Royals Who Married Commoners

Though royal families have historically sought royal matches, members of royal families worldwide have opted to marry so-called "commoners," or non-royals. Though many people dream of marrying into royalty, there are arguably numerous downsides. Included among these is the pressure to produce heirs (sometimes only a male will do), lack of privacy, and near-constant criticism. Some seem to thrive in the role, while others eventually conclude that it's not the life for them.

Some commoners have had to make concessions, like renouncing their original citizenship, as was the case for American socialite Hope Cooke who married an Indian prince in 1963, and others have experienced mental health tolls, like Japan's Princess Mako and Prince Harry's wife Meghan Markle (per The Week). There can be no doubt that marrying into a royal family comes with its perks, but it definitely means that you will live a large portion of your life in the public sphere.

For royals in Lesotho to Bhutan and Spain to Britain, marrying commoners has become, well, fairly common these days.

Japan's Princess Mako forfeited her royal status when she married her college sweetheart

Japan's Princess Mako met her future husband, Kei Komuro, met at a restaurant in Tokyo while they were students at the International Christian University (per People). They became engaged in 2013, but only announced their plans to marry in 2017. They eventually wed without the customary fanfare in October 2021 because, according to the Imperial Household Agency, "their marriage is not celebrated by many people" (via People).

Marrying Komuro, a commoner, meant that Princess Mako would forfeit her royal status. In addition to passing up a lavish wedding, she declined a $1.3 million payout that female members of the monarchy are eligible to receive upon leaving the royal family.

As a result of the negativity surrounding their relationship, Princess Mako was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, but Komuro has steadfastly stood by her. "I love Mako. You only live once, and I think that my wish is to live my life together with someone that I love. Until now, we have had happy times, and not so happy times, but we faced them together" (per Japan Forward).

Monaco's Prince Rainier III married American actress Grace Kelly

Until her death in 1982, Princess Grace of Monaco appeared to be living a fairytale. Beginning life in Philadelphia as one of four siblings in an affluent family, Grace Kelly grew up to become an Academy Award-winning actress (per Britannica). She met her future husband, Prince Rainier III while traveling to the Cannes Film Festival. According to her son, Prince Albert II, it was actress Olivia de Havilland and her husband who had the idea to introduce Kelly to Rainier (per Town & Country). After a meeting at his palace, the two kept in touch and were married within a year. 

Kelly, who starred in "Rear Window" and "To Catch a Thief," gave up acting and moved to the French Riviera, where she gave birth to three children. With life as a commoner behind her, Kelly immersed herself in charity work even as her personal life seemed to disintegrate. With rumors of alcoholism and adultery plaguing her marriage, Kelly was driving along a winding road when she was believed to have suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and crashed her car, according to The New York Times. She died soon afterward as a result of her injuries.

Greece's Prince Pavlos married American heiress Marie-Chantal Miller

When commoner Marie-Chantal Miller's pal Alecko Papamarkou told her that he had the perfect match for her, she wasn't interested. Nevertheless, she accompanied him to shipping scion Philip Niarchos' 40th birthday celebration, where (as Papamarkou had ensured) she sat next to fellow guest, Prince Pavlos of Greece. She later told Vanity Fair, "And we clicked. It was love at first sight. I knew that he was the person I would marry." The prince was equally smitten. "I was completely taken. I'm not the kind of person who had girlfriends and then had little affairs on the side. I always had a girlfriend and moved on and went to another one. But the moment I saw Marie-Chantal, I said, well, this is what I've been looking for. Alecko was right."

The prince grew up outside of Greece because his family was forced into exile as the result of a coup (per The New York Times). Though the Greek Monarchy was ultimately abolished in the 1970s, the prince retains his title. Marie-Chantal is the daughter Duty Free Shops founder and billionaire Robert Miller. When she married the prince, Robert Miller provided a $200 million dowry.

Rania Al-Abdullah was never supposed to be Jordan's queen

When commoner and Palestinian refugee Rania Al-Yasin married Prince Abdullah II of Jordan, she never expected to become the country's queen (per Oprah.com). Though her husband was the eldest son of King Hussein, he was not the next in line to the throne. That changed in 1999, however, when the king altered the line of succession on his death bed, making Prince Abdullah II his successor. When the king died a few weeks later, Abdullah II ascended to the throne and his wife became Queen Rania Al-Abdullah.

Queen Rania and the king have four children together, including a son who is the crown prince and is set to follow in his father's footsteps. According to her website, the queen is devoted to improving the life of Jordanian citizens and she is UNICEF's first Eminent Advocate for Children. She is involved in numerous charitable organizations and heads up several initiatives. Though she recognizes that her life may look like a fairytale, she claims that "being queen is overrated" (via Oprah.com).

