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Rags to Royalty

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In her case, everyone glosses over the frog phase.

A classic of literature, this Changeling Fantasy is as simple as it is sublime: the beautiful, hard working, put upon commoner girl who never loses her hope will be a princess or queen by the story's end. That much is certain, what varies is how she goes from Rags to Royalty. The following is a non-exhaustive list of common variations:

This is Older Than Feudalism, and has long since gone into being a Dead Horse Trope when used in a serious application. However, sweeten the deal with a deconstruction or other device, and this will work quite well in a modern setting.

Epidemic in the Fairy Tale, it often reappears in retellings of fairy tales. This is a common reason why kings who have promised the Standard Hero Reward decide instead to assign another Engagement Challenge, and then another. And another. . . (This is usually very unwise in the long run.)

Christopher Booker takes the Cinderella version for his second plot, Rags to Riches. According to his scheme, the hero seems to get everything he wants very early, only to lose it through a serious character flaw, which leads to the darkest moment for the hero (e.g., in the original Aladdin, when the villain had stolen both the lamp and the princess). Then, of course, the hero manages to face his flaws and gets an even better prize than the one he would have been content with early on.

Due to social expectations/gender double standards, male versions of this trope are rarer (especially ones involving a romance between a rich woman and a poorer man), but do exist in fiction and real-life.

May combine with She Cleans Up Nicely and Lineage Comes from the Father.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Sailor Moon:
    • Usagi/Serena is a Sleeping Beauty, being a reincarnated princess with the forces that destroyed her kingdom hot on her heels. She does find out the bad guys are after her early on, but not that she's a princess until late in the first season/arc.
    • Her boyfriend/future husband Mamoru is a Gender Flip Sleeping Beauty, he eventually finds out he was heir apparent to the Earth Kingdom back in the past.
    • And in the manga, all the main senshi are Sleeping Beauties, former princesses of their respective planets. (Except Pluto, who is probably closer to a Snow White since she never lost her memories of the Silver Millennium, and spent her time guarding the Door of Time.)
    • Chibiusa is a Snow White type, coming back in time to before her mother rose to power to receive senshi training and having to live like a civilian with Usagi and her family. Subverted in the sense that the senshi already know she's a princess. After all, she's Mamoru and Usagi's future daughter, though they don't learn that detail until later.
    • Princess Kakyuu is also a Snow White, who made her way to Earth to find either Sailor Moon or the Light of Hope (depending on what continuity one looks at) after Shadow Galactica attacked her home planet.
  • My-Otome:
    • There's a reasonably clever subversion in the anime. From the start we're expected to figure out that Mashiro isn't the real princess - meanwhile, the main character, Arika, conspicuously has the same birthday and a prerequisite necklace and all. But as it turns out, that's a Red Herring, and in fact, it's Nina, the Rival Turned Evil, who unbeknowst to all was the princess. The scene in which Big Bad Nagi finds out is priceless. Ultimately thanks to Character Development, Mashiro turns out to be the one best suited to be a princess anyway. My-Otome Zwei hints that Mashiro might be a legit heir after all — she greatly resembles the Queen of Windbloom from 300 years ago.
    • The manga has a good subversion as well. The "Mashiro" we know in the story is an impostor for the real (deceased) Mashiro, that was clear from the first chapter. Then it turns out the real Mashiro isn't dead. THEN it turns out the impostor was Mashiro's twin brother, secreted away Sleeping Beauty style in case Mashiro went insane and/or died. In a few chapters he went from an impostor to nobody to the sole heir of Windbloom (once the real Mashiro bit the dust for realsies, anyway).
  • Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch:
    • Lucia is a Sleeping Beauty in the manga (though she finds out her lineage very early) and a Snow White in the anime. Hanon, Rina and Caren are Snow Whites as well throughout the series.
    • Kaitou turns out to be a Sleeping Beauty, as the lost prince of a destroyed mermaid kingdom who was adopted by humans as a child.
  • A Cinderella-type, coupled with a Satchel Switcheroo and a complete idiot forms the basis for the Gag Series Himesama Goyoujin (Princess Be Careful).
  • The entire Band of the Hawk from Berserk are Cinderellas, as they're all common mercenaries elevated to knighthood. Griffith, however, is the biggest example. At his highest point he had a good chance of marrying Princess Charlotte and becoming heir to the kingdom. This is portrayed fairly realistically, though, as Griffith does have to deal with a couple of assassination attempts by disgruntled nobles. Its subverted when Griffith goes through a Heroic BSoD, gets captured and tortured by the King, and the Band of the Hawk become outlaws.
    • Ends up being a Double Subversion in Griffith's case, after much time and plot developments; he is now the leader of a reformed, even stronger Band of the Hawk (which is like that mainly because most of the Apostles are part of it), he's again set to marry Charlotte, is viewed by commoners, nobles and the Church of the Holy See as a messiah, and has miraculously established a new capital called Falconia on the site of Midland's old capital, now the site of The World Tree (what Emperor Ganishka became after Griffith tricked the Skull Knight into striking him with his Behelit sword) which is probably the only safe haven in the world now that all the creatures and monsters of myth and legend are now again fact, and most are extremely hostile to humans (another intended consequence of the aforementioned strike). Not bad for someone who just a few years before was reduced to almost nothing in pretty much every sense of the word. All he had to do was stike a Deal with the Devil, activate the Egg of the King, and sacrifice all those he cared about to be devoured body and soul by The Legions of Hell to become a Demon Lord himself.
  • Vivio of Lyrical Nanoha is a Sleeping Beauty, being the clone of an Ancient Belkan king. She probably also wishes that she never found out about who she was considering how she hates being addressed as "Your Highness" and prefers others to just treat her as an ordinary (if exceptionally skilled) 9-year old.
  • Asuna and Negi of Negima! Magister Negi Magi are both Sleeping Beauty types, turning out to both be members of the royal family of the Vespertatia Kingdom in the Magic World. It subverts the Genre Blind guardian bit, as they were probably both safer before they started getting involved with their legacies.
    • In the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, it's revealed that the Narutaki twins Fuka and Fumika picked up a pair of animals which turned out to be princes from the Magic World. Within five years they were married and already had their first kids.
    • Similarly, Cute Bookworm Satomi Hakase is implied to have become a Cinderella. She's a very smart student from Earth who's all but stated to have married a much older man in a very high position of political power in the Magical World. Said man is none other than governor Kurt Godel.
  • Somewhat special case in Mei-chan no Shitsuji as Shinonome Mei whose family is described as 'just getting by' finds out she's actually the heir to the very rich Houga family after her parents are killed in an accident, and her friend and classmate Shibata Kento comes from a family of butlers that serve her family.
  • C-ko is a long-lost alien princess. Sixteen years earlier, her people lost her, and she ended up crashing down to Earth. They do eventually find her, leading to this discovery (and invoking this trope).
  • Youko Nakajima from The Twelve Kingdoms is a Sleeping Beauty who started out the series as an Ordinary High-School Student, became Trapped in Another World and then discovered that she was actually the appointed ruler of one of the series' titular countries. Unlike many Rags to Royalty stories, this one doesn't end with her getting the throne—she has to fight wars, consolidate her power and deal with the treacherous nobles and officials who plot to overthrow her.
    • Similarly, Naotaka Komatsu aka Shoryuu was another Sleeping Beauty... sorta. He was a nobleman on Earth, but by the time he found out he was the appointed ruler of the Kingdom of En, he had lost everything in a brutal local war, making him a sort-of Goose Guy. Then he switched to Sleeping Beauty as he was revealed to be the King, and like Youko he had to fight off treacherous courtesans and officers to make sure he wouldn't lose either his power or his life.
  • Reborn! (2004) uses this trope in the form of a "Rapunzel Style". Sawada Tsunayoshi is a normal high-schooler until the hitman tutor shows up at his doorstep and tells him he's a candidate for the tenth generation boss of a mafia. Hilarity ensues.
  • Code Geass:
    • Empress Marianne would be a definite Cinderella case, a commoner by birth who rose to prominence as one of the Knights of the Round, before becoming one of The Emperor's imperial consorts.
    • Her children Lelouch and Nunnally also fit into this trope, as Snow Whites. They know they're royals, but have been sent away to the former Japan and then to a Boarding School for rich kids and thus few people (at the start) know who they truly are. Both Lelouch and Nunnally become Emperor and Empress respectively, while Lelouch posing as The Caligula by usurping the throne, all for world peace, while Nunnally stats her way as a potential The High Queen shortly after Lelouch's Thanatos Gambit, ushering the said era of peace.
  • Naruto is a mix between the Cinderella and the Sleeping Beauty types. First he starts as an outcast orphan who was regarded as a no-good troublemaker without a future. Then he slowly grows up into a respectable and eventually idolized figure as his achievements grow. Then it is revealed that not only was his late father the Fourth Hokage, but that his late mother's family was also related to the Senju, making him also related to the First, Second AND Fifth Hokage. In layman's terms, he has the blood of FOUR of the ninja equivalent of kings in his veins. But of course, none of this is actually addressed by anyone in the manga. Then again, his relation to the Senju clan is incredibly distant. It isn't as distant as his mother's connection was, considering Mito Uzumaki married the First Hokage and is Tsunade's grandmother. In The Last: Naruto the Movie and the epilogue of the manga, he got Happily Married to Hinata, the eldest heiress of the Hyuga clan and the Byakugan Princess, so he married into royalty. Also in the epilogue, he becomes Hokage himself, further cementing his place in this trope.
  • There are three in The Rose of Versailles:
    • Jeanne de la Motte/Valois, a Cinderella type (in the very fictionalized manga/anime and Real Life). And the most twisted Cinderella ever. A beautiful peasant girl raised by the seamstress Nicole Lamorliere, she claims to be a long lost Valois princess and manages to get an old noblewoman to listen to her plight, then kills her benefactor to inherit her riches. It gets worse, and worse, and worse...
    • Jeanne's stepsister Rosalie Lamorliere is a sort of Sleeping Beauty type. Her mother gave Rosalie up to the aforementioned Nicole Lamorliere (who apparently was her former maid) when she was a teenage girl and Rosa was a baby, thus Rosalie has no idea of how her biological mom has gone Rags to Riches in the meantime and considers herself the biological daughter of Nicole for a long while. she later becomes the confidant and companion of Oscar Francois the Jerjays, a very high-ranked noblewoman.
    • And to finish the thread, Rosalie's aforementioned biological mother, Yolande Martine Gabrielle de Polastron aka the Duchess of Polignac was a Cinderella, also both here and in Real Life (though the ROV version was... highly fictionalized too). She was a minor noblewoman born in an Impoverished Patrician family and married to an equally impoverished count but she used her beauty, charm, singing talent and manipulation tactics to become Marie Antoinette's Poisonous Friend.)
  • Nadja Applefield from Ashita no Nadja is a big case of Sleeping Beauty. Nadja was raised in an English Orphanage of Love and always believed her parents died of illness; when she's about to turn 13 and leave, however, she's sent a trunk with her mom's very fine belongings and a card that says her mother is actually alive. What is not exactly explained in the card is that said mother is a member of an extremely rich and noble clan in Austria... and that many people want Nadja out of the way since she's the biggest candidate to be the heiress of said clan. Even when she only wants to find her beloved mother. From the moment Nadja finds out and leaves her Orphanage of Love to work with the Dandelion Troupe, she goes from Sleeping Beauty to Snow White: one of her goals is learning more about her mother and her biological family, as well as meeting up with her.
  • From Fushigi Yuugi, there's You Houki. She was a poor farm girl, taking care of her ailing father, when she was asked to join the emperor's harem (much to the ire of her former boyfriend Suu, later revealed to be a Goose Guy and Hotohori's half-brother). She didn't want to go at first, but her father pressured her saying she'd have a better life. Hotohori eventually chooses her to be his Empress Consort, and after he dies, she becomes a kind Empress Dowager who supports their son and future Emperor.
  • Sumi Kitamura from Stepping on Roses. She's a Sleeping Beauty because she's Aiko, the sister of her arranged husband Soichirou's rival Nozomu Iijuin; she went lost as a very little girl, and was found by a then teen-aged Eisuke Kitamura in a rose garden.
  • In One Piece, in the Dressrosa arc, the Toy Soldier/Kyros was revealed to be a lowly street thug before marrying Rebecca's mother, Scarlett and becoming a member of royalty. However, it's subverted since Scarlett gave up her status as a princess and faked her death (with her family's help) so she could marry him. Kyros was never officially a member of the royal family.
  • In Attack on Titan, Krista Lenz is actually a Heroic Bastard unaware of their true heritage. She's actually Historia Reiss, the only surviving child of the real King that rules the lands within the Walls. After this is discovered, the Survey Corps plans a coup d'état to overthrow the corrupt elements of the government with them as a new figurehead. The rebellion succeeds, with Historia taking the throne and immediately going about addressing many of the injustices in society. She frees the people long trapped in the underground slums, settling them on land seized from corrupt officials. She re-purposes this land for orphanages and farmland, providing for her people after many years of oppression and starvation.
  • Deconstructed, like pretty much every other trope, in Martian Successor Nadesico: Little Miss Snarker Ruri learns that she's the long lost princess of a Lichtenstein-like Ruritania, finally meets the biological family she'd always wondered about, and promptly decides they're a bunch of idiots and wants nothing further to do with them.
  • In Vampire Knight Yuki Cross turns out to be Yuki Kuran, one of the last pure blood vampires in existence and heir to the wealthy Kuran family.
  • Gundam Build Fighters provides a Cinderella-type with Aila Jyrkiäinen. After spending most of her childhood and teen years either destitute or under the thumb of those looking to exploit her unique abilities, she was ultimately transported to Arian, where she would eventually wed the Kingdom's crown prince, Reiji.
  • Esther Blanchett of Trinity Blood is a Sleeping Beauty type. She is the daughter of the late Crown Prince Gilbert of Albion who was spirited away after her parents' assassination by the knight, Edward White, to protect her and raised by the Bishop Laura Vitez to be a nun, unaware of her true lineage. The anime ends with her origins being revealed and her succeeding her grandmother as queen.
  • Ooku:
    • Chie went from an illegitimate daughter of Shogun Iemitsu the Elder (that he refused to even acknowledge) to the center of an El Cid Ploy to hide her father's death until she could produce a male heir to assuming power herself as Shogun Iemitsu the Younger, the first of the female shoguns.
    • Chikako went from a person who officially didn't exist (her mother covered up her birth to hide the fact that a child of Emperor Ninko was born missing a hand) to consort of Shogun Iemochi after swapping places with her brother Prince Kazu, who willingly went to hide in a monastery because he didn't wish to marry.
  • My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!: Maria in the game went from a commoner to being married to one of numerous nobles. However, even in this distorted setting it's noted that she's still going to end up with practically royal status based on her own merits because of her rare and powerful magic.
  • Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle has an unusual variation of this trope: everyone knows that Lux and Airi are the last surviving royalty of the Old Empire, including themselves. They have no power because the Old Empire no longer exists. But at the end of the series, Lux becomes king of the New Kingdom thanks to a variety of factors, like Lux's military achievements and the previous ruler's downfall.


