The Plot-Hole All Royal Rom-Coms Share
Updated: Aug 10
I feel like most made-for-tv romance movies involving royalty are made by people who've only seen The Princess Diaries and not by anyone whose actually researched modern royals. The Princess Diaries is loosely based on the Liechtenstein and Monaco royal families, which makes sense in the context of that story. However, all of the Hallmark Channel and Netflix royal movies try to plop a rom-com plot into the same world and fail spectacularly in establishing any sort of realism.
Plot lines involving hot Princes who are leaders of state have a massive plot-hole that the Prince is world famous. So if the main character is a hard-hitting reporter, a well-read English teacher, or a know-it-all wedding planner, these movies don't make sense. They try to pretend the main character is a smart, successful woman, but who also (1) doesn't know where countries are, (2) doesn't know what leaders of state look like, (3) doesn't know basic things about the country's political system where she's vacationing, or (3) doesn't read any tabloids (even while standing in live at the grocery store). You can't have a smart woman have an "oops I didn't know you were the Prince" moment if the Prince is William & Harry level of famous.
The solution: German Princes.
The best fantasies are based in some sort of reality. So what's the secret to help these royal rom-coms become more accurate? Admit that the smart main character knows that a country like Lichtenstein exists or have her fall in love with a Central European prince who has zero real political power.
Italy, Austria, and Germany all had Principalities well into the 19th century. Thus, there are lots of "princes" in continental Europe. These princes come with titles, castles, money, and fame, but none of the actual burdens of being Kate Middleton, future Queen of England.
The Principality of Reuss-Gera isn't ruled by Heinrich XIV, Prince Reuss of Köstritz, as Germany doesn't have royals anymore. However, Prince Heinrich XIV still owns quite a bit of land, and lives in the main castle of the Principality, Schloss Ernstbrunn.
The "royal" family of Reuss is distantly related to Queen Victoria as her grandmother was the daughter of the Prince Heinrich who 'ruled' in the mid-1700s. I believe the current Prince Heinrich XIV is 1st cousin thrice removed from the current King of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, as the Prince Heinrich who 'ruled' in the early 1900s was Queen Wilhelmina's first cousin.
The current hereditary prince, Heinrich XXIX, was born in 1997, so he's only 24 years old. One of his aunts is married to a Count from an old Czech family (another royal family that also doesn't exist anymore).
So with this German principality, we have:
A historically accurate young prince
News coverage of royal weddings but not overly present paparazzi
A royal family that isn't known to the average US person
Connections to famous royal families that all viewers will know
Lots of extended family members with titles
Money (since castles take money, I'm assuming money)
No political or military duties needed, so it can be a pure charity or party focused life
The prince must follow an ancient naming system, so you know he's got a nickname. The jokes! Imagine the comedy when a character calls a Grand Duchess just a Duchess. The hi-jinks! Or when the American says "His Royal Highness" to the Prince when it's supposed to be "His Serene Highness." THE DRAMA.
But at the same time, there is an overly present news coverage that you have to worry about a Megan, Duchess of Sussex situation where the ugly press destroys the Cinderella fantasy. Also, the royal family isn't so famous that the main character seems dumb for not recognizing the Prince. It's not really funny if the only way the plot works is if the main character can't read.
How could I forget the secret drama! So the current Prince's dad, Heinrich IV, Prince Reuss of Köstritz, only became King because his brother went missing in 1945. The younger brother was sort of the Prince for 17 years before the laws declared him dead in 1962 and the Prince officially took the throne. Think of all the secret imposter to take the throne, people being declared missing is triggering, and amnesia plotlines that could be written! And it's rooted in fact!
Wait, why did you write this blog post?
I recently read An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew by Annejet van der Zijl, which is about the third wife of Prince Heinrich XXXIII (the first cousin of Queen Wilhelmina). Sadly, the Prince mainly married Allene for her money. After finishing the book, I dove into Wikipedia and was shocked to realize that Prince Heinrich's descendants still own their hereditary castle (and are all still called Prince Heinrich).
I feel like a lot of the Netflix/Hallmark Channel made-for-television plot lines could easily fit into this world of socialite princes. It's totally reasonable that none of us know who owns Castle Ernstbrunn even though the Prince's wedding will make the Daily Mail.
Mainly, I'm very annoyed when romantic-comedies try to make the main lead (1) a smart woman with access to Internet but (2) someone who is oblivious to a famous, super photographed, crazy rich, world leader of a country Prince. The best way to fix this plot hole and still have your main character be smart is the Crazy Rich Asians formula - the love interest is rich and famous but not so in the USA. Throw in a line about how Americans only care about British royals but the Prince is a big thing here in Germany/ Austria/ Mythical Central Europe Country, and boom - Realism in a Fantasy.
I should be writing papers for my actual day job instead of daydreaming about life in an Austrian castle, but if any reader has connections at a movie studio, please make me a more realistic royal movie. Thanks in advance.