Rags to Royalty

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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 stories end. That much is certain, what varies is how she goes from Rags to Royalty.

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.

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

Examples of Rags to Royalty include:

Anime and Manga

  • 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 Koon Eduan). The way to riches is very hard and dangerous though, as seen with Androssi Zahard's backstory.
  • 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.
    • Techanically, Mamoru and all of The Sailor Senshi fit this, as they were all royals in their past lives.
  • There's a reasonably clever subversion in Mai-Otome. 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.
  • Lucia of Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch 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.
  • 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.
  • Vivio of Magical Girl 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 Mahou Sensei Negima 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.
  • 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 Nakijima from The Twelve Kingdoms 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.
  • 'Katekyo Hitman Reborn' uses this trope in the form of a "Tippetarius Style". Sawada Tsunayoshi is a normal highschooler 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.
  • Empress Marianne of Code Geass 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 also fit into this trope, as Snow Whites.
  • The title character of Naruto is a mix between the cinderella type and the sleeping beauty type. First starts as an outcast orphan who was regarded as a no good troblemaker without a future. Slowly grows up into a respectable and eventually idolized figure as his achievements grow. Then it is revealed that not only is his father the late Fourth Hokage, but that his 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 adressed by anyone in the manga....for the time being anyways.
    • Though to be honest, 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 1st Hokage and is Tsunade's grandmother.
  • There are three in Rose of Versailles:
  • Nadja Applefield from Ashita no Nadja is a big case of Sleeping Beauty. Her mother, whom she thought of as being dead, is actually alive somewhere, and she learns of it when she's sent a trunk with her mom's belongings - so she sets out to find said mom and her place in the world. What Nadja does not know 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 heir of said clan.
  • From Fushigi Yuugi, we have 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 Hotohori's half-brother). Originally, she didn't want to go, but her father pressured her saying she'd have a better life. And Hotohori eventually chooses her to be his Empress.
  • In the Where Are They Now? Epilogue of Mahou Sensei Negima, It's revealed that the 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.


  • In Child Ballad #89 "Fause Foodrage," a nobleman's infant daughter is exchanged for the infant prince. After the prince learned the truth and overcame the usurper who would have killed him, he marries the daughter.

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".
  • 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.

Fairy Tales

Oh, nettle-plant,
Little nettle-plant,
What dost thou here alone?
I have known the time
When I ate thee unboiled,
When I ate thee unroasted.

  • In "The Story of The Black Cow", the hero ends up marrying a princess because of his gold hair.
  • In "Catherine and Her Fate", Catherine, having chosen to be miserable in youth and happy in old age rather than the other way round, ends up as a Scullery Maid—except that her Fate, being an Anthropomorphic Personification, is always showing up and wrecking her position for seven years. Finally, however, her Fate gives her a MacGuffin, and when the king needs it, he decides to give her its weight in gold. It takes his whole treasury, he demands the story, and when she is done, he decides to marry her.
  • In "Adalminas Pearl", the cruel princess loses her enchanted pearl and becomes a plain, dumb peasant girl. Thanks to a back up enchantment, her heart however turns good now, and stays that even after she gets the pearl back.
  • In The Grateful Prince, the prince goes to rescue a peasant girl who was captive to an ogre because his father had promised him to the ogre, and substituted to the girl. After he does, he marries her.


  • Star Wars[context?]
  • 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.
    • That's assuming the Faun is telling the truth, and is neither lying nor a product of Ophelia's imagination. Your Mileage May Vary.
    • Word of God is it's all true.
  • 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.
  • The fantasy film Quest Of The Delta Knights, which may be best remembered as having been shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000, 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 (in this troper's opinion, 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 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 had 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 seige 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.