    Comic Books 
  • Justified in Fables. Briar Rose can never stay poor thanks to a blessing placed on her at birth so when she loses her entire fortune fleeing the Adversary she quickly recoups it with a few smart business deals. One character notes that if she were to give away her fortune on a whim: "she'd probably win the lottery the next day".
  • X-Wing Rogue Squadron: Plourr Illo, a Boisterous Bruiser expy of Anastasia, went into hiding and later became a pilot for the Rebellion after revolutionaries killed her family. She wasn't in rags, exactly, but she lived as well as any of the other pilots and kept her heritage a secret.
  • Bone: Thorn was unaware of her royal legacy. Her grandma told her that she is meant to lead a kingdom as the next queen. Thorn becomes Queen in the end.
  • In Donna Troy's original (and least convoluted) backstory she was an unclaimed orphan rescued from a fire by Princess Diana and taken to the princess's home to be treated, whereupon the queen took a shine to the child and adopted her into the royal family.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Works 
  • Because of a cough during a reincarnation spell, unlike Sailor Moon canon where Usagi is the long lost princess, Nanoha Takamachi is the Sleeping Beauty Moon Princess in White Devil of the Moon. Also unlike Usagi, Nanoha is not happy to hear about it, especially when she gets a look at her past self and starts viewing it as a King Thrushbeard situation. She ultimately declines to revive the Moon Kingdom, preferring her job at the TSAB.
  • Tangled In Time has Fyrus, a male Gerudo born to humble barkeepers. He is a combined Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty example, as Fyrus's mother was not royalty and he didn't realize that being a male Gerudo was a big deal. He became king when he and his family flee Ganondorf's takeover of Hyrule and to stay with his mother's family in the Gerudo desert.
  • In fan-works where Celestia and Luna weren't born into royalty, this is the default:
    • In The Royal Sketchbook, Celestia and Luna were born Earth Pony foals 2000 years ago. Their mother was a village leader and their father an ex-soldier. For reasons not given yet, the sisters were ascended into alicorns and ended up royalty.
    • According to To Try For The Sun, Luna and Celestia were orphaned foals who lived in poverty prior to becoming alicorn princesses. Celestia worked as a gravedigger to put food on the table.
    • Delusions: Princesses Celestia and Luna (then known as "Philomena") were born the poor and marginalized children of donkey and pony farmers.
  • In A Pink Planet, having discovered that his lover was in-fact the alien matriarch of the planet Pink Diamond, Greg wound up going from a failing musician to being waited hand and foot as her official consort.
  • This is the plot of the first chapter of the Adventure Time fanfic Half Past Adventure, with an adoption version of the Cinderella story. Although it's not actually the Princess who adopts her but the Duke of Nuts.
  • After defeating the king Jafar and the evil fairy Maleficent in Comatose, Aladdin and his sister Jasmine are pronounced the new prince and princess.
  • Deconstructed with Belle in Kindred. Adam's advisers frown upon him marrying her because she wasn't born noble.
  • whose woods these are (I think I know.): In this Cinderella AU, this is Marinette’s backstory. In this version, Adrien is in the Cinderella role, and Marinette herself is the princess and heir to the throne, who sneaks out to be Ladybug and help the people. Adrien never suspects her royal roots because she told him her mother used to be a baker. At the ball, even after discovering her true status, he finds out that she was actually telling the truth—her mother was indeed a baker who had a child with the current king, and Marinette grew up in poverty. No one thought she’d ever be accepted into court, especially not Adrien’s stepsister, Chloé, who loved to bully her. But against all odds, King Thomas not only has his daughter present at court, he also names her his heir. Eventually, she earns a 100% Adoration Rating with the people for her kindness and charm.

