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Princess in Rags

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"Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you?
People'd call, say, 'Beware doll, you're bound to fall'
You thought they were all kiddin' you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin' out
Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud
'Bout having to be scroungin' for your next meal..."
Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone" from Highway 61 Revisited.

Usually female, this character has fallen from grace and refuses to go down without a fight. It is usually suggested she was once the Alpha Bitch, a Rich Bitch, or a Ojou, and fell hard because of the loss of a family fortune, home, etc. However, instead of adapting to the new situation like the Fallen Princess, the character will either act the same as before, or become even more arrogant and cold, maintaining a Well, Excuse Me, Princess!, better-than-you attitude, while privately lamenting her lost fortune. Frequent Stepford Smiler, with good reason.

If she was known for her beauty and elegance, she will either continue to use the same hairstyle and clothes until the clothes become rags and the hairstyle becomes embarrassingly outdated, or else try to follow the current fashions by creative sewing of old clothes - or creative shopping, with highly variable success. If she has kids, she tends to mutate into My Beloved Smother, in her desperate attempt to make her kids successful enough to get back the lost status, usually attempting to get her girls to marry rich and her boys to select a "prestigious" profession such as lawyer, medical doctor, or, if the work is particularly old, religious minister or priest.

Often seen in Latin American works, where this kind of character is almost archetypical. The sympathy with which this character is treated depends on the writer, but more often than not they are presented as fighting a futile battle against the decadence they are destined to lose. For example, the character could go from being a Rich Bitch to The Woobie living in a Crapsack World of her own imagination, or from the Ojou to an Anti-Villain.

Compare Impoverished Patrician and King of the Homeless. Contrast Fallen Princess. She's not a Rebellious Princess but can be confused for one as she's rebelling against the force that's telling her she's no longer a princess. May be a cause for why the "poor sibling" half got to be that way in case of Rich Sibling, Poor Sibling.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Male example: Hotohori's half-brother Tendou from the Fushigi Yuugi novel and OAV Suzaku Hi Den. He was one of the Royal Princes of Konan, but was sent away to the country to protect him after Hotohori's Stage Mom Motaiko fatally poisoned one of their siblings; years passed, Hotohori ascended to the throne that should've been Tendou's and he never got the chance to come back home, which made him very angry and bitter.
  • Naina Peacecraft in the Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Frozen Teardrop novels, during the time she spends in Hilde's orphanage.
  • Eva in Monster. She was the daughter of the director at the hospital Tenma worked at, and as such was rolling in money and engaged to said up-and-coming medical genius. She walked out on Tenma because he chose to follow his morals instead of what would be politically advantageous, and after he refused to take her back she went into a downhill slide so hard that by a quarter of the way through the series she'd gotten to the point where she was stealing alcohol from a homeless guy.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena: Given the recurring examination and deconstruction of royalty and power tropes, it's not surprising this one shows up. What IS surprising is that it's Akio. While not immediately obvious given that he's rich, powerful, magical, skilled in combat, and sexually peerless, he's also a Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond, having previously been a Physical God now reduced to lording himself over insecure schoolchildren. All the problems in the story can be traced back to his futile attempts to reclaim his godlike power, including the sexual and patriarchal indoctrination of the students (which, given Ohtori Academy's magical nature, may have been for centuries or longer)!
  • School Rumble once played this in a play scenario that Akira submitted about Eri. The still-rich-in-reality Eri didn't seem to mind the play idea... for a while...
  • While not a princess per se, Siren from Suite Pretty Cure ♪ can certainly count. She was the Song Faerie who was supposed to sing the Melody of Happiness but lost the position, was manipulated by Mephisto into joining her to sing the Melody of Sorrow, and forsook her best friend. Once she finally made a Heel–Face Turn to save Hummy from Trio the Minor, she realized she couldn't return to Major Land or Minor Land, winding up all alone for the better part of three episodes.
  • In The Twelve Kingdoms, this trope defines Shoukei's attitude right after the fall of her parents aka the king and Queen of Hou. Even when she's barely saved from a Cruel and Unusual Death and taken in as a retainer of the Queen of Kyou, she doesn't lose her arrogance and entitlement, and it's only after she escapes from Kyou and then travels with Rakushun that she starts straightening up her act.
  • Mio of The World God Only Knows is the daughter of a wealthy businessman and shows off her wealth with exorbitant spending and a personal servant. After her father died and her family lost its wealth she was unwilling to give up her image and lifestyle. After being captured she is able to accept her new reality and transitions into a Fallen Princess.

