Name me some really cool princesses?
May 19, 2015 2:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm putting together a book for a very little girl who is going through a princess phase, hoping to expand her idea of who a princess can be - e.g., "Here's Princess Sophie - she worked for the World Childhood Foundation." Most of the lists of favorite princesses are Disney characters, and others are too specific to an era or kingdom. I realize that this project is subject to criticism, but I'm thinking of it as a "Yes, and..." contribution to her enthusiasm. Can you name me some good role model princesses?
posted by mmiddle to Society & Culture (31 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Diana, Princess of Wales comes to mind.
posted by erst at 2:18 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Princess Leia!
And I would add Queen Elizabeth when she was Princess.
posted by calgirl at 2:21 PM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've always liked the Paper Bag Princess but are you looking for real-life princesses rather than a better-kids-story princess?
posted by aimedwander at 2:25 PM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Princess Grace of Monaco was a famous actress before she became a princess. She founded an arts organization and a humanitarian NGO (AMADE Mondiale) that is now run by her daughter, Princess Caroline (who has her hands in many arts organizations as well).
posted by erst at 2:27 PM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Princess Alexandra of Denmark (apparently technically a countess, and no longer married to Prince Joachim) is REALLY good at languages AND really smart.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 2:29 PM on May 19, 2015

Response by poster: Yes, aimedwander, Paper Bag Princess looks like a good book for her too, but in this project I'm trying to make it real - princesses have jobs too, etc. Thanks for the tip.
posted by mmiddle at 2:29 PM on May 19, 2015

Best answer: Princess Anne rode horses on the British Equestrian Team, and was European cross-country champion in 1972. Since 1988, she has been a member of the International Olympic Committee and is president of the British Olympic Association. She was also president of the Save the Children fund.

Pardon the Cracked link and the NSFW language, but here are "5 Real Princesses too Badass for Disney Movies." Heh.
posted by erst at 2:35 PM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Victoria Kaʻiulani Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kawekiu i Lunalilo Cleghorn! There are multiple children's books about her, all of which are likely above her reading level.
posted by Juliet Banana at 2:35 PM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Queen Rania of Jordan is pretty rad. And she's active on Youtube!
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:41 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You might look for Why Kings and Queens Don't Wear Crowns, by Princess Märtha Louise of Norway, who is pretty nontraditional herself.

Agreed on the Queen Elizabeth when she was a princess idea. She trained as a mechanic and ambulance driver.
posted by St. Hubbins at 2:42 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Princess Lilian of Sweden really loved her dog and didn't give a toot about conventional fashion norms (I particularly like her futuristic outfit for New Year's Eve 2000).

Maybe not career-related enough for this project? But certainly different from your average saucer-eyed Disney princess in a corset.
posted by The Giant Rat of Sumatra at 2:44 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, (former princess) Queen Margrethe of Denmark illustrated the Danish translation of The Lord of the Rings and has designed ballet costumes as well.
posted by The Giant Rat of Sumatra at 2:49 PM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia is interesting.

Princess Olga of Kiev, who ruled as regent for her son.

Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine (later Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia) for her charitable work after her husband was murdered.
posted by Jahaza at 2:53 PM on May 19, 2015

You might like Rejected Princesses. A lot of the mythological and historical princesses cataloged here have somewhat bloody backgrounds, but you can search by "rating" as well as pick and choose what you present of a given story.
posted by galaxy rise at 3:22 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow!! I knew you all would have some great suggestions - enough here for a later-age sequel too.
posted by mmiddle at 3:26 PM on May 19, 2015

Jonathan Coulton's The Princess Who Saved Herself is fictional but fun.

In one performance, he prefaces it with "not necessarily for marriage," which I initially misheard as "she's not necessarily French." ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by wonton endangerment at 3:31 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sara Crewe isn't an IRL princess in the Burnett book, but she behaves nobly throughout.
posted by brujita at 3:33 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A Mighty Girl You might find some interesting materials on this web site.
posted by effluvia at 3:38 PM on May 19, 2015

Crown Princess Mary of Denmark. An Aussie girl who met & fell in love with a Danish Prince. She had a degree in law & her own business before she met him.

Queen Elizabeth II when she was Princess Elizabeth used to be an Ambulance driver during the second world war. They wanted her just to train to rule as she was next in line to the throne, but she insisted on doing something practical to help when she was just 19. There are old newspaper articles out there about this around on the internet.

I was going to suggest Princess Margaret & her Olympic horse riding too, but see I got beaten to that one.
posted by wwax at 4:00 PM on May 19, 2015

Empress Shōken of Japan (1849-1914) was an accomplished poet, and she helped establish the Japanese Red Cross and helped transform the International Red Cross from a strictly wartime relief organization to the generalized disaster relief force it is today.
posted by Caravantea at 4:16 PM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Leonora Christina, daughter of King Christian IV of Denmark.