    Films — Animated 
  • Don Bluth's Anastasia. Anya wakes up as an eight years old with no memory, and spends the next ten years of her life in a rundown orphanage, hoping her Orphan's Plot Trinket means she has a family who loves her somewhere. She takes a chance and follows her one clue to Paris, determined to not rest until she finds out who she really is. This pays off, and she discovers she's actually Her Imperial Highness, the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, and has a grandmother who has long been searching for her. Subverted in that she ultimately chooses to live away from the public eye with her non-royal love interest, Dimitri.
  • Shrek: Princess Fiona is a Snow White, kept in a tower until her curse is reversed.
  • Disney's Aladdin is a poor street urchin who begins dating the Sultan's daughter. In the semi-canon sequels, he marries Jasmine and becomes royalty.
  • Rapunzel from Tangled is a Goose Girl type; a princess who was kidnapped as a baby and had her heritage kept secret from her by Gothel, who wanted to use her Magic Hair. Also, Flynn is a Cinderella, as he's an orphan and a thief who marries Rapunzel. The series turns Eugene into a Sleeping Beauty as he was sent away from his kingdom as an infant after his father failed to destroy the Moontstone.
  • Barbie:
    • The Barbie version of Rapunzel also portrayed Rapunzel as a stolen princess. In the original fairy tale, she is a Cinderella type.
    • In another movie, Barbie as the Island Princess, she's a Sleeping Beauty type instead: she's a lost princess believed have died when her ship sunk, when in reality she had survived and spent several years in an island.
    • This turned up in a few other Barbie films as well: Barbie: Princess Charm School had Blair Willows, a poor waitress who turned out to be the presumed dead heir to the kingdom. Barbie in a Mermaid Tale had Merliah, a mermaid princess who was raised on land since she was born with legs and to protect her from her evil aunt. Finally, Barbie: The Pearl Princess had Lumina, a mermaid who lived with her elderly aunt, turn out to be a princess. The aunt being a witch who was hired to kill her by the villain who wanted his own son on the throne, but the witch had a change of heart and raised the princess in secret instead.
  • Disney later subverts this with The Princess and the Frog (pictured above). Tiana marries Prince Naveen and officially becomes a princess by marriage. But she doesn't get the royal treatment and instead opens up her own restaurant with Naveen.
  • The Rapunzel variety happens to Daria in The Princess and the Pea.
  • In Trolls, the scullery maid Bridget ends up becoming King Gristle Jr.'s girlfriend. They married by the time of the following TV special Trolls Holiday, and thus Bridget is now Queen of the Bergens.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, it turns out that King Candy is a usurper, and Vanellope is the rightful, deposed princess and ruler of Sugar Rush. She decides to ditch the Princess title for a presidency instead.
  • Frozen II: Anna and Elsa's mother Iduna came from a tribal village to the north of Arendelle. Their father, then young Prince Agnarr, encountered her on a visit.
    • While it isn't explicitly stated, Kristoff, who also started off as a commoner, would have at least been a Prince Consort or a king by the time of the film's epilogue.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars:
    • Han and Leia are a special case in that an insignificant smuggler of no importance ends up with the adopted daughter of a powerful nobleman from one of the oldest and most prestigious human planets, who already had her own career in the highest levels of galactic politics.
    • While far from poor, Emperor Palpatine started his life as a member of a small noble family of the lowest rank on the tiny backwater planet Naboo. Instead of working his way up through the political hierarchy of the Galaxy, he instead staged a conflict that made his people look like victims in the power plays of the major powers and showed the face of a humble older man just wishing to save his home, which got him enough of a sympathy bonus to be selected as a trustworthy and impartial caretaker for major reforms in the Galactic Republic.
    • If Star Wars Legends is taken into consideration, Han could be a descendant of the family that ruled Corellia in the distant past. Could because 1) the claimant to the throne Han's descended from could be an impostor, 2) number 1 could have just been said to make Han's heritage more opaque by his request, 3) Corellia's a democracy anyway at this point, and 4) the whole point of that was to prove that Han had the heritage and credentials to marry Princess Leia... but they weren't going to let anything stop them from doing that anyway, especially since the only real threat to their engagement found love elsewhere. If this is taken into consideration, it means their three children and granddaughter also are descendants of royalty. Then again, their granddaughter is already a Snow White, the lost heir to the Hapes Consortium.
  • Pan's Labyrinth has Ophelia as a Sleeping Beauty; she's the reincarnation of a fairy princess, but must pass many tests to prove she is still more royalty than human, and hasn't been corrupted by living among us. Word of God is it's all true, not a mere trick or her "escapism" method to try coping with a truly horrid life in the middle of the Spanish Civil War.
  • The eponymous King Ralph is a male Cinderella, though he's not exactly sweeping princesses off their feet. Rather, he comes by his office by accident of birth, after every other member of the royal family dies in an explosion. He eventually finds proof that his chief advisor Cedric has more right to the throne than him, but initially refused the call because he feared being king and had no heirs. Ralph abdicates in Cedric's favor after securing a deal that ensured thousands of jobs for Brits, though considering Cedric's still childless, it's likely Ralph, or his son Ralph II, will inherit eventually anyway.
  • The fantasy film Quest of the Delta Knights, which may be best remembered as having been shown on MST3K, had a Sleeping Beauty character. The two young heroes, Tee and Leonardo da Vinci, rescue a prostitute named Thena from having to spend the night with evil Lord Vultare. The trio are captured by a group of warriors from a neighboring country, the leader of whom takes Thena aside for a private interview. She tells him a short form of her life story, and he comes to the (rather incomprehensible) conclusion that she is none other than his own long-lost younger sister, Princess Athena.
  • The 1987 Ally Sheedy vehicle Maid to Order (1987) offers a modern King Thrushbeard in the story of a wild spendthrift heiress who is magically banished into the working class to learn humility, compassion and the value of a buck, thanks to her Fairy Godmother.
  • Overboard has a similar plot, only it was a case of accidental amnesia and the scheme of a lower class workman (that the spoiled heiress had earlier insulted) that sent her to live the life of a poor housewife. She regains her memory and wealth at the end of the story, and marries the poor workman after dumping the loathsome husband she'd had before the accident.
  • Maid in Manhattan, with Jennifer Lopez as a hotel maid (Cinderella), Ralph Fiennes as a Congressional candidate staying at the hotel (The Prince), Natasha Richardson and Amy Sedaris as airheaded socialites also lusting after him (the Wicked Stepsisters), Lopez' coworkers as a collective group of fairy godmothers, and the museum benefit where things come to a head (the Ball).
  • In the film Working Girl, Tess McGill starts as an overworked and unappreciated secretary living in Staten Island with a deadbeat boyfriend. By the movie's ending, she pulled off a major business merger, gained a new job and a Wall Street analyst lover.
    • Her first boyfriend wasn't a deadbeat, he had a perfectly good blue-collar job and before the movie ended had achieved his aim of owning his own boat. However he had no sympathy with her white-collar aspirations and he cheated on her.
  • In In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, Farmer is a simple farmer with no aspirations other than to grow crops and be a good husband and father. When his son is killed and his wife captured by the Evil Sorcerer Big Bad, he goes to try to get her back and avenge his son. Meanwhile, the kingdom of Ehb is under siege from the sorcerer's mindless horde of creatures called the Krug. King Konreid meets Farmer and is told by his wizard that Farmer is his long-lost son. Farmer neither believes him nor does he care. During the first battle with the Krug, the king is betrayed and mortally wounded by his nephew Duke Fallow. On his deathbed, he convinces Farmer that the latter is his son. Farmer becomes King Camden Konreid.
  • In The Man in the Iron Mask, Phillippe is literally in rags in prison. He ends up ruling France, with his Evil Twin Louis in prison.
  • The whole plot of The Prince and Me is that American medical student Paige falls in love with the young King Edvard of Denmark, and becomes a Cinderella who must find a way to prove her worth to the people of his country.
  • Jupiter Ascending has the titular Jupiter, illegal Russian immigrant maid who is secretly (genetically) the queen of Earth.
  • Kingsman: The Golden Circle: Eggsy, who grew up poor and surrounded by degenerates, marries Tilde, crown princess of Sweden. Doubles, technically speaking, as a Warrior Prince.
  • In The Wizard of Oz, the young farm girl Dorothy learns that she's the lost Princess Dorothea of Oz. Years ago, she was taken away and left on the doorstep of a couple.
  • Spaceballs merges the Goose Girl and Cinderella types. Down-on-his-luck mercenary Lone Starr wins the heart of Princess Vespa, and then finds out that he's an orphaned prince just in time to marry her.

