It’s safe to say Meghan Markle took the road less traveled on her way to becoming British royalty. For starters, she’s American (an Angeleno, to be specific). Second, she’s an actress (not exactly a noble profession, no offense Hollywood). And last but not least, she’s walked the down aisle before, having been married to producer Trevor Engelson from 2011 to 2013. But as Markle well knows, Hollywood loves few things more than an unlikely princess or, in this case, duchess. Ahead of her May 19th wedding to Prince Harry, Markle might be able to learn a thing or two from these other stories about accidental royalty.
“The Princess Diaries”
It’s every teenage girl’s dream! Wake up on your 16th birthday and learn you’re a) next in line to rule your own country and b) the granddaughter of Julie Andrews. This Garry Marshall Disney made a star out of Anne Hathaway as she went from awkward and unpolished to royal and refined. Hathaway and Andrews also reunited for a sequel, “The Princess Diaries 2,” in which Hathaway’s Queen Mia must find herself a suitable king.
Everyone knows how the story goes: A down-on-her-luck woman manages to retreat from her evil stepmother’s grip for one night and miraculously meets and falls in love with a prince. She accidentally leaves her glass slipper behind, and he uses it to track her down. But while there are many adaptations (see Disney’s 1950 animated version and the 2015 Cate Blanchett-led live-action version), this 1998 adaptation starring Drew Barrymore in the lead role and Anjelica Huston as her evil stepmother also stands apart, namely because after it shows Barrymore after she becomes queen. Your highness?
“Kate & Leopold”
Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman star in this romantic comedy about a duke who uses an elevator to travel in time from 1876 to 2001 and falls in love with a modern-day New Yorker. Although the Duke is eventually sent back to his own century, Ryan’s Kate follows him back. She arrives in 1876 just as he’s about to announce his marriage of convenience to another woman, but instead Leopold announces his bride to be Kate of the “McKays of Massapequa,” making her a duchess.
Once again, Anne Hathaway plays an accidental princess in this 2004 adaptation of the book of the same name. The story starts similarly to “Cinderella,” complete with an evil stepmother and evil stepsisters, but an added dash of a curse that forces Hathaway’s Ella to always be obedient freshens things up. In the end, she breaks the curse on her own and lands the charming prince.
“The Prince and Me”
Julia Stiles starred in this 2004 drama about an ambitious pre-med student who falls for a mysterious coed at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She only later learns the object of her affection is the heir-apparent to the Danish throne. She finds herself in unchartered waters as she desperately tries to win over his family, and his country as a whole. Although the movie ends on an unclear note, the two eventually marry in the direct-to-video sequel, “The Prince and Me: The Royal Wedding.” (Two more direct-to-video sequels followed.)
“What a Girl Wants”
Amanda Bynes stars in this 2003 film about a teenager who travels from New York to England to finally meet her father. She discovers her father (played by Colin Firth) has recently inherited an earldom. However, it’s her father who is really shocked to learn he has a teenage daughter. Although she tries to change herself to better represent the family name, she eventually gives up the act and returns to New York. Her father follows her there, tells her to never change, and eventually marries her mother, Libby, making her a countess and their daughter a lady in waiting.
“A Christmas Prince”
The 2017 holiday films centers on an aspiring journalist named Amber who goes undercover to investigate rumors of abdication in the fictional foreign land of Aldovia. Amber falls for Prince Richard, natch, and the prince eventually learns her real identity. However, she wins back his trust when she helps him prove he’s the rightful heir to the throne after it’s revealed he was adopted. After Richard becomes the king, he asks Amber to be his queen, and they live happily ever after.
“A Princess for Christmas”
Something about the holidays makes people wish extra hard that they were royalty — the long lines at the mall, having to cook multiple meals for the entire family, perhaps? In any event, this 2011 Hallmark film centers on a young woman from Buffalo who travels to Europe to visit an estranged relative and ends up falling for the charming prince (played by future “Outlander” heartthrob Sam Heughan). Despite the mechanisms of a hopeful princess, Lady Arabella, the two end up happily ever after.
“A Prince for Christmas”
Sadly, this is not a sequel to “A Princess for Christmas,” but the story lines don’t stray too far apart. This 2015 Starz film centers on a European prince named Duncan who flees to a small American town in order to escape his arranged Christmas Day wedding. There, he meets and falls in love with a woman who has just broken up with her longtime beau, Todd, a car salesman. Although she sends him packing, she discovers Duncan lied about who he really is; he eventually gets his parents to call off his arranged wedding and returns to (successfully) win her back.
“Once Upon a Holiday”
Move over, runaway bride — this story centers on a runaway princess. While visiting New York City with her aunt at Christmastime, Princess Katie of Montsaurai runs away from her overbearing bodyguards only to have her money and belongings stolen by muggers. A charming stranger named Jack helps her and gives her money, and they later begin to fall for each other after she accompanies him to a holiday party. Just as she’s about to reveal her royal lineage, he finds out the truth through his sister’s reporter boyfriend. Katie returns home for the annual Christmas festival only to find Jack, who asks her to spend the rest of her life with him.