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Lost Orphaned Royalty

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Villains often try to kill off the whole royal line in their attempts to take the throne. This hardly ever works and they really ought to know better, as a Lost Orphaned Royal will surely turn up sooner or later to take it back. That is this trope. If the orphan in question was lost as a baby or Switched at Birth, that is also this trope. If the orphan was sent away by the King and Queen to be raised by simple peasant folk for what doubtless seemed like a very good reason at the time, that is also this trope. If the orphan was accidentally dropped down the laundry chute by an absent-minded cleaning woman and adopted by a pack of Sewer Gators, that is still this trope.

Basically, this trope is when a child raised as an orphan turns out to actually be the next heir to the throne. The orphan may or may not be aware of the situation, and ditto with the reader and the rest of the characters; what matters is that the child was not raised as royalty and was, at some point and by somebody, presumed Lost.

For an interesting spin, the orphan could BE the villain, obsessed with getting the life he or she deserves to have, being the true heir and all...

Did Anastasia Survive? is a subtrope inspired by nearly a century of speculation on a possible real-world case that turned out to be false in the end.

For another real-world case of mysteriously missing royalty, see The Fate of the Princes in the Tower.

Often overlaps with or leads to Moses in the Bulrushes, Really Royalty Reveal, Hidden Backup Prince, Man in the Iron Mask, Rightful King Returns, and Rags to Royalty. Suddenly Suitable Suitor is a common plot twist.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Akazukin Chacha: Chacha is the princess of the magic kingdom. Daimao turned her parents into stone when she was just a baby, and she was taken care of by Seravy ever since.

    Film — Animation 
  • Anastasia: Fits squarely in the "Did Anastasia Survive?" subtrope and in the film's universe answers it with a resounding yes, she hit her head falling from a train fleeing the Bolsheviks (and some demons sent by Rasputin) and got amnesia and was raised between the ages of 8 and 18 in an orphanage. She ends up reuniting with her grandmother Grand Duchess Marie but chooses not to take the throne as she's in love with Dimitri, a commoner, and couldn't marry him if she did.
  • Ratatouille: Maybe not in the "royalty" sense, but Linguini's father Gusteau is critically famous and has specified Linguini as the next heir to his restaurant, much to Skinner's despair.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Lone Starr of Spaceballs. The pendant around his neck is actually a royal birth certificate, which is revealed at the end of the film.

