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Suddenly Suitable Suitor

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"I just found out. That's what this says. I'm an honest-to-God prince! Will you marry me?"
Lone Starr, Spaceballs

She loves him. He loves her. But they can never marry, because she's a princess, and he's not a suitable match for a princess.

Maybe they're hiding it from each other, because "I can't allow myself to love someone like him"/"A princess could never love a guy like me". Maybe she'd like to run off with him, but can't because her people need her. Or maybe he just can't afford marriage — at least in the eyes of her social circle. But their marriage is forbidden — not by her parents, but by law or the rules of society. One or both parties may decide they will sacrifice the relationship to make their beloved happy.

And then, his real parentage is discovered, and he's really a prince; they may even have a Perfectly Arranged Marriage. Or he inherits enough to pay the Bride Price. Or his Secret Legacy that makes him acceptable is no longer a secret.

If society would not accept it, the characters may resolve to defy it — and then get this as an added bonus.

A common subversion is for the king to set aside the rule, allowing the couple to marry after all without the suitor becoming suitable. Another is for the princess to decide to ignore the social rules and marry the unsuitable suitor anyway.

Differs from Parental Marriage Veto in that the rule is bigger than the parents, and the suitor becomes suitable not by convincing the parents but by social or financial improvement. If the way that the suitor becomes suitable involves heroic feats, it can overlap with Standard Hero Reward. Expect spoilers afoot!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Red River (1995), while Kail ideally can choose his own bride, the Senate is divided on whether or not they accept Yuri as his future wife. On one hand, she has the support of the public and has a good many victories on the battlefield to her name. On the other hand, she doesn't belong to any royal family and thus couldn't bring any valuable alliances to the table. Nakia (the tiebreaking factor) finally agrees to give her blessing for the marriage on the sole condition that Yuri serve as Commander in Chief of the military and win at least one battle. While this is clearly meant to provide Nakia opportunities to kill Yuri without suspicion, Yuri does go on to win a battle and is permitted to marry Kail.
  • The Story of Cinderella plays with this. Cinderella is the daughter of a wealthy Duke and thus a perfectly acceptable candidate to marry Prince Charles. However, after months of being emotionally abused by her stepfamily, she regards herself more as a servant than a Duke's daughter and feels it would never work due to the class difference. Paulette and her animal friends persuade her to give it a shot anyway, and Charles couldn't care less who she is so long as she's the woman he loves. Then her father finally comes home, putting an end to the abuse and restoring Cinderella to her proper place in the household, which settles the matter.
  • Faked in Vampire Game. Yujinn manufactures a royal pedigree for Darres so he and Ishtar can get married.


