All the media hype about Will and Kate’s royal baby really these last few months has really forced us to examine our brains and hearts to determine who is the true greatest royal of all time. So this week, our writers weighed in on their favorite princesses. As usual, fictional sovereigns are always so much cooler than real life ones. (Well, almost always.)
Elaine Atwell: As a fantasy-loving young girl, it was my constant, frequently frustrated quest to find female heroines. I curated girl-with-sword fiction the same way I now do with girl-on-girl fiction: obsessively. So it was with a fragile heart that I found myself falling in love with The Lord of The Rings, a story written in the thirties and forties and pretty much exclusively about male deeds and doings. And when I met Eowyn, it seemed too much to hope that J.R.R. Tolkien could know me well enough to give me a girl like me, a girl with a heart tugging her along like a puppy on a leash, and a girl who just wanted the chance to be brave and strong and personify the virtues most important to her. Surely, I thought, the lesson of Eowyn would be one of acceptance of one’s lot, of putting away the sword and taking up the needle. AND THEN SHE JUST STABBED THAT RINGWRAITH IN HIS FUCKING FACE. I think that was the first time a story made me weep with gratitude. Also, Eowyn, as the niece of the king, is technically not a princess, but whatever. She does what she wants.
Lucy Hallowell: When I was a kid we watched Disney Robin Hood a thousand times and my little brother and I fought over who got to be Robin Hood. I wasn’t too impressed with princesses. They all seemed lame and too busy waiting around to do much of anything (although Maid Marian can Charleston, people). So my pick is Merida. She’s the arrow-shooting, sword-fighting, smart mouth heroine I wish I had as a kid. All unruly hair to match her unruly mouth and knees and knuckles skinned from “unladylike” pursuits. So I choose her and thank the Disney gods that my girls will have the choice of a badass girl to pretend to be, if they so choose. (With my luck, they’ll like Aurora and her slumbering lameness).
Dorothy Snarker: Princess Leia because she was sassy as fuck. As an official Disney princess (since Lucas sold to the mouse), she still stands tall as one of the most kick-ass princesses in the princess canon. She was forceful (Force, get it, oh never mind), independent, rebellious. She turned being horrifically sexual subjugated by an amorphous blob into an empowering moment of overcoming one’s oppressor. And she did it all while wearing a gold bikini. Plus she knew enough not to go all Flowers in the Attic on her brother, and instead fall for the handsome rogue. Sure, she got rescued. But she also started the chain of events that defeated the evil Empire by asking for Obi Wan Kenobi’s help in the first place. So, basically, Princess Leia saved the galaxy.
Kimberly Hoffman: Princess Zora from the 1986 adaptation of The Frog Prince was one misunderstood misfit with a cheery smile, and I was totally mystified by her and this film as a kid. This movie aired on the Disney channel 24/7 and I couldn’t get enough. Zora’s older sister Henrietta (played by a sassy, mean-hearted Helen Hunt) could absolutely not be bothered by the likes of Zora and does not believe she is fit to be crowned the true princess. Their uncle, the king, tells Zora to act more like a princess because she’s constantly getting into trouble. But she can’t help but traipse around the castle with her lucky golden ball. When she loses the ball in a pond, a frog emerges—a frog prince. He teaches her how to ballroom dance and walk like a princess (the ol’ balancing a book on your head trick).
Henrietta finds out about her new friend, traps him in an old well, and by the time Zora finds him, he’s nearly dead. Her lucky golden ball saves the day, releases him from his spell, and he is no longer a frog. They dash back to the castle where the princess crowning ceremony is underway, and just seconds before Henriette is crowned the true princess, the prince dazzles everyone with his tale of Zora releasing the spell, something only a true princess could do. It’s adorable, enchanting, and Zora is the coolest princess name ever.
Trish Bendix: I’m currently in the process of getting a Phantom Tollbooth sleeve put on my right arm and part of that is illustrations of Princesses Rhyme and Reason. The two sisters are captured and exiled so all hell breaks loose in the Kingdom of Wisdom. Luckily they are rescued and still dolling out their truths.
“You must never feel badly about making mistakes,” Reason says, “as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”
“And remember, also,” added the Princess of Sweet Rhyme, “that many places you would like to see are just off the map and many things you want to know are just out of sight or a little beyond your reach. But someday you’ll reach them all, for what you learn today, for no reason at all, will help you discover all the wonderful secrets of tomorrow.” SNAP SNAP!
Dara Nai: The obvious choice is Xena, Warrior Princess. Not only does she put “warrior” before “princess,” Xena is strong and smart, wears wrist cuffs, and bathes with her
sidekick soulmate wife. Xena doesn’t try to fit in; she expects the world to deal with her, as is, and good luck with that. She doesn’t sing, she doesn’t clean, and as a former outlaw and warlord, she has a cool past that doesn’t involve looking pensively from a castle balcony, wondering if she’ll ever be happy. Screw that noise. Let’s go kick some ass! Oh, and one more thing- that skirt she wears? The one that’s more like a battle kilt than a dress? It’s a fashion statement, and that statement is, “Ayiyiiyiyiyiyi!!”