  • In A Brother's Price, the Whistler family aren't really poor, but Jerin is used to hard work, and does all the cooking, washing, etc. for a big household as his main responsibility, with the help of as many younger sisters as he can get to help him. Once his royal heritage is revealed (his grandfather Alannon was a prince), Jerin becomes a Suddenly Suitable Suitor to the princesses of the realm, and, after some obstacles are removed, is engaged to marry them.
  • The Princess Diaries books are a deconstruction — Mia was as happy as any other teen at first and horrified to discover she was a princess. Being a princess is difficult, and her grandmother say the least. However, Mia eventually discovers she has gained fame, which she can use to try and right what she sees as social injustices and wrongs.
  • The Belgariad had Garion, a male Sleeping Beauty.
  • The original Deltora Quest series. The missing heir turns out to be a Sleeping Beauty type, ascending to the throne in the final book of the first series. Their eventual spouse is in a similar boat. In the backstory, King Adin is a classic Cinderella type, a hardworking blacksmith who went on a quest to unite the seven tribes of the Land of Dragons against their common Enemy and was made the first king of the new country as a result.
  • Discworld:
    • Emberella in Witches Abroad starts out as a parody of Cinderella, but turns out to be a more-or-less straight Sleeping Beauty.
    • Captain Carrot in the Watch series is a parody of the male Sleeping Beauty; once he learns his true heritage, he makes damn sure no-one finds out. (Including executing one persistent monarchist for treachery against the Patrician.)
    • Wyrd Sisters is also a subversion of the male Sleeping Beauty: Like Carrot, Tomjon doesn't want the job once he learns his heritage, so it instead goes to his half-brother Verence who's actually a half-brother on the mother's side and so, strictly speaking, doesn't have Royal Blood at all.
    • The above caveats aside, Wyrd Sisters also sets up Lords and Ladies in making Magrat a fairly straight example of the Cinderella.
  • Sergeant Nimashet Despreaux in John Ringo and David Weber's Prince Roger series subverts the trope by recognizing that it is not a good idea for a bodyguard to be attracted to the person she's guarding. Also, since she is from a hick planet, she doesn't want to get anywhere near the Decadent Court that plagues the Empire of Man. She actually has to be ORDERED by her CO to have a relationship with the prince because they need to get him out of a depressed funk. Later on, when he becomes heir to the throne, she gets cold feet. She then has to be ORDERED by her CO to marry him so that she can serve as his moderating influence and conscience.
  • In the children's novel Just Ella, by Margaret Haddix, the trope is subverted. Having gotten to the ball by her own devices, she is dogged by rumors it was really a fairy godmother. She finds that court life is stifling, the poor are horribly downtrodden, and Prince Charming is stupid and unfeeling.
  • Kate Forsythe's Rhiannon o' the Dubhslain (a Sleeping Beauty).
  • Thanks to Royally Screwed Up, in Deep Secret, Maree, Nick, and Rob the Centaur are all secretly Princes/Princesses; Nick / Nicothodes is of the Snow White variety, while Maree and Rob are both Sleeping Beauties. While Maree / Sempronia is technically the eldest and next in line, Rob the centaur in the one who ascends to the throne. Sort of.
  • Subverted in The Secret of Platform 13, where the Prince of a magical island is kidnapped by a Rich Bitch who wanted a son; when agents of his parents track her down years later, they find that the child, now named Raymond, has turned into a Spoiled Brat. Double Subverted when it turns out that the prince is actually Ben, the family's poor servant who is far nicer than Raymond.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs's heroes and heroines are generally of high birth but sometimes feature as Sleeping Beauties or Snow Whites.
    • Tarzan of the Apes turns out to be an English nobleman lost in a ship wreck as a young child.
    • In The Master Mind of Mars, the heroine, Valla Dia, is in flight after the conquest of her city; only at the end she does reveal herself to be the princess of it.
    • In A Fighting Man of Mars, the hero meets a slave girl Tavia; only at the end it is revealed that she is a princess by blood. (Even she didn't know.)
    • The Cave Girl was a ship-wrecked child of Spanish nobility.
    • In The Monster Men, the hero is revealed to be amnesiac, and an upper-class American.
    • In The Chessman of Mars, the hero, a prince, disguises himself as a poor mercenary because he had given the heroine a bad first impression as a prince.
  • Mercedes Lackey:
  • In John Barnes' One for the Morning Glory, Calliope is secretly the princess of a neighboring country, smuggled to safety. She ends up getting herself crowned and then marrying Prince Amatus and being queen, although at one point she does wish that she could marry Amatus as just the nobleman's daughter she passes herself off as; as a princess, the political aspects are a little obvious.
  • Greek Mythology goes a step beyond with the Legend of Eros and Psyche. Although Psyche is actually a princess by right, she goes one scale higher, to get married by the God of Love himself in disguise. Then Zeus makes her immortal.
  • Ceddy, AKA Cedrik Errol, of Little Lord Fauntleroy, is another example of the 'rags to riches' and 'hidden nobility' part of this trope. His father was the son of a very rich and anti-American Lord, his mother was the orphaned and much abused lady-in-waiting of a Rich Bitch, they got together despite the Parental Marriage Veto, after the dad was disinherited they lived a middle-to-poor-class but happy life with little Cedric, and it's only after the father's death that Cedric learns his origins and then goes to England to meet his paternal family.
  • Princess Augusta a.k.a. Mickle of Lloyd Alexander's Westmark is a combination Sleeping Beauty/Goose Girl type: she doesn't remember her royal heritage thanks to traumatic amnesia, and the country believes that she's dead. Deconstructed somewhat in the sequels, where noble and foreign disapproval of her commoner upbringing sets the plot in motion.
  • Also from Lloyd Alexander are Taran and Princess Eilonwy in The Chronicles of Prydain. Eilonwy is an aversion of the Snow White in that she isn't on the run from her royal lineage, but was stolen as an infant. She's somewhat of a Goose Girl, in that she is perfectly well aware that she's a Princess of Llyr, but when she meets protagonist Taran in the first book, she doesn't bother to mention it at any point — not because she feels like she needs to hide the truth, but simply because rank doesn't matter to her. (This is averted in the animated adaptation, where she always introduces herself as a princess.) Taran himself, by the end of the series, is a Cinderella who makes a very abrupt transition from assistant pig-keeper to High King.
  • In many variants of the medieval Chivalric Romance of Robert the Devil, the hero is living a life of menial labor when he rescues the princess and gets to marry her. Unusually, this is his own choice: his parents had wished for a child — whether from God or the Devil. The son is therefore born possessed by evil, and he is doing penance for the evil he did.
  • In many chivalric romances such as Vitae Duorum Offarum, Emare, Mai and Beaflor, and La Belle Helene de Constantinople, the heroine escapes her father threatening marriage and wins the heart of a king. After she has a child, she is slandered and driven out again, only reuniting with her husband after much tribulation. (See "The Girl Without Hands" under Fairy Tales.)
  • In the Chivalric Romance Sir Amadas, Amadas wins the hand of the princess with the aid of a mysterious White Knight, who proves to be a dead man whose burial he had secured.
  • In the Chivalric Romance King Horn, Horn, after being cast adrift in a boat as a boy, returned to his father's kingdom to reclaim it.
  • The titular character of Havelok the Dane is a Sleeping Beauty; the long lost son of the king of Dnemark who was saved after his father was dethroned and killed. Depending on the version, he was either too young to remember his heritage or lost his memories as a prince. He eventually learsn his heritage and returns to claim his throne.
    • Havelok's wife, Princess Goldburow, is a Snow White type, being the rightful heiress to her father's kingdom but married off to the seemingly common Havelok by her greedy uncle in order to steal her inheritance. Like Havelok, she eventually reclaims her throne.
  • In the Chivalric Romance Roswall and Lillian, the hero is attacked by his own servant and must promise to never reveal the attack to save his own life. He wins the princess in a tournament with the aid of magical helpers who give him armor and weapons.
  • Aragorn/Strider, of The Lord of the Rings, is somewhere between Goose Girl and Snow White. He's the heir to two dynasties (one a dynasty and people without a proper state, the other a land without a king), lives with his identity hidden for safety reasons, and was kept ignorant of his heritage during his childhood in Rivendell (which was nowhere near "rags" territory). As an adult he takes on the leadership of his people, and spends most of his time away from home fighting the horrors of the Enemy, whether to protect unwitting hobbits and Men in Eriador or as leader in the armies of Rohan and Gondor under the name Thorongil. Additionally, his line has been living this way for more than a dozen generations before their kingdom is finally restored. Aragorn's early life is a lot like that of King Arthur, who was placed for adoption by Merlin to keep him hidden and safe from his enemies until he could claim his throne.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy uses the Goose Girl: Freed slave Thorby goes through most of the novel with a variety of foster parents until he finally reaches a point where he can be identified by his footprints. He discovers that he's Thor Bradley Rudbek, long-lost heir of the obscenely wealthy Rudbek clan, sold into slavery as an infant when his parents were attacked by Space Pirates.
  • Lessa of the Dragonriders of Pern series is a grown-up Snow White/Goose Girl ragged princess (albeit a Tsundere with emphasis on the Tsun) whose family was destroyed when Fax took over her Hold. She changes her goal — instead of taking back leadership of Ruatha Hold, she becomes a queen dragon rider and Weyrwoman (an even higher social rank).
  • By the end of the Seventh Sword trilogy, this happens several times. The first of which is Katanjii, a minor character who breaks his arm early on, but discovers that he has a strong business sense that enables him to make business deals that always benefit him, despite his small stature, young age, and seeming innocence. The trilogy concludes with:
    • Nanjii, (Katanjii's older brother becoming the world's greatest swordsman, when he had started out as a poor protege).
    • Sonshu, the main protagonist becomes a king who is well-loved despite spending most of the story being despised by everyone.
    • Jaa, Sonshu's love interest and a slave becomes Sonshu's queen.
  • Octavian in the Codex Alera series is a male in the Sleeping Beauty style, and his mother Isana was a Cinderella in the backstory and is a Goose Girl during the events of the main plot. Octavian only reveals his birthright after he has proven himself a brilliant military commander.
  • Jame, the heroine of P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath series, is a Sleeping Beauty type; she believes herself the outcast, ragtag daughter of a minor Lord, but she turns out to be the sister of the Highlord of the Kencyrath — a situation that doesn't make her all that happy, because she chafes under (and eventually rejects) the restrictions of the role.
  • In C. S. Lewis' The Horse and His Boy: Shasta is Prince Cor, heir to the Archenland throne. He's a Sleeping Beauty type as he didn't know about that until the end, and only escaped from Calormen because neither he nor Bree wanted to be Made a Slave. At the end, Cor grows into The Wise Prince and a Reasonable Authority Figure as King Cor of Archenland.
    • Likewise, his foil Aravis was a Snow White: she ran away from her noble Calormen home after being badly shaken by the death of her much loved older brother and trying to escape from being the Trophy Wife to a high-ranked and much older Smug Snake (which was arranged by her Wicked Stepmother). She becomes Cor's traveling companion, then girlfriend, then wife, and with time, the Queen Consort of Archenland.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "The Scarlet Citadel" Conan the Barbarian is proud of his going through this as a Self-Made Man.
  • In Josepha Sherman's The Shining Falcon, Maria is reduced to a peasant's life before gaining Finist's love.
  • In Beowulf, Hrothgar's queen is described as queenly and wearing gold, but her name is "Wealhtheow," which means "foreign slave."
  • The Bible:
    • As mentioned above, David of Books of Samuel may be the biggest example of this in the Bible. He goes from being a humble shepherd to a hero by killing Goliath. Then he becomes a leader in King Saul's army, and eventually his son-in-law by marrying his daughter. When he is forced to flee, he becomes the leader of a group of mercenaries. When Saul is killed in battle, he becomes king of Judah. Then when Saul's son is assassinated, David becomes king of all of Israel.
    • In the Book of Esther, Esther is chosen to be queen (to replace Queen Vashti after her husband Ahasuerus/Xerxes banished her from the empire). Esther is an ordinary young girl, and at that one of the Jews living in exile in Babylon, but she is chosen by the king himself out of a harem on account of her beauty. She keeps herself there thanks to her charm and her wits, and ultimately saves her people.
  • Princess Jenna from the Septimus Heap series grew up in a poor Wizard family before being called to become Princess at her tenth birthday.
  • In Fred Saberhagen's Book of Swords trilogy, or rather, its backstory, Yambu, the Silver Queen, was the rightful ruler of...Yambu, after her parents, the previous king and queen, were killed. Unfortunately, the people who killed them had somehow gotten the idea that they should be in charge now, so Yambu had to go on the run as a fugitive, where she was helped by a mysterious stranger who called himself the Emperor. Despite appearing to be a clown, he turned out to be a great warrior and a powerful wizard, and saved her repeatedly and became her lover, and ultimately led a successful military-diplomatic campaign to put her back on the throne. It was at that moment that he asked her to marry him, but....
    • Subverted with Yambu's daughter (by the Emperor), Ariane. Yambu, fearing her as a rival to her power, sells her into slavery. She is rescued from slavery by Baron Doon and his companions before anything really bad happens to her, but she is never put on the throne, and never returns to a state of royalty.
    • Played straight, though, with Mark: he grows up as a peasant, but becomes Prince Consort of Tasavalta after he marries Princess Kristin.
  • Bria in The Last Dove is the Sleeping Beauty Style.
  • Wendy in the Trylle Trilogy is a Sleeping Beauty Style. She finds out that she is actually a changeling troll who replaced her host family's original child, and she is actually the princess of the Trylle kingdom.
  • The Daenerys plot from A Song of Ice and Fire is of The Goose Girl type. Daenerys begins as a Fallen Princess who is borderline sold off as a bride to Warrior Prince Drogo, and slowly begins to pick herself up and acquire her own power...
  • Ani/ Isi of The Goose Girl is Goose Girl Style.
  • The protagonist of The Bitterbynde undergoes an extremely dramatic Cinderella transformation. At the start of the first book, she's a deformed, nameless, spurned, and hated scullery servant in a noble house. By midway through the second book, she's won a name, a title and land, and is engaged to the King-Emperor, although this does not last.
  • In John Moore's Fractured Fairy Tale, The Unhandsome Prince, Caroline knows she's destined for this. It was hard work finding the right frog to kiss. The only problem is that the standard deal is for a handsome prince. She knows that she's beautiful, and she'll be damned if she's going to settle!
  • In John C. Wright's The Hermetic Millennia, one Chimera comments on how the lower class have cheap literature concentrating on Rags To Royalty Rescue Romance.
  • In Seanan McGuire's October Daye novel Rosemary and Rue, Toby observes that as a duchess, Luna looks like a goosegirl raised to her position.
  • Alaric in The Quest of the Unaligned is a Sleeping Beauty with a bit of a twist. He was never in any danger, rather he was sent to live in the city-state of Tonzimmiel instead of his native land of Caederan in order to ensure that he grew up magically balanced, away from the disruptive wind magic influencing the court. The original plan might have worked, but Alaric's Tonzimellian caretakers died when he was still fairly young, before they'd told him anything about his heritage, and he was sent into the orphanage system and only found just in time.
    • His Love Interest Laeshana is a fairly straight Cinderella. She is born into the white-sashes, the small caste of peasant mages despised by Caederan's nobility. However, her hard work, native brilliance, and loyalty to Prince Alaric conspire such that by the end of the story she is the second most powerful mage in the world and Crown Prince Alaric's bride.
  • The Cinderella variant is played with, gender switched, and ultimately averted in Crucible of Gold. Captain John Granby was born the third son of a Newcastle coal-merchant and his commission in the Aerial Corps is if anything a step down by British standards. However when his dragon goes behind his back and gets him presented as a prospective political match for the Empress of the Inca he is anything but pleased and would not have been even if he were terribly interested in women. His joy at the arrival of Napoleon is palpable.
  • In The Book of the New Sun, Severian is a ragged apprentice who becomes the Autarch - the leader of his Commonwealth note  and by extension the representative of Mankind. Severian is low-born (but with hints of noble blood), and it turns out many of his predecessors on the throne have been of similarly obscure origins, since leadership of the Commonwealth is a pawn in the machinations of higher powers.
  • In The Enchanted Forest Chronicles Cimorene deliberately made herself a Goose Girl because she was bored and wanted to get out of an Arranged Marriage, starting a life long friendship with Kazul the dragon in the process. Later in life, she is forced to become a Snow White after the wizards kidnap her husband. Her son, Daystar, however, is a Sleeping Beauty, who did not know that he was the heir to the Enchanted Forest until after he saved his father.
  • In The Goblin Emperor, Maia technically held the title of Archduke all through his miserable adolescence, but as his father the emperor hated him and the cousin appointed to be his guardian after his mother's death also hated him, becoming emperor makes a very big difference in how he lives. Since he arrives at court in mourning clothes that are just used clothes from his cousin which were dyed black, it is even literally this trope.
  • The Cinderella variant is an Invoked Trope in the Honor Harrington series, due to the Manticorian law requiring that the heir to the Crown marry a commoner. In particular, Queen Mother Angelique was initially tagged as "The Poor Little Beggar Girl" due to being not just a commoner, but part of a family of refugees who arrived on Manticore with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.
  • The Wheel of Time: The Cinderella version is Discussed when Mat Cauthon, a Farm Boy turned reluctant Four-Star Badass, is abruptly married to the Seanchan Empress to fulfill The Prophecy:
    "Just because a man marries someone doesn't mean he suddenly becomes bloody nobility."
    Thom and Talmanes exchanged a look.
    "Mat," Thom said. "That's actually exactly how it works. It's pretty much one of the only ways to become nobility."
  • Tip from The Marvelous Land of Oz is a farm boy who runs away from his abusive guardian to find the lost princess of Oz, Ozma. Unknowingly, he's the princess. As a baby, he was given to Mombi by the Wizard so that the throne could be stolen. To avoid anyone noticing, Ozma was transformed into a boy. Tip reluctantly gets turned back and spends the rest of the series as Oz's Queen/Princess Ozma.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: While Jon Snow had it better off than most people in Westeros with a privileged upbringing in a castle and had a family he loves, who love him, he was still the illegitimate son of Ned Stark and as such, couldn’t inherit his father’s titles or lands. He is proclaimed by the Northern Lords as the King in the North at the end of Season 6. Season Seven however, revealed he's the trueborn son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark,note  making him the Sleeping Beauty rightful king of Westeros. Ned hid his identity to keep him alive, as Robert had driven the Targaryens off the throne and had those he could get to killed.
  • Guinevere does it Cinderella style on Merlin going from serving girl to Queen of Camelot by becoming Arthur's wife. And in the final episode, she becomes Queen Regnant when Arthur bequeaths Camelot to her.
  • Once Upon a Time has several instances, which is fitting, given that the characters are the fairytale characters.
    • The series protagonist, Emma Swan, is a Sleeping Beauty style. She thought she was abandoned and left to die by callous jerks of parents, growing up in a hellish set of foster homes. Finding out her parents are Snow White and her Prince Charming is a shock to say the least, and the series merrily deconstructs it.
    • Prince Charming undergoes a Cinderella version, but more complicated: he's one of two identical twin brothers born to a poor woman, with one of them being sold to a childless king. When the sold one dies, Charming is forced to take his twin's place.
    • ◦Rumplestiltskin went From Nobody to Nightmare. A poor sheep farmer and weaver, he was willing to do anything to prevent his son from being forcibly conscripted into a pointless war. It ended with him making a whopper of a Deal with the Devil, then killing said devil, only to become the next Dark One, with all the wealth and comfort he can imagine. Only when his Drunk On The Darkside actions cause his son to run away does he start reconsidering things.
    • Cora (the evil queen's mother) is an extremely pitch black take on the trope. An impoverished miller's daughter, she was humiliated publicly (and cheated out of her payment for the flour shipment) when the princess tripped her, causing her bag to spill. She went out to invoke this trope out of pure rage and desire to get even. Cora learned a lot more magic than spinning straw to gold by Rumplestiltskin (becoming his lover in the process), marrying a minor prince with absolutely no backbone that she openly held in contempt, cheating Rumplestiltskin when he tried to claim her end of the deal, and then giving birth to a daughter (Regina) just so the daughter could be used as a tool to get Mommy Dearest even more power. Oh, and she murdered the princess who humiliated her by using magic, part for revenge for being tripped and part to force her daughter to marry the widower.