  • In The Chronicles of Prydain, Eilonwy turns out to be this. Her royal status isn't revealed until the absolute last page of the first book, but eventually Taran (and the reader) learns that she is the last Princess of Llyr, whose parents have been dead for years and who was stolen as an infant by the evil Queen Achren. There isn't much of a kingdom of Llyr left for her to claim, but she still has the Royal Blood and all the inborn magical powers of its true princess.
    • Taran himself is a subversion of the trope. He's definitely an orphan, and he was definitely lost as a baby—but when Dallben finally reveals what he knows of Taran's origins, he confesses that he has absolutely no idea who the boy is. He may or may not be of Royal Blood. Regardless, he ends the series by being named High King of Prydain.
  • Cradle Series: Subverted. Lindon practices the Path of Black Flame, the overpowered and dangerous Path of the previous royal family of the Blackflame Empire. The Blackflames faded into obscurity over the years until they were quietly usurped by their servants. Several people therefore assume that Lindon is some secret Hidden Backup Prince kept safe by the royal family. Though since their power is something that can be learned, no one is that surprised when he explains he has no connection to the family. The Empire does let the rumor persist, though, because it looks good for them if the former imperial family is now serving them rather than the other way around.
  • Discworld:
    • Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson was orphaned as an infant, then raised by dwarves, before eventually travelling to Ankh-Morpork to become a city guard. He turned out in fact to be the rightful 'eir to the throne, and from all appearances he'd be damned good at it, what with his essential king-ness meaning the entire city, horrible selfish jerks to a human, actually like him. But he really doesn't want to be king, and the man in charge doesn't want a king, and Sam Vimes, his boss, really doesn't want kings. So he isn't the king, and everyone is happy. Well, everyone within reason.
    • Wyrd Sisters has Tomjon, the King's heir, who was taken out of the palace so the usurper Felmet couldn't kill him. He was given to a troupe of actors by the witches, so that he would move around the Discworld and not be noticed until it was time for him to retake the throne. Except he didn't: he preferred to stay as an actor, but luckily there was a half-brother revealed as an alternative heir: Verence, the Fool. (Subverted in that neither half-brother is the son of the king; rather, Tomjon is the son of the queen by Verence's father, the previous Fool.)
  • Deryni: The First Festil isn't as careful as he should have been to get every single one of the Haldane King's several sons. This comes back to bite his descendants big time.
  • Older Than Feudalism: The Histories of Herodotus report a story like this about Cyrus the Great. In this story, Astyages, King of the Medes, has a Prophetic Dream that his advisors interpreted as meaning that the son of his daughter Mandane, whom he had married off to King Cambyses of neighboring Persia, would supplant him. Astyages therefore recalled Mandane to his capital at Ecbatana and waited for her to give birth. When she gave birth to a son named Cyrus, Astyages ordered his general Harpagus to kill the newborn. Harpagus couldn't manage this, so he delegated it to one of the royal shepherds, Mithradanes, who couldn't bring himself to do it, either. Instead, Mithradanes, whose wife had conveniently given birth to a stillborn son about the same time as Mandane was giving birth to Cyrus, presented the stillborn child to Astyages as Cyrus, and took Cyrus as his own son. For ten years, Cyrus was raised as a shepherd's son, but eventually Cyrus does something unshepherdlike (he orders the son of a noble to be beaten for failing to follow his orders), and the shepherd tells Astyages everything. At this juncture, Astyages realizes You Can't Fight Fate and sends the boy to live with his parents in Persia. (Meanwhile, he tricks Harpagus into eating his own son as punishment for his failure to carry out orders.)
  • Shasta, from C. S. Lewis's The Horse and His Boy is one. He was abducted by an Evil Chancellor, lost in the middle of a naval battle between the Chancellor's forces and the royal navy, and then was taken in by a fisherman. Later he finds his true family and grows into Cor, King of Archenland.
  • In the Jacob's Ladder Trilogy, the servant girl Rien, who was raised as a Mean orphan in Rule, discovers that she is actually an Exalt noble from Engine, a member of the royal Conn family who was given away as a hostage as part of a past arrangement between the kingdoms. Being a Conn means she is eligible to claim the empty throne of the Captain of Jacob's Ladder.
  • Lafayette O'Leary: In The Time Bender, O'Leary turns out to be the missing heir to the throne of Artesia. However, in the event, he doesn't want the crown, and abdicates in favor of Princess Adoreanne.
  • In The Last Daughter Of York: The modern-day protagonist investigates her twin sister's disappearance, which is wrapped up with the identity of their elderly grandfather, Dick, who was adopted as a little boy. It turns out that Dick is the younger of the two Princes in the Tower who in a Time Travel rescue was sent forward in time to protect him from Henry Tudor.