Bridget McManus: She-Ra: Princess of Power. This blonde bombshell isn’t fucking around!
Dana Piccoli: I have to admit, I was never very into princesses growing up, as my G. I. Joe collection would most certainly confirm. However, Princess Diana was a princess I could believe in. Beautiful, shy, a true advocate for change and human kindness. Her work with AIDS patients and charities helped the world alter its view of the disease. Her senseless death troubles me to this day.
Nicole Schultz: I am not really the princess type, but when I think of a kick ass royal it has to be Princess Vespa from Spaceballs. She is hot, has an awesome baritone signing voice, and has no problem blowing someone away with a laser gun if they shoot her hair.
Grace Chu: Helen of Troy was a princess that caused more drama than anyone you saw on The L Word season 6. First, Helen’s milkshake brought all the boys to the yard in Sparta, and after an ancient version of The Bachelorette, Menelaus ended up getting to live in the shake shack. Then her milkshake brought all the boys to the yard yet again in Troy, because all the boys promised to go to whatever yard they needed to go to in the event there were any renegade suitors tryin’ to fuck shit up. They had to regulate some guy named Paris, who decided to take Helen with him to Troy when Menelaus was out of town. Shady, shady! (Paris had a secret pact with Aphrodite in which she promised to give him Helen’s milkshake; all Paris had to do was tell Aphrodite that she had to right to tell Hera and Athena, “My milkshake is better than yours.”)
So this huge war happened, but eventually Troy was reduced to a pile of rubble, and Helen went back to Menelaus. Menelaus was kind of mad about all this drama over Helen’s milkshake, so he was going to kill her, but then she had a wardrobe malfunction, and all the blood rushed from his head to his other head, and he made the following decision: “Whoa. You’re too hot. I can’t kill you.” Now, of course, all of this happened because of some meddlesome goddesses who were having their own drama about whose milkshake was the best, so perhaps it wasn’t Helen who caused all the drama. Helen was just a pawn; it was Ilene and the Magical Elves Aprodite, Hera and Athena kicking things around up on Mount Olympus.
Chloe: My favorite princess from film & TV (which excludes the princesses from the many, many, fantasy novels I devoured as a child with embarrassing glee) would be Drew Barrymore‘s ‘Cinderella’ from the 1998 classic Ever After. The premise is a Grand Dame Of France telling The Brothers Grim about the real story of ‘the little cinder girl’, her ancestor Danielle de Barbarac. Angelica Huston plays the evil stepmother in characteristically epic fashion. The woman was born to be imperious. Drew Barrymore is adorable, and awesomely dressed, as a feminist Cinderella who beats boys in sports, throws apples at the Prince when he steals a horse, and the saves her sweet Prince from bandit attack by carrying him on her back. I wore out the VHS out, and even if you don’t love Cinderella the costumes alone are works of art. Oh and Leonardo da Vinci paints Drew Barrymore as Cinderella and it is gorgeous. Entertaining and educational!
Marcie Bianco: She-Ra, Princess of Power, who was brainwashed by the totalitarian state run by the Evil Horde in Etheria. When He-Man gives her her magical sword, she wakes up and joins the Rebel Alliance that hangs out in the Forrest. She’s a socialist warrior who actively tries to dismantle the prison state–sometimes with her own bare hands!!!
Ali Davis: The first bad-ass princess I ever read about was Princess Petronella in the children’s book by Jay Williams. The family tradition was for each queen to have three princes, the youngest of whom always rescued a princess and founded a new kingdom. Petronella, the surprise third-born daughter, had no interest in standing by tradition. So she went out and rescued herself a damn prince. And then it gets better — she decided the prince was sort of a boring lump and ran off with someone smarter. Such a great role model to look to when people and tradition try to tell you you shouldn’t aspire to much. (I’d like to add that she could ride a horse and she FUCKING RULED.)
Valerie Anne: Belle was always (and will always be) my favorite Disney princess because she was headstrong and a bookworm and she longed for adventure. She met a man (er, sort of) who hid his pain behind rudeness and slowly but surely smoothed his rough edges; she saw the good in him and helped him see it, too. But every time I start to mention liking her story, I get words like ‘bestiality’ and ‘Stockholm syndrome’ yelled at me, so instead I pick Olivia Wilde. She was married to the son of an Italian prince for like a minute, so shut up she counts. She’s smart, beautiful, talented, sarcastic, charitable, down to earth, and fucking hilarious. Case and point (and topically relevant):
About to board my flight to Senegal. I hope they don’t have a royal baby there.
— olivia wilde (@oliviawilde) July 24, 2013
Heather Hogan: Susan Mothereffin’ Pevensie. Sure, technically she was a queen. And technically C.S. Lewis kicked her out of Narnia when she started using makeup because it signified sexual awareness on her part and there’s nothing scarier to rich white hyper-religious dudes than a lady who’s not ashamed of her own body. No metaphorical heaven for you, slutty Susan! But that’s OK, because she reigns supreme in my heart parts. She was tall and she was gracious and she was a badass. Queen Susan of the Horn could hold her own against Katniss Everdeen in any archery contest any day.
Who’s your favorite princess?