striking contrast to the brutal fighting styles of Michael and their daughter Eve in Underworld: Awakening.
- Mariko Yashida from The Wolverine has the dignified demeanor of one when she fights.
- Eowyn from Lord of the Rings follows in her book counterpart's footsteps of being both well versed in the manners of court as would befit a noble lady of her rank, and also a formidable warrior.
- Lexa from The 100. She's her people's leader, is always calm and composed, and, by the standards of her Barbarian Tribe, she dresses and acts rather regally. She hasn't had too many fight scenes, but when she does fight, it's with a swift and graceful economy of movement.
- Peggy Carter of Agent Carter, much like her comic book-counterpart. Elegant and stylish, she maintains her impeccable grace as she calmly shoots at enemies and even when using brutal punches and kicks or improvised weapons. She first appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger where she was Steve's main love interest and was Lady of War there too; her popularity led to her getting her own series, thus becoming the first solo heroine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
- Angel: Cordelia Chase becomes one following a few lessons in swordsmanship by Angel.
- Arrow has two notable examples in its female League of Assassins members.
- Sara Lance. Reserved and merciless, she moves gracefully in battle, employing gymnastic flips and dance-like movements, and batons that can combine to form a bo staff. She also dons a more elegant outfit as the White Canary in Legends of Tomorrow. However, unlike most Ladies of War she displays a fun-loving attitude outside of missions.
- Nyssa Al-Ghul, daughter of Ra's Al-Ghul, is a ruthless, poised warrior whose regal demeanor carries over to combat. Her preferred weapon is even a bow and arrow.
- In Chinese Paladin, Ling'er develops into this, as her calm, quiet and reserved personality, minimalist fighting style, and dress style contrasts with the more rambunctious and tomboyish Yue'Ru. Although Ling'er primarily uses magic as a ranged weapon, she can also handle a sword and staff.
- Madame Vastra in Doctor Who is a dignified, very intelligent Lipstick Lesbian Silurian onna-bugeisha who ate Jack the Ripper.
- Aeryn Sun from Farscape. Her status as official series badass is cemented in the first episode and restated innumerable times thereafter. Even after her defrosting, she continues to regularly kick metric tonnes of ass, especially when a certain child is involved. This leads to one of her many Crowning Moments of Awesome ("It's a boy. In case you were wondering.") as well as a Funny Moment ("But shooting makes me feel better!") in the miniseries.
- Game of Thrones: Daenerys shows shades of this when she rides Drogon to burn the slavers' fleet in all her queenly, regal glory. Later, she fights a third of the Lannister-Tarly forces from atop Drogon in the Battle of the Goldroad.
- Kahlan from Legend of the Seeker, who frequently battles in slow-motion with knives without mussing her pretty medieval dresses.
- In Mahou Sentai Magiranger, Miyuki Ozu and her Power Rangers counterpart Udonna. They each have her own ranger transformations and their fight scenes have a sense of grace the rangers themselves lack. Also, in Magiranger, Miyuki's patron Heavenly Saint was the female Snowgel, a rare Bare-Fisted Monk Lady Of War.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine plays it straight with Jadzia Dax, an elegant and graceful fighter who knows Klingon martial arts and has a Bat'leth. Averted harshly with Kira Nerys, who grew up under the Cardassian Occupation and was a leader of the Bajoran Resistance and as a result is a Combat Pragmatist of the first order.
- In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Cameron certainly fits a number of the characteristics, especially in regards to her absolute calm, feminine grace, and physical ability. Though in her case, much of it is due to the fact that she is also a very scary robot. But don't let her catch you calling her that.
- Michonne and Carol Peletier from The Walking Dead. Michonne is of noble character, and coolly disposes of Walkers with grace and quickness. Carol is a mature and composed Team Mom, and kills with knives and firearms whilst maintaining a stoic expression.
- Deborah from The Bible, fourth Judge of Israel. So inspirational that her appointed military leader didn't think he could win the impending battle without her.