    Comic Books 
  • When Silver Age Aquaman was made King of Atlantis, he was required to choose an Atlantean bride; this left his love interest Mera out since she was from another dimension. After Mera helped defeat an invasion of Atlantis, Aqualad suggested that Mera deserved to be made an honorary Atlantean for her service. Aquaman, as king, promptly did so, and they were married immediately.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Disney's Aladdin, by law Princess Jasmine may marry only a prince. Once it's revealed that Aladdin isn't a prince, that rules him out... until the Sultan changes the law so that she can marry whomever she wishes. Ironically, Aladdin WAS a Prince of a sort already... thanks to his Dad, you might as well call Al The Prince of Thieves.
  • Anastasia: The revelation of Anastasia's true identity separates her and Dimitri since "Princesses don't marry kitchen boys". However, rather than take the reward money (10 million Rubles) or attempting to raise his social status to a level socially acceptable for a husband to a Grand Duchess, Dimitri leaves. Despite her title, Marie doesn't have the power to change societal standards either, so it appears the potential relationship was doomed. Then it's subverted as Anastasia decides to forgo her royal life and elope with Dimitri instead.
  • Barbie as the Island Princess has Ro, the main character, fall in love with Prince Antonio. However, no one else approves, partly because Ro is an uncultured island girl with no noble blood and partly because Antonio's parents are already planning to set him up with Princess Luciana. Naturally, the Arranged Marriage goes belly-up after Luciana's mother tries to poison all the guests, and then Ro turns out to be the long-lost daughter of a queen.
  • Disney's Cinderella is an aversion — it's never required that Cinderella be a princess or nobility, the king just wants his son to settle on a girl, any girl, so he can get the grandkids he wants so much. The only thing that matters is that she proves she's the girl the prince fell in love with by fitting into the glass slipper. Every woman in the kingdom is tested, and Cinderella is discovered while she's still a servant to her family. (Cinderella is actually of perfectly respectable birth, but it's never brought up one way or the other as being even potentially an issue.)
  • Scooby-Doo in Arabian Nights: In the gender-flipped version of Aladdin, the Prince was supposed to marry the Princess of Serendibe but she disappeared back when she was a little girl. Aliyah-Din was eventually revealed to be the lost Princess.
  • In Sleeping Beauty, Briar Rose is told she can't marry whom she wants because she is actually Princess Aurora and already betrothed to a prince. On the other hand, when Prince Phillip is told that he can't marry a peasant girl because he's a prince and already betrothed to Aurora, he makes it clear he doesn't care and means to marry the girl of his choice anyway, and his father seems helpless to stop him. Fortunately for all involved, this turns into a Perfectly Arranged Marriage when the participants discover that the "peasant girl" is in fact Aurora and the prince she's betrothed to is Phillip.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Coming to America, Eddie Murphy plays an African prince who is arranged to marry a general's daughter, who has been groomed from childhood to be the "perfect wife" (i.e. a pliant, willing sexual partner with no independent thoughts or wants). He wishes for a woman who is more his intellectual equal and goes to New York to find one. He meets and falls in love with the daughter of a fast-food restaurant owner and she falls for him as well, but the King (James Earl Jones) arrives and explains her the situation. She tells the prince they are from two different worlds and that she can not marry him, even though he offers to abdicate his throne and renounce all his titles. He finally leaves with his parents back to Africa and his mother berates the king for messing with true love, but the king replies that he can not violate tradition. She points out that he is the king and can do anything. The wedding day comes, and the prince meets his bride only to lift up the veil and see his love.
  • In Ever After, Henry rejects Danielle upon learning that she's a servant and not the noblewoman she's been passing herself off as for most of the film. However, he later has a change of heart and decides to marry her anyway, regardless of her station or what anyone else would think of the match. The fact that her stepmother really is nobility (albeit a mere Baroness) probably helped.
  • Hey Cinderella! provides a rather odd example. Prince Arthur Charming falls in love with Cinderella (who he knows is a servant) and wants to marry her, but the king thinks that him marrying a girl who sits in front of a fireplace all the time is ridiculous. Instead, he insists the prince marry a mysterious princess he danced with all night at the ball (actually Cinderella, although nobody realizes this), not because she seems to be royalty but because he feels she has good qualities (that is to say, she gave him a present he liked). Cinderella providing the other glass slipper and being magicked back into her gown by the fairy godmother convinces Arthur that she's the maiden he's been ordered to marry and everyone is perfectly fine with it (of course, considering that Arthur wanted to marry her from the start, it's understandable he has no objections. The king takes everything surprisingly in stride, though).
  • In King Ralph, a commoner likes Ralph for who, rather than what, he is, but even being seen with her is scandalous, since they can't marry until he resigns the crown.
  • In Princess O'Rourke, the once off-limits commoner Eddie is a viable suitor for Princess Maria because her uncle thinks it can freshen up the royal blood and that it's a good PR move for them.
  • Spaceballs takes the trope to a parodical extreme, as befits the rest of the movie. Lone Starr discovers from Yogurt that he is a prince. So he crashes Princess Vespa's planned wedding to Prince Valium, reveals his parentage, and proposes. She shoves her fiancé aside and marries Lone Starr on the spot. (Vespa's acceptance is made even easier since she learned from her father that Lone Starr didn't take the ludicrous reward he originally arranged for saving her from the Spaceballs.)
  • In Thoroughly Modern Millie, it is revealed that Jimmy is actually a billionaire, and more so, Muffy's stepson, and MORE SO, Miss Dorothy's brother! So Millie can marry for love and still end up with loads of cash!