  • 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 grandmere is... trying... to say the least. However, Mia eventually discovers she has gained fame which she can use to try to right what she sees as social injustices and wrongs.
  • The Belgariad had Garion, a male Sleeping Beauty.
  • The original Deltora Quest series.
  • Emberella in the Discworld novel Witches Abroad starts out as a parody of Cinderella, but turns out to be a more-or-less straight Sleeping Beauty.
  • Sergeant Nimashet Despreaux in John Ringo's Prince Roger/March Upcountry series, who 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 Deadly Decadent Court. 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.
  • 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.
    • 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 adores this trope. Granted, half of Misty's work is retelling of fairy tales, but she really does get a kick out of this particular type of tale.
    • Cinderellas: Godmother Elena of The Fairy Godmother and its sequels, Talia of the Arrows Trilogy, Rose Hawkins of The Fire Rose Eleanor Robinson of Phoenix and Ashes, and Ninette Dupond of Reserved for the Cat.
    • Sleeping Beauty: Marina of Gates of Sleep.
    • Show Whites: Maya Witherspoon of Serpent's Shadow and Phoenix and Ashes and Winterhart of the Mage Wars trilogy.
  • In John Barnes's 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 Prydain Chronicles. 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 herself 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; he only finds out on the last page when another character says it almost offhandedly. 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.
    • Similarly with Havelock in Havelock the Dane.
  • 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 just about 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 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, Aravis was a Snow White: she ran away from her noble home because she didn't want an Arranged Marriage with a Smug Snake, which arranged by her Wicked Stepmother. She becomes Cor's 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."
  • In The Bible, 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 an entire harem on account of her beauty.
  • 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 Books 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.

Live-Action TV

  • Guinevere does it Cinderella style on Merlin going from serving girl to Queen of Camelot in becoming Arthur's wife.

Tabletop Games

  • In Chess, a pawn which reaches the eighth and final row may be immediately promoted to any other rank except king; as the most powerful piece on the board is the queen, this Easy Sex Change is almost always chosen.
    • This trope is used in one of the Alice in Wonderland books to promote Alice to queen upon reaching the eighth row.



  • Gilbert and Sullivan's The Yeomen of the Guard: Elsie's marriage to the Colonel.
    • In Pinafore, Josephine's marriage to Ralph, since he is really the Captain.
    • In Ruddigore, both Hannah and Rose marry to baronets.
    • In The Pirates of Penzance, the Admiral's Backstory—he even bought an estate, and its contents, with included the buried ancestors. His daughters proceed to marry the pirates when they are revealed to be noblemen.

Video Games

  • 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 Ganon for seven years.
  • Subverted in the second Sly Cooper game, 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 basically 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, 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.
  • Lyndis from Fire Emblem 7 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 princess of the 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.
    • 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 two Snow Whites: Priscilla and Raymond of Cornwell, whose clan was overthrown due to their supposed corruption.
  • Cigyun and Diadora in Fire Emblem 4 were both Sleeping Beauties.
    • The first was a young woman with minor Lopto blood, which was a very bad thing as her children would either become vessels for the Dark God Lopto or be the parents of a possible vessel. Cigyun escaped her home in a Verdane forest, married the Lord of Velthomer (from the Fala clan) and had a son (Alvis) with major Fala blood and minor Lopto 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 (Narga). When the Velthomer lord found out and killed himself, the despaired Cigyun escaped back into to the Forest while pregnant with Diadora, 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, Diadora has minor Lopto blood too and from her dad's side she is the long lost crown princess of Grandbell with major Narga heritage, but her caretakers refuse to tell her the truth. She leaves the Forest too and marries Sigurd, living happily with him (and having Celice) until Magnificent Bastard Manfloy kidnaps and brainwashes her... to become her half-brother Alvis's wife. And yep, their incestuous child Yurius does become the vessel for Lopto, and kills Diadora once possessed. Good thing Diadora manages to spirit her and Alvis's other incestuous child, Yuria, and she ultimately joins her half-brother Celice's rebellious group.
    • Also, Diadora's son Celice and his friends aka the kids of the first generation charactes belong to different cathegories, depending on their backstories. They're most commonly Snow Whites (Celice, Leaf, Oifaye, Shannan, Lester and Lana, Skasaha and Lakche, Patty, Aless, Arthur/Amid, maybe Altenna, Phee and Sety, Delmud and Nanna), but we also have some Sleeping Beauties (Leen and Corpul) and Goose Girls/Guys (Faval, Teeny/Linda). Additionally, Levin is a subversion: he is the King of Silesia and should be in the throne, but he rejects his heritage (to the point that he gets pissed off when Celice calls him "King") and prefers to be the Team Dad for Celice's group so he can fight for the freedom of the empire. ('Sides, if he DOES have kids with Holsety blood, the son will be crowned at the end of the game.) Oh, and Diadora's daughter/Celice's half-sister Yuria is a Snow White, amnesiac and away from her noble family - thus unable to recall that she's the Imperial Princess of Grandbell and the current holder of the Narga major blood.
    • Additionally, in Thracia 776 we get some more of these. Leaf, Nanna and Miranda are Snow Whites fighting to get their kingdoms back, to start. Evayle turns out to be an amnesiac Seeping Beauty since she's the long lost Princess Bridget; her adoptive daughter Mareeta and Mareeta's father Galzus are a Goose Guy and his Goose Girl daughter.
  • Fire Emblem 10 gives us a mixed Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty in Micaiah, who goes from a fortuneteller on the streets to 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 Sanaki remains as Empress..
    • It also both subverts and averts the Sleeping Beauty type with Pelleas and Soren. Pelleas, a poor orphan who got the the power of charming spirits, suddenly found himself the lost prince of Daein and became king - but it turned out to be a mistake, and he wasn't royal at all - not to mention, in his case, being thought of as the Prince completely destroyed his life and caused his death. (Unless you gather the requirements to recruit him into your group, that is.) Soren, the true prince, never learned of his heritage and remained a commoner. And considering how things went with Pelleas (not to mention who his father is, then it was much better he remained this way.
  • 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.
  • 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 independantly 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 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. 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 forth 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. Of course, that depends on whether or not you want to acknowledge the game even exists.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has Alistair, bastard son of the late King Maric as a Snow White type. He doesn't give a damn about his Royal Blood, and even when the plot demands the Rightful King Returns, he'll only do it kicking and screaming unless the player talks him into some Character Development earlier in the game.
  • A bizarre one from the same family goes the Sleeping Beauty route. Turns out the Jedi Council was pulling a massive amount of From a Certain Point of View in regards to your Player Character...
  • Total War has version of this: Peasent commander can be adopted into royal family if he is good enough, possibly becoming heir to the crown, becoming leader of the faction and so on and so on... Untill he is Emperor of the pretty much known world.!
  • 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.