    Comic Books 
  • Robin Series: Despite bankrupting his company after his first wife's death, and having to sell his mansion in Crest Hill and other properties along with most of his other possessions and his son's car (which was a gift from Bruce Wayne) Jack Drake refuses to act like his lot in life has changed, still wanting to rub elbows with Gotham's elite and influence politicians.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Vanellope Von Schweetz in Wreck-It Ralph is first shown as a homeless, unkempt waif. When she crosses the finish line of her game Sugar Rush at the end of the movie, the game resets and she is returned to her proper place, as princess of the game. She subverts it as she prefers her hoodie, mismatched stockings and ponytail.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The object lesson for the Beverly Hills princess in Maid to Order (1987) was to reduce her to Cinderella-before-the-ball status. She got the riches back, though, in the end.
  • The trope is played with as the central joke of the film Overboard with Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn; Goldie is the princess, but suffers amnesia and winds up living in, well, less than salubrious surroundings. Most of the jokes from that point center on her being in this situation.
  • Princess Leia becomes a sympathetic version in Return of the Jedi when Jabba the Hutt has her Made a Slave. She makes her contempt for him blatantly obvious and defies him at every turn, maintains her dignity as best she can in her Stripperriffic outfit, and takes the first opportunity she can to kill him. Jabba should really have listened when she told him he was going to regret this.
  • Rose's mother, Ruth of Titanic (1997), is either this or a more regular Impoverished Patrician. Rose deWitt Bukater's family money is all pretty much gone, and Ruth is counting on Rose marrying money in the form of Cal Hockley to restore them to financial stability.

