The most beautiful princesses and queens in history

Beauty is, of course, an eternally subjective concept. But there is an enduring archetype of fairytale beauty — like something out of the brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen.  And sometimes, the glamour of the quintessential fairytale princess equates to the glamour of real-life royalty.

In this day and age, people like Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton are certainly perpetuating the elegant sophistication that figures like the late Princess Diana brought to British royalty. But the world has always had its share of princesses and queens who were so stunning they could have (and, indeed, sometimes did) come straight out of a silver screen era Hollywood (or Disney) film. 

Some of these women are well-known and others have been largely lost to the obscurity of pop culture, if not history. But all of the below figures are definitely as dazzling as anything out of a storybook, in their own ways.

Princess Fawzia of Egypt

Described by The New York Times Magazine as "a more luscious version of Hedy Lamarr, a softer Vivien Leigh," Princess Fawzia of Egypt was breathtaking. The daughter of King Fuad I, son of Ismail the Magnificent, and Queen Nazli Sabri, the princess grew up in opulence and luxury

In 1939, through an arranged marriage at age 17, Fawzia wed Mohammed Reza, the crown prince of Iran. The couple had a daughter, Princess Shahnaz. But the marriage was not a happy one for Fawzia. In 1942, the princess (who later became empress of Iran after her husband became shah) was photographed for Life magazine by Cecil Beaton, who remarked upon the contrast between her perfect and sculpted features and her "sad and mournful eyes."

Eventually, Fawzia divorced the shah, remarried, got happier, and had two other children. She died at the impressive age of 91 in 2013. 

Grace Kelly of Monaco

Grace Kelly, unarguably the most famous movie-star-turned-princess who ever lived, started out as an actress whose talent was commensurate with her beauty. She gave stunning performances in 1953's Mogambo and 1954's The Country Girl, and was mesmerizing in the three films she did with Alfred Hitchcock.

Despite the promise of her career, Kelly chose to "retire" from acting when she met Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1955. In 1956, the two wed. Though Hitchcock subsequently approached Kelly and asked her to play the lead role in Marnie (which ended up going to Tippi Hedren), Kelly declined, citing her royal duties. Apparently because of royal propriety, her films were banned in Monaco, and some say that she went on to regret giving up her career. Kelly tragically died in a car accident at the age of 52, but the legacy of her glamour and intelligence lives on.

Rita Hayworth

Grace Kelly's royal associations may be widely known, but not as many people know that one of her contemporaries, the equally famous Rita Hayworth, was also a princess (at least for a while).

As Grace Kelly had before her, Hayworth left her film career (and her contract with Columbia Pictures) to marry Prince Ali Salman Aga Khan of Pakistan. The two were wed in 1947 in Cannes, France. They had a daughter, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, but the marriage did not go well. In 1951, amid rumors of her husband's infidelity, Hayworth filed for divorce. Her request was finally granted in 1953.

Hayworth died of Alzheimer's in 1987, and her final years were largely unhappy. But the world will always have Gilda and the legacy of her pin-up queen glamour. She was Hollywood royalty, and that's really all that counts in the end, as far as enduring legacies go.

Princess Marie of Romania

Princess Marie of Edinburgh was born to Russian Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna and Prince Alfred Duke of Edinburgh in 1875. Nicknamed "Missy," the princess possessed an Alice in Wonderland like beauty in her youth. She was known for her "sparkling blue eyes and silky fair hair, framing delicate features," as Julia P. Gilardi put it in her book Born to Rule. Said to have been courted by Winston Churchill, Marie eventually wed Prince Ferdinand, Crown Prince of Romania.  

In addition to giving birth to six children, Marie worked as a nurse during World War II. According to an account in the National Business Times, she eventually settled by the Black Sea, dying of cirrhosis in 1938. Poetically, her heart was removed from her body and buried with her husband, but later exhumed and moved to several places throughout the Carpathian mountains, including the famous Bran (Dracula's) castle in Transylvania. 