  • In the earliest French literary version of Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve, the story doesn't end when the Beauty cures the Beast. The Queen is appalled that her son actually intends to marry the riffraff who rescued their kingdom, but luckily, it turns out that whoops, she was adopted all along! And her mother is a fairy princess and her father is the king of an island utopia! And they're all related! Needless to say, this lengthy and improbable denouement did not make into the famous versions of the tale.
  • The Belgariad: Garion and Ce'Nedra; a Justified Trope in that they've been thrown together all along with the intent that they fall in love and have a Perfectly Arranged Marriage. Even funnier is that Ce'Nedra had been starting to have feelings for Garion (despite knowing it would be completely impossible politically for her to marry so far beneath her station), until she discovers that he's the hereditary Overlord of the West and as such is not only an eminently suitable suitor but actually outranks her. At this point, she becomes furious because now an ancient treaty means she ''has'' to marry him.
  • Belisarius Series: Shakuntala and Raghunath Rao. Shakuntala had loved Rao ever since she was a child, but she couldn't marry him both because of the caste system (both were of the same caste technically, but Rao was considered of far less "pure" blood than her) and because, as the last surviving princess of her family, she felt obligated to make the best political marriage she can in order to help her nation throw off the Malwa. Subverted when the Roman ambassador persuades Shakuntala that Rao is the best possible marriage from a political perspective, at which point she decides to just ignore the "purity" issue.
  • In The Blue Castle, when Valancy marries Barney Snaith, the rest of the Stirling clan (except Cousin Georgiana) pretty much ignore the fact of her existence, until towards the end of the book, when it's revealed that her husband is actually Bernard Redfern, son of millionaire and patent-medicine maker Doc Redfern.
  • Book of Swords: Mark and Kristen. Something of a subversion, in that it is suggested that the real reason the Tasavaltan nobility decides that Mark would be a suitable consort for Kristen is less that he is the bastard son of a mythical wandering clown, and more that they need a real warrior on the throne, and use that he is the son of the Emperor as a fig leaf.
  • Jerin turns out to be suitable for Ren and her sisters fairly early in A Brother's Price since she finds out that his grandmothers abducted Prince Alannon before that entire wing of the Prince's family was killed for treason. This does make them third cousins, but that's okay.
  • An inversion is noted at one point in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance. Ivan, Lord Vorpatril is far closer to the throne of Barrayar than he would like to be even if he did not both consider the current Emperor a close personal friend and honestly think he's doing a great jobnote . His new bride Tej? Her being an off-worlder is only an issue for Isolationist Diehards. Her being the younger daughter of a Jackson's Whole Baron is a bit of an issue from a PR standpoint even if a number of Vor quietly wish they could get away with the crap the jumped up pirates running said pit take for granted, but could be worked around. The fact that Akuti Tejaswini Jyoti ghem Estif Arqua is not merely half-Cetadangan on her mother's side but the grandchild of one of the last governors of the Ninth Satrapy by way of his haut-born consort? All possible usefulness to any remotely relevant faction on Barrayar is gone and any descendants they may have could never hope for a shot at the Camp Stool.
  • Zig-zagged in The Chronicles of Prydain. Taran is a foundling and thinks he can't ask Eilonwy to marry him due to her royal blood, so he tries to play this trope straight by setting out to find that his unknown parents were actually of high birth. He fails to ever find out who his parents were. Eilonwy agrees to marry him nonetheless - in fact, she tells him that he was being stupid about the whole thing and should have already known that she would take him regardless of his title. The next day, he ends up becoming High King of the entire country and Eilonwy gets promoted to High Queen by marrying him.
  • Crazy Rich Asians: Nick's Old Money Singaporean family disapproves of his girlfriend Rachel because she's a middle-class American. In the second book Nick's mother Eleanor reveals that she hired someone to investigate Rachel's background and learned that her biological father is a billionaire from mainland China. Eleanor admits that this now makes her much more amenable to Nick marrying Rachel (which he was going to do anyway), because Nick is also at risk of being disinherited.
  • In Endo and Kobayashi Live! The Latest on Tsundere Villainess Lieselotte, when Baldur starts to have a crush on the commoner Fiene, he suspects he would need to abandon the Riefenstahl heirship Bruno planned for him, as Bruno conditions it on Baldur marrying one of his younger daughters. And then it turns out Fiene's father is Bruno's late older brothernote . Which should make her Suddenly Suited... but no. Since now she belongs to a branch more senior than Bruno's line, she's Bruno's new heir. The title of marquis will fall to her husband, but in this case Baldur's the suitor.
  • In Gene Stratton-Porter's Freckles, Angel would take him without such a background, but Freckles refuses. So she dug it up.
  • In The Great Gatsby, Gatsby tries to invoke this trope for himself, devoting his life to turning himself into the model of a rich gentleman who he thinks would be worthy of the old-money Daisy. While Daisy is impressed by his newfound wealth, her husband is quick to insist that there is a world of difference between old-money people like themselves and new-money people like Gatsby. And despite all of his efforts, Daisy still lacks the willpower to commit to leaving her husband for Gatsby.
  • Jane Eyre, though of respectable family, is penniless, friendless, and must work for her own living, and all these distance her irrevocably from her love, the gentleman Mr. Edward Rochester. He doesn't mind and is happy to marry her anyway, but she herself cannot abide the thought of being utterly dependent on (and dolled up by) her husband. However, once Jane comes into her rights as a substantial heiress, and Rochester is maimed and spiritually humbled, they are considered more equal, leading to that most famous and triumphant line, "Reader, I married him."
