A princess is smart...
A princess is caring...
A princess likes to dress up...
A princess is brave...
A princess is ready for fun...
A princess loves to see new things...
A princess is a dreamer...
A princess is polite...
A princess loves to sing and dance...
And a princess always lives happily ever after!
When we think of a Princess, the most common association is the archetypical princess, the perfectly good, innocent, and beautiful princess, who is practically a saint with a royal title. These are largely associated with Fairy Tales, and are considered to be as old as those types of stories.
Actually, this character started in the Victorian Era. In that time when stories were being shaped by Disneyfication and Bowdlerization, the concept of Courtly Love was warped to take all the sexual Sub Text out, and turn the noble lady into an ideal of the times. All to provide only the most positive and uncomplicated image to children, and even adults as well.
Princess Classic has many general traits.
These first three points are required:
- Being Female.
- Being actual royalty, by birth or marriage, or Adopted into Royalty.
- She is innocence personified. All virtue, no vice. More than likely, she's a virgin (if that even comes up). She's good and kind, no matter what, and would be an All-Loving Hero or even a Messianic Archetype.
The following traits are typical, though optional, and since Tropes Are Flexible, any of them can be mixed & matched.
- She is usually beautiful, whether or not she is the World's Most Beautiful Woman. In animation, her beauty can shower her with sparkles and flowers, and make birds and small woodland creatures flock around her. Nice Mice are common, as is the Bluebird of Happiness.
- Long Hair Is Feminine, which it's doubly so for her. When it's not done up in a ladylike style, it will fall in wavy tresses at least past her shoulder. Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold can apply, but any hair color will do.
- Her clothes are elegant, whether simple or opulent (and either white, pink, blue, or purple). If she ends up in rags, she still makes the rags beautiful on her. When she wears her Requisite Royal Regalia, it tends to be dainty, to represent her demure and delicate nature. Particularly, her Cool Crown will often be a tiara or small crown.
- If it's a musical, her singing voice is gorgeous and probably a soprano.
- She is shy and demure, and so delicate that she usually can't lift a finger to defend herself. That's what the brave knight is for. It's okay, since Delicate Is Beautiful.
- A modern contrast with the above trait is that she may be outspoken, opinionated, and willing to defend herself, but despite that is never rude (when she can help it), is still kind and wishes to help others, and will never actively seek to harm another (unless driven that far).
- She lives Happily Ever After with her prince, with whom she always falls in love, even if it's an Arranged Marriage.
- If the story is for children, she doesn't die at the end. If the story is for older audiences, she may die—but she will definitely be Too Good for This Sinful Earth.
Now changing values have eroded the idealism that this character represented. So even though this character has only slightly more credibility than the geocentric universe theory, she's not a Dead Horse Trope yet. She's still around in some fiction for really young children due to the Grandfather Clause. And even in everywhere else, there is still the belief that Everything's Better With Princesses.
One the other hand, some girls who grew up on this trope apply some of the above traits to their Fan Fiction, meaning a lot of the traits of this character match the traits of a Purity Sue. Heck, mix and match this trope with being better than everyone else at their skills, and with suddenly being the Spotlight-Stealing Squad, and there you have the archetypal Mary Sue.
These days, if she's played straight in a story, it's highly unlikely for that story to be taken seriously. Most writers would give her some flaws, some depth. She could be sheltered and demure, but not a Flat Character.
Also, being ground zero for any Princess Tropes, she can get an upgrade to Pretty Princess Powerhouse if the story requires her to (and can even overlap with Kicking Ass in All Her Finery). Likely to browbeat Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers! into any Grumpy Bear she finds.
A Sister Trope to Yamato Nadeshiko, The Ingenue, Proper Lady, (those two are also archetypes built of idealistic views), Southern Belle, The Pollyanna, The High Queen, Sheltered Aristocrat, Knight in Shining Armor, Prince Charming (the latter two being her Spear Counterparts).
- A Certain Magical Index has the youngest royal daughter, Villian, who is an apparently timid but virtuous young woman.
- While she isn't royalty (though being a principality is pretty close), Monaco from Axis Powers Hetalia grew out her hair to give off this vibe according to Word of God, though the actual word used is Grand Duchess, not Princess.
- Princess Charlotte in the Berserk anime and the origin arc of the manga is the sheltered and demure version of this. After the Eclipse, the Kushan empire took Wyndham and Charlotte was taken prisoner by Ganishka. Griffith rescues her after being reincarnated back on earth. She's now part of his new Band of the Hawk.