The King of Bhutan met his future wife when she was just 7 years old

The story goes that after spotting him at a picnic, Jetsun Pema (who was 7 years old at the time) approached the future king of Bhutan (who was 17) and told him that she wanted to marry him someday (via Tatler). According to India Today his response was, "When you grow up, if I am single and not married and if you are single and not married, I would like you to be my wife." Three years after ascending to the crown, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who was then 31, wed Pema in a lavish traditional ceremony. Their union made her the world's youngest queen.

The king, who is often referred to as the "People's King," is known to be a more progressive ruler than his father, and is dedicated to the people of Bhutan. He is also known for being quite humble and approachable. Pema, a commoner whose father was an airline pilot, is also beloved by the tiny nation. She and the king are the parents of two children.

Lesotho's King Letsie III bucked royal tradition and will married only one woman

The country of Lesotho, which is completely surrounded by South Africa, gained its independence from Great Britain in 1966 (per Britannica). However, the country's monarchy is still intact, although King Letsie III fulfills mostly a ceremonial role nowadays. 

A longtime bachelor prior to marrying commoner Anna Karabo Motšoeneng in 2000, King Letsie, a Roman Catholic, further balked at his royal family's tradition by declaring that he would be monogamous. "I would never contemplate marrying a second wife just to father a son,” he told the Independent. The couple has three children, including one male who is slated to become king one day.

In 2014, Queen Masenate Mohato Seeiso, as she is now known, talked with the Lesotho Times about settling into her role (via Face 2 Face Africa). "As you know, I was a commoner who married His Majesty, which was very rare and also says a lot about his humble nature," she explained. "I am thankful for the support I received from the Royal Family. His family accepted and loved me and taught me almost everything that I know today. I am now comfortable and no longer intimidated by my role as queen." 

King Maha Vajiralongkorn's fourth wife used to be his bodyguard

In May of 2019, just days prior to his coronation, the man who would become the king of Thailand married commoner Suthida Bajrasudhabimalalakshana. The marriage had come as a surprise because the palace had never confirmed their relationship (via South China Morning Post). It was the fourth marriage for King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who came to know Bajrasudhabimalalakshana when she joined the Ratchawanlop Guards, whose duty it is to protect the Crown Prince. Prior to joining the elite protection corps, Bajrasudhabimalalakshana had worked as a flight attendant for several years. By 2016, however, she had also risen to the rank of general in the Thai Army. 

In 2021, the public had cause to wonder about the queen, who went unseen for several months. Some speculated that she had suffered a fate similar to her three predecessors; the king, who is reportedly prone to exiling and humiliating his former wives, according to the South China Morning Post. Fears were allayed, however, in 2022. Queen Suthida was seen attending a gala to celebrate the king's mother's 90th birthday (via Bangkok Post).

Nigeria's Prince Kunle married an American model

"You are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen in my entire life. Would you do me the honor of having your number? I'd love to take you out." These were the first words American model Keisha Omilana heard upon meeting her future husband, Nigeria's Prince Adekunle "Kunle" Adebayo Omilana (per Essence). Keisha, who modeled in campaigns for Pantene, Maybelline, and Covergirl turned him down initially but then decided to take a chance. For their first date, he rented out an entire restaurant and covered the floor in rose petals in an effort to impress her (per Business Insider). 

The couple dated for two years — all without Keisha knowing that he was African royalty. His mother referred to her as her "princess," but she assumed this was merely a term of endearment. "And when you hear, 'princess,' well, all moms call their daughters princess," she explained to Business Insider. "So that's what I thought she was saying. But then we sat down and she told me the story of who her son was, what his name means, where he comes from, and I was just like 'oh my goodness.'" As of this writing, the married royal couple lives in London and are the parents of two. 

Princess Diana was from a noble family but was still considered a commoner

Though Diana Spencer was born into nobility, she was considered a commoner when she married Prince Charles (per Biography). Just 16 when she first met the prince, Diana only began dating him after his romance with her older sister fizzled. In 1980, Diana made a lasting impression on her future husband when she thoughtfully comforted him after his mentor was killed in an IRA bombing. 

From there, the romance progressed until Prince Charles was urged by his father to make a decision about the relationship. Charles asked Diana to marry him, and despite both having misgivings, they recited their vows in front of the whole world in 1981. Their marriage began to disintegrate almost immediately, and Diana, aware of Charles' relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, confronted his mistress in 1986. "I obviously am in the way and it must be hell for both of you but I do know what is going on. Don't treat me like an idiot," she reportedly said (via Biography).

