Magic mirror, on the wall, who is the most princessy of them all? As it turns out, this question is pretty tough to answer. How does one possibly begin to narrow down the bevy of princesses that Disney has given us over the years? I decided to limit the scope to include just twelve main Disney princesses, ranging from Snow White (1937) to Moana (2016). I thought I came up with a clear, objective winner, but was met with vehement protest by friends and family members. So, I’m now going with more than one winner. It’s like Disney princess high school yearbook superlatives!
For those who don’t want to read the detailed analysis, here are my results:
- Most Royal – Ariel
- Most Experienced – Snow White
- Most Interested – Cinderella
- Most Qualified Overall – Pocahontas & Mulan (tie)
Ranking Disney Princesses
My first determination was based on assigning each princess a point for each of these various characteristics:
- Born royalty
- Married into royalty
Here’s how that broke down:
- Snow White: 2
- Cinderella: 1
- Aurora: 2
- Ariel: 2
- Belle: 1
- Jasmine: 1
- Pocahontas: 1
- Mulan: 0
- Tiana: 1
- Rapunzel: 1
- Merida: 1
- Moana: 1
This quickly narrowed down the list to just Snow White, Aurora, and Ariel. How can we determine a winner among those? There are a couple of objective reasons why Ariel came out on top…
Ariel – Most Royal
Her kingdoms presumably cover the most square footage, as they include whatever land Eric owns/rules, as well as literally all of the oceans and seas across the globe. Even if we limit Ariel’s scope to just one ocean (presuming each of her sisters gets one as well), she’s still likely to cover more territory. Because, you know, oceans are big. They cover 71% of our planet! So if she has dominion over just 1/7th of that, it still has to be a fair amount larger than any other kingdom. All of the land kingdoms are sharing the remaining 29%, and she has a good 10% of the entire planet. That’s hard to top.
Another point in Ariel’s favor is that she has the most royal connections of any princess on this list. Most of the princesses have themselves (if royal in some way), their partners (if applicable), their parents/families (if alive), and their prince’s parents/families. Ariel rockets up to the top of that list by not only having herself and one living parent (King Triton) but her six, count-em, six sisters. That’s seven royal connections besides herself, before she even meets Eric! So if the princesses had to rally royals to their cause for some reason, Ariel is likely to have the biggest group of supporters.
Ariel is also the only princess to become a mother, albeit in a sequel movie. Her daughter, Melody, has dominion over Prince Eric’s kingdom and one ocean/all of the oceans, just like Ariel. If Melody marries an unrelated prince, though, she will be royalty of three different kingdoms. That would technically make her the most princessy of them all. So, the (mostly) objective analysis crowns Ariel as the most princessy of all the Disney princesses.
Years of Princess Experience
Another point to consider – who has the most princess experience? First we have to consider who is royal by birth – that would be Snow White, Aurora, Ariel, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Rapunzel, and Merida. Of this group, we can eliminate Aurora and Rapunzel, because neither grew up knowing she was a princess. Aurora was hidden away, and Rapunzel was stolen away. So now we have Snow White, Ariel, Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Merida. The next factor to consider are their respective ages:
So, at the start of their movies, Snow White has 14 years of princess experience, Ariel has 16, Jasmine has 15, Pocahontas has 18, and Merida and Moana (both not pictured) have 16. Snow White, Ariel, Jasmine, and Merida all continue their princess designations upon/after meeting their partners. Pocahontas takes off with non-royal John Smith, so she goes on to live a non-princess life. That caps her years of experience at 18, whereas the other four continue leading royal lives and racking up additional years of princess experience. We’re down to four!
Snow White – Most Experienced
Now let’s consider just how princess-intensive these years actually were. We don’t know much about Snow White’s back story, beyond the death of her parents and the usurping of power by her evil stepmother. We do know, though, that she marries her prince around age 14/15. That means she was in a dual royalty position starting at, say, 15 years old. She’s the oldest of the princesses, too. If she was 14 in 1937, then her birth year is 1923. If she’s still considered to be alive and well, that’s an impressive 93 year-long reign as of 2016.
Ariel, Jasmine, Merida, and Moana all spent their youths being somewhat distracted from – or intentionally rejecting – their princess upbringings. Ariel is swimming all over the place without concern for her princess obligations, like showing up on time and singing with all of her sisters. She really didn’t seem to have many royal demands, but of the few she had, she didn’t meet ’em. Jasmine is taking off and literally pretending to be homeless just to avoid the stifling nature of her royal upbringing. And Merida is mostly shooting arrows and playing with her brothers, much to her mother’s chagrin. Moana actually is very focused on her responsibilities, but only as she defines them – not her parents. I think this clearly demonstrates how Snow White has the most years of princess experience. Even if we factor in the others who became royal upon marriage, they were older when they wed, and they haven’t “lived” as long as Snow White. Case closed!