- In Classical Mythology, the goddess Athena (known as Minerva to the Romans) is primarily the goddess of wisdom and crafts, but is also a goddess of defensive and strategic warfare (as opposed to Ares, who deals in offensive war, brutality, etc). She is portrayed as a "virgin goddess," meaning that either she never got laid or she never married (or both), and is portrayed as calm, wise, sly and dignified. She intervenes on the side of the Greeks on several occasions in The Iliad, and helps Odysseus on multiple times in that epic and in The Odyssey. She was also the patron goddess of Athens (which was named for her). Thanks to Athena, this trope is Older Than Feudalism.
- La Revolución Domincana's La Morena, la reina del estilo y la violencia, la prieta del swing.
- Simply D'Vyne's mantra was to win by any means necessary, even if it came to lying, cheating or stealing, so long as it could be done with style and grace.
- Kimber Lee, the so called "First Lady Of The Combat Zone", besides having a vision for the company where men were equal to women, also joined Drew Gulak's campaign to create a more respectable Combat Zone by ending abuse of officials and cutting back on Garbage Wrestling. This lead her to attacking Christina Von Eerie, who besides displaying some surprising agility, was the very opposite of graceful in every way and viewed as a cultural degenerate for her nontraditional ring gear, numerous tattoos, mohawk, tendency to weaponize whatever isn't bolted down and of course, spitting.
- In spite of the name, Made In Sin like to think of themselves as classy and are hurt by any accusations toward them that sound unbecoming of proper ladies. However, pearl necklaces and wine glasses do little to obscure the fact Allysin Kay is still a thug at heart and they both like to load their "insurance policy" down with various foreign objects. Rival tag team Better Than You also self identify as "class" but are less defensive about it, caring as much about public perception as the name implies.
- Forgotten Realms:
- Red Knight, the Faerunian goddess of strategy and tactics (that is, her holy symbol is a chess knight), has elements of this. Her intelligence and reserve make her a natural counterbalance to the berserker war deity Garagos.
- Not that there was a shortage of stylish warlike nobility on Faerun, including female nobles, due to elven influences. For that matter...
Ilsevele: Don't you dare suggest that it might be too dangerous for me, Araevin. I am one of the best spellarchers on this island and I am an officer in the Queen's Guard. note
- Magic: The Gathering has a few, most notably Mirri, an elegant cat woman from the Weatherlight saga ("Full of beauty and grace, with a predator's instincts..."), and Jeska, a steely female barbarian from the Odyssey storyline ("My brother and I both come from Balthor's forge. Kamahl has a temper of fire. I have a temper of steel.").
- In John Milton's Comus, the elder brother invokes this in the Greek goddesses:
Hence had the huntress Dian her dread bow
Fair silver-shafted queen for ever chaste,
Wherewith she tamed the brinded lioness
And spotted mountain-pard, but set at nought
The frivolous bolt of Cupid; gods and men
Feared her stern frown, and she was queen o' the woods.
What was that snaky-headed Gorgon shield
That wise Minerva wore, unconquered virgin,
Wherewith she freezed her foes to congealed stone,
But rigid looks of chaste austerity,
And noble grace that dashed brute violence
With sudden adoration and blank awe?
- Queen Margaret of Henry VI famously dons armour and rides into battle from time to time. Depends on the production, but she often retains her full queenliness doing it.
- Lady Macbeth never quite crosses the line into fighter territory, but she remains poised and glamourous throughout while masterminding her husband's way to the thrown and getting her hands dirty.
- Gali from BIONICLE. She's notable for being The Smart Guy, The Heart and having invented her own martial arts/gymnastics discipline just to qualify for this trope. Her five brother-Toa? They're pretty direct, inelegant, and can't work together well even if they're friendly. In-universe, Gali essentially invented this trope whole-cloth.
- Subverted with Sakura Oogami from Dangan Ronpa. She's a master of martial arts and has a calm demeanor, extremely polite speech patterns (rendered as Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe in the Let's Play) and a very high status as the heir to a famous dojo... but considering her looks and her fighting style, Sakura is probably the least feminine-looking Lady of War ever.
- Saber, the "King of Knights", from Fate/stay night. She wears armor over a dress, wears her hair in a Prim and Proper Bun, and is a graceful, demure, and elegant master of the sword. Her true identity is later revealed to be King Arthur Pendragon.