Colourful life - I'd suggest taking some edited highlight and leaving out all the treason and vermin-stuff. But still: "...She sometimes spent weeks disguised as a man, once fending off arrest from Danish pursuers at gunpoint" and "For the next twenty-two years she remained in the custody of the Danish state, incarcerated without charge or trial in Copenhagen Castle's infamous Blue Tower. She lived under meagre and humiliating conditions for the daughter of a king, and was for years deprived of almost all comforts. (..) She learned to piece together pages for writing from the wrappers on the sugar that she was given, and to make ink for her fowl's quill by capturing the candle's smoke on a spoon.."

She was bad-ass and I'm saying that as a non-monarchy person. Maybe not an ideal role-model, but certainly capable of taking numbers and kicking arse - which isn't bad in a princess.
posted by kariebookish at 4:20 PM on May 19, 2015

Not quite a princess but close to it in the ranks of these things, la Duquesa de Medina-Sidonia of Spain, who was Franco's opponent, was jailed for her politics, and was a nuclear accident whistleblower.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:27 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Princess Elizabeth I of England, when she was a princess. As I recall she was a very competent student and also had to be fairly quick-witted to stay alive.
posted by bunderful at 4:49 PM on May 19, 2015

I'm named after Razia Sultan(a), who was kind of a badass Indian princess and later sultan/a. There appear to be some disputed details, but the agreed upon info about her is positive. Following her father's death, she was named heir to the throne (ahead of her brothers) - the first female Muslim ruler in and around Delhi. She was regarded as a "people's" queen & princess, focusing on schools, libraries, and infrastructure for the regular people, and favored more fair treatment of religious minorities (mostly Hindus). She'd fight in battles alongside men on the front lines, even dressing in men's clothing so as to not stick out. She apparently also preferred the title "sultan" rather than "sultana," which had some negative connotations. Ultimately she was overthrown by nobility that was none too pleased with her more egalitarian style of ruling. But in her short reign, she was pretty badass.
posted by raztaj at 4:59 PM on May 19, 2015

Princess Maria Jose of Belgium, married Umberto Savoia of Italy. Somewhat socialist, plotted against mussolini.
Later took refuge in Switzerland and did skied across the alps to bring weapons to the partisans.
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 5:12 PM on May 19, 2015

Best answer: Princess Abze Djigma of Burkina Faso is a solar energy campaigner and entrepreneur.

Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand is involved in rural development and promoting children's education.
posted by ontheradio at 5:25 PM on May 19, 2015

Dowager Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians is the only European royal who is named Righteous among the Nations by the Israeli government, for her personal intervention against Hilter to try to protect Belgian Jews.

Queen Maxima of the Netherlands (princess until two years ago) has been surprisingly fascinating and effective princess; born in Argentina, she did not speak Dutch until she got engaged to Wilhelm and began learning the language. Despite somewhat questionable origins (her father was in the Argentine cabinet during the Dirty War), she has become immensely popular with the Dutch. She has focused her royal work on immigrants in the Netherlands, using her own extremely high profile process of learning Dutch and finding a way to fit into the culture to highlight the struggles of immigrants and advocate on their behalf. She's an open supporter of gay rights and was the first member of a royal family to attend an LGBT event. And she's also been an extremely traditional princess and queen, supporting the royal family and having kids and wearing extremely awesome fashion all the time (most, of course, from Dutch designers, boosting the Dutch fashion industry internationally because she has such a unique style). I really admire the way she's taken the traditional role of princess/queen (looking pretty in clothes and saying nice things about the country) and managed to fill it well AND use it to shine a light on issues she cares about. It's not quite as obviously butt-kicking as some other princesses, but she's taken a fairly retrograde position, agreed to live within its boundaries, and then quietly used it and the exposure it gives her to have a real effect on important issues. Catching more flies with honey, etc., which sometimes I think is a form of female power that we ignore in favor of the over butt-kicking ... but a charm offensive can be really powerful!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:34 PM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Also, Queen Christina of Sweden, possibly the most badass queen of the later Renaissance, who accidentally killed Descartes by making him get up early to talk philosophy with her, spoke at least nine languages, dressed like a man, was widely recognized as the best-educated woman in Europe, refused to marry, spent way too much money, identified as what today we'd call "genderqueer," was crowned "King" (not Queen), reigned for 10 years, and peacefully abdicated and left the country in order to convert to Catholicism at the age of 28 because of her personal convictions. Then she outlived five Popes and had a large variety of European drama, including a brief but peaceful attempt to retake the Swedish throne, before she died at a great old age. She's one where you'd maybe hit the highlights about the nine languages and the great flowering of culture in Sweden and flouting of gender norms, and less about the antagonizing of the parliament and spending of state money.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:49 PM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Princess Pingyang of China used her family's money to feed her starving subjects, led an army of 70,000, and had strict rules about how her soldiers were to behave (no pillaging, looting or raping). Her father gave her a military funeral, unheard of for a woman at the time.

The website I linked to, Sheroes of History, has an entire category called "Queens, Princesses and Leaders." Lots of great examples (and images) in there.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:39 AM on May 20, 2015

I'm partial to Princess Victoria of Sweden. She has a neurological handicap called prosopagnosia, which makes it difficult for her to recognize faces. I'm a bit in awe of anyone with that kind of handicap who can do a job like being a head of state (even if only as a figurehead).
posted by Anne Neville at 5:41 AM on May 20, 2015

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