Always a Princess, Never a Queen

Article By The Wolfess

“Oh! I’m Sorry! I got carried away with my story and didn’t even properly introduce myself. I am Zelda, Princess of Hyrule.”

– Zelda, Ocarina of Time

“Princess Zelda”. Almost every Zelda game contains some reference to its namesake, the Princess of Hyrule, Zelda. Whether she is masquerading as Sheik or Tetra, if she is there in person or in spirit, or if we see her in the game or in a flashback, Zelda is always “Princess” Zelda. It’s as if Nintendo made the word “Princess” her first name and “Zelda” her surname.

I will admit that I am quite the Princess Zelda fan, and often find myself wondering why we see her acting in the role of the Monarch, and yet still bearing the title “Princess”. Ocarina of Time bears a single reference to the King of Hyrule—Zelda’s statement in the garden that Ganondorf swears fealty to her father, but she doubts his true intentions—and in The Wind Waker we actually get to meet one of the Kings of Hyrule, but that’s about it. Twilight Princess shows Zelda at the throne, head of the army with sword in hand facing the invader Zant. Spirit Tracks shows Zelda holding ceremonies and running the country under advisers. Neither game mentions a King or Queen. Just Princess Zelda, ruler of Hyrule.

Why is she only “Queen Zelda” by act, and never by title?

Since the Zelda universe gives us few real answers to this question, I found myself examining one of the most powerful Queens in Western history who, oddly enough, found herself in a very similar predicament as our fair Princess: Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Elizabeth’s story is as follows:
Her older sister, Mary, was on the throne of England when Elizabeth was still a relatively young princess of 21. This places her, I would guess, at about the same age as Twilight Princess’s Zelda. Mary was increasingly unpopular with the people of England, and most of her supporters were Catholic. At the time there was an intense religious war between Catholics and Protestants—and Elizabeth, Mary’s younger and despised half-sister, was a Protestant. Not only was she a Protestant, she was also next in line for England’s throne, and therefore the center of many Protestant traitors’ plots.

In 1554, at age 21, Princess Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower of England. In an undefined year, at age 21, Princess Zelda was imprisoned in a tower in Twilight Princess. What an odd coincidence.

On her way to trial just prior her imprisonment, Elizabeth was greeted in London with the sight of the rotting bodies of traitors hanging at various points of the city to serve as examples of a traitor’s fate. This was a fate Elizabeth was well aware she could share.

The English princess was in the tower for two months, during which time she was threatened with death every day by either official or unofficial means. Her room in the Bell Tower (the specific section of the Tower she resided in) was small but comfortable. It was on the first floor and had a large fireplace with three small windows. At first Elizabeth was allowed to walk around the walls of the Tower for exercise, but this was soon discontinued when the head guard discovered that the Princess was receiving visitors. (Can someone say “Zant discovering Link’s visits to Princess Zelda”?)

Elizabeth was already unwell when she entered the tower—pleading illness when called to the trial, which was partially confirmed by one of Queen Mary’s own physicians—and toward the end of her two months in the Tower the stress took its toll. She became pale, suffered with stomach upsets, and lost dangerous weight. Luckily she was loved enough by the people that killing her would not only make Mary more unpopular, but it would also reflect badly on her new Catholic Spanish husband, the King of Spain.

Woodstock Manor

On the King’s advice, after two months in the Tower Elizabeth was transferred to a small castle called Woodstock Manor under theguard of 100 men. She was still a prisoner, but no longer under the immediate threat of beheading. If King Phillip and Queen Mary had their way, Elizabeth would remain a prisoner there for the rest of her life, or until they could prove without a doubt that she was a part of the plot. Woodstock Manor was in bad shape then: cold, wet, and filthy. Princess Elizabeth was as much in danger of catching and dying from pneumonia as she was of being charged with treason. She remained there for the next ten months.