So Ariel has the biggest princess crew, and Snow White has the most years of princess experience. But can we really disregard the others without accounting for other characteristics – especially when some may be more relevant?
Who Wants To Be Princess?
One important element that we haven’t yet addressed is who actually wants to be a princess. None of the official princesses seem all too concerned with their royal stations, and some are actively evading them. Let’s look at the list again, for reference:
Snow White: Her main interest is for the one she loves to find her. She starts singing “I’m Wishing” before ever spotting The Prince, so her motivation wasn’t his title. I don’t think she even knew at first that The Prince is a prince – I’m pretty sure she just thinks he’s a random hot guy that wandered into her neck of the woods. She’s been forced to live as a maid, but she doesn’t seem particularly concerned with regaining her title. She just wants her happy ending. So she isn’t actively trying to be a princess, but she isn’t actively rejecting it also. Snow White = princess neutral.
Cinderella: She isn’t really after Prince Charming for his title. As far as I can tell, she wants to go to the ball so she can enjoy a much-needed break and restore her faith in the kindness of humanity. After dancing with the prince, she does hope to end up with him, but again, probably not for the title. I think her main motivation is to gtfo from under her stepmother and live a life that doesn’t include daily abuse. Can’t really blame her for that. Long story short, I ain’t sayin’ she’s a gold digger…cause she’s not. She did, however, want to go to that ball. And everyone knew that the point of the ball was to find the prince a lady friend. So I’m going with Cinderella = princess positive.
Aurora: I feel like we know Aurora less than any of the other princesses. It’s hard to determine what she really wants, because she spent a fair portion of the film asleep. She’s betrothed to Prince Phillip from birth, but she doesn’t actually know that when she spots him in the forest. She also doesn’t know that she’s a princess, and she’s not at all happy when she finds out. It is her – and her fairy godmothers’ – incorrect assumption that she since she is royal, she has already been promised to someone else. So she basically isn’t thrilled about being a princess, because that means she can’t marry her hot random forest man. Except, surprise! Random forest man is her prince, because Disney. I think Aurora would have been perfectly content to live in that little cottage with her “aunts” and her forest hunk – being born royal is a bit of an inconvenience to her. Aurora = princess avoidant.
Ariel: I adore Ariel, but let’s be honest, she wasn’t doing that great in her official princess capacities while under the sea. She’s a beautiful, spoiled, youngest daughter that has daddy wrapped around her little finger. She’s not a bad merperson, of course, she’s just focused on herself. Being a mermaid princess is a serious obstacle to her hooking up with her human crush, Eric, so she’s pretty much over the royal station by the time she scores that statue of him. As with the princesses before her, she’s interested in her man because of
how hot he is who he is, and not because he has a royal title. Ariel = princess avoidant.
Belle: Dude, really, Belle just wants to read her books. She wants her crazy dad to be safe and she wants to read her books, and she wants to have her own adventures someday. She’s not looking to be a princess at all. She stays at the castle for the sake of her father, and then because she’s bonded with Beast and she’s understandably curious about the living furniture/kitchen ware and secret off-limits danger zone wing. She was cool with him when he was just Beast, so she definitely wasn’t after him just to become a princess. I don’t think Belle minds being a princess, but probably 90% of that is access to a big ass royal library that she otherwise never would have even seen. I’m thinking Belle = princess neutral.
Jasmine: She seems the most conflicted at the start of her story, at least compared to the other contenders. On the one hand, she lives in a dope ass palace, has a sweet dad, HAS A PET TIGER, and some gorgeous outfits. On the other hand, she’s hitting the streets in rags because she’s stifled at home and literally wasn’t allowed to leave. Plus, her role as a princess/sultana is the only reason Jafar wants to lock her down in marriage. I believe that Jasmine could have been happy on the streets with Aladdin, provided Rajah can come with. She did jump pretty quickly on the idea that it was okay for her to be royal and marry him, though, so I don’t know that she was too willing to give it up. For these reasons I’ve determined that Jasmine = princess neutral. Not that she doesn’t care, just that her strong feelings for and against balance each other out.
Pocahontas: We have an interesting case here with Pocahontas. She’s the only royal that leaves her existing kingdom/lifestyle to live with a non-royal. Personally I think her original option for a husband – Kocoum – was a better choice than John Smith. But she choose to leave him, her role as the equivalent of a Native American princess, her future role as wife to the newest Powhatan Chief, and her friends and family to be with Smith. I don’t think she was actively avoiding being a princess so much as just following her heart. For that reason I declare Pocahontas = princess neutral.