  • Male example: Jelaudin, son of the shah in Bones of the Hills. While on the run from the Mongols, the act of having to pay for things with coins makes him feel unclean, and he still tries to act like a prince even when renting a tiny hovel and having to pay rent daily.
  • Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladov from Crime and Punishment. Her husband is drunkard, and she and her children only have one set of clothes apiece, and they've been reduced to renting a corner of a room to live in. She maintains her pride by insisting on washing her children's clothes every night, by bragging about her upbringing, and verbally assaulting the landlady for looking down on her.
  • Flowers in the Attic: Corrine comes from vast wealth and gave it all up to marry her husband but once he's dead she won't work and returns to her family, hoping to be rich again. She ends up trying to kill off her own children just to get her inheritance.
  • Scarlett O'Hara of Gone with the Wind, between husbands and trying to run Tara. She also makes use of Curtain Clothing.
  • In Paula Volsky's Illusion, the aristocratic heroine ends up starving on the streets for a good portion of the novel due to the French... ahem, Vonahran... Revolution. While she initially does retain most of her airs, the streets break her down pretty quickly.
  • Fernanda del Carpio in One Hundred Years of Solitude. She was explicitly "raised to be a queen", but when she comes back home from the expensive boarding school where she stayed for years, she discovers that all her family fortune was spent in her education. She manages to marry rich with Aureliano Segundo Buendí­a, only to discover that her political family is composed half by eccentrics, half by down-to-earth characters, and both sides ridicule her because of her extreme puritanism and her stiff attitude; she retaliates by taking over with iron fist, becoming the new "public face" of the family, imposing her rather antiquated ideas in her children (with no real success), and indulging in superstitions like the "invisible doctors". She consoles herself reasoning that, at least, her new family is rich and influential, and the town founders. Then, years later, the town collapses, her husband loses all the familiar fortune again, and she discovers in the bad way than she can't be the support the family needs.
  • Picture book The Paper Bag Princess features Princess Elizabeth, who lived in a beautiful castle and was set to marry a handsome prince, when a dragon showed up, kidnapped her fiancé, and burned all her stuff, leaving her with only a paper bag to wear. Different from other examples, in that she eventually ends up happier this way, with the possible Aesop of "You don't need to be a princess to be happy".
  • Catherine of Aragon in Patience, Princess Catherine, of the historically based Young Royals series of books, chooses to live in poverty rather than going home to Spain, in hopes of marrying her late husband's brother, who will soon be crowned King of England.
    • In Mary, Bloody Mary both mother and daughter choose solitary poverty, instead of conceding to Henry VIII's demands. Devout Catholics, they refuse to accept him as head of the Church of England - nor will they accept the notion that Henry's marriage to Catherine was illegitimate, and that they have been reduced in title to "Dowager Princess of Wales" and "The Lady Mary, the King's daughter."
  • The Queen and I by Sue Townsend.
  • Charlotte in The Ruby Red Trilogy. After she finds out that she doesn't have the time-travel gene she was believed to have inherited all her life, she still does everything to help the Guardians' cause and to get some attention. She also acts even colder towards her cousin Gwen (who does have the gene) than before.
  • The mother of the Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility is a good example, albeit there is no shortage of mothers like this in Jane Austen works.
  • Morwen in The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin continues to live in her halls and carry herself as a Lady even after her husband is captured and her lands conquered by the Easterlings. She eventually leaves, but...
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has a rare male example: Prince Viserys.
    • Invoked by a character known as the Tattered Prince introduced in A Dance With Dragons. He's a noble in exile from his home city state turned mercenary commander, and wears a ragged cloak... which he made out of the clothes of all the people he's killed. He seems to be a foil to Viserys, having a similar background, but being pretty mellow and (darkly) humorous about it.
  • Thayet jian Wilima is a runaway princess from a country at war when she first appears in Song of the Lioness.
  • In Warbreaker, Vivenna finds herself betrayed, starving and alone in the slums of Hallandren.
  • Queen Morgase and at least a couple of high-ranked Aes Sedai in Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time books.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Cordelia Chase, at the beginning of Angel, has gone from being "Queen C" of Sunnydale High to living in a roach-infested apartment, and trying to get enough food to eat by scrounging at the parties to which she actually manages to get invited. The process started on parent show Buffy the Vampire Slayer when her father lost all his money due to tax fraud.
  • An integral part in the premise of Arrested Development. This applies to every single character in the family except the Only Sane Man Michael (and his son).
  • One episode of Cold Case revolved around the murder of a Cambodian woman who was actually a member of the royal family. Her beauty and aloofness combined with her refusal to be treated poorly made her the object of a Dirty Cop's obsession. Basically, being this trope got her killed.
  • In Doctor Who, Lady Cassandra ends up having to hide after The Doctor and Rose defeat her and has to use most of her fortune in order to maintain her expensive life support and get a new body swap device. Because of this she loses most of her followers and has to rely on her last servant in order to steal medicine just to make it through. To further drive the point, she ends up using said device in order to possess Rose's body in order to find the secrets of the hospital and live on in a "pure" human body. Despite the fact that she is disgusted by doing it since Rose comes from a more humble background when compared to her, she does it anyway to get revenge on Rose and still keeps her arrogant behaviour regardless. Although upon further inspection she at least starts liking her new (Rose's) figure, so it isn't a complete loss for the lady.
  • Florinda from El Chavo del ocho acts with shameless snobbishness and arrogance, and is prone to treat her other neighbors as "riff-raff". She also instills in her quite dumb son Kiko the same attitude. In the Backstory Episode, is revealed that she married a sailor against the wishes of her wealthy family, and when her husband died they denied her any support. She lives from a meager widow pension, and when that becomes irregular, she finally resigns herself and becomes the patron of a small restaurant.
  • Viserys Targaryen is gender-flipped example in Game of Thrones, just as he is in the books. Unlike his sister Daenerys, Viserys was born before the Targaryens fell from power and spent the first five years of his life as a Prince of the Seven Kingdoms, living in castles and being waited on by servants. As a result, he is particularly resentful over what has been taken from him and is driven to get it back. Despite having spent more of his life as a beggar than a prince, he still sees himself as being above everyone else and has a very haughty attitude, which doesn't help his situation.
  • Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl has played this role, but always bounces back.
  • Morgana Pendragon from Merlin, after her betrayal.
  • Patricia Fernández from Yo soy Betty, la fea. The not very smart but beautiful daughter of a rich family, a vain woman with absolutely No Sympathy for others, only went to college to get a MRS Degree (to the point that one of her catchphrases is "I studied six semesters of Finance in San Marino College" as if that was a thing to be proud of), all went to hell the moment her husband unexpectedly divorced her. It's all but explicitly pointed out that her fall is all of her own making, by annoying her husband and alienating her family, and the soap treats her as a Butt-Monkey Asshole Victim since all her efforts are not to improve her situation but to maintain the facade.

  • Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone", quoted above, is a famous example of this in song.
    • His "Queen Jane Approximately," from the same album (Highway 61 Revisited) is somewhat similar, although the princess doesn't fall so much as become disillusioned, and said disillusionment hasn't happened yet.
  • Don McLean's Lady in Waiting.
  • Despite its name, Gene Pitney's song "Princess In Rags" isn't an example of this trope.

