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...
- 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 stilborn 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 unshephardlike (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.
- Jenna from Septimus Heap is effectively this; her father is alive, but virtually nonexistent.
- 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 also 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.)
- 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, but nobody — save for very few people — know this. Jons biological father died in battle before he was born and his mother died after giving birth to him, but not before she asks her older brother Ned Stark to make her a promise. As shown in the TV adaptation and speculated in the book series, Ned promises his dying sister that he will protect her son from the new king, Robert Baratheon, as Robert would kill Jon if he found out his true parentage. Ned brings his nephew Jon home with him to Winterfell, raises and loves Jon as his own child alongside his trueborn offspring, and claims him as his own illegitimate son in order to keep him safe from the fatal wrath of their family's enemies, namely the Baratheon regime. As a result, while Jon is raised as the highborn bastard son of Lord Eddard (Ned) Stark and receives a highborn upbringing in a loving family, virtually nobody has any idea he is royalty, just the illegitimate son of a lord, and he also has no idea of his biological parentage as Ned has devoted the rest his life to protecting Jon by hiding this dangerous truth that would threaten Jons life.
- The First Festil isn't as careful as he should have been to get every single on of the Haldane King's several sons. This comes back to bite his descendants big time.
- 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.
- 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. The witch to whom he sold her disguised and raised her as a boy named Pip. She gets her rightful name, title, and body back at the end of the story. note
- In the Prydain Chronicles, 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.
- In The Time Bender, Lafayette 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 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.
- 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).
- King Arthur, at least in most versions of his story, is this. He 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.
- In Greek mythology, 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.
- Similarly, 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 made by his sister Cassandra, who no one believed anymore.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.