Mulan: Another interesting scenario, because Mulan isn’t born royal or married into royalty. She’s pretty much princess oblivious. She just wants to do her own little thing…you know, bring pride to her family, protect her aging father, save all of China, etc. Just normal girl stuff. Her priorities are very much the here and now – learning to fight, defeating the Huns, not seeing naked dudes bathing. Mulan doesn’t seem to have the slightest interest in becoming royalty, so I say Mulan = princess neutral.
Tiana: Being royalty is important to Lottie, but it was never a priority for Tiana. If anything, I think she would shy away from the advantages it offers. Tiana was raised to work hard and earn everything she got. She wouldn’t want any special attention or opportunities just because of who she married. She’s also pretty thoroughly unimpressed with Prince Naveen for a good deal of the movie. Granted, he was a frog, but then so was she. Tiana = princess neutral.
Rapunzel: Her story is similar to Cinderella’s, in that escape was a high priority for her. But I don’t think she craved it as much or far as long as Cinderella did. Mother Gothel was a top-notch emotional abuser that convinced Rapunzel that she couldn’t survive the world outside. There was a part of her that subconsciously remembered her roots, but not in great detail. It takes a really long time for her to discover that she is a princess, but she’s happy to be home once she does. For this reason I rank Rapunzel = princess positive.
Merida: Talk about not caring about her royal station! This lassie just wants to be free. She’s all about riding her horse, shooting her arrows, following fairies, and NOT being the perfect princess that she’s expected to be. She could have doubled her royal realm by marrying the son of another clan king/chieftain, but she had exactly zero interest in that. Merida would probably be much more open to the idea of being a princess if she could just be herself. But for the majority of the movie, Merida definitely = princess avoidant.
Moana: In the beginning, girl just wants the water! Give her that ocean breeze and wet feet and she will be fine. But as she matures, she realizes that her people need her. She takes on a huge endeavor and saves the day! So she’s princess positive, but on her own terms.
Cinderella – Most Interested
According to my observations, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Moana are the only princesses that are actually positive about the title. Of the lot, Cinderella is the only one who took active steps with the specific goal of potentially achieving the princess lifestyle. She knew what she wanted and she made it happen! She’s a pro-active princess.
Who Is Best At Being A Princess?
I’m going to use another points system to determine this one. So first we need to decide on a list of attributes that an ideal Disney princess should have. Here’s what I came up with:
Here’s which traits each princess embodies:
- Snow White: 4 points
- Kindness: Yes, she’s very kind to everyone she encounters. +1
- Leadership: I guess you must have a fair amount of leadership to coordinate the efforts of seven dwarfs that have apparently never cleaned in their lives. +1
- Bravery: She took off on her own when it mattered, which did require a degree of bravery. It wasn’t really that scary, what with all the animals loving her, but still. +1
- Intelligence: I don’t know that Snow is really the smartest cookie in the box. It seemed to take her a really long time to catch on to the Evil Queen, and she ate that poison apple without questioning it. No points here.
- Responsibility: Again, super good at cleaning, cooking, and maintaining order. +1
- Cinderella: 3 points
- Kindness: Basically the nicest ever. She has horrible people around her and she still treats them with love and respect. She even brings them to the castle after she marries the prince! She could have understandably let her step-family rot in poverty without her, but she doesn’t. +1 for sure.
- Leadership: Not the biggest leader, probably because she’s been in an abusive household. Often needs someone – mouse, fairy godmother, etc – to show her what to do.
- Bravery: Again, not so much. I don’t think she’s afraid or cowardly, I just don’t see much evidence of her bravery.
- Intelligence: Cindy is a smart cookie! She’s got mad people skills, as evidenced by her managing her crazy family. She also finds a way to get out of the house and to the ball, so I’m giving her a point here. +1
- Responsibility: Cinderella’s life was all responsibility, all of the time, for years and years. Again, she provides for her family even after they’ve been the literal Worst people on earth. +1
- Aurora: 1 point
- Kindness: Let’s be real, the princesses are all kind, right? +1
- Leadership: Eh, not really. This could be due to her lack of character development, but she never seems to really take charge.
- Bravery: I guess? But not in any specific way that I recall.
- Intelligence: Look, I know she was enchanted or whatever, but it still seems stupid to go and touch something pointy with your bare hand. I’m not seeing her getting points for intelligence.
- Responsibility: Kinda? Again, I’m not seeing much for or against this.