- Code Geass: Euphemia also fits in the oozing virtue and sweetness and light way until Lelouch accidentally geasses her and sends her out on a killing spree. She's also a Deconstruction as she proves to be painfully naive and out of her depths despite her best efforts and attempts to move into being more proactive. Her death ends up being the point of no-return for many characters as the story takes a very dark turn.
- One Piece: Princess Shirahoshi meets most of the criteria. She's the actual princess of Fishman Island. She's so utterly committed to peace between Fishmen and humans that she doesn't reveal the identity of her mother's killer for a decade. Her beauty is said to rival that of Boa Hancock. Her clothing is about as pimped-out as the traditional mermaid sea-shell halter would allow. About the only way she doesn't play this trope straight down the line is that she turns out to be not so defenseless, having the nigh-apocalyptic power to control Sea Kings. She's also estimated to be 17 meters tall, which is unprincess-like from a human perspective.
- Sailor Moon:
- Princess Serenity in the '90s anime. Actual royalty? Check. Innocence personified? The only vice she seems to have is a Forbidden Love with Prince Endymion of Earth and that solely exists so Usagi and Mamoru can have a Reincarnation Romance. There's very little chance she would've been punished for breaking the law that Earth and Moon people couldn't interact. She is, of course, pretty with blonde hair almost long enough to reach the ground. Her clothes are Simple, yet Opulent and she has a small crown. While she isn't shy, she seems to be demure, polite, and courteous and is definitely helpless; it's why she has bodyguards and her Prince Charming is knight-themed with a sword. She ends up dying (along with Endymion). Her reincarnation is instead the one who gets the Happily Ever After. She's also a Messianic Archetype due to the anime implying that this is Usagi's most powerful form. It seems like every important battle with the Big Bad of the season has her transform into Serenity to beat them and save the Earth.
- Subverted in the manga and Crystal, especially if your introduction to the character was the 90s anime. While the physical description still applies, her personality is the complete opposite of a Princess Classic. Princess Serenity here is a lot like Usagi: flighty, reckless, doesn't like school and will actively attempt to avoid her lessons, into boys, and generally lives in a dream world. Her and Endymion's relationship thus ceases to be her only vice. She's still helpless and has bodyguards and a knight-themed Prince Charming with a sword, but it's to emphasize how different she is from Sailor Moon, who's a strong fighter in her own right (actually stronger than her boyfriend and bodyguards put together) and how she fights alongside of them instead of being protected by them. She still dies, but instead of being Too Good for This Sinful Earth, she's painted as a tragic princess. Also committing suicide isn't very Princess Classic-like. Takeuchi was instead going for a Romeo & Juliet vibe fitting with the manga's maturer tone. Also the manga implied that Endymion and Serenity were having sex, but didn't portray the act as in any way sullying her.
- Invoked in a filler episode of the '90s anime when Usagi went to "princess classes" in an attempt to be more like her past self due to feeling inadequate about being the reincarnated Moon Princess they had spent the past few episodes looking for. Of course, it turned out to be a trap set by the villain. She fails and in the process manages to out herself as Sailor Moon to the Monster of the Week.
- In Skip Beat!, it's rather Played for Laughs that Kyoko tends to see every fairy tale this way. This goes so far as to see famous celebrities who appear nice or frail to be the typical Princess Classic. Kyoko's visions are repeatedly beaten down. Her tendency to see things this way takes on a darker turn if you recall that this may be a coping mechanism of hers due to her own emotionally abusive childhood.
- Princess Ugg is about an academy for these sorts of characters... and what happens when a Barbarian Princess joins them. The "classic" princesses are mostly concerned with marriage, grace, and diversions like sewing and fashion, to the point where their history teacher calls them on it by claiming an over-focus on those subjects makes them appear dull to prospective princes. The four named princesses themselves are a subversion, at least initially, as they start out as Ulga's antagonists, though Phonecia and Desdemona are closer to the trope than Julifer and Jasmin.
- Of the "core" Disney Princesses, the three earliest - the Original Era princesses: Snow White, Cinderella and Aurora, fit this trope:
- The sweet-singing, sweet-natured, and beautiful Snow White ends up with her prince in a castle in the clouds.
- Cinderella is gentle and kind to everyone, even mice and the nasty cat Lucifer, and becomes a princess at the end of the movie when she marries into the royal family.
- Sleeping Beauty Princess Aurora is one of the best fits of this trope in the entire franchise. Beautiful with a lovely singing voice (soprano, of course) and long blonde hair, elegant even when dressed as a peasant, shy and demure, she is a Friend to All Living Things who accepts her duty even when it pains her. She even wears pink and blue and has a dainty tiara.