  • Subverted in one of Robert E. Howard's King Kull stories: the law forbids a certain young noble from marrying the girl he loves, because she's a slave. Even the King can't change the law, although he's thoroughly sympathetic to the lovers. And then the girl learns of a plot against Kull, and her lover rushes to the King's aid ... and Kull, at the end of the story, smashes the tablet on which that law is inscribed.
  • In the The Laundry Files book The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross, the protagonist Alex, a Friendly Neighborhood Vampire, thinks he Can't Have Sex, Ever with his girlfriend Cassie because she's a Muggle and thus wouldn't survive the experience. Unbeknownst to him, Cassie is secretly a princess of The Fair Folk and as such immune to the relevant vampiric effects. She reveals this to him on their date, along with her intention to defect from the Fair Folk.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Monster Men, Virginia is willing to love and marry Bulan even if he was a product of her father's experiments; Professor Maxon, while horrified by what he did while mad, concedes they may once he finds out that Bulan is actually a human with Easy Amnesia, but we still learn at the end that he's the son of a very wealthy American. (To be sure, neither he nor she dwell on that — they are chiefly glad that his amnesia did not hide that he was already married.)
  • The royal house of Caederan in A.L. Phillips's The Quest of the Unaligned is elementally unaligned as a result of an ancient magical pact. In order to preserve this elemental impartiality, the Crown Prince must marry an unaligned mage. This has the potential to cause an utter disaster when Crown Prince Alaric falls in love with the fire-mage Laeshana. At his coronation, things come to a head and it seems that he'll have no choice but to break Caederan's law to pieces or give up his love... until he Takes a Third Option and uses the power of the Prince's Crown to actually change Laeshana's magical alignment, causing her to become an orah (mages of light, and as Laeshana points out, elementally unaligned) and allowing them to marry.
  • In Reader and Raelynx, by Sharon Shinn, Cammon, a common man, and Amalie, the princess, fall in love. They then subvert this trope by persuading another noble to pretend Cammon is her bastard son to make him into this trope.
  • In the final arc of The Riftwar Cycle, the Duke of Crydee falls in love with the Princess of Roldem. While perfectly acceptable from a pure rank perspective, the fact that Crydee is on the opposite side of the continent from Roldem means that her family doesn't stand to gain anything from such an alliance (The fact that his duchy gets invaded while he's out doesn't help). Then, after a Succession Crisis that erupts into civil war, the Duke ends up becoming King of the Isles. Since the now-King can now offer a far more valuable alliance than he could as a Duke, the Princess' family approve the match.
  • Inverted in the Sherlock Holmes story The Sign of the Four, Watson falls in love with Holmes' latest client, Mary Morstan, but learns that she's just inherited a treasure that would make her rich. Watson considers pursuing a woman who's just come into a fortune to be improper. When the treasure is lost in the Thames, Watson immediately confesses his feelings the two then got married.
  • Tales of the Frog Princess has a variation on this trope in The Salamander Spell: Crown Princess Chartreuse is surrounded by suitors since she will be the next Green Witch. Queen Olivine doesn't favor Limelyn, a second son with a healthy brother. When Grassina becomes the Green Witch instead, all of Chartreuse's suitors desert her, with the exception of Limelyn, who genuinely likes her. While she didn't pay too much attention to him before that, she immediately acts like he was her first choice——though it's less that he suddenly becomes suitable and more that she suddenly becomes less desirable.
  • In Walter Scott's Talisman, the protagonist, a seemingly normal poor knight who loved an English princess, is finally revealed to be a Scottish prince.
  • In Rudyard Kipling's "The Three-Decker", the "crew of missing heirs" turn out to be legitimate after all, when the "Wicked Nurse confessed."
  • In The Wheel of Time, Aviendha has a self-inflicted case. While she has technically married Rand al'Thor, she won't allow herself in his presence until she completes her training as a Wise One, viewing herself as not worthy without the title.
    • Rand al'Thor actively finds and deduces his own obfuscated family tree, confirming both that he is "worthy" to marry Elayne Trakand and that she wasn't a close genetic relationship. He doesn't know many things about being the Dragon Reborn, but he does know that sheep shouldn't mate with close relations and assumes it's true for people.
  • This is a plot point in the first two books of Christopher Stasheff's A Wizard in Rhyme series. Complicated by the fact that the "divine right" to rule actually exists, as a talent for selecting the correct military/political decision for your country. But it has to be pointed out to the new queen that love and marriage are personal, even for royalty, and that in this case following her heart is not only good for her but her country as well.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played with in Arrested Development. George Michael finds out that his Aunt Lindsay was adopted, so his beloved Maeby is not biologically his cousin. His father tells him that she's still family and they can't have a relationship. Also, when Gob finds out that Lindsay was adopted, he immediately tries to hit on her. For her part, she immediately hits on her "brother" Michael
  • Interestingly averted in Merlin. As many fans have pointed out, Elyan being knighted should have elevated Gwen's status enough that her romance with Arthur would be more acceptable. This is never addressed in series, however, and the two have to overcome many an obstacle to be together due to their relative stations.
  • Subverted in Game of Thrones. Just before a major battle, they don't expect to survive, bastard armourer's apprentice Gendry tells Tomboy Princess Arya Stark that he is actually the bastard son of the former king, Robert Baratheon. Arya, who's had a crush on Gendry for some time, is apparently spurred by this revelation to have sex with him. The following day Queen Daenerys legitimizes Gendry for his bravery on the battlefield and makes him the Lord of Storms End, his father's traditional seat. Overjoyed, Gendry rushes off to find Arya and proposes marriage. Arya gently turns him down as a Lord would need a Proper Lady by his side, and she long ago realised that's not for her.

