With the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, everyone wants to know where the princess-to-be got her beginnings. She is certainly paving the way as a modern royal, with her successful acting career, activism for women’s rights, and biracial background making her stand out from the crowd.
Some may find Markle’s lack of royal lineage to be a unique trait, but in reality, royals have been marrying commoners for a long time. From falling in love with their gym trainers to meeting at rock concerts, these 15 royals found their soulmates in ordinary citizens.
1. Rainier III, Prince of Monaco
Grace Kelly may not be the most common of commoners, but she certainly wasn’t royalty. However, all that changed in 1955, when she met Rainier III, the Prince of Monaco, at a Cannes Film Festival photoshoot.
The two got married in 1956, when she retired her only six-year acting career to become Princess of Monaco. They had three children together and remained married until Kelly’s untimely death in 1982. She’d suffered a stroke while driving, causing her to drive over the edge of a 45-foot embankment. She passed away the following day due to her critical injuries.
Next: He married a former Olympic swimmer.
2. Prince Albert II
Kelly and Rainier III’s son, Prince Albert II, carried on his father’s tradition in marrying a commoner. He met his future bride, Charlene Wittstock, in 2000 at a swim meeting in Monaco.
Wittstock is a former South African Olympic swimmer, so it was symbolic that they went public with their relationship during the 2006 Winter Olympics opening ceremony. They tied the knot in 2011 and had fraternal twins in 2014.
Next: He married a hostess.
3. King Carl Gustaf of Sweden
You don’t have to be an Olympian to win a royal’s heart. Silvia Sommerlath was simply working as a hostess at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics when she hit it off with Prince Carl Gustaf of Sweden. When the prince’s grandfather died in 1973, he was next in line for the throne. As the King of Sweden, he married Sommerlath in 1976, which took her immediately from commoner to queen.
She’s now been the longest-serving queen of Sweden, according to Insider. They are also parents to three children, who now have a total of five children of their own.
Next: She was in one of his gym classes.
4. Crown Princess Victoria
Princess Victoria met her dream guy in 2001, but it wasn’t who anyone expected. She fell in love with gym trainer and owner Daniel Westling after meeting during one of his sessions. Westling continued to pursue his fitness passion in starting a new gym company in 2006, called Balance. Only three years later, he offered up his seat as CEO.
We’d say it was a step in the right direction, as his title changed from gym company CEO to Prince of Sweden and Duke of Västergötland when he wed Victoria in 2010. They’re now parents of two, so we’d say they lived happily ever after.
Next: He married a model and reality TV contestant.
5. Prince Carl Phillip
Victoria’s brother, Prince Carl Phillip, continued the family trend of marrying outside of royalty. The prince married Sofia Hellqvist in 2015 after dating for five years.
Before she became the Princess of Sweden and Duchess of Värmland, she was a model and a reality TV contestant. Like his sister, the prince and his newly royal spouse have two children.
Next: They met playing tennis.
6. Emperor Akihito
Michiko Shōda made history as the “first commoner to marry into the Imperial family,” according to Insider. She met the future Emperor of Japan while playing tennis in 1957. Back then, the then-prince’s relationship was scandalous considering Shōda’s lack of royal lineage.
They tied the knot in 1959 anyway, and have since had three children together.
Next: He proposed to her twice.
7. Crown Prince Naruhito
After earning her degree in economics from Harvard, Masako Owada continued her education by returning to Japan in 1986. There, she attended the University of Tokyo to study law, but she somehow managed to fit in time to find love with Crown Prince Naruhito. Owada had been invited to tea with the Duchess of Lugo, which is where she met the emperor’s son.
They got married in 1993 — but only after the prince proposed to her twice. They had a daughter in 2001 and have remained married since. So even though it took two proposals, this royal couple has stayed strong for many years.
Next: She didn’t know he was royal.
8. King Willem-Alexander
Like something out of a movie, Máxima Zorreguieta didn’t know of Prince Willem-Alexander’s royal status when they first met in 1999. They crossed paths at the Sevilla State Fair in Spain, where the prince only introduced himself as Alexander to his future bride.
At the time, Zorreguieta was vice president of institutional sales at Deutsche Bank in New York City, after earning her degree in economics. Even though she is technically a descendant of King Afonso III of Portugal on her father’s side, she wasn’t really considered royalty until she married Willem-Alexander in 2002.
Since then, they’ve had three daughters together, and they ascended the throne as king and queen of the Netherlands in 2013.
Next: He married a journalist and news anchor.
9. King Felipe VI
Letizia Ortiz may be the Queen of Spain, but she’s also the first commoner ever to hold the title. She was a journalist and news anchor before wedding then-Prince Felipe VI in 2004, which also happens to be her second marriage.
The parents of two became king and queen in 2014, after Felipe’s father abdicated the throne.
Next: He married a student of the National University of Lesotho.
10. King Letsie III
Before ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso married King Letsie III in 2000, she was known as Anna Karabo Mots’oeneng. She’d been studying at the National University of Lesotho three years earlier when they met, and they got engaged in 1999.
As the King and Queen of Lesotho, they’ve added three new members to the royal family with children of their own.
Next: They met at a bar.
11. Prince Frederik
Mary Elizabeth Donaldson won over Prince Frederik’s heart during the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. They were both at a bar in the area, Slip Inn, which is where fate would force their meeting. While she moved to Denmark to be with her beau in 2002, she also found work as a project consultant at Microsoft Business Solutions.
However, in 2004, she became Crown Princess of Denmark and Countess of Monpezat once she and Frederik wed. They’ve since had four children together, and Frederik stands as the heir apparent to the throne.
Next: They met through a mutual friend.
12. Prince Joachim
Prince Joachim and Marie Agathe Odile Cavallier met like any normal couple: at a party hosted by a mutual friend. They may have fallen in love while dating, but when it came time to decide on marriage, Cavallier wasn’t completely sure she wanted to be royalty. However, she decided to swap out her marketing career for her duties as Princess of Denmark once they wed in May 2008.
The prince has two children from his previous marriage. So in addition to Joachim and Cavallier’s two children of their own, they definitely have their hands full.
Next: He married an event planner for Diane von Fürstenberg.
13. Prince Nikolaos
Prince Nikolaos met his future wife, Tatiana Blatnik, in 2003 — the same year she graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in sociology. Before their marriage, Blatnik had a pretty impressive gig. She was an event planner for Diane von Fürstenberg until 2010, but she left her job once she started preparing to wed Nikolaos the same year.
Next: They met at a rock concert.
14. Crown Prince Haakon
We’re sure Crown Prince Haakon and Mette-Marit Tjessem Hoiby could be found listening to rock music in their royal home. After all, the two met at Quart Festival, which is Norway’s biggest rock festival. However, they didn’t pursue each other until they met for a second time after a few years, and Hoiby was raising a child on her own.
They’ve been together since and had two children together after marrying in 2001.
Next: His wife was destined for royalty.
15. Prince William
It may seem like royalty was Kate Middleton’s calling, but she was simply an art history student when she met Prince William. The two were attending the University of St. Andrews, and the stars aligned for them to meet in 2001. They dated on-and-off for a number of years, but a 2007 breakup scared us into thinking they were done for good.
According to Marie Claire, “Rumours were circulating at the time that the two of them were in different places, with Kate ready to commit but Prince William wanting to make the most of his youth and freedom.”
Whatever the reason, we’re just happy they got back together. They got married on April 29, 2011, and it felt like the whole world was watching. They are parents to Prince George, 4 and Princess Charlotte, 2, and have baby No. 3 on the way.
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