- Interestingly, two of Disney's most recent Modern Era princesses, Rapunzel and Anna, are actually a lot closer to the Princess Classic standard than the Rebellious Princesses of its Renaissance films, due to them basically growing up sheltered. This in no way stops either of them from having well-rounded personalities or being Action Girls at the same time.
- Anna has an innocent and optimistic disposition despite being a bit tomboyish, and even falls in Love at First Sight with a handsome prince, but given that her prince charming reveals himself to be a power-hungry sociopath who preyed on her naivete, however, this may be something of a Deconstruction.
- Rapunzel has Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold.
- In The Care Bears: Adventure in Wonderland, the Princess of Hearts is like this, to the point where the purity of her touch can revive withering flowers.
- One half of the soul and fiber of Shrek is about subverting this one by turning Princess Fiona into The Lad-ette. Princess Fiona is beautiful and content to play by the rules she's been given and be the Damsel in Distress... so long as her Prince Charming actually shows up. If she's attacked, she'll turn into a Pretty Princess Powerhouse, though, and as she spends more time with Shrek, she slowly reveals a somewhat naughty side. (She's not always so nice to animals.) She's not as demure as she seems, and at the end of the movie, she transforms into an ogre permanently.
- Odette from The Swan Princess. Born a princess, she's sweetness and light personified, especially in the sequels. She also sticks firmly to her principles. Much of the plot is driven by her refusal to marry her Love Interest until he can list a reason to love her beside her beauty.
- Fairy Princess Dawn in Strange Magic, is feminine, naïve, and In Love with Love. All to contrast with her elder sister, Marianne.
- Enchanted: Giselle is a spoof of this, but a loving spoof, in that Giselle is determined against all odds to make the best of her situation.
- Lyssa from Krull, rebukes the advances of The Beast, and holds faith in The Power of Love, which does bear out, although ultimately in a pretty violent way.
- Princess Lili from Legend starts out as a quintessential Princess Classic, only to go through a Break the Cutie process, accumulating in an intense case of Corrupt the Cutie, only for this to be revealed as a ruse she put on in order to trick Darkness into letting her get close enough to free a captured unicorn.
- The princess of Snow White and the Three Stooges. Her first scene shows her sweet as a little girl and flashes forward to showing her sweet as a young woman, both with her innocence symbolized by white skating dresses trimmed with white fur.
- The titular mouse in The Tale of Despereaux searches for and finds one of these in the beautiful but useless Princess Pea.
- Subverted in Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court where Morgan realizes the ladies are as rude and crude as the not-so-noble knights.
- George Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire: Princess Classic was what Sansa Stark always aspired to be from being a tiny tot and she actively cultivates all the the traits of trope she can express as hard as possible throughout the series (including turning them into barely adequate weaponry when needed). She can even do the "can talk to the well-trained and polite animals" one (for a time). Sansa, however, lives in a politically volatile Crapsack World within a story dedicated to deconstruction (with some reconstruction on the side). So you can guess where her initial bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, pink-dyed romanticism is heading.
- Poked fun at in Angry Lead Skies, when Garrett ponders Kip Prose's childish fantasies about saving beautiful princesses, and how, despite having run into everything else on his weird cases, he's never met a Princess Classic. Near the end, Garrett does catch sight of two genuine royal daughters, and they're both quite unattractive, yet are praised and fawned upon constantly by political kiss-ups.
- Firebird Trilogy: Princess Carradee Angelo is gentle, honorable, sweet, and rather uninterested in politics. Unfortunately for her, as eldest, she is the heir to the throne, which leads to her being thrust into ruling before she is truly ready for it. She contrasts with her sisters Phoena, who is a Politically Active Princess, and Firebird, who barely acknowledges her role as princess.
- Although she is an Empress rather than a princess, Portia from First Sword Chronicles fits all the other points of this trope, as she beautiful, elegant, kind, gentle, demure, royal by marriage, and in need of Miranda's protection from the machinations of the court.
- Averted in Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar books by Princess Elspeth, who starts off a Royal Brat and becomes a tomboy after she's broken of the brattishness. Eventually she abdicates her position as heir when it becomes obvious (to her, at least) that she'll serve her country better as a Herald-Mage than as its queen.
- The Paper Bag Princess has Princess Elizabeth starts as this type of character, but becomes an Action Girl later on, especially when she finds that Prince Ronald is an Ungrateful Bastard.
- The Princesses of Sweet Rhyme and Pure Reason in The Phantom Tollbooth. They are universally loved for their "great beauty, their gentle ways, and their ability to solve all controversies fairly and reasonably." Even better, their unjust exile from the Kingdom of Wisdom is what sends Milo on his quest in the first place.
