The romance between middle-class business executive Rania al Yassin and Prince Abdullah II bin al-Hussein of Jordan sounds like a Cinderella-story-come-true. It all started in January 1993, when Rania agreed to accompany a co-worker to a formal dinner party held by the King of Jordan’s daughter. The Prince of Jordan also happened to be in attendance, and he fell instantly in love with Rania upon their first meeting. The commoner and the royal began a whirlwind romance, with their courtship, engagement and marriage all occurring in less than six months.
The story could have ended there. But when King Hussein bin Talal fell ill in 1999, he unexpectedly named his son, not his brother, as his successor. On February 7, 1999, Prince Abdullah became King of Jordan and, six weeks later, the 28-year-old Rania became queen. As the new monarch, Rania proved to be more than just a pretty face. She used her status to become a powerful advocate for reform in the Arab world, working to improve education, public health, women’s rights and the development of a sustainable tourism industry. And they all lived happily ever after.
As Commander of the Royal Victorian Order and Personal Aide-de-Camp to the Queen, handsome commoner Captain Mark Phillips proved to be anything but common. In addition to his illustrious military career, this eligible bachelor also distinguished himself as a champion equestrian; by 1972, he had helped his team win the 11th World Championships, the 7th European Championships, and a gold medal at the Munich Olympics.
But Phillips met his match when he was introduced to Princess Anne, who had not only won the individual title at the European Eventing Championship, but was also voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1971 for her horse-riding skills. She also happened to be the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the heads of Britain’s royal family. So when a romance blossomed between Mark and Anne, the country took notice.
Their wedding on November 14, 1973, was the first in 200 years in which a member of the British Royal Family married a commoner. An estimated 500 million television viewers watched the couple’s nuptials, and the day was declared a national holiday.
By 1955, Grace Kelly was considered among the most beautiful, highest paid and well-respected actresses in the world. So it came as no surprise that, while serving on the United States Delegation Committee at the Cannes Film Festival in France, she managed to dazzle Prince Rainier III of Monaco. The prince, who had described his ideal mate as a woman with hair “the color of autumn leaves‚” and eyes of “blue or violet, with flecks of gold,” had found his perfect match in Kelly, whom he met during a photo shoot at his home.
As the sole heir of his principality, the royal also happened to be desperately seeking a bride: In accordance to tradition, Monaco would revert to the ownership of France if Rainier could not produce a male heir. The match was made, and Grace Kelly wed her prince on April 19, 1956, in a ceremony dubbed “the Wedding of the Century.”
The marriage was not without its price, however; Kelly had to leave her acting career in order to become princess, and her new husband banned her past films from being played in Monaco. But on March 14, 1958, the prince finally welcomed his heir, Prince Albert, keeping Monaco safely out of French hands.
These are only a few examples of commoners who became royals. To see more, visit our Commoners to Royals group.