  • Many times in the works of Gilbert and Sullivan:
    • The Yeomen of the Guard: Elsie's marriage to the Colonel.
    • In H.M.S. Pinafore, Josephine's marriage to Ralph, since he is really the Captain.
    • In Ruddigore, both Hannah and Rose marry baronets.
    • In The Pirates of Penzance, Major General Stanley's Back Story — he even bought an estate and its contents, which included the buried ancestors. His daughters proceed to marry the pirates when they are revealed to be noblemen.
  • William Shakespeare. Some of these are dukes rather than kings or princes—but sovereign ones.
    • As You Like It: The duke is forced into exile in the Back Story, and in the play, his daughter Rosalind has to follow him. They are restored at the end both to each other and to their rightful titles.
    • Cymbeline: The young princes are raised as shepherds but identified at the end.
    • Measure for Measure: Isabella marries the duke at the end
    • Pericles, Prince of Tyre: The prince is ship-wreaked and only restored at the end.
    • The Tempest: Prospero's deposition means both he and Miranda are this.
    • Twelfth Night: Viola ends up marrying the duke.
    • The Winter's Tale: Perdita is raised as a shepherdess, although a princess.

    Video Games 
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time had a version of the Snow White. Princess Zelda is concealed among the Sheikah people to hide her from Ganondorf for seven years.
    • Tetra of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker follows the Sleeping Beauty version of this trope, though in a partial subversion, she doesn't get to really return to her status as royalty because the entire Kingdom of Hyrule pulls an Atlantis and stays forever sealed at the bottom of the Great Sea. This doesn't really bother her much, though, because she hates being called Princess Zelda anyway.
    • Midna in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is another Snow White example.
    • The Zelda in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is a rather literal Sleeping Beauty.
  • Subverted in Sly 2: Band of Thieves, where one of the villains is a tiger crimelord named Rajan, who climbed up from poverty through a life of crime . While presenting himself as royalty (via the self imposed title "Lord of the Hills" and his "newly purchased "ancestral palace""), he's a thug in king's clothing with no real title or royal blood.
    Sly While (Rajan) goes to great lengths to convince others of his royalty, he's really trying to convince himself.
  • In Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice, Almaz is a Cinderella example in two of the endings. In the Good ending, he ends up marrying Princess Sapphire Rhodonite. In the more jokey "Almaz Ending," Mao's father deems him Overlord of the Netherworld, much to his own dismay.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem Gaiden and its remake Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia have several characters that fit in one or another way:
      • Celica turns out to be a Snow White, since she's the missing Princess Anthiese of Zofia, barely saved from her family's massacre by her Parental Substitute Mycen. She lives as a priestess of the goddess Mila and then sets out on a quest to find out about the goddess' disappearance, which will lead her to reveal her heritage. In the end, she not only takes over Zofia but marries the Prince of Rigel, and they unite their lands in the newborn Kingdom of Valentia.
      • On the other hand, Alm is revealed to be a Sleeping Beauty, completely unaware that he is the missing Prince Albein Alm Rudolf of Rigel. He joins La Résistance to fight King Rudolf's tyranny, not knowing that Rudolf is his Disappeared Dad, and is very distressed when he finds out the truth after fatally injuring him. In the end, he recovers and takes over Rigel, marrying his childhood friend aka the aforementioned Celica and reigning over Valentia with her.
      • After the end, the newborn Mercenary Kingdom will have a King that fits as a Cinderella, as he began as a common mercenary who joined Celica's group. Whether Jesse or Kamui becomes said King, it depends on whether Jesse lives to the end of the game.
      • Shadows of Valentia adds another of these: Celica's half-brother Prince Conrad, also a Snow White. He also survived the massacre of the Zofian Royal Family and was raised away in the Sage's Hamlet, becoming a powerful knight and then reuniting with Celica. If he lives, he becomes a Reasonable Authority Figure for Valentia.
    • Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War:
      • Cigyun and Deirdre are both Sleeping Beauties:
        The first was a young woman with minor Loptous blood, which was a very bad thing as her children would either become vessels for the Dark God Loptous or be the parents of a possible vessel. Cigyun escaped her home in a Verdane forest to see the world, married the Lord of Velthomer (from the also noble Fjalar clan) and had a son (Arvis) with major Fjalar blood and minor Loptous blood; however, she was mentally broken due to how much her husband cheated on her, so she cheated back on him with Prince Kurth, who belonged to another Heroic Lineage (Naga). When the Velthomer lord found out and killed himself, the despaired Cigyun escaped back into to the Forest while pregnant with Deirdre, and died giving birth to her.
        The second is a young girl living in a secluded forest, who was always told to not leave the tiny village, but didn't know why she should be in complete isolation. As she is Cigyun's daughter, Deirdre has minor Loptous blood too and from her dad's side she is the long lost crown princess of Grandvale with major Naga heritage, but her caretakers refuse to tell her the truth. She leaves the Forest too and marries Sigurd, living happily with him (and having Seliph) until Magnificent Bastard Manfroy kidnaps and brainwashes her... to become her half-brother Arvis's wife. And yep, their incestuous child Julius does become the vessel for Loptous, and kills Deirdre once possessed. Good thing Deirdre manages to spirit away her and Arvis's other incestuous child, Julia, and who ultimately joins her half-brother Seliph's rebellious group.
      • Deirdre's eldest son Seliph and his friends (the kids of the first generation characters) belong to different categories, depending on their backstories. They're most commonly Snow Whites (Seliph, Leif, Oifey, Shannan, Lester and Lana, Ulster and Larcei, Patty, Ares, Arthur, maybe Altena, Fee and Ced, Diarmuid and Nanna), but we also have some Sleeping Beauties (Lene and Coirpre) and Goose Girls/Guys (Faval, Teeny). Additionally, Lewyn is a subversion: he is the King of Silessa and should be on the throne, but he rejects his heritage (to the point that he gets pissed off when Seliph calls him "King") and prefers to be the Team Dad for Seliph's group so he can fight for the freedom of the empire. (Besides, if he DOES have kids with Forseti blood, the son will be crowned at the end of the game.) Oh, and the aforementioned Deirdre's daughter/Seliph's half-sister Julia is a Snow White, amnesiac and away from her noble family - thus unable to recall that she's the Imperial Princess of Grandvale and the current holder of the Naga major blood.
      • If you don't get the kids of the first generation characters, they're replaced by expies who are generally commoners. The exceptions are the stand-ins for Arthur and Tine, Amid and Linda, who are Snow Whites related by blood to the characters they're "replacing".
    • In Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 there are many of these.
      • Leif, Nanna and Miranda are Snow Whites fighting to get their kingdoms back, to start. Eyvel turns out to be an amnesiac Seeping Beauty since she's the long lost Princess Brigid; her adoptive daughter Mareeta and Mareeta's father Galzus are a Goose Guy and his Goose Girl daughter, thrown out of the small kingdom of Rivough when it was conquered years ago.
      • In both the second part of Genealogy of the Holy War and in Thracia 776, the players learn that Ced and Fee's mother Erinys ultimately became a Cinderella. Despite being only a Pegasus Knight in service to Silesse, Lewyn's mother Rahna trusted her enough to let her succeed the Silesse throne, even if she's not married to Lewyn, and so Erinys became the very kind and hardworking Queen of Silesse from being a non-noble Pegasus Knight. The downside is that she died a few years before the events of the second half of Genealogy of the Holy War and Thracia 776 took place, which left Silesse open to attacks and occupation.
    • In Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, some of the girls that the young lord Roy can marry aren't exactly average noblewomen: the Genki Girl dancer (and adoptive daughter of an Etrurian general, but still) Lalum, Tomboy Princess Sue from the nomadic Kutolah tribe (aka the daughter of Blazing Blade's Rath), Action Girl and mercenary Pegasus Knight Shanna, and the druid Sophia (who's also a half-dragon).
    • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade:
      • Lyndis is a mix of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. She knows she's the princess of the Lorca tribe since her Disappeared Dad was the chieftain... but she certainly does not know that her Missing Mom was a former member of Lycian royalty. The first part of the game is dedicated to her finding out about her mom's origins, taking off to meet up with her still-living grandfather and defeating her Evil Great Uncle. Also, if Lyn marries either Eliwood or Hector, she can become the co-ruler of either Pherae or Ostia and reassure her Snow White traits.
      • Lyn's not the only potential Cindy, either: Lords Eliwood and Hector have brides who are either mercenary Pegasus Knights (Fiora, for Eliwood; Farina and Florina, for Hector) or a travelling dancer who's also half-human and half dragon (Ninian, for Eliwood).
      • The same game has two Cinderellas: Louise and Hellene. They're two childhood friends who are also members of very minor noble clans, who marry into much-higher families: Louise is Happily Married to Pent of Reglay, while Hellene becomes the Queen of Bern via marrying King Desmond... and it gets worse for her. At the same time, we meet three Snow Whites: Priscilla and Raymond of Cornwell, whose clan was overthrown due to their supposed corruption; and Rath from the Kutolah tribe, banished away from his tribe Because Destiny Says So.
    • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn:
      • The game has a mixed Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty in Micaiah, who goes from a cute Fortune Teller on the streets to a Jeanne d'Archétype-like leader of La Résistance to general to Queen of Daein... in the meantime learning that she is in fact the rightful heir to the empire of Begnion...which she does not end up ruling, and her little sister Empress Sanaki remains in power.
      • It also both subverts and averts the Sleeping Beauty type with Pelleas and Soren. Pelleas, a poor orphan who got the power of charming spirits, suddenly found himself the lost prince of Daein and became king - but it turned out to be a big fat lie, and he wasn't royal at all - and, in his case, being thought of as the Prince completely destroyed his life and caused his death. (Unless the player gathers the requirements to recruit him into the group, that is - if he lives through he becomes an adviser to the aforementioned Queen Micaiah, switching from Sleeping Beauty to Cinderella.) Soren, the true prince, never learns of his heritage and remains a commoner — but considering how things went with Pelleas (and who his birth father was), it's probably much better he remained this way.
    • Fire Emblem Awakening:
      • A very, very twisted Cinderella shows up as an antagonist: Gangrel, who started as a poor dude from the slums and became the King of Plegia... as well as The Caligula.
      • If a female Avatar marries Prince Chrom, she will become the future Queen of Ylisse and a Cinderella type. Or she can marry the nobleman Frederick and remain as Chrom's close friend and advisor, or get together with Basilio aka one of the Khans of Regna Ferox, or marry one of Chrom's potential sons (Brady or Inigo) or Lissa's son Owain., or marry Virion and help him recover the Duchy of Rosanne. If a male Avatar marries Chrom's little sister Lissa or his older sister Emmeryn if you recruit her via Spot Pass, he will also be Cinderella'd into the Ylissean Royal Family; alternatively, he can marry Lissa's best friend Maribelle and be the husband of a future countess, or marry any of Chrom's possible daughters (Kjelle, Cynthia, Lucina)... or marry the other Khan of Regna Ferox and Basilio's rival, Flavia, or marry close retainers and minor noblewomen like Cordelia, Sully and/or Sumia. Since the Avatar's Archnemesis Dad Validar is the King of Plegia after Gangrel's fall, the Avatar of either gender is actually a Sleeping Beauty... and the "vessel" of Grima as well.