Princess Gayatri Devi

The daughter of Princess Indira Raje of Baroda and Prince Jitendra Narayan of the Koch Dynasty of Ancient Assam, Princess Gayatri Devi was raised in opulence. With her riveting dark eyes, flowing dark hair, (sometimes) ruby lips, and elegant features, she was admired the world over for her beauty and fashion sense. 

She wed Major General HH Maharaja Sawai Shri Sir Man Singh II in 1940; she was his third wife, and eventually became his widow. Known for her kindness and philanthropy, she was once voted the 4th most beautiful woman of the 20th century, and American Vogue (via The Independent) called her one of the most beautiful women in the world. She had an action-packed life that was sometimes fraught with tragedy, but in an interview with the Times of India shortly before her death at age 90, she stated that she had lived a happy life, and had no regrets.

Isabella of Portugal

The daughter of Maria of Aragon and Manuel I of Portugal, Isabella of Portugal, born in 1503, had a happy childhood, and grew up to be a beautiful girl, celebrated for her learned intelligence. In 1526, she wed Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, thereby becoming Queen of Spain. 

As author and British historian Henry Kamen explained it, though the marriage had initially been motivated by political factors, the two quickly fell in deep and abiding love. Their union, interrupted as it was by Charles' frequent travels, was a happy one, until Isabella tragically died of complications surrounding one of her pregnancies.

By all accounts, Charles V was completely devastated; he is said to have dressed in black for the rest of his days, and he never remarried. Isabella's beauty was later captured by the great painter Titian, after the grief-stricken Charles commissioned him to paint a portrait of his wife.

Princess Ameerah Al Taweel of Saudi Arabia

Born in November of 1983, Ameerah Al Taweel of Saudi Arabia is one of today's most beautiful princesses. Al Taweel met Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal while she was still a student; she had the good fortune to land an interview with him for her school paper. Romance blossomed between the two, despite their substantial age difference, and she became royalty by marriage, after marrying her Prince at age 18. They amicably divorced in 2013.

In addition to being admired for her philanthropy, Al Taweel is an advocate for women's rights, especially in her native country of Saudi Arabia. Though she's dedicated to educating the public about misconceptions surrounding Islam, she also claims to be a proponent of freedom of speech. During a 2012 interview with the Wall Street Journal, she spoke at length about her activism and projects. In 2012, she also shared a video that radical Islam considered to be "controversial," via her Twitter account.

Queen Rania of Jordan

Born on August 31, 1970, Rania Al-Yassin became queen consort of Jordan after she married Prince Abdullah, who later became king. Queen Rania is as celebrated for her philanthropy, business sense, and widespread use of social media as she is for her looks. According to Business Insider, she once held high-powered positions at companies like Citibank and Apple, and has over 4 million Instagram followers.

In 2016, she gave an interview to CNN, in which she discussed subjects like unemployment and poverty, education, the Syrian refugee crisis (particularly as it relates to children) and religious extremism. "Extremists historically always rely on the complacency of moderates," she pointed out. "They think that we're not going to do anything. They mobilize, and we don't."

Moreover, the queen uses her official website largely to promote various humanitarian causes. All of which makes for a perfect combination of beauty and brains. 

Nefertiti

Queen Nefertiti may be second only to Cleopatra, as far as the beauty of ancient queens goes. And she might even be first, at that. The wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten, she reigned during the 14th century B.C., and was known for her love of art. She and her husband had six daughters, and may have had a son. The royal couple also worshiped Aten, the sun god, and established a dignified (i.e. non-Manson like) cult around him. 

Most accounts maintain that Nefertiti was as powerful as her husband, and some historians even believe that she may have dressed herself as a man. Her name literally translates to "a beautiful woman has come," and the bust of her that was found in 1913 indeed seems to confirm her comeliness. Said artifact portrays her as being tall and angular, with sculpted cheekbones, a Mona Lisa-like smile, and a placid expression of wisdom.