  • According to The Marvelous Land of Oz, Princess Ozma is this—she was the daughter of the last king of Oz, whose father sold her as a baby in exchange for an immortality potion; or, depending on the edition of the same book, the Oz Dorothy knew took Ozma to the witch and told her to hide the kid. The witch turned the girl into a boy named Tip and raised him. She gets her rightful name, title, and body back at the end of the story. note 
  • In Metaltown, while not literal royalty, Ty, aka Astor Tyson, turns out to be the orphaned heir of the Medical District owners who had more money than the Hamptons at one point. It ends up defied when she's killed before she can claim it, though some of the inheritance does go to people in need.
  • Jenna from Septimus Heap is effectively this; her father is alive, but virtually nonexistent.
  • Aegon Targaryen, a.k.a. the Young Griff, a.k.a. the Walking Spoiler in A Song of Ice and Fire, is supposedly an orphan and the adopted son of an exiled knight. The orphan part is completely true, though. He is well aware of who he really is, and his adoptive father is preparing to put him on the throne.
    • However, some fans think he may be a Blackfyre descendant, Illyrio's son, a combination of the previous two, or just a random kid with Valyrian features raised to believe that he is Aegon Targaryen, son of Rhaegar, in an elaborate plot cooked up by Varys and Illyrio.
    • If fan theory is true and it does prove to be true in its TV adaptation, Game of Thrones, Jon Snow is the hidden son of Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, potentially making him the heir to the Iron Throne after the death of Viserys. Jon’s biological father died in battle before he was born and his mother died giving birth to him, but not before she made her older brother Ned Stark promise that he would protect her son from the new king, Robert Baratheon, as Robert would kill Jon if he found out his true parentage.
  • In Zodiac Academy, twin sisters Tory and Darcy are revealed to be the heirs to the throne of Solaria near the start of the first book.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones confirms the fan theory that Ned Stark's illegitimate son Jon Snow is actually his nephew — Jon is the secret trueborn child of Ned's sister Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen and the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, kept hidden to save his life from being killed by the new ruling regime after the Targaryen dynasty is deposed. Rhaegar was killed in battle before Jon's birth and Jon's mother Lyanna dies shortly after giving birth. Before her death, Lyanna passes her newborn son into her brother Ned's care, who promises to protect his sister's child (Jon) from the new king Robert Baratheon as Robert wants to kill anybody with Targaryen blood. Ned claims his nephew Jon as his own illegitimate child to protect him and raises him as his own son alongside his children, concealing the truth to keep Jon safe. At this point in the show, the only living persons who know the truth of Jon's origins are Jon's "half brother"/cousin Bran (who knows because he can supernaturally see into the past), his best friend Sam (who knows because he found the paper trail proving that Rhaegar had his marriage to Elia Martell annulled and then married Lyanna, and put two and two together after Bran regaled his own clairvoyant revelation to Sam), Sam's girlfriend Gilly (who helped Sam find the paper trail), and Howland Reed (who knows because he was with Ned when Lyanna was found after giving birth to her son).
  • In Once Upon a Time Emma Swan is the daughter of Prince Charming and Snow White, who was the reigning Queen before the curse takes effect. As a baby, Emma is sent away through a portal to our world by her parents in their efforts to save her from the curse. In the real world, she is raised in foster care without any idea of who her parents are until the curse is lifted from Storybrooke and she is reunited with them. Emma is the heir to her kingdom's throne but this has yet to be a plot point in the series.
  • Disney XD's Pair of Kings: The entire plotline of the TV series is about teenaged adopted twins, Brady and Boomer, who live in Chicago, Illinois, finding out that they are actually the long lost sons of the former deceased king and queen of an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, named Kinkow, and then moving to Kinkow to take over as the new co-kings of the island. Overlaps with Really Royalty Reveal.
    • In Season 3, when Brady decides to leave the island of Kinkow in order to move back to Chicago and temporarily abdicate his throne as one of the Kings of Kinkow, coincidentally King Boomer finds out that they're not just twin siblings, but they're actually triplets, and that a third triplet brother of their's named Boz, is also supposed to be one of Kinkow's co-kings along with Brady and Boomer, making the nation of Kinkow a triarchy/triumvirate. Boz then moves to the island of Kinkow upon Boomer's invitation and essentially replaces Brady as the Co-King of the nation alongside Boomer. In real life, the reason for this change was because Mitchel Musso who portrayed King Brady was asked by Disney Channel to leave the show when he was arrested for driving under the influence after the end of the second season and his character was replaced by Adam Hicks.

