30 December 2014

Real-Life Disney Princesses

Recently, The London Telegraph recently published a snarky article ranking some of today's real princesses on a scale of Disney princess-hood. The piece was so unkind that I decided to do my own evaluation of the princesses through my own lens as a fan of Disney princesses.

There are currently 11 animated characters who are officially recognized as part of the "Disney Princess" franchise. (The sisters from Frozen, who will no doubt make the list soon, are not included.) So, which of today's real princesses best matches with the Disney ladies?

Victoria with her Prince Charming
Holger Motzkau 2010, via Wikimedia Commons
Snow White
The first Disney Princess has been characterized by some as an anti-feminist character. Cursed by a jealous stepmother, she awaits rescue by handsome prince. On the contrary, when Snow White finds herself in dire circumstances, she takes charge and makes the best of her situation: tidying up the Seven Dwarves and displays a beautiful spirit. In much the same way, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden was "cursed" by anorexia, but she battled against, emerging stronger and healthier on the other side. She has a beauty and strength of character that belies the struggles of her past.

Catherine and Prince William
John Pannell derivative work: César
via Wikimedia Commons
The next Disney heroine has come to be seen as the ultimate Disney princess. She emerges from a common background where she has faced adversity with a smiling heart and can-do attitude to capture the heart of a prince. Every non-royal lady who marries a prince is called Cinderella, and many of today's ladies could be eligible to earn this designation in my list. For instance, Crown Princess Mette Marit comes from the most unlikely background. However, only one currently and undoubtedly is the ultimate princess of today: Catherine The Duchess of Cambridge. While her past is not filled with tragedy and trudgery, she is THE princess alive today. While you and I are aware of many princesses, most people in the world only know about Catherine and her late mother-in-law, Diana Princess of Wales. Therefore, Catherine is my choice for Cinderella.

Madeleine with husband Chris O'Neill
By Bengt Nyman (Flickr: IMG_2770)
via Wikimedia Commons
In Sleeping Beauty, the plucky Princess Aurora is kept secluded from possible dangers, but she is determined to make her own way. When she ventures into uncharted territory, an evil spell casts her into a deep sleep from which only true love can save her. She has emerged in more recent stories as confident and beautiful. Today's Aurora is Princess Madeleine of Sweden, who I believe is the most beautiful of today's royal ladies. As Madeleine made her own way in the world, she first encountered "evil" when her first fiance cheated on her and she was publicly humiliated. Madeleine went to "sleep" by escaping to New York, where she not only built an independent life but found a new love. Today, she is clearly happy with a second child on the way.

By Alex Black via Wikimedia Commons
We sometimes forget that The Little Mermaid's Ariel was already a princess. She was by no means satisfied with life in her royal family. In her signature song, she boldly declares, "I want more." Not content to stay in the fishbowl of her royal heritage, Ariel seeks out a whole new way of living "out of the sea." For her willingness to leave behind her royal relatives in Europe and seek out a new life as an actor in the United States, Princess Theodora of Greece and Denmark makes my list as Ariel. Not content to make a life among the young royal set of London, where her family settled after leaving Greece, or in Spain, where her first cousin is the King, or Denmark, where her aunt is the Queen, Theodora has decided instead to take to the stage. She most recently completed a three-year stint on the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful.

By Oliver Abels (SBT)
via Wikimedia Commons
My favorite Disney princess is the heroine of Beauty and the Beast. Dissatisfied with the provincial life of her village, Belle seeks escape through her intelligence. When she first meets the Beast, she has no idea that he is a prince and she is not at all sure that his unique lifestyle is what she is seeking. For her real counterpart, I have selected Queen Maxima of The Netherlands. The Argentine-born Maxima sought out an advanced education in the United States and she is one of the three best-educated princesses today--the other two are her very good friends Queen Mathilde of Belgium and Crown Princess Masako of Japan. Like Belle, Maxima had no idea the man she was dating was a prince during the earliest part of their courtship. When they first met in Spain, he introduced himself simply as Alex and only revealed his royal status while visiting her in New York, where she was working at the time. 

By GuitarStrummer
via Wikimedia Commons
The next Disney princess was Jasmine, the love interest in Aladdin. Jasmine is already a princess when she meets the "street rat" of the title. However, she isn't happy with the restrictions placed upon her. She longs to exert her independence and make her own way in life. For her real princess, I have settled upon Princess Eugenie of York. Born sixth in line to the throne, she has been bumped to seventh and will continue to move lower in the line as children are born to her cousins Prince William and Prince Harry and her sister Princess Beatrice. For this reason, it simply makes sense for her to seek a more "normal" life. Her current love is a waiter and she has embarked on a career in the world of high-end auctions, working most recently at the New York office of Paddle8.