- Belinda in The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope is certainly meant to reflect this trope. She's not any sort of royalty, but the Queen Bee of all the court she surveys, while still being friendly (and uncommitted) to everyone. That is, until a certain involuntary haircut happens.
- Lissa Dragomir from Vampire Academy fits all the bullet points of refined royalty. She is actual royalty by birth, she is a Messianic Archetype (though not a virgin), she is beautiful, good with animals, wears elegant clothes, and needs protection from her guardians.
- Played With in the tale of Vivenna and Siri from Warbreaker. Vivenna was raised as a Princess Classic but ended up getting pushed into a Pretty Princess Powerhouse role, while her Rebellious Princess sister Siri ended up in the Princess Classic slot. Both do excellently in their new role.
- Beautiful, royal, and good—Princess Paulina in Why Polly? fits this trope to a tee. Polly is unsure how to relate to a princess classic in real life.
- Game of Thrones:
- Zigzagged with Sansa. Though not initially a princess in her own right, she was raised by her mother to be the perfect princess and is eager to fulfill this role when she is betrothed to a prince, only to find her Prince Charming is a petulant psychopath ruling over a Crapsack World. Then her brother Robb declares himself King in the North, which does make her a princess in her own right. Too bad her hosts don't recognize Stark claims of sovereignty. By the time she could be undeniably referred as a princess (in season 6 when her brother Jon is crowned king), the naiveté and innocence associated with the trope have long faded. She concludes the series by being crowned Queen in the North in her own right, promoting her from this to The High Queen.
- Margaery is an astute politician and manipulator who puts on the persona of a charming and harmless princess to all and sundry. This has gained her the fanatical support of most of the common people, to whom she's highly charitable.
- Myrcella is a young, lovely, golden-haired princess in a Perfectly Arranged Marriage to a handsome Prince Charming.
- Played with on Merlin (2008) with the portrayal of Princess Mithian. Characterized as the embodiment of a Princess Classic, she's genuinely lovely, as well as beautiful, regal, elegant, talented, and with an extensive wardrobe of gorgeous outfits; yet it's all done in order to provide more impact to the fact that King Arthur turns her down for the sake of the blacksmith's daughter.
- Fairytale imagery featured on Taylor Swift's second album, Fearless. She explored the disconnect "between fairy tales and the reality of love": "We're raised as little girls to think that we're a princess and that Prince Charming is going to sweep us off our feet". Seen in "Love Story", "White Horse", and "Today Was A Fairy-Tale".
- Princess Sarah of Final Fantasy I is a kind gentle lady and All-Loving Hero according to her subjects. She wears a golden dress, is demure in person, and gives away an ancient family heirloom without a second thought to the heroes as thanks for saving her life.
- Super Mario Bros.' Peach and The Legend of Zelda's Zelda may have started out like this, but Peach is sometimes a parody (or at least heavily lampshaded version) of this (see the Paper Mario games), and Zelda has been given more depth to her character. Zelda even lampshades this in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks by saying that waiting for the hero to do his job is a "family tradition."
- Rozalin in Disgaea 2 is what you get when you take a Princess Classic and throw her in the boondocks without warning. Disgaea 3's Sapphire, on the other hand, gleefully decapitates this trope with a chainsaw.
- Princess Shine from Super Robot Wars often struggles to maintain the image, particularly in her language, and of course, the fact that most Princesses don't take on threats to her kingdom head on in a (oddly cute) Humongous Mecha.
- Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War: Princess Yuria. Royal Blood? She's got it. Innocent? Definitely (Virgin? Well, she cannot marry without really knowing what you're doing.) Pretty? Well, extremely cute would be the line here. Elegant Clothing? She wears long white robes with a purple cape held by intricate gold shoulder wraps. Good and Sweet? Usually when she's not Brainwashed and Crazy. Shy and Demure? Check. However she's a Lady of War, of the Caster Variety. Notable that her ultimate weapon summons a dragon to do the fighting. Marries the Prince and lives happily ever after? She Can. If the player knows what to do. Note that there aren't many countries for her Prince to be from... and all the other countries' Princes are taken... Doesn't die? Ummm... Anyone Can Die in this game. Too Good for This Sinful Earth? No. If she dies, it's a tragedy that should've been avoided.
- Princess Satera from Shining Wisdom is this. Daughter to the King, described as beautiful, prone to kidnapping, always wears an elaborate dress with magical tiara, shy and it's hinted that she has a thing for the hero.
- The Incognito Princess in Sunless Skies is a subversion. She matches the trope almost perfectly, except that her "innocence" is actually a complete inability to tell right from wrong.