- Ariel: 2 points
- Kindness: Super nice to animals and doesn’t discriminate against humans. +1
- Leadership: She’s certainly in charge of Flounder, but beyond that she doesn’t really lead anyone. No points here.
- Bravery: Ariel is a pretty brave mermaid. She follows her heart, meets with a sea witch, takes to land, and pursues her crush. Seems brave to me. +1
- Intelligence: Dad has a triton but she can’t figure out a fork. Has a whole grotto of human treasures, but a lot of them still seem to confuse her. Never thought to write down that she was the singer who saved Eric. Also never passed him a note saying I heart you, please kiss me. No intelligence points for Ariel.
- Responsibility: Not the most trustworthy or reliable of princesses. What responsibilities did she even have? From what I can tell, she couldn’t be trusted to show up on time, avoid an obviously evil sea witch, or focus enough to keep her crab friend from being cooked up.
- Belle: 4 points
- Kindness: Belle is very kind, but sometimes I think she displayed a bit of superiority to the non-readers in her town. I mean yeah, Gaston was a full on idiot, but maybe some of them just never had the opportunities she had. Not every woman of that era was encouraged to even learn to read, let alone spend hours doing so each day. But still, she gets points for kindness. No one in the history of Disney has ever been so kind to a prince turned beast and/or talking furniture. +1
- Leadership: I don’t recall any evidence of specific leadership.
- Bravery: Belle is definitely brave. Those woods and wolves were scary but she did her best to save her dad. Then she sacrificed herself for him, and wasn’t even that scared of the weird characters she encountered. She was also brave enough to entire the wing she was forbidden from visiting, but that might be a point against her intelligence. I’m thinking she’s just nosy. Anyway she gets +1.
- Intelligence: Very well read, and presumably has learned a lot from her father’s inventing and mistakes. Also is smart enough to recognize that Gaston is a truly horrible choice for a partner. +1
- Responsibility: I feel like Belle kept her home running when living with Maurice, and did the same once she was with Beast. She also felt the responsibility to rescue her father and take his place. +1
- Jasmine: 3 points
- Kindness: She’s generally nice, I guess. But she’s initially kinda snotty to Aladdin and Abu. I see her as the least kind princess, but I’m not saying she’s a mean or bad person. She’s just not as obviously nice as some people.
- Leadership: Towards the end, Jasmine really stepped up the leadership. The Sultan was kinda…doddering, and she took the reigns to determine that she could marry Aladdin. I see her as a good leader for her people. Not a lot of specific examples to support this, but overall I find her to be a leader. +1
- Bravery: Jasmine sneaks out to experience life as a poor person, is willing to hop on a flying carpet, takes on Jafar, oh, and has a pet tiger. She’s had Rajah her whole life, so he’s totally domesticated, but still. He’s a wild animal. So yes, point to J for her bravery. +1
- Intelligence: She catches on pretty quick to Aladdin’s former identity. She also tricks Jafar into thinking she’s interested in him, which gives Aladdin a chance to regain control in the final standoff. Plus she uses very straightforward logic to convince her dad to let them marry. So, overall, smart lady. +1
- Responsibility: Not so much?
- Pocahontas: 5 points
- Kindness: She’s kind and considerate to nature, animals, her family and friends, and the outsiders invading her land. For sure +1 here.
- Leadership: There are several instances where Pocahontas leads the Native Americans and the white people. She fosters better relations between them and speaks up when she sees wrongdoing. To me, that equals leadership. +1
- Bravery: Pocahontas is only mildly afraid of the white men on the boat, even though they are a bigger threat than her people have ever faced before. Also, she’s willing to leave home and experience the world. That’s a case where following your heart is especially difficult, but she did it. You go, Po. +1
- Intelligence: Again, major people skills here. Plus all of the knowledge that comes from a tight-knit, indigenous community. Knows more about survival and respecting the land than any other princess. +1
- Responsibility: Stepped in to save all of the people from total war and destruction. In the sequel she came back home to her people, but only after fighting to secure diplomacy. She’s definitely responsible. +1
- Mulan: 5 points
- Kindness: Lots of people are crappy to Mulan, but she still tries her best and isn’t mean to anyone. She cares deeply for her family, her people, and her underdog sidekicks. +1
- Leadership: Multiple instances of Mulan taking charge and literally saving the day. She’s probably the strongest leader of the whole group. +1
- Bravery: WENT TO WAR DISGUISED AS A DUDE. Didn’t quit when it got hard. Fought like a badass and saved China. For SURE a brave princess. +1
- Intelligence: Came up with quite a few split second decisions that saved lives and achieved goals. Figured a way up that huge pole when everyone else was sliding down. Managed to conceal her true identity for a long time while on the move and in a high stress situation. +1
- Responsibility: Have I mentioned yet that she took her elderly father’s place and went to war? Or that she never gave up, even when brutally rebuffed? Or how she stuck with it until the threat was eliminated? Mulan is hardcore responsible. +1
- Tiana: 5 points
- Kindness: So sweet! Truly a good, kind soul. +1 for sure.