After Elizabeth was freed, poems written by her were found all over her room. For example, the following poem found carved into her window with a diamond:

by Princess Elizabeth

Much suspected by me,
Nothing proved can be,
Quoth ELIZABETH prisoner.

This poem is pretty self-explanatory. The image of Princess Elizabeth carving these simple lines into her glass window with a diamond day after dreary day is rather romantic, and one can assume that it helped her to keep her sanity and brave face amid fear, ill-health, and constant threat of death. If you explore Zelda’s room in Twilight Princess you will find an open journal with hand-written text in it, suggesting that she also used writing as a mental aid.

Another poem was found written on Elizabeth’s wall, though some say it was written with charcoal on the shutters of her room:

by Princess Elizabeth

O FORTUNE! how thy restless wavering State
Hath fraught with Cares my troubled Wit!
Witness this present Prison whither Fate
Hath borne me, and the Joys I quit.
Thou causedest the Guilty to be loosed
From Bands, wherewith are Innocents inclosed;
Causing the Guiltless to be strait reserved,
And freeing those that Death had well deserved:
But by her Envy can be nothing wrought,
So God send to my Foes all they have thought.

In this sonnet, Elizabeth speaks of how troubled she feels, calling upon “fortune” to free her because she is innocent. However “fortune” is envious and nothing comes of it, she says, and so she calls upon God to cause everything her enemies had wished on her to happen to them. Long story short, Elizabeth was freed after a year (total time) of imprisonment and became Queen at age 25 in January 1559, about 4 years later.

This is where Elizabeth’s story drastically differs from Zelda’s. At this point Princess Elizabeth becomes Queen Elizabeth I, and as far as we know Princess Zelda remains “Princess” for the rest of her life. There are some key differences in Elizabeth and Zelda’s lives that are notable in this discussion:

  1. Elizabeth had a widely known and discussed family and history of succession, a rather quick series of successions in recent years as there were two royal siblings’ deaths before her ascent to the throne.
  2. Her imprisonment was caused by another monarch, a sibling at that, and not by an outside invader.
  3. The reason for her imprisonment had to do with suspicion, treason, and sibling rivalry. She was not a prisoner of war.
  4. Elizabeth’s writing was a quiet act of defiance, and a way of keeping herself mentally strong. Keeping notes on enemy activity that might be useful would have been counterproductive.

We know little, if anything, of Zelda’s family or even of the royal dynasty of Hyrule. There is no information on the line of kings and queens, or the bloodline of the Royal family. As far as we know, Zelda also has no siblings or cousins to speak of. This information put Elizabeth in line for the throne, ending up with her eventual succession even though she was not intended to or reared to become Queen. Perhaps these records are not kept in Hyrule, judging by the fact that neither the people in the market places nor other political leaders met in Hyrule’s provinces discuss it.

If this is the case, Zelda’s claim on the throne isn’t as solid as Elizabeth’s was in the case of an unsuspected ascension. If, during the war, the king and his first one or two successors were killed, though Zelda is his daughter and therefore acting ruler she would not have the “paperwork” to claim the throne itself. Princess Zelda, therefore, would act as a steward while the council, or other ruling body in Hyrule, decides on an appropriate permanent ruler.

Princess Zelda, imprisoned in Twilight Princess

The second difference was who imprisoned her, and the third was cause of imprisonment. Elizabeth was imprisoned by an older half-sister who hated her because of suspected treason, and released because she was innocent of the accusation. Zelda is usually imprisoned by the ruler of an outside, invading force simply because of her position of authority in Hyrule. They would have no reason to release her. In fact, they would have every reason to kill her. The only reason they might keep Zelda alive is if she serves some purpose for the invader’s benefit.

The fact that Princess Zelda is the one they choose to imprison and use as collateral suggests that Zelda is indeed the head political force in Hyrule, or at least the political figure with the most power and/or influence. This detracts from the theory that Hyrule had a King or Queen prior to the invasion, except in the case where one is mentioned. We can often assume that the King/Queen was murdered. This also tells us that Zelda didn’t have any siblings, because they would have been kept alive in the case of an invasion and also imprisoned. Since Zelda is the only royal prisoner, we know she is an only child.

