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Once upon a time you dressed so fine

You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you?

People'd call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall"

You thought they were all kiddin' you...
Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone"

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

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continue to use the same hairstyle and clothes until the clothes become rags and the hairstyle becomes embarrassingly outdated, or else try to follow the current fashions by creative sewing of old clothes - or creative shopping, with highly variable success.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

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

Compare Impoverished Patrician. Contrast Fallen Princess. She's not a Rebellious Princess but can be confused for one as she's rebelling against the force that's telling her she's no longer a princess.

Examples of Princess in Rags include:

Anime and Manga

  • The main character of Goldfish Warning. However, this is quickly subverted.
  • School Rumble once played this in a play scenario that Harima submitted about Eri. The still-rich-in-reality Eri didn't seem to mind the play idea... for a while...
  • Eva in Monster. She was the daughter of the director at the hospital Tenma worked at, and as such was rolling in money and engaged to said up-and-coming medical genius. She walked out on Tenma because he chose to follow his morals instead of what would be politically advantageous, and after he refused to take her back she went into a downhill slide so hard that by a quarter of the way through the series she'd gotten to the point where she was stealing alcohol from a homeless guy.
  • Naina Peacecraft in the Gundam Wing: Frozen Teardrop novels, during the time she spends in Hilde's orphanage.


  • The object lesson for the Beverly Hills princess in Maid to Order was to reduce her to Cinderella-before-the-ball status. She got the riches back, though, in the end.
  • The trope is played with as the central joke of the film Overboard with Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn; Goldie is the princess, but suffers amnesia and winds up living in, well, less than salubrious surroundings. Most of the jokes from that point center on her being in this situation.
  • There's something of a reference to this trope in Rose's mother, Ruth of Titanic. Rose deWitt Bukater's family money is all pretty much gone, and her mother is counting on Rose marrying money in the form of Nathan Hockley to restore them to financial stability.
    • Titanic being what it is Ruth only wants to avoid poverty and will sell her child off to avoid it a bit longer


  • The mother of the Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility is a good example, albeit there is no shortage of mothers like this in Jane Austen works.
  • The Queen and I by Sue Townsend.
  • In Paula Volsky's Illusion, the aristocratic heroine ends up starving on the streets for a good portion of the novel due to the French Vonahran Revolution. While she initially does retain most of her airs, the streets break her down pretty quickly.
  • Queen Morgase and at least a couple of high-ranked Aes Sedai in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has a rare male example: Prince Viserys.
    • Arya Stark from the same books is a darker example. Although she whines comparatively little, she does have a few moments (mostly to herself).
    • Surely Sansa Stark in A Game of Thrones surely fits this trope a lot more. How she clings about to her childish fantasy of her beloved Joffrey and her view of her surrounding is in bleak contrast with her real situation.
    • Invoked by a character known as the Tattered Prince introduced in A Dance With Dragons. He's a noble in exile from his home city state turned mercenary commander, and wears a ragged cloak... which he made out of the clothes of all the people he's killed. He seems to be a foil to Viserys, having a similar background, but being pretty mellow and (darkly) humorous about it.
  • Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladov from Crime and Punishment. Her husband is drunkard, and she and her children only have one set of clothes apiece, and they've been reduced to renting a corner of a room to live in. She maintains her pride by insisting on washing her children's clothes every night, by bragging about her upbringing, and verbally assaulting the landlady for looking down on her.
  • Fernanda del Carpio in One Hundred Years of Solitude. She was explicitly "raised to be a queen", but when she cames back home from the expensive boarding school where she stayed for years she discovers that all her family fortune was spent in her education. She manages to marry rich with Aureliano Segundo Buendí­a, only to discover that her political family is composed half by eccentrics, half by down-to-earth characters, and both sides ridicule her because of her extreme puritanism and her stiff attitude; she retaliates by taking over with iron fist, becoming the new "public face" of the family, imposing her rather antiquated ideas in her children (with no real success), and indulging in superstitions like the "invisible doctors". She consoles herself reasoning that, at least, her new family is rich and influential, and the town founders. Then, years later, the town collapses, her husband loses all the familiar fortune again, and she discovers in the bad way than she can't be the support the family needs.
  • Male example: Jelaudin, son of the shah in Bones of the Hills. While on the run from the Mongols, the act of having to pay for things with coins makes him feel unclean, and he still tries to act like a prince even when renting a tiny hovel and having to pay rent daily.
  • A Little Princess has Sara having coped with her situation, remembering that she's still a princess and tells the head mistress.
  • Scarlett O'Hara of Gone with the Wind, between husbands and trying to run Tara. She also makes use of Curtain Clothing.
  • In Warbreaker, Vivenna finds herself betrayed, starving and alone in the slums of Hallandren.
  • Thayet jian Wilima of the realm of Tortall is a runaway princess from a country at war.
  • Morwen in The Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin continues to live in her halls and carry herself as a Lady even after her husband is captured and her lands conquered by the Easterlings. She eventually leaves, but It Got Worse...
  • Picture book The Paper Bag Princess features Princess Elizabeth, who lived in a beautiful castle and was set to marry a handsome prince, when a dragon showed up, kidnapped her fiancé, and burned all her stuff, leaving her with only a paper bag to wear. Different from other examples, in that she eventually ends up happier this way, with the possible Aesop of "You don't need to be a princess to be happy".