- RWBY has several, specifically:
- Blunt attitude aside, Weiss Schnee is the most feminine and elegant fighter in the series. Her fighting style appears to be a combination of fencing and figure skating. She remains cool and calmly collected in battle, and uses her Myrtenaster with precision and calculation.
- Blake Belladonna relies more on acrobatics, speed and stealth than brute strength or large weapons when she fights, and fights with a whip/gun/katana. She is also very composed; usually moreso than Weiss.
- Pyrrha Nikos, who's a renowned three-time champion of the Vytal Tournament, is armed with a sword and shield, which she summons using her semblance, and fights with a fluid and graceful manner. This becomes even more the case when it revealed that she also uses her semblance to subtly "nudge" her opponents' attacks off-center, creating the impression that she's untouchable.
- Neo, Roman Torchwick's bodyguard, is a villainous example. Neo is petite, never speaks, and completely did Yang Xiao Long in by casually dodging her punches, deflecting her attacks with a Parasol of Pain, and using her own attack to knock her out, all while maintaining a dignified air and smirking the entire way through. She even took the time to pose gracefully every so often during the fight, just to mock Yang and piss her off.
- Winter Schnee, like her younger sister. She attacks with much agility and precision using a saber, and is very aloof and dignified. One of her glyphs involves a hail of birds flying at her enemy. However, she does have a quick temper and can be easily goaded into charging her enemy.
- Cinder Fall, although usually a Lady of Black Magic, is a dark one like Neo. Maintaining an air of calm and reserve even in the heat of battle, when she infiltrates Beacon Tower, she initially employs stealth, then fights the guards in a spinning and whirling style that makes it appear as though she's dancing. When Ruby confronts her, she makes summoning forth a bow and arrows while engaging in leaping dodges look effortless.
- Cucumber Quest:
- On the rare occasions her more feminine side shows through, Almond. Her combat showing during the Beauty Contest in the Flower Kingdom is a notable example of this, during which, using her sword, she swiftly disarms several of her opponents of the flower pins necessary to remain in the contest, never actually hurting any of them, and all the while never tarnishing her newly-acquired Pimped-Out Dress.
- While she also has elements of Lady of Black Magic, Rosemaster is definitely this. She's polite, dignified, and never wears the same outfit twice, and her Green Thumb fighting style is a combination of practiced grace and deadly precision.
- Gosu: As the current leader of the Baekma Valley,note Jin Garyeong qualifies by default. It makes sense considering who her grandfather is.
- Therkla from The Order of the Stick, albeit as much as the limited art style can allow. As a McNinja, she always favors stealth and opportunistic strikes over direct confrontation, and in the rare moments she's in direct combat she tends to use acrobatic maneuvers and grappling far more than any other female character.
- In The Whateley Universe, while Fey of the Super Hero School Whateley Academy is a mage, she fits this trope pretty well. She's been given a magic scimitar which she learns to use, and she's learning to wield the bow. She's literally a princess, since part of her is an ancient Sidhe queen. And her fighting style is Tai Chi with grace, since her Faerie glamour won't permit anything else.
- In Worm, Contessa is described as extremely graceful in combat, and incapacitates the Chicago Wards and Weaver mainly by letting them hit each other, without even getting dirty.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender has Emotionless Girl Mai, who prefers throwing knives to getting her hands dirty and maintains an air of calm in victory and defeat alike.
- The former Avatar Kyoshi has a very regal and imposing presence due to her physical size, calm deep voicenote , and dress. Her followers, the Kyoshi Warriors, wear the same uniform: modern day war fatigues, make-up that serves as war paint, and metal fans which can be used as ranged throwing weapons. They all look the part but their personalities are as diverse as Suki to Ty Lee.
- Like its predecessor, The Legend of Korra has its Ladies of War.
- Lin Beifong, daughter of Toph Beifong and chief of police, is an Iron Lady of a metalbender, using metal cables to bind enemies to toss them around and perform acrobatics. Her style of earthbending is also much more refined than most others. She has a cool, authoritative demeanor and doesn't lose her grace and dignity as she is de-bended by Amon.