Twenty years following Diana's tragic death, taped interviews surfaced in which Diana stated, "[My wedding was the] worst day of my life. If I could write my own script, I would have my husband go away with his woman and never come back" (per Closer).

Princes William and Harry followed their father's example

Following in his father's footsteps, Prince William went on to marry a non-royal. He met his wife, a wealthy commoner named Kate Middleton, while they were students at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Marrying the prince came as no surprise to Kate's boarding school friends, who had nicknamed her "princess in waiting" (per Seattle Times). Kate, who became a member of the royal family upon her marriage to William, is well-liked by the British public. Royal expert Rebecca Long confirmed to Us Weekly that "William and Kate are the favorite royals to take the crown in many generations."

Like his father Prince Charles and his brother Prince William, Prince Harry also married a commoner. In 2016, he met American actress Meghan Markle through a mutual friend. The pair had a few months of privacy before word got out about their romance. Once discovered, the press was relentless, causing Harry to become extremely concerned about what he termed the "wave of abuse and harassment" that Meghan, a commoner, was being subjected to. After their marriage, the royal couple stepped away from their royal duties and moved to the United States. They attributed their decision to racism in the British media and the pressure they were experiencing as members of the royal family (per Economic Times). 

Spain's queen was a former journalist

Well-known Spanish news anchor Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano was covering an oil spill disaster when she met Crown Prince Filipe, who was there to show support (per Style). Before long, the two embarked on a romantic relationship. The prince's love interest initially put off many of his subjects because of her status as both a commoner and divorced woman, but those concerns fell away over the years. In the end, she has proven to be far less scandalous than her royal father-in-law, who abdicated after 40 years on the throne due to a corruption investigation, and her sister-in-law, who became embroiled in tax-related controversies (per BBC).

Her status as a divorcée, which initially sent a shockwave through the country, was mitigated due to the fact that her first marriage was a civil union, and thus did not require an annulment (via NPR).

In the years since their 2004 marriage, Queen Letizia has won over a large swath of the population. She is a darling of the fashion magazines and a very devoted mom to the couple's two daughters. 

Norway's Prince Haakon married a single mom

When Crown Prince Haakon of Norway married former waitress and single mom, Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby in 2001, his parents supported the union (via Hello!). King Harald V of Norway and his wife,Queen Sonja even presented their future daughter-in-law with a beautiful antique tiara to mark the occasion, and Mette-Marit's son Marius, who was four at the time, participated as a page at the wedding ceremony. Because of her status before meeting the crown prince, Mette-Marit has often been referred to as a modern-day Cinderella. 

While their relationship was embraced by her royal in-laws, some Norwegians were concerned about the prince's choice because Marius' father had gone to prison for assault and drug possession (per Britannica). However, the princess made inroads with the public when she held a press conference to address the issue, and Marius eventually opted out of royal life when he went to college in California. Upon his departure, his mother wrote, "Marius is, and will continue to be, a vital member of our family" (via People).

Monaco's Prince Albert married Olympian Charlene Wittstock

When South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock married Prince Albert of Monaco in 2011, she assumed the title of her husband's late mother, Grace Kelly: Princess of Monaco. Though inevitable comparisons have been made between the two women, Wittstock arguably had much more to contend with before marrying her prince. For starters, he had already fathered two children out of wedlock, which made them ineligible to ascend to the crown. As such, the pressure was on them to produce an heir (via The New York Times), which they did in 2014 upon welcoming their twins.

Royal watchers suspect that Wittstock's experience as a commoner who married into royalty hasn't exactly been a fairytale (per The Guardian). Many speculated that when she cried during their wedding ceremony, she was not exactly shedding tears of joy. However, the princess has refuted those claims, according to the Daily Mail.

Farah Pahlavi was studying in Paris when she met the shah of Iran

In 1959, Farah Pahlavi (née Diba) was a commoner studying architecture at the Iranian Embassy in Paris when she met Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi at a reception (per Farah Pahlavi). Married that same year at the age of 21, she became his third wife and the Queen of Iran (per RadioFreeEurope). They went on to have four children together and in 1967, the shah crowned her the Empress of Iran. "I've always said that the day I was crowned [empress of Iran] represented the crowning of every woman in my country," she told RadioFreeEurope.

By 1979, Shahbanou, as she was affectionately known, would be living in exile due to the Islamic Revolution. Shortly thereafter, her husband died from cancer, and she has also outlived two of her children. "I always want to keep hope alive and not allow bitterness in my heart, and I always say that I hope light will overcome darkness," she said.