The fourth difference involved the writing of the two Princesses. In Twilight Princess, Zelda is shown keeping a journal. Because of the nature of her imprisonment it is highly likely that she kept notes on security patters, intelligence, and other useful information about the enemy she may happen to hear. If Elizabeth had done this she would have confirmed her captors’ suspicion and caused her own death. Her writings were likely more to maintain sanity, whereas Zelda’s could have served dual purposes. It’s interesting to note that in Ocarina of Time Zelda, as Sheik, passes on important information to Link through poems before playing her songs.

Elizabeth was educated along with her siblings, and her writing and speeches are evidence of that great education. Likewise, Zelda’s writing and speeches are evidence that she received a royal education. Whether this was simply because she IS a Princess and therefore should receive a royal education, as was the case with Queen Elizabeth I, or because she was indeed groomed to take over ruling Hyrule upon the death of the King/Queen is unclear. It is a possibility, however, and if she received a royal education because she was intended to take over the throne eventually then we are back where we started.

My theory is merely a suggestion that you can keep or take, but it is at least food for thought. Throughout Queen Elizabeth’s rule she was hounded by parliament to get married and give birth to an heir. She managed to dodge these petitions and demands because there was no law that required her to. What if, in Hyrule there was a law in place that restricted a woman from taking the throne without a husband to ensure an heir? If this were the case, then Zelda would be unable to take on the title and position of “Queen” until she marries, thereby leaving her “Princess” Zelda and acting steward of Hyrule until marriage.

Earlier, we discussed the possibility of lineage records not being kept for the royal family. If this were true then the royal line of Hyrule would be dependent upon direct succession. In Adventure of Link we learn an interesting and significant story about the royal family, called “the legend of Zelda”. The following legend was taken directly from the Prologue section of Zelda Universe’s Adventure of Link page:

“It is said that a long ago, when Hyrule was one country, a great ruler maintained the peace in Hyrule using the Triforce. However, the king too was a child of man and he died. Then, the prince of the kingdom should have become king and inherited everything, but he could inherit the Triforce only in part. The Prince searched everywhere for the missing parts, but could not find them.

Then, a magician close to the king brought him some unexpected news. Before he died, the king had said something about the Triforce to only the younger sister of the prince, Princess Zelda. The prince immediately questioned the princess, but she wouldn’t tell him anything. After the prince, the magician threatened to put the princess into an eternal sleep if she did not talk, but even still, she said nothing.

In his anger, the magician tried to cast a magic spell on the princess. The surprised prince tried to stop him, but the magician fought off the prince and went on chanting the spell. Then, when the spell was finally cast, Princess Zelda fell on that spot and entered a sleep from which she might never awake. At the same time, the magician also fell down and breathed his last.

In his grief, the prince placed the princess in this room. He hoped that someday she would come back to life. So that this tragedy would never be forgotten, he ordered that every female child born into the royal household be given the name Zelda.”

We never again hear of a prince in Hyrule, and every female child born to the royal family is named Zelda. It would make sense that a law eventually be put in place to assure that the next “Zelda” would be born.

In order to assure that the next Zelda, and next heir to the throne, is born and the royal line continues the current Princess Zelda would not be allowed to become Queen until she marries and produces an heir to pass the name and the title “Princess” on to. At this point, she would take on the title “Queen Zelda” while her husband rules as King and chief ruler of Hyrule, and her daughter is “Princess Zelda” until the event of the child’s mother and father’s deaths and her own marriage and ascension.

As I said, this is only a theory, but there is some evidence to support it. I hope it has at least given you food for thought. As we look forward to Skyward Sword and wonder what changes it will bring into the Zelda community, we can also wonder what our Princess’s role in the story will be. I hope we find more information to shed light on the mystery behind the Princess who never becomes Queen.