- Tales of Vesperia's Estellise "Estelle" Sidos Heurassein reconstructs this. Definite girly girl, innocent, sweet, and has powerful Healing Hands abilities from her royal heritage. Fully capable of kicking ass, is actually not a Friend to All Living Things despite attempts otherwise, she's somewhat stuck politically speaking in a Succession Crisis, and said healing power actually makes her an Apocalypse Maiden until the resident Teen Genius Rita solves the problem. She does, however, still need some saving at times (though it's fully justified) and though she has a "Knight" in Yuri Lowell, there is absolutely no romance between her and him (though there is some Ship Tease, it's ultimately not portrayed as a romance); she instead shows more interest in the hot-tempered mage Rita, who is even more interested in her.
- World's End brings Vera van Arkand, youngest child of the Voronese royal family. She has long hair, wears a purple dress, thinks the world of her subjects, dotes on her big brother, is warm and accepting of others, brave enough to charge into battle, and can wield powerful healing magic. However, she is a bit prissy, has an obsession with Aizu to the point where she eagerly supports her "blood drenched angel of vengeance", can also wield powerful attack magic, and fuels her power with necromancy stones made from her dead subjects. Albeit she's not aware of that last one.
- Charlie from Hazbin Hotel fits this trope to a T, although she prefers suits over dresses. She is sweet, kind, completely adorable, and prone to bursting into song. She also quite stubbornly believes the best of everyone and wants everyone to have a chance to be the best person they can be. It's just that her domain happens to be Hell, and Charlie is literally the daughter of Satan.
- Zig-Zagged with Princess Cecily of I Went to Another World but Got Sent Back with My Party. Being the stereotypical princess from a Medieval Fantasy world, she has a constant air of politeness and elegance, but by the time the story begins Damian has known her long enough to see vulnerability behind the mask. Then there's the fact she knows how to fight: her character class is assassin, and she's really good with her knives.
- Princess Bubblegum of Adventure Time is mostly an Affectionate Parody of this trope, but is often played straight. She is prim, proper, poised, is frequently a Damsel in Distress, and loves pink. Later seasons have been subverting it more and more, revealing her to be a Lady of War Action Girl, Pragmatic Hero who will do anything to protect her people, and teetering very close to becoming a Mad Scientist, all of which earned her quite a few Ron the Death Eater portrayals by fans. Her male counterpart Prince Gumball fits the trope a lot closer, being more demure, less combat-oriented, and gleefully taking interest in feminine hobbies like baking.
- Defied by Hailey in the American Dad! episode "Familyland". She visits Fairy Tale Land, a section of the Familyland theme park, and convinces girls that the classic princess role model is an outdated stereotype.
- Princess Yue from Avatar: The Last Airbender who ends up Too Good for This Sinful Earth by way of a Heroic Sacrifice.
- Angelica Pickles in Rugrats suspects she may be one but decides to take three tests to prove it. First is by having Phil and Lil try and climb up her hair. Second she attempts to see if she can feel a pea through a series of pillows but Chuckie eats the pea so they use a fork instead. And finally they check to see if a slipper fits her foot.
- The titular Sofia from Sofia the First fits perfectly within the characteristics mentioned on this page. She is known to stand up to what she think is wrong and is not always a perfect girl, but at the end she always does what is right and learns a lesson along the way.
- Played for Horror in Star vs. the Forces of Evil. While the title character is a Rebellious Princess, there also exists St. Olga's Reform School for Wayward Princesses, where rebellious princesses are sent. While there, they are psychologically broken down and brainwashed into becoming perfect princesses.
- Debatable if there are actual examples in Real Life (that weren't this from being sheltered and not taught about the world), but Queen Victoria of England did her best to make royal ladies appear to be this way. This is where we get the Urban Legend of noblewomen being advised to "close your eyes and think of England". Queen Vicky was pretty sheltered herself, as a result of her mom not wanting her to see her dad's relatives and their scandals potentially affecting Vicky's reputation before she hit puberty. In fact, it was probably this upbringing that led to Victorian prudishness in the first place (and her husband Albert was even more prudish than she!).
- On the subject of saints with a royal title, Saint Catherine of Alexandria provides a very early example of this trope (her name was once thought to come from "katharos", the Greek word meaning "pure", but this is less certain nowadays. But certainly this supposed etymology played a role in the name Katharine and its various forms being immensely popular throughout Christendom). It is a somewhat unusual one, however, as the virgin princess is wed to Jesus Christ in mystic marriage (ie. a dream-vision) and chooses martyrdom rather than betraying her vows to Him, which would be cheating in the eyes of the Church. "Thou shall not commit adultery" was one of the Ten Commandments.