Live Action TV

  • Florinda from El Chavo Del Ocho acts with shameless snobbishness and arrogance, and is prone to treat her other neighbors as "riff-raff". She also instills in her quite dumb son Kiko the same attitude. In the Backstory Episode, is revealed that she married a sailor against the wishes of her wealthy family, and when her husband died they denied her any support. She lives from a meager widow pension, and when that becomes irregular, she finally resigns herself and becomes the patron of a small restaurant.
  • An integral part in the premise of Arrested Development. This applies to every single character in the family except the Only Sane Man Michael (and his son).
  • Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl has played this role, but always bounces back.
  • Cordelia Chase, at the beginning of Angel, has gone from being "Queen C" of Sunnydale High, to living in a roach-infested apartment, and trying to get enough food to eat by scrounging at the parties that she manages to get invited to.
  • One episode of Cold Case revolved around the murder of a Cambodian woman who was actually a member of the royal family. Her beauty and aloofness combined with her refusal to be treated poorly made her the object of a Dirty Cop's obsession. Basically, being this trope got her killed.


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


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

Video Games

  • Midna in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess qualifies for at least most of this trope; Link just isn't aware of it for a long time. She actually is the titular Twilight Princess, but was dethroned and disfigured by the usurper Zant. Everything she does for the first half of the game is done with the intent of regaining her rightful title, though gradually she warms up to the hero and becomes just as determined to regain Zelda's throne for her as she is to regain her own for herself.
  • The mother of Prince Gustav XIII is exiled along with him in SaGa Frontier 2 after he is shown to be incapable of using magic, which is important to the ceremony of throne-succession in his country. Even living in a shanty and slowly dying from lack of nutrition and the rigors of being rapidly destitute, she never loses her stately composure. Gustav, on the other hand...
  • Malice from Riviera the Promised Land. Her Blue Blood is confirmed in the drama CDs, which also explain how her family lost its prestige. She acts arrogantly toward and despises the protagonist for having power since his birth, but her attitude is never fully explained in-game.
  • Constance von Nuvelle from Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a young lady from the Adrestian clan known as House Nuvelle, which was disbanded after its failure to stop the catastrophic Dagda-Brigid war. Now a member of the Ashen Wolves and a citizen of Abyss, the kind yet proud Constance still carries herself as a princess and is determined to recover her family's honor.

Western Animation

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

Real Life

  • Marjorie Bruce, Princess of Scotland, d. 1316, for four years endured solitary confinement in the name of her father Robert I of Scotland.
  • Catherine Of Aragon chose poverty rather than going home to Spain in hope of marrying Henry VIII Of England. She then chose poverty a second time (along with the bonus pain of being separated from her only child, Mary) rather than accept that Henry had divorced her. She went to her death signing her letters as Queen.
  • The stubborn streak was hereditary. Mary herself alias the future Mary I Of England lost everything when her father divorced her mother, but she refused to acknowledge him as head of the Church of England or (for a long time) to accept that he had stripped her of her title of Princess.