  • Grizabella in Cats used to be beautiful, but now she's old and ragged. All the other cats shun her.
  • Amanda from The Glass Menagerie was once a beautiful Southern Belle and daughter of a wealthy plantation owner. Now, she lives in a tiny apartment with her two children, so impoverished that she has to still wear her Roaring Twenties clothing.
  • Invoking the The Zeroth Law of Trope Examples, Queen Margaret in Richard III has definitely become this, after going a little crazy following her faction's defeat at the end of 3 Henry VI.

    Video Games 
  • The Grave Robber in Darkest Dungeon was once a noblewoman who, for whatever reason, went into serious debt after the death of the rest of her family. As her name implies, she resorted to grave-digging to find valuables to pay it off.
  • The Female Dwarf Noble and Female Human Noble in Dragon Age: Origins both fit this trope. The Dwarf Noble is a bona fide princess, the daughter of the dwarven king, who has been exiled after being convicted of murdering her elder brother Trian. The Human Noble is the daughter of a Teyrn (Duke) who is on the run because her father's best friend invaded her family castle, murdered everyone she ever cared about, and is spreading rumors that they were traitors to the crown.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Midna in Twilight Princess qualifies for at least most of this trope; Link just isn't aware of it for a long time. She actually is the titular Twilight Princess, but was dethroned and disfigured by the usurper Zant. Everything she does for the first half of the game is done with the intent of regaining her rightful title, though gradually she warms up to the hero and becomes just as determined to regain Zelda's throne for her as she is to regain her own for herself.
    • Despite not being a princess, Mila from The Wind Waker qualifies. She used to be filthy rich and spoiled, but after she was kidnapped by the Helmaroc King, her father blew all his fortune trying to get her back, forcing both of them into poverty. Her father doesn't mind, as long as his daughter is safe, but she hates the change so much that she's resorted to stealing stuff. If she's caught red-handed she'll realize the error of her ways, deciding to suck it in and work hard and honestly from now on.
  • Malice from Riviera: The Promised Land. Her Blue Blood is confirmed in the drama CDs, which also explain how her family lost its prestige. She acts arrogantly toward and despises the protagonist for having power since his birth, but her attitude is never fully explained in-game.
  • The mother of Prince Gustav XIII is exiled along with him in SaGa Frontier 2 after he is shown to be incapable of using magic, which is important to the ceremony of throne-succession in his country. Even living in a shanty and slowly dying from lack of nutrition and the rigors of being rapidly destitute, she never loses her stately composure. Gustav, on the other hand...

    Web Comics 
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Emil, whose family is established to have gone through a Riches to Rags episode a few years before the beginning of the main story. By the time he's introduced, he still has an inappropriately high opinion of himself, complains about running into the same obstacles to getting things done as most people do and is implied to have a long-term objective of getting his former standard of living back.

    Western Animation 
  • This happened to Valerie in Danny Phantom; she eventually gave up on trying to regain her lost status and turned to hunting ghosts instead.
  • In The Oblongs, Pickles is a former "Debbie" (short for 'debutante') who lives in poverty. A very mild example in that she is relatively happy, but she maintains a ridiculous wig, and smokes and drinks heavily to keep her spirits up.

    Real Life 
  • The Scottish princess Marjorie Bruce, d. 1316, for four years endured solitary confinement in the name of her father Robert I of Scotland.
  • Catherine Of Aragon chose poverty rather than going home to Spain in hope of marrying Henry VIII of England. She chose poverty a second time (along with the bonus pain of being separated from her only child, Mary) rather than accept that Henry had divorced her. She went to her death signing her letters as Queen.
  • The stubborn streak was hereditary. Henry and Catherine's daughter, Mary I of England, lost everything when her father divorced her mother, but she refused to acknowledge him as head of the Church of England or (for a long time) to accept that he had stripped her of her title of Princess.
  • Mary's half-sister Elizabeth was also this trope after her mother fell out of favor with Henry and was executed. Unlike Mary, Elizabeth was a bit too young at the time to be defiant about it and did not lose nearly as much as Mary did in any case. (Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour, eventually got him to admit both of his daughters back to court before she fell victim to Death by Childbirth.)
  • In İstanbul during World War II, there were stories of White Russian countesses waiting tables. Of course that was at really fancy restaurants, but still.