Monarchism is an anachronism these days, and current scandals with British Princes only serve to remind us that it might be time to hang up the crown for good. (That said, the current King of Spain seems nice, as does Queen Rania of Jordan — just sayin’.)
Our popular fiction, however, isn’t going to drain the moat any time soon. We love our Royals, even if they secretly baste themselves in Purel should they ever accidentally come into close contact with one of us. The Walter Disney Company (perhaps you’ve heard of it?) has made quite a killing in propping up such Noble lines, and nothing has a greater hold on fans right now than Princess Elsa from Frozen — not only does she have the ability to manipulate precipitation, she can really hit a high note, too.
But maybe these Elsa stans need to, well, let it go, just a little? Because Elsa is far from the only shrewd princess who’s cool under pressure when she needs to be. Here are a dozen other princesses who are actually queens of keeping it together in an emergency….
Princess (and General) Leia Organa
“This is some rescue!” So zings Princess Leia (now technically also a Disney Princess, I suppose), initially sold to Han Solo as someone who is merely rich and beautiful, but who turns out to be the glue that keeps the Rebellion together, and whose cunning destroys the Death Star. In addition to having the wherewithal to stash secret blueprints in R2-D2’s dome, despite facing imminent capture and torture at the hands of — it would eventually transpire — her own dad, Princess Leia had great aim with a blaster, the physical strength to strangle a slobby Jabba the Hutt with her own chains, and the tactical ability required to turn a band of woodland teddy bears into an armed resistance force. Most impressive of all, she didn’t bat an eye when telling grumpy Harrison Ford he was acting like a scruffy-looking nerf herder.
First introduced to readers as “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs in the 19-teens, Dejah Thoris is the brave and noble daughter of Mors Kejak, the Jed of Helium, a bustling city on Barsoom (sci-fi!). When Confederate soldier John Carter gets zapped to this world, she also becomes his love interest. Although Thoris does find herself getting kidnapped a lot, allowing Earthman Carter (who has enhanced powers on the red planet, naturally) to swoop in and save her, she’s not just sitting in a space jail twiddling her thumbs: She’s resourceful and cunning, and if you were one of the few who saw the 2012 movie adaptation, knows how to kick a little Martian ass, too.
The Princess of Wakanda is a scientist, physician and all-around magician, despite not even being old enough to drink. As portrayed by Letitia Wright in Black Panther, Shuri is responsible for saving at least half a dozen of the titular hero’s nine lives, thanks to her astounding technical mind: Her kinetic upgrade to the Black Panther suit — so what doesn’t kill him literally makes him stronger — probably saved three of those lives by itself. And when not engineering virtual high-speed chases from the safety of her lab, she’s also quick with a zing.
She probably wouldn’t like being called Princess, but being daughter of the Mad King does technically make her one. As A Song of Ice and Fire (known merely as Game of Thrones to you illiterate television slobbos) marches along, Daenerys’ quest finds her acquiring new titles — by the end she’s got the longest sig file in the Seven Kingdoms, with added names like Stormborn; the First of Her Name; The Unburnt; Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men; Queen of Meereen; Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea; Protector of the Realm; Lady Regent of the Seven Kingdoms; Breaker of Chains; and Mother of Dragons. If you have a more progressive interpretation of Red Woman Melisandre’s prophecy, you could also call her “The Princess that was Promised.” Anyway, there was never anyone so icy as she who lit all of King’s Landing on fire. God, I miss this show.
Diana of Themyscira, aka Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman’s real-life origins are somewhat unorthodox. The character was created by a polyamorous psychologist and inventor, whose tinkerings begat the modern lie detector. But in the DC Universe, the superhero better known to us as Wonder Woman is half quasi-Hellenistic Royalty, half divine clay (this means she gets two presents each birthday).
Despite being a princess — she’s the sort-of daughter of Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons — other than assuming the secret identity of Diana Prince now and again, there’s been little of the past 78 years of storytelling that has Wonder Woman in a palace, drinking tea. Alongside Superman and Batman, she forms what hardcore DC fans call the Trinity, and she’s proven over and over and over again that being refined and delivering a galactic-level ass-whooping are not mutually exclusive. Her most recent guise, care of beauty pageant winner-turned-actress Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins, has her defeating computer-generated villains and the Kaiser, so she can multitask, too.
The Princess of the Valley of Wind from Hayao Miyazaki’s manga and anime, Nausicäa shares her name with the unrequited love from Homer’s Odyssey. This version has more important things to do than laundry, though: She’s trying to forge a harmony between humans and mutated beasts in a post-apocalyptic hellscape. Imagine Mad Max, but instead of gearheads racing and crashing, it’s more about a spunky girl who really loves bugs. When she ends up taking care of a giant weapon, it’s her wits — as well as her love of weird plants — that saves the day.
You see her. The Na’vi Princess of Pandora — a computer-generated, elongated Smurf with motion capture from Zoe Saldana — is similar to Nausicäa in her harmony with nature. Just look at the way she plugs that long braid into a flying Ikran before riding it! Though our ostensible hero Jake Sully is on the weird, glowy planet to hunt for dilithium crystals — I mean “unobtanium” — Neytiri’s passion and determination soon has him seeing things from her point-of-view. Soon enough Jake, patched into a proxy Na’vi body (or “Avatar,” if you will!), is ready to turn against his fellow Marines in defense of Hometree, even if it means never getting back “his real legs.” Now that’s an inspiring princess.
Okay, technically not a Princess, since stopping her from becoming one is kinda the whole point of The Princess Bride. But she is stashed in a castle and, to a certain extent, in need of a quality swashbuckling rescue, so close enough to the standard fictional princess trope. So how does she also fit the description of icy-cool? Well, she’s certainly a woman of action, jumping out of boats, flinging herself down hills, even ready to stab herself rather than get married to someone she doesn’t love. She never, ever gives up, and she’s not one to swoon: It takes a long time for her to fall for the dopey farmhand Westley — she’s not into love at first sight, she’s into bossing dudes around! Only then, much later, will she let them whisk her away on a white horse.
Spun off from the series Hercules: The Legend Continues (though arguably eclipsing it in popularity, and certainly in cultural cache), Xena: Warrior Princess aired on weird weekend syndication channels for the second half of the 1990s. She mixed action, fantasy, half-remembered history, a smidge of campy humor and some not-too-subtly veiled LGBT themes. New Zealand actress Lucy Lawless fought for the side of good through a stew of mythological backdrops (Hellenistic one minute, Medieval Europe the next), where a potent mix of sharp swords, tactical decision-making and sturdy plot armor always saw her prevail.
Okay, most of the time, Daphne Zuniga’s Vespa is a high-maintenance and bratty “Druish” Princess (Spaceballs was made by Mel Brooks, so he’s allowed to make that joke). But when the shit really hits the fan — meaning a laser blast singes her hair — look out! A rapid-fire spurt of death rays lays waste to a legion of off-brand Stormtroopers. “Not bad…” “…for a girl,” comment Bill Pullman and John Candy, negging her. “Hey, that was pretty good for Rambo!” robo-Joan Rivers barks back. Quite right, too.