    Mythology and Legend 
  • King Arthur, at least in most versions of Arthurian Legend, grows up knowing that the nobleman raising him isn't his real father, but neither he nor anyone else has any idea that he's actually the missing son of the late Uther Pendragon until he pulls a certain sword out of a certain stone.
  • Paris was packed off and raised as a shepherd due to a prophecy that he would cause Troy's destruction. In some versions, he was taken back by his parents because the prophecy had been verified by his sister Cassandra, who no one believed.

  • In Oedipus the King, Oedipus was of the 'sent away by the king and queen' variety. A prophecy foretold that the baby prince would one day kill his father and marry his mother, so they sent him away to prevent it. As a young man, he learns of the prophecy - and believes it means his adoptive parents, since he has no idea he was adopted. Horrified, he runs away to try to prevent it. No prizes for guessing what happens next.

    Video Games 
  • In Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny, Fee is revealed to be the long-lost princess of Slaith, who disappeared when the kingdom was conquered back when she was a baby. This is proved by her ability to perform the Ein Zecksclaw, as sword technique that every member of the royal family is somehow born knowing how to do, which can otherwise only be used by her elder brother.
  • Slackjaw from Dishonored. He was raised by a whore and the heart reveals that he is actually a prince, but that he'll never know.
  • Alistair in the Dragon Age games believes himself to be this, being the son of the late king and "a star-struck maid." Whether he makes an attempt to claim his father's throne or not is largely up to the player character in Dragon Age: Origins. However, the trope is subverted because, unbeknownst to Alistair, his mother isn't dead. (She's also not a maid.)
  • In The Elder Scrolls series' backstory, Barenziah, the future Queen of Morrowind, was the last surviving member of her noble Dunmeri family after Tiber Septim's Imperial Legions sacked Mournhold. Septim's Dunmeri General, Symmachus, convinced Septim to spare Barenziah and had her secretly placed into the foster care of the Count and Countess of Darkmoor (Imperial loyalists) until she would old enough to take the throne in Morrowind as a legitimate vassal ruler for the Empire. She would, of course, escape her foster family and went on various adventures in her teenage years. Notably, she spent some time as The Artful Dodger as a member of the Thieves' Guild and engaged in The Oldest Profession. She would be found and brought back by Symmachus to serve her purpose. She would outlive both Symmachus and Septim, going on to achieve more than either could have imagined.
    • In the Elsweyr expansion of The Elder Scrolls Online, Euraxia Tharn massacred the King and Queen of Elsweyr and their children, usurping the throne. Khamira reveals herself to be the daughter of King Hemakar and the Queen; she was visiting a monastary during the massacre, and was brought to Lord Gharesh-ri, the Speaker of the Mane, as his page until the time was right to reveal herself.
  • In Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, protagonist Lyn grew up an orphan on the plains of Sacae, but would later discover that she is of royal descent and nest in line to the throne of Caelin.
  • In Queen at Arms, protagonist Marcus is actually Princess Callista, whose parents were murdered when their throne was usurped. This particular orphaned royal is so very lost that most people don't even realize she exists.

     Visual Novel 
  • Tyrion Cuthbert: Attorney of the Arcane has Celeste McCoy, who was abandoned by her father, Rathallion, The Scaled Lord outside of a tavern. While Rathallion isn't directly part of the royal family, him and his kin are considered to be successors if none other are avaliable. Once Celeste learns her identity and the previous king, Aster, dies, she becomes the Queen.

  • Girl Genius: Years before the main story began, Castle Heterodyne was attacked and badly damaged and the two lords of the family disappeared, apparently without a living heir. However it is eventually revealed that Agatha, the main character of the series, is in fact a daughter of the Heterodyne family and thus the legitimate Lady of House Heterodyne.

    Western Animation 
  • LoliRock: At the very beginning of the series, ordinary teenage girl Iris learns that she is actually a princess from her home realm of Ephedia, and was sent away to Earth by the royal family to protect her from Gramorr as he quickly took over the entire kingdom.
  • My Little Pony Tales: "Princess Problems" revolves around the King and Queen of the Isle of Pony coming to Ponyland as part of their long search for their lost daughter. Naturally, Patch matches all the descriptions. She's not happy about it at all, as she's Happily Adopted and scared of the prospect of losing her adopted parents. Subverted when it turns out she wasn't the lost princess; her old friend from the same orphanage Rosy is, and is reunited with her long-lost parents.
  • Mysticons: Proxima is mistaken for Princess Arkayna’s long-lost twin sister, who is later revealed to be Zarya Moonwolf.
  • Vytor The Starfire Champion: The humble young man from Terron, Vytor finds out that he is the son of a king when he meets Princess Skyla of a neighboring kingdom of Aerion.
  • Winx Club: Bloom is introduced as an ordinary Earth girl that ended up becoming a magical fairy after saving one from a monster attack. But throughout the series, she soon discovers that she is actually a princess from her homeworld of Domino and was sent to Earth many years ago by her sister Daphne to protect her from the Ancestral Witches, who were after Bloom for the all-powerful Dragon Flame.
  • W.I.T.C.H.: Elyon is revealed to be the long-lost princess of and rightful heir to the kingdom of Meridian.