- Leadership: Tiana exhibits more of a personal leadership style. She leads her own restaurant, of course, and helps keep Lottie in line. This qualifies as leadership to me, so +1 to Ms. T!
- Bravery: It’s pretty brave to strike out on your own as entrepreneur, especially when you’ve suffered great loss. She also takes the frog thing in stride and is willing to put the common good above her personal needs. +1
- Intelligence: Tiana is firmly established as a clever, intelligent, and witty princess. She absolutely gets smarty pants points. +1
- Responsibility: This is a woman who was raised to be responsible! It’s part of her core personality, so yeah, I’m gonna give her a point for that. +1
- Rapunzel: 2 points
- Kindness: She’s not mean, but she is pretty sassy. Overall nice girl, but not to the degree that I think she gets a kindness point. Just my opinion!
- Leadership: Punzie takes charge several times, and things work out her way. She sets the tone for Flynn, and completely enchants everyone at that pub.
- Bravery: Well, she basically escaped from a prison, and defends herself admirably with nothing but a frying pan. She also is willing to lose her special powers in exchange for love. I’m gonna give her a point here. +1
- Intelligence: I feel like it took her a really long time to realize/remember where she came from. And she’s pretty gullible when it comes to Mother Gothel. But, like with Cinderella, she was living with an abuser. Lots of very intelligent people can still be controlled or overpowered by abusive personalities. Plus she thinks of that whole sing to make my nightlight hair grow, so that was good. +1
- Responsibility: Rapunzel is kinda in it for herself, right? She isn’t put in a position of needing to be responsible for much. So no specific points here, but I’m not suggested irresponsibility.
- Merida: 3 points
- Kindness: She’s still in a bit of snarky teenage stage. She’s not mean, but she has some unkind moments (especially with her mom).
- Leadership: From the middle to the end of the movie she leads her mother and brothers (all as bears) and helps to keep them safe. She also takes the lead in general when she announces that she will be shooting for her own hand in the archery tournament. +1
- Bravery: Look, the movie is called Brave. She faces inner demons, wanders off alone, goes up against a bear, and isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo. Definitely a point for bravery. +1
- Intelligence: Merida doesn’t seem particularly smart or stupid to me. She definitely has talents and skills, but she also has that teenage dumbness that so many of us experience.
- Responsibility: At first, Merida was responsible for herself only. She didn’t really care about the impact that her decisions would have on her family/clan. She couldn’t be counted on to be responsible in the ways that she was expected to be. But she did take on more responsibility at the end, sacrificing her own wants for the greater good. So sure, +1
- Moana: 5 points
- Kindness: She’s a little snarky, but her heart is in the right place. Also, who wouldn’t be snarky when dealing with a crew that includes Maui, Tamatoa, and Heihei, amiright? +1
- Leadership: Umm nbd she just saved her entire culture and society. Led them back to voyaging the seas where they belong, heck yes she’s a leader! +1
- Bravery: I definitely wouldn’t have been up for traversing the ocean on my own at age 16, nor confronting a powerful goddess/pissed off volcanic demon. +1 to super bravery.
- Intelligence: Took to the seas and sailed like it was no big deal. Negotiated with a lovably narcissistic demigod and a bling hoarding coconut crab. Oh, and figured out that the bad guy is actually the corrupted good guy missing her heart. Restores the ENTIRE OCEAN to balance and beauty. +1 girl, +1.
- Responsibility: Yeah, single-handedly fixes her entire world and risks it all to do what’s right for her people. Big ups and a +1.
Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, & Moana – Tie For Most Overall Qualified
All of these Disney princess earned 5 out of 5 points on my personal ranking system of princessy attributes. I tried to think of another appropriate attribute that might force a tie-breaker, but so far I’ve got nothing. They’re all just awesome, basically. They’re also all regularly excluded from the core group of elite Disney Princesses. Cinderella, Ariel, Aurora, Belle, and Snow White are the popular crowd. The rest of the ladies are often included, but often left out. But being a true princess isn’t about the fame or the acclaim. It’s just about being a good person! What are your thoughts?
Interested in more princess facts, theories, and random musings? Check out my guide on which Disney princesses are true royalty.