- Team Avatar's Asami Sato is a tall, graceful Badass Normal martial artist whose Weapon of Choice is an electrified glove. Her fighting style is very elegant, using acrobatics and nimble movements. In Book 3, she shows that she can jump over a speeding motorcycle, kick the rider off, and finish with a graceful landing.
- Kuvira, the Big Bad of Book Four, is a villainous one. A composed metalbender, she shoots the metal strips from her armor at opponents to blind them or bind their limbs to toss them around, all done using agile and precise movements. During her fight with Korra she dodges all her attacks until she goes into the Avatar State while maintaining an air of dignity.
- Rose Richards from the short-lived toy-based-cartoon Peppermint Rose TV special had an alternative fighting style which involved singing, foiling Queen Beeteelya's plan of eating the magic flower.
- She-Ra: Princess of Power has all the earmarks... high-born, sword-wielding Action Heroine with a calm demeanor. Unlike most Ladies of War, however, she displays a cheerful, pleasant attitude and a willingness to joke and laugh with the rest of her cast...probably due to being The Heroine of her show.
- Although actually genderless as opposed to female, Pearl from Steven Universe fits this trope. She fights primarily with a magical spear, though she also uses swords, and her fighting style is based around ballet, so it includes lots of graceful twirls and spins. This trope is taken further with her calm and perfectionist nerve in combat.
- Opal, the fusion of Amethyst and Pearl, has Pearl's coolness and composure and battles with flowing, graceful, and precise archery.
- Rose Quartz. Her appearance and demeanor scream either "plucky princess" or "collected queen" depending on her mood. She was soft-spoken and kind, and made the decision to be a mother at the cost of her own corporeal existence. She also led a successful rebellion against Homeworld and was extremely capable of fighting with or without her sword and shield. The "queenly" part makes more sense once we discover that she's none other than Pink Diamond regenerated into a Quartz.
- Emma (from Stōked) uses her alternative fighting style on the Hawaiian waves (which, in turn, is based around the art of surfing) while doing extreme jumps and spins.
- While she was a Little Miss Badass in her youth, Ahsoka Tano has grown into a full example by Star Wars Rebels, graceful, composed, and one of the deadliest combatants in the series. She's even addressed as "Lady Tano".
- Voltron: Legendary Defender has Princess Allura. The feminine and graceful leader of the Paladins, she pilots the Castle of Lions with a resolve of steel. If needed to get physical, she doesn't disappoint with her Super Strength and skill with a Simple Staff.
- In Japan, certain martial arts are considered highly compatible with traditional feminine ideals - among them are archery and naginatajutsu.
- Saint Joan of Arc, at least in popular legend. Some historians have concluded that she was actually a charismatic standard-bearer with a talent for inspiring the troops. But this made her no stranger to battle, as being a standard-bearer was one of the more dangerous duties one could have on a battlefield.
- Artemisia, Queen of Halicarnassus in the Greco-Persian Wars sailed in the Battle of Salamis in her own trieme. She was cunning and ruthless but at the same time she had a streak of style that makes it easy to see why sailors would follow her even though she was a Woman of Antiquity. The Persian King of Kings, when he got the report of her performance as opposed to the male commanders, is said to have quipped, "My men fight like women, and my woman fights like a man."
- In 1513, with King Henry VIII off fighting the French, the Scots decided to invade England. Absolutely nobody expected Henry's wife and regent, Catherine of Aragon to ride north with the rest of the army in full armor while pregnant. The Scots were resoundingly defeated.
- Any Finnish woman who has graduated from RUK (Reserve Officer Academy). The Finnish armed forces is notorious in the respect that it gives absolutely no handicaps for anyone because of gender. Those women who have made it through Reserve Officer Academy have done it with exactly the same requirements and standards as their male brethren. Many become later career officers or policewomen.
- The Israelis. The Israeli army is based on universal conscription, including women, and those Israeli women who have served are tough as nails. Actress Gal Gadot is an example, who is most famous for playing another particularly well-known example.
- A pedantic note; female fighters of the samurai class were not unknown in mediaeval Japan, although the term "samurai" was never used: the term "onna-bugeisha", which can loosely be translated "lady of war", was employed.