By Ernst Vikne
via Wikimedia Commons
In her film, Pocahontas (the only Disney Princess to be based on an historic person) is defined not only by her noble courage, but also by her independence, spiritual nature and playful spirit. For her contemporary doppelganger, I have selected Princess Martha Louise of Norway, the eldest child of King Harald. Born before Norway adopted gender-blind succession, Martha Louise has not had to worry about inheriting the throne, leaving her free to pursue her various interests. A keen horsewoman, she is also a well-trained singer and a children's book author, with three little girls of her own. Deeply spiritual, she unwittingly created controversy by launching a business to help people communicate with angels, a skill that she claims to have. Free-spirited and fun-loving, Martha Louis often draws attention at big royal events for her colorful and unusual fashion choices.

Mary with Crown Prince Frederik
By Frankie Fouganthin (Own work)
via Wikimedia Commons
Another of my Disney favorites, Mulan is unwilling to accept the role that lies before her and she puts herself on the line to go after what she wants. Disguised as a man, she enters the imperial army and overcomes every challenge that is thrown her way. Along the way, she also wins the heart of a prince. Like her, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark had to overcome many obstacles to become
a princess. Like Mulan, Mary left her home to pursue her future, but Mary's move was even bigger for she relocated to the other side of the planet, from Australia to Europe, to be near her prince at a time when there was no guarantee that they would marry. She learned Danish and protocol, changed her wardrobe and calmly stared down paparazzi intrusions and criticisms about her fitness as a royal bride. Today, she is one of the most popular princess on the planet, and the mother of four royal babies.

By Michael Thaidigsmann (Own work)
via Wikimedia Commons
The heroine of Disney's The Princess and the Frog, Tiana is a beautiful and ambitious young woman. She has set herself a goal and has made a plan for how to attain it, but her plans are thrown off course when she meets a prince who has been turned into a frog. In helping him, she also becomes a frog and they must work together. Today's Tiana counterpart is Queen Mathilde of Belgium. Born into a noble family, Mathilde was not content to lead a life as a socialite. Instead she sought a distinguished education and embarked on a career to help others by becoming a speech therapist. In some ways, her future husband was a bit of a frog. He was nearly 40 when he married 26-year-old Mathilde. Many people--especially the press--wondered whether he would every marry or whether he might even be gay. With their marriage and the arrival of their four children, he was transformed. He became more of an ideal prince and last year was widely acclaimed when he assumed the throne.

By TheMatthewSlack
via Wikimedia Commons
Rapunzel is most well-known for her luxurious loooooooong golden hair. Her contemporary princess comparator is more well known for what she puts on her hair--various fascinators and one infamous hat. In the Disney flick Tangled, Rapunzel leaves her royal tower as a more modern woman than many of the other Disney princesses. Film reviewers have called her witty, intelligent and contemporary. Like her, Princess Beatrice of York has emerged from her royal cocoon to follow a much more modern path. No stranger to the nightclub scene, Beatrice is also now devoted to fitness and is the only British royal to run the London Marathon--but even this she did in an unusual way, training with a team of friends and tied together to form a giant caterpillar to raise money for charity. She was also the first British royal to appear in a non-documentary film, making a brief appearance in the coronation scene of The Young Victoria, which was produced by her mother Sarah Duchess of York. For the last year, Beatrice has been working in the entertainment industry as an intermediate coordinating producer at Sony for the rather low salary of $30,000 as revealed by the recent widespread computer hacking at Sony.

Zara dressed for work
By Richardhubbuck (Own work)
via Wikimedia Commons
The most sporting of the Disney princesses is the lively and determined Merida of the film Brave. Merida has no interest in filling the role of proper royal lady. She is gutsy and willing to take on the world on her own terms. For her real-life twin, I suggest The Princess Royal AND her equally sport-mad daughter Zara Phillips. Both Olympic equestriennes, Princess Anne and Zara Phillips have made their sport their career. However, they can clean up and play their royal roles--but they do it with a no-nonsense flair not often found among princesses. In fact, Princess Anne usually completes more royal engagements every year than most other members of the British royal family. In the meantime, she also runs her estate at Gatcombe Park, which hosts several horse trials each year with courses designed by the Princess herself. As for Zara, whose lack of title also reflects her mother's practical approach to life, she has been able to pursue her riding career even more fully and reinforced her love of sport by marrying a professional rugby player. It will be interesting to see whether her baby daughter Mia becomes an athlete too.