      • The female Avatar can also subvert it if she falls for either the post Heel–Face Turn Gangrel and/or Walhart (neither is a ruler anymore), or Yen'fay (he's a Fallen Prince from an alternate timeline). Same goes to the male Avatar if his bride is Say'ri (as Yen'fay's sister, she's a Fallen Princess - though she might have a chance to get Chon'sin back in the future.)
      • Note that this also applies for any other prospective bride or groom of the above mentioned royals. The most obvious example is the nameless village maiden that marries Chrom if all his other potential brides are unavailable for one reason or another (married already, dead, don't have enough love points with him, etc.)
    • Fire Emblem Fates:
      • This can potentially happen to Shura. Said character fits as a Cinderella, since he used to be a vassal in service of the Principality of Kohga, which was destroyed by Kotaro from the Principality of Mokushu. But if he makes it to the end of the game, he rebuilds Kohga and becomes its leader (if he doesn't marry the Female Avatar and become her Number Two, that is).
      • Note, again, that there are quite a few royals that can be married off, including the Avatar this time, who's a member of the Hoshido royal family and becomes ruler of Kingdom of Valla in the Golden Path, so anyone who marries said Avatar, their best friend Lady Azura, any of the royals from both the Nohr and Hoshido families, any of the other minor lords and rulers in those games, Odin, aka Owain, or their respective children, counts if they aren't already royal themselves.
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses:
      • In the Golden Deer and Church of Seiros routes, a Byleth of either gender becomes leader of the United Kingdom of Fódlan, despite being the common-born child of a mercenary, thanks to their key role in unifying the continent in the first place, while on the Crimson Flower or Azure Moon routes, they can become the consort of Emperor Edelgard or King Dimitri respectively.
      • Dorothea (an opera singer who grew up an orphan on the streets), Dedue (the son of a blacksmith), Ashe (the son of restaurateurs who was adopted into nobility), Mercedes (the adopted ex-noble daughter of a merchant), Raphael (the son of merchants), Leonie (the daughter of a hunter), Ignatz (the son of merchants), Manuela (a former diva-turned-professor), Hanneman (a former noble-turned-researcher), Cyril (a war orphan who works as a servant), and Shamir (a former mercenary-turned-knight) can all marry into royalty if they pair up with (depending on the character) Dimitri (crown prince of the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus), Edelgard (crown princess of the Adrestian Empire), Petra (heir to the throne of Brigid), Claude (crown prince of Almyra), and Byleth (if they become leader of the United Kingdom of Fódlan).
  • Fable II gives us an interesting example. The Hero is a pauper as a child, but then his/her Secret Legacy is discovered, which is that he/she is descended from a badass master of strength, marksmanship/litheness, and magic. After the tragic death of his/her sister at the hands of the Big Bad, he/she grows up, masters the aforementioned skills, and defeats the Big Bad. However, rather than marry into royalty, he/she forms his/her own monarchy, and because he/she is a Hero (master of said skills), he/she and his/her children, the main characters of Fable III, are referred to as nobility, and having royal blood.
    • Which comes back to bite said family in the ass in the Fable III DLC "Traitor's Keep", when a general who was imprisoned by the Hero's despotic son stages a coup, and argues that the royal family is tyrannical and unnecessary, with no real claim to rule Albion besides its magic powers.
  • "The Mystery of Princess Talara" from the Elder Scrolls universe features a magnificent subversion of the Sleeping Beauty type; the plot even has ties to the main conflict of Arena.
  • Suikoden:
    • It's strongly implied that the main character in Suikoden IV may, in fact, be Prince of the Kingdom of Obel. This isn't a straight example, though, because said main character comes into his own independently of royal lineage. (In fact, assuming the title would've been a drop in status by the time it comes up.) It does cast the fight with King Lino in a new light, though, doesn't it?
    • In Suikoden Tactics this continues, with King Lino indicating he plans to name the Suikoden IV hero as his successor, without ever knowing that the kid is his biological son and thus already the crown prince.
  • King's Quest:
    • In King's Quest III, the slave Gwydion is actually the long-lost Prince Alexander of Daventry.
    • He's not the only one who gets this landing on his plate. In the first game, Graham was a Cinderella style—son of a minor knight who worked his way up the ranks, returned the kingdom's lost treasures, and was given the crown by the childless King Edward. Edgar in the fourth and seventh game was under a situation closer to Gwydion's. Cassima was put into a Goose Girl situation in the fifth game by Mordak. Fanon speculates the Cinderella route comes full circle with Connor after the eighth game. That depends on whether or not you want to acknowledge the game even exists.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Dragon Age: Origins:
      • Alistair, bastard son of the late King Maric, is a Snow White type. He doesn't care about his Royal Blood, and when the plot demands that the Rightful King Returns, he'll only do it kicking and screaming unless the player has talked him into some Character Development earlier in the game.
      • The player character him/herself can also undergo this in a Riches to Rags to Royalty fashion if the Warden is of the human noble origin. If that's the case, the Warden is the younger son/only daughter of the Cousland family, who are second highest in precedence only to the royal family themselves, but the events of their origin story have caused them to become a Goose Girl/Guy. This Warden can become Prince Consort (if male) by marrying dowager Queen Anora, or Queen-Consort (if female) by marrying Alistair.
      • The Dwarven Noble origin has a similar path: Exiled for killing their elder brother and heir to the throne (either truly or due to being framed by the younger brother), the Dwarven Noble later ends up being declared a Paragon; essentially, riches to rags to deification.
    • In Dragon Age II, Hawke may become a viscount/ess if s/he sides with the Templars at the end. Ruling a whole city is a pretty big step from being a penniless refugee.
      • A female Hawke who pursues a friendship romance with Sebastian (only available in the Exiled Prince DLC) can marry him and become Princess of Starkhaven. It's a chaste marriage, and in the third game it's revealed to become a long-distance one, but it still counts.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic has a few of them. The Republic culture doesn't support royalty per se (unless it's Elective Monarchy like the Zeltrons or Naboo), but Alderaan is their exception. All Republic players can be knighted by House Organa (yes, Leia's adoptive family) in the world quest. The Jedi Consular steps up to represent a minor house of nobility at a peace conference, and a Dark Side choice can net them a title of "Lord of Alderaan" by ruining one of the rival houses. Imperials, ever more inclined to royalty and its trappings, can do better; the Sith Inquisitor goes from being plucked off the auction block due to Force sensitivity and sent to Korriban to be the Emperor's Co-Dragon (with the Sith Warrior). The female Bounty Hunter can also get this if they take an offer to marry an Imperial-aligned Alderaanian noble, becoming a Baroness.
  • The Total War series has version of this. Any army not led by a general will be led by a generic default captain. If that army wins an epic battle and the captain survives, he may be adopted into the ruling family. From there, depending on the specific game in the series, he may either be named the Faction Heir directly by the player or will need the right combination of family members ahead of him in line for the throne to die. In either case, when the current Faction Leader dies, he will be named the new Faction Leader. Depending on the game and faction in question, this could result in the character going from a low-born captain to Emperor of Rome, King of England, Pharaoh of Egypt, Shogun of Japan, or numerous other possibilities.
  • Lost Odyssey has Jansen as a Cinderella type where he was a commoner until the end of the game where he marries Ming and became king of Numara.
  • Dragon Quest V's protagonist. Common kid —> slave —> wanderer —> King of Gotha. It's just that he doesn't know it until he reaches his hometown. Not that we don't see this coming.
  • Deconstructed in Radiant Historia. Queen Protea was a commoner whom the king married for her beauty... and then he died and she ended up on the throne, where she quickly proved to be stupid, vain, incompetent, and completely lacking in any appreciation for the responsibilities of her post.
    • Also played with later. Stocke is the resurrected, amnesiac crown prince. The main thing this qualifies him for is not ruling the country, but dying.
  • In Elite 2: Frontier and Frontier First Encounters, you start out as a freelance space pilot with no particular social status. However, if you become a very successful mercenary for the Duval Empire (and grind a lot of missions), you will be rewarded with noble titles culminating with "Prince".
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The Player Characters of the main series games each qualify, starting off as prisoners (or in one case, a shipwreck survivor) before ending up as rich and powerful adventurers in addition to rising to the top of numerous guilds and factions.
    • Skyrim takes this up a notch with the Elisif the Fair Marriable Game Mod. The mod allows the Dragonborn to marry Elisif the Fair, the widow of the former High King of Skyrim (Torygg) and the Imperial-backed candidate to replace her deceased husband. Essentially, the player character would become the spouse of the ruling Queen of Skyrim. (Marrying Elisif was originally going to be an option in the unmodified game, but it was cut for time.)
  • The Dark Parables series includes Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White among its sprawling cast of fairy tale characters, so this trope is all over the place. In the twelfth game, there's a direct example in the case of Gerda, from The Snow Queen, who is all grown up and marries the ruler of the Snowfall Kingdom.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV, this happens to Scherazard Harvey from The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky at the end of the Golden Ending of the game where Olivert, the Heroic Bastard prince of Erebonia asks her hand in marriage after the war is over. In nine games, she went from street urchin, to Circus Brat, to street urchin again after her adopted older sister killed their adopted father due to not accepting her love confession, to becoming a bracer, and finally the wife of the second in line to the throne, prince of Erebonia.
  • This is parodied in the True Ending of BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm, where Shift, a street rat thief, becomes King of Amazon "through a chain of wacky misunderstandings".
  • Mount & Blade Warband is the epitome of The Hard Way. Regardless of your gender, you need to fight your way to the throne if you want to be royalty.
  • Princess Maker 2: Olive is a Cinderella-Type, starting the game as the adopted daughter of the kingdom's hero but otherwise unremarkable, but by the end of the game, she may become a princess, the royal concubine, the queen consort or even the ruling queen, if the player fulfills all of the right requirements.
  • Crono, main protagonist of Chrono Trigger, starts the game as a normal commoner boy who happens to meet Rebellious Princess Nadia, a.k.a. Marle, at his village's Millennial Fair, and proceeds to go after her when she falls into a time portal. After embarking on an adventure to save the world from an alien life form destined to destroy the planet in the future, the ending animated cutscene shows a happy Crono and Marle on their wedding day.