  • A slight variant occurs in Arsenic and Old Lace: "Darling, I'm a bastard!" Since all the real Brewsters are Ax-Crazy, this is a good thing.
  • In Stuart Pattison's version of Cinderella, Cinders rejects Prince Charmless in favour of Callum the stable boy. Who then turns out to be Lost Orphaned Royalty of a neighbouring kingdom.
  • Gilbert and Sullivan used this device in H.M.S. Pinafore and The Gondoliers.
    • Also in The Pirates of Penzance. In the final scene, Ruth reveals that all the pirates are "Noblemen who have gone wrong." The Major General is suddenly eager for the buccaneers to marry his daughters, as are the girls themselves. "For all our faults, we love our House Of Peers!"
    • Parodied in Ruddigore, where becoming not a Baronet makes Sir Despard highly eligible because all Baronets of Ruddigore have to be evil.
  • In The Importance of Being Earnest, Jack can't marry the woman he loves because she's from a high-society family and he's an orphan who as a baby was left in a handbag at a railway station. At the end of the play, it turns out his parents actually were of good standing, and left him by accident, thus making it acceptable for him to marry a high society lady. (Probably a parody of this trope considering the silliness involved.) With a side of Values Dissonance: How do they piece it together? The woman's mother knows the story because the abandoned boy was her nephew, and therefore the woman's cousin.
  • Even older than Shakespeare is the classical Sanskrit play The Recognition of Sakuntala. King Dushyanta laments that he cannot marry Sakuntala as he is a Kshatriya and she a Brahmin; however, he later rejoices on hearing that she was adopted by the sage Kanva and is really a Kshatriya too.
  • In The Winter's Tale, the young prince falls in love with a shepherdess who is eventually revealed to be the believed-dead princess of the neighboring kingdom. The subtext there is that the prince could never have fallen in love with a real shepherdess since she would've been vulgar and coarse; what he falls in love with are her inherent royal qualities shining through.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Quest VIII: The princess who was a horse throughout the game has to marry Prince Charmless (literally) because of a political alliance between the two kingdoms. But wait! It appears the main character is Prince Charmless's cousin. What luck!
  • A variation in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade: None of Priscilla's potential love interests can actually be with her thanks to the fact that she's a noblewoman and they aren't. There is, however, one exception: Erk the mage, who exploits his considerable talent for magic and his ties to Lord Pent, a Count of Etruria, to earn the peerage necessary to marry her.
  • In the Neverwinter Nights expansion "Shadows of Undrentide", you physically enter a story where the damsel in distress is sent away to a monastery (and subsequently sacrificed to a demon) because her father disapproves of her loving a blind beggar. On the second read-through, you can change the story so the beggar is actually a knight (with functional eyes) disguised as a beggar because he wanted to be certain she loved him for himself, and not his title. As an added bonus, this also means that he'll save her before she's sacrificed.
  • In a RuneScape quest, when Bob the Cat finds out he was once a human warrior, Neite agrees to elope with him.