Web Comics

  • 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 Miniboss 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.
  • In Erstwhile, Maid Maleen is a Goose Girl, All-Furs a Snow White, and the farmer's clever daughter is a Cinderella.

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.
  • The FOX animated film Anastasia is the massively historically inaccurate story of a amnesiac orphan girl called Anya who, in the course of a series of misadventures, discovers that she's actually Her Imperial Highness, the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia.
    • Though this trope is somewhat subverted in that Anya/Anastasia goes from Royalty to Rags to Royalty Again to Not Really Royalty, Seeing As She Was In Love With A Non-Royal And There Is Of Course The Whole Matter Of Joseph Stalin Being In Charge, But Presumably Happy And Comfortable
  • Shrek: Princess Fiona is a Snow White, kept in a tower until her curse is reversed.
  • Disney's Aladdin.
  • Rapunzel and Flynn in Tangled. Rapunzel is a Tippetarius Style, kidnapped as a baby so Mother Gothel can make use of her magic hair, while Flynn is a Cinderella Style, as he is an orphan and a thief who marries a princess (though he didn't know that she was royalty when he fell in love with her).
  • Disney later subverts this with The Princess and the Frog. Tiana marries Prince Naveen officially becomes a princess by marriage. But she dosen't get the royal treatment, but instead opens up her own restaurant with Naveen.

Real Life

  • Prince William's wife Kate Middleton, the 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 a commoner, as was Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, Prince Andrew's ex-wife.
  • Ditto Anni-Frid Princess Reuss of Plauen, better known as Frida Lyngstad, the brunette from ABBA. Her late husband's country was absorbed into unified Germany 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 Letizia Ortiz, married to Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos (better known as King Felipe VI of Spain), was a commoner though beautiful 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 an usurper stole his father's throne. 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 the usurper 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 was born as Jean Bernadotte and came from a lower-middle class family in Pau, France. He joined the army early on 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 and made successor and founded the house of Bernadotte which still rules Sweden to this day.
    • 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 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 common single-mom before she married Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and became Crown princess.
  • 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.
  • Older Than Feudalism: Julius Caesar was born an Impoverished Patrician but earned a senate seat for heroism in battle. He eventually became dictator for life.
    • Possibly one of the most triumphant examples, to the degree that "Caesar" is now synonymous with "Emperor" in Western society.
  • Theodora, the daughter of a bear trainer and a dancer/actress in 6th century Istanbul, 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.
  • 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 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), Blessed John XXIII (Angelo Roncalli, doubling as a Country Mouse and an Impoverished Patrician since his sharecropper family descended from a secondary noble branch) and Blessed John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla, son of a Polish ex-military officer, thus as much urban middle-class).
  • 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.
  • Queen Noor of Jordan, born Lisa Hallaby -- although she didn't exactly come from rags, as her father was CEO of Pan Am, an assistant Secretary of Defense during the Truman administration and was head of the FAA under John F. Kennedy.