  • Quain'tana of Drowtales, who went from starving commoner, to mercenary, to leader of a group of mercenaries, to leader of larger band of mercenaries and from their ended up the founder and leader of one of the single most powerful clans in the city of Chel'el'Sussoloth, controlling a military force ten times larger then the next most powerful clan.
  • Villain example: In Sluggy Freelance, the demon lord Horribus (as well as his siblings Deplora and Terribus) were originally the demon equivalents of rednecks, with the simple names Horb, Plorb, and Terb, until Horribus's role in conquering the Dimension of Pain earned them all aristocratic status.
    • The same occurs for long suffering member of Horribus's Quirky Mini Boss Squad Psyk, who is made the new demon lord Psykosis.
  • While not a princess per se, Agatha Heterodyne in Girl Genius is a Sleeping Beauty type, the long-lost daughter and only survivor besides her mother, who happens to be the Big Bad, sort of of the powerful Heterodyne family. Raised by Parental Substitutes and protected from her heritage as a Spark by a locket her uncle made for her, she grows up having no idea she's heir to one of the most important families there is in a world run by Mad Scientists.
    • Technically, she is royalty: her first important ancestor drank pure mana from the Fountain of the Goddess (in this world, drinking mana kills most people from the neural strain) and lived. The head priestess declared him the consort of the goddess, possibly married him, and ever since all the Heterodynes have the power to drink from one of the only sources of pure mana and live. Jaegers gain their superpowers by drinking a diluted, processed version of the mana, which says a lot about the claim to divine right.
  • Erstwhile:
    • Maid Maleen is a Goose Girl,
    • All-Furs and the prince in "Iron Hans" are Snow Whites,
    • the farmer's clever daughter is a Cinderella.
  • Played around a lot in Kevin & Kell. Lindesfarne (the adopted daughter of Kevin) is believed to be the lost heir of the British throne. Determined to get the paparazzi off her back, she seeks out and finds Chertsey, another hedgehog that was in the orphanage the same time as her. Finding her through her handprints and a police record, Lindesfarne gets paparazzi-in-training Fiona to leak out that Chertsey might be the lost heir. DNA tests prove that Lindesfarne was the actual heir, but she conspired to put Chertsey in her place because it made a better Rags to Royalty story and she wanted to stay with her family.

    And here is where it gets interesting. It turns out years later that Chertsey's DNA matches Lindesfarne's...because Domain runs parallel to a universe where humans are the dominant species, and every animal in Domain has a counterpart in the human world, proven because if they cross over, they turn into their counterpart, DNA match and all. Lindesfarne, it turns out, originated from the human world and crossed over to Domain as a baby by accident, making her Chertsey's counterpart. So in short, both Lindesfarne and Chertsey are Sleeping Beauty types. Not that Lindesfarne ever intends to go back to the human world or stake her claim-she'd much rather be a scientist.
  • In Universe 3 of Dragon Ball Multiverse, Bardock becomes a Cinderella type king. Turns out the Saiyan throne is given by Klingon Promotion, so when King Vegeta didn't believe Bardock's claims that Frieza would kill them all, Bardock forced the issue by defeating King Vegeta and taking the throne himself.
  • In Tower of God, the 10 Great Families tend to adopt strong and talented children, among them orphans, to become Rankers and Princess candidates. The reason for this is that the Families apparently don't get it on that much (except for Khun Edahn). The way to riches is very hard and dangerous though, as seen with Endorsi Jahad's backstory.
  • Inverted by Godslave, as Anpu went down from being a god with pharaons worshipping him to being broke and trapped in shape of a fennec. He now tries to reclaim his past glory.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Prince Zuko and his uncle General Iroh spend the second season as outright fugitive Snow Whites. Iroh seems to prefer this to the Royally Screwed Up Fire Nation court, while Zuko... has a harder time coping for various reasons. Zuko not only gets his royal life back, but he gets the throne too.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of Muppet Babies where they begin a fantasy where Piggy is a queen, but she notices she's wearing a peasant outfit.
    Piggy: I guess this is one of those "rags to riches" stories.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic the commoner Twilight Sparkle creates new magic, which causes her to become an alicorn, and is coronated as a princess as a result of that, making her a Cinderella. Expanded Universe revealed that Cadence had done the same thing to become a princess.
  • Sofia the First and her mother thanks to the latter's marriage to King Roland the Second.
  • In Steven Universe It is revealed that Steven's mom Rose Quartz (who became a part of him) is actually Pink Diamond and on Homeworld, Diamonds are the ruling monarches, making him a Sleeping Beauty while Rose Quartz herself was a Snow White since she faked her own shattering and hid away as a Rose Quartz.
  • Winx Club has two. The first is Bloom, the last(well formerly last) princess of Domino who was sent away as an infant when the kingdom fell. The second is Roxy, the last Earth fairy and daughter of Morgan the(now former) queen of the Earth fairies.
  • LoliRock has Iris, a magical princess sent to Earth as a baby to protect her from the evil Gramorr.
  • W.I.T.C.H. has Elyon, the princess and later Queen of Meridian. She was spirited away to Earth by loyal servants to protect her from her evil older brother, though said brother initially lied and said that she had been kidnapped by traitors.
  • Subverted in Samurai Jack. Ashi starts off as the daughter of an insane cultist, but she ends up falling in love with Jack and finding out that her father is Aku. The latter results in her being used as Aku's puppet, and she and Jack never have the chance to get married since killing Aku in the past results in her getting wiped from the time line during the wedding.