    Western Animation 
  • Spoofed a bit in Codename: Kids Next Door. Numbuh Three/Kuki and Mushi go on a Rainbow Monkey water ride with animatronics monkeys playing a kid-friendly version of Romeo and Juliet (no tragic deaths). The girl monkey is of royalty and can't marry the charming boy monkey, but he tells her a long family tree explanation that he's actually royalty. "That means..." A Rainbow Monkey wedding with its iconic theme tune!

    Real Life 
  • Gender-swapped: The Duke and Duchess of Windsor. She was an American divorcee. He was the King of England. (And, as such, head of the Church of England, and forbidden from marrying a divorcee.) Solved by having him abdicate the throne in favor of his younger brother George, father of Queen Elizabeth II.
    • Some historians suggest that the real reason that the government wasn't willing to change the rules and let King Edward marry Mrs. Simpson and retain the throne was her sympathy towards the then-current German Administration. Whether anyone in England in those days would have known enough to see this as a major liability is a potentially contentious issue.
    • His grand-nephew Prince Charles then ended up in a similar boat, in love with Camilla Parker Bowles. They both married others, then divorced, and (now that they have married each other with the Queen's blessing) there was continued debate for more than ten years about what would happen when Charles took the throne; some suggested he should remove himself from the succession over this. After Elizabeth II's death, Charles did become King, with Camilla as Queen Consort.
    • George V himself, while alive, felt his younger son would make a much better King than Edward and expressed his hopes that Edward would never marry and produce an heir, so that eventually younger son "Bertie" and later Bertie's daughter "Lilibet" would inherit the throne. Which they did, as George VI and Elizabeth II respectively.