    Real Life 
  • Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV, was the first ever commoner to marry a British monarch; she had aristocratic ancestry but at the time they met she was the penniless widow of a defeated minor soldier. Their fairytale happy ending was slightly ruined by the Wars of the Roses, though.
  • Prince William's wife Kate Middleton, the current Duchess of Cambridge, was described as a commoner as she is only upper middle class rather than nobility.
    • Prince Edward's wife Sophie Rhys-Jones, now the Countess of Wessex, was also an upper-class commoner, as was Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, Prince Andrew's ex-wife.
    • Prince Harry's wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (nee Markle) is a more straight example than the above. Born into an ordinary family, she took a number of acting jobs before making it as a successful actress by the time she met the prince.
  • Ditto Anni-Frid Princess Reuss of Plauen, better known as Frida Lyngstad, the brunette from ABBA. Her late husband's country was absorbed into the German state of Thuringia after World War I, meaning she has no real power, but it's still a long way to go from her childhood. (She was the product of her mother's affair with a German soldier during the occupation of Norway, and was raised by her grandmother to protect her from the abuse war children received in Norway.)
  • Princess (now Queen) Letizia Ortiz, married to the Spanish heir Felipe de Borbón -now ruling as Felipe VI-, was a commoner journalist. She studied in a public school and high school and her parents are a nurse and an unknown journalist. The Prince fell in love making this story a Cinderella type.
  • King Rama IV of Thailand (you know, from The King and I) spent twenty-seven years in a monastery after he was passed over for his father's throne in favor of his older half-brother. He was a devout monk who insisted on strict observance of the Southern School Buddhist monastic rules, which included things like chastity, moderation and poverty (a Buddhist monk is permitted a small number of robes, a begging bowl, a fan and very little else.) Upon the death of his half-brother he became king, and inherited a whole load of palaces, servants and concubines.
  • In a real-life "Goose Girl" example, King Clovis II of France (7th century) married an Anglo-Saxon noble who'd been sold into slavery.
  • King Charles XIV John of Sweden was born as Jean Bernadotte and came from a lower-middle class family in Pau, France. He joined the army early on so his widowed mother would have one less mouth to feed, rose quickly through the ranks following the French revolution, and eventually became Marshall of France under emperor Napoleon, the 1st Sovereign Prince of Ponte Corvo and also married Napoleon's ex-fiancee Désirée Clary. Later on, because of a number of strange circumstances, he was adopted by the childless king of Sweden, made successor, ushered in a 200+ year period of peace, and founded the house of Bernadotte which still rules Sweden to this day. His last words were: "Nobody has had a career like mine."
    • Also of Swedish royalty, but of a later stripe: Prince Daniel, spouse of Crown Princess Victoria, was born in a rural Swedish town as the son of a social worker and a postal employee.
    • Princess Sofia was born Sofia Hellqvist, a glamour model, actress and one-time reality show contestant, to a marketing manager and a employment counselor when she met Prince Carl Philip. They hit it off immediately, eventually marrying in 2015 and went on to have three children together.
    • Their mother in law, Queen Silvia, was also this; she was a hostess at the 1972 Summer Olympics, and it was there she met then-Crown Prince Carl Gustaf. Carl, as he explained in an interview, just "clicked" with Silvia, and four years later they were engaged; when they married the next year, Carl was already king, so Silvia skipped the princess role, going straight to Queen.
  • Grace Kelly later became Princess Grace of Monaco. Not exactly rags, since her father was a self-made millionaire, but she still was a descendant of Irish bricklayers, and became a princess by marriage.
  • Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby was a commoner single-mom before she married Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and became Crown Princess.
    • Mette-Marit's mother-in-law, Queen Sonja, was also born a commoner, though an upper-middle class one like the Duchess of Cambridge.
  • King Jaja of Opobo in what is today coastal Nigeria was born the son of peasant farmers further inland in the 1800s. He was kidnapped and sold as a slave to King Pepple of Bonny. He eventually ran the king's trading business so well that Pepple freed him, and made him Chief of his own War Canoe House. Later, Jaja led a group of disenchanted War Canoe Houses in a trade war with the town. They left Bonny, founded another port town, Opobo, and Jaja was proclaimed its first King. His War Canoe House is still the ruling House in Opobo today. (Jaja himself later got into a trade dispute with the British over rights to buy palm oil from the hinterland, was abducted, imprisoned in England, and died off the Gold Coast on his way back home).
  • Every biography of a famous conqueror is this. Many times it is an epic rather then strictly based on truth.
  • Theodora, the daughter of a bear trainer and a dancer/actress in 6th century Constantinople, went from prostitute to empress of the Byzantine Empire through her marriage to Justinian I.
    • Justinian himself was born a Thracian peasant and engineered the rise of his uncle to the throne before inheriting it himself.
  • Basil I, founder of the Macedonian dynasty of the Byzantine Empire, was born to Armenian peasant parents and eventually became Emperor, proving to be competent enough to establish his dynasty.
  • Temujin was born to Mongol nobility, but was driven into exile with his mother and for a time he was even enslaved by his family's enemies. He later conquered most of the world, making him an extremely successful Sleeping Beauty type. For the non-scholarly types, you might know him as Genghis Khan.
  • The Roman Emperor Diocletian, was born to parents who were former slaves (some sources even say he himself was born a slave). After joining the Roman Army, he eventually climbed the ranks to become one of the emperor's top generals. After the death of both the emperor and his son during a battle in Persia, Diocletian was proclaimed emperor. He would go on to make reforms that would bring the Roman Empire out of the Crisis of the Third Century.
    • While Diocletian was an extreme case, the office of Roman Emperor technically was not hereditary, as the emperor was elected by the Senate. The situation of being de facto hereditary came from the reigning emperor's ability to force the Senate to elect a chosen heir as a co-emperor, who at his death would automatically become the only emperor. But, sometimes, the emperor would pick a competent politician, general or bureaucrat and have him elected as successor.
  • While not exactly royalty, more than one Roman Catholic Pope started his life in poverty or as mere middle-class and ended up as the highest authority in Catholicism. Some examples are: St. Pius X (Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, Country Mouse and son of a post office worker in a tiny village), Saint John XXIII (Angelo Roncalli, doubling as Country Mouse and an Impoverished Patrician since his sharecropper family descended from a secondary noble branch) and Saint John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla, son of a Polish ex-military officer, thus as much urban middle-class).
    • The current Pope (as of 2014), Francis, is one of these too. Son of Italian immigrants who lived in Argentina, graduated from schoool with a chemistry diploma and worked as a chemical technician, a bar bouncer and a janitor before entering the Jesuit Order and ascending in the hierarchy until he was made Pope.
  • Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark began her life as an accounts manager for several advertising agencies, and later a realtor specializing in luxury properties. Cue the Sydney Olympics, Crown Prince Frederik and a pub, and let the fairytale begin.
  • Emperor Hongwu, founder of the Ming Dynasty of China, was born as a peasant, lived as a beggar after a plague wiped out his family, and spent some time as a monk before becoming a warlord and eventually emperor.
  • Liu Bang, founder of the Han dynasty, was also born as a peasant.
    • Liu Xiu was one of Liu Bang's many descendants, but so far removed from the royal family that he was a simple farmer when the Han dynasty was overthrown by Wang Mang. He eventually joined a rebellion against Mang and restored the Han dynasty, becoming the first emperor of what history calls the Eastern Han.note 
  • Qutb al-Din Aibak, founder of the Malmuk Dynasty that started the Delhi Sultanate in Northern India, was sold into slavery as a child. He eventually came into the possession of Mu'izz ad-Din Muhammad, Sultan of the larger Ghurid Empire. Quṭb was initially put in charge of royal stables or Amir-i-Akhur. Eventually, Quṭb was appointed to military command and became a general to his owner, Muʿizz al-Dīn Muḥammad. When Muʿizz al-Dīn was assassinated in 1206, Quṭb al-Dīn was his logical successor. He was still technically a slave, but he quickly obtained manumission. He married the daughter of Tāj al-Dīn Yildiz of Ghazna, one of the other principal claimants to succeed Muʿizz al-Dīn, and, by other judiciously arranged marriages, consolidated his rule.
    • The dynasty he founded was eventually called a Dynasty of Slaves (Mamluk literally means Slave, and the dynasty was known as the Ghulam Garh - The House of Slaves) as every ruler who came after him was either a slave, or the child of one.
  • A lower-class woman named Martha was born ca. 1684, became the maid of a Protestant cleric in Livonia, before marrying a Swedish dragoon. When the town she lived in was conquered by the Russians, she first lived with the Czar's friend Menshikov before becoming Peter the Great's mistress. Peter persuaded her to join the Orthodox church under the name Yekaterina (Catherine) and, after she had given birth to three daughters, she married him in 1712. When Peter died, she became Russia's first reigning empress, Catherine I.
  • It was somewhat common for Sultans and other Muslim kings to elevate their favorite concubine to a de-facto Queen status. i.e, Suleiman the Magnificent's Slavic concubine Roxelana became both his favorite consort and advisor.
  • Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Born a normal peasant Kinoshita Tokichiro and eventually got drafted as a sandal-bearer for Oda Nobunaga, he proves himself to be crafty and resourceful enough that Nobunaga promotes him to general, and eventually he avenges his lord's death, unifies Japan and becomes the most powerful and richest man in there. Of course, this is usually played with, because of his commoner origin, he could only apply for 'royalty' position as high as kampaku, not Shogun, since actual ancestry from past royal family was required. Tokugawa Ieyasu did that particular Shogun part better.
  • The Bonaparte family, including Joachim Murat, Napoleon's brother-in-law. The Bonapartes were impoverished Corsican aristocrats (making them foreigners in the eyes of the traditional French aristocracynote ) before Napoleon rose to the throne of France, while Murat was the son of an innkeeper - and mostly got his crown (as King of Naples) because he married Caroline, the youngest of the Bonaparte siblings.
  • After the death of her first husband, the elderly Earl of Gloucester, Edward I's daughter Joan of Acre secretly married a household squire (who may also have been illegitimate), Ralph de Monthermer. Edward threw Ralph in jail once he found out (when Joan had to explain why the new marriage he'd arranged for her couldn't go through), but after he was released he was made the Earl of Gloucester for Joan's lifetime.
  • Similiar to Kate Middleton is Michiko Shoda, now known as Empress Emerita Michiko of Japan. Born into a wealthy but common family, she met the then Crown Prince Akihito at a tennis match and they soon fell in love. The media even portrayed their meeting as a "real fairy tale" and a "romance on the tennis court". Michiko became the first woman from outside of the traditional aristocracy to marry a future emperor. Their marriage wasn't a complete fairy tale, however; traditionalists, including Akihito's mother opposed their marriage, both because of her common status and the fact that her family was Roman Catholic, to the point she was temporarily Put on a Bus to Brussels, in hopes the relationship would dissolve and her family received death threats. Despite this, they also had plenty of support by the public and the marriage was seen as a sign of Japan's modernization and democratization.
    • Her daughters-in-law, Masako, The Empress of Japan and Kiko, Princess Akishino, are also examples of this trope. The former met her husband through Infanta Elena, Duchess of Lugo during a tea session while she was still a student at the University of Tokyo and the latter met her husband while both were students at Gakushuin University, with him proposing to her three times before she accepted. Likewise, neither are from a noble background and both have faced media and Imperial House Agency strife over Masako not producing a male heir to succeed the throne and Kiko living in an apartment on campus with her family before her marriage.
  • Actress A.J. Langer of My So-Called Life fame was born a young woman in a working class family to an audiologist and a salesman at a department store. She met Lord Courtenay in a California bar where he didn't know that she was an actress and she didn't know that he was royalty. They hit it off immediately and eventually married in 2004, had two children together and she is now known as Allison Joy Courtenay, Countess of Devon.
  • Queen Rania of Jordan was born an ordinary Kuwaiti woman and was once forced to flee her home during the Gulf War. By chance, she was invited to a banquet hosted by Princess Aisha of Jordan, where she met Aisha's brother, the then Prince Abdullah, who fell in love with her at first sight and they married six months later, becoming king and queen eight years later when Abdullah's father died.
  • By the 1300s the kingdom of Goryeo was little more than a vassal state of Yuan-dynasty China. They regained their independence in the 1350s, but by then the kingdom was disintegrating. King U made matters infinitely worse by deciding what they really needed was to go to war with China. I Seong-gye, the half-Chinese son of a Korean official working for the Yuan dynasty, had already gained fame and respect as a military leader. King U thought he was the obvious choice to lead the invasion of China. I Seong-gye himself disagreed. Emphatically. He turned his army back and attacked Goryeo's capital, deposing King U and replacing him first with his son then with a distant cousin. Eventually I Seong-gye decided to depose the current king and take the throne himself. He became known as King Taejo, founded the house of I (also transliterated "Yi", "Lee", and "Ri"), ended the kingdom of Goryeo, and created the kingdom of Joseon in its place. Taejo himself only reigned from 1392 to 1398, but the kingdom he established lasted until 1897, and his descendants stayed on the Korean throne until 1910.
  • When he was born sometime before 145 B.C.note , Zheng Qing was the illegitimate child of an unimportant (and already-married) official and a servant who had four other children. His mother sent him to live with his father, step-mother, and half-siblings, who hated him and forced him to work as a shepherd. As a teenager Zheng Qing ran away, took his mother's surname and became known as Wei Qing, and started working as a groom for his mother's employer, Princess Pingyang — who was also the emperor's older sister. In 139 B.C. Pingyang offered her brother a new concubine: Wei Zifu, Wei Qing's half-sister. Wei Qing accompanied Wei Zifu to the palace, where he was almost killed by his sister's rival. As an apology for that incident Emperor Wu made Wei Qing first a lieutenant, then a general. After that Wei Qing won multiple victories against the Xiongnu, became one of Emperor Wu's most trusted advisors, and eventually married his former employer, Princess Pingyang.
    • The aforementioned Wei Zifu didn't have nearly as happy a life as her half-brother. She first met Emperor Wu under circumstances we would now consider sexual assault; Princess Pingyang ordered her to follow the emperor, and he took advantage of Wei Zifu as soon as they were alone. Empress Chen, Wu's official wife, was furious when she heard he intended to make Wei Zifu a concubine and forced him to make her a palace maid instead. Wei Zifu attempted to escape, but Wu caught her and forced her to stay. He deposed Chen and promoted Wei Zifu to empress after their first son was born. She remained empress for thirty-eight years. Towards the end of his life Emperor Wu became convinced people were using witchcraft against him. Enemies of Wei Zifu and her son Liu Ju jumped at the chance to plant evidence against them. Liu Ju fled for his life, but was hunted down and killed. Wei Zifu committed suicide. Most of her family were killed in the chaos that followed. Her great-grandson was one of the few survivors; he later became Emperor Xuan and officially cleared Wei Zifu's name.
  • Princess Angela of Lichtenstein was born Angela Brown, a Panamanian fashion designer when she met Prince Maximilian and hit it off with him in spite of him being 11 years her junior. They have been Happily Married since 2000, making her the first woman of African descent to marry into European royalty.


Video Example(s):


STF: Once Upon a Princess

Sofia was originally a girl with a commoner's background who worked in a shoe shop with her widowed mother. Then her mother met King Roland and both fell in love at first sight; eventually the two married, and suddenly she's royalty.

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