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I know it is rather unusual, but I am toying with the idea of a king's daughter joining the army. This daughter is not the usual princessy princess, but she is serious, strong and often cold. If she can join the army out of her own will or by her father's orders, what would be the outcome? Will she refuse to wear dresses? Challenge her suitors into a fight?

And if she will join the army, what could be the possible reasons?

It's in German medieval setting. But I'm open to other ideas from other countries.

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    Hi, welcome to Writers SE! You seem to be asking people to find story ideas for you, which is off topic on this site. Check out this page to know what questions are on-topic here. Jan 2, 2018 at 10:20
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it belongs to World Building SE
    – FraEnrico
    Jan 2, 2018 at 10:50
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    Isn't this more History.SE than Worldbuilding.SE? Jan 2, 2018 at 14:38
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    As a Worldbuilding person, this would be too broad. Best to ask in History as an 'is there an example of a medieval princess serving in an army?'
    – kingledion
    Jan 2, 2018 at 17:17
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    3 things first (but agree with the vote to close). 1) You need to define Medieval - both time and culture. 2) This is very much a what to write and as such, off topic. 3) This also isn't an "unusual" or original idea - your describing most of the "plot twists"/"unique character" for generic YA fantasy heroines - it's cookie cutter. And the Trial of Blood & Steel series does exactly this.
    – user18397
    Jan 3, 2018 at 1:15

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It depends on the view of your society. Medival Vikings raided with their woman, even woman or daughters of the leader raided among the men. If your society allows it, why not?

The results of joining the army may depend on the way the king is thinking. In a military state joining the army is the greatest honor someone could have. If it is not common and the king is against it, then it could depend between displeasure and refusing the heritage to the throne. It all depends on your setting and the personality of the king.

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I would take my cue from the (handful of) real women that joined armies. Most of them do it to save their countries, not for fun.

She wasn't exactly a "princess," but Joan of Arc was a medieval girl who joined the French army, and (for a time) became its leading general. In real life!

The reason this could happen was because she gained the ear of the king through her prophetic ability. A princess (by definition) would have her father as the king, and could gain the king's ear that way.

Queen Elizabeth I (formerly a princess) took personal command of her army at Tillsbury, when the Spanish Armada threatened an invasion of England.

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  • Actually, some French historians claim that Joan of Arc was the princess of Orleans, or more precisely, the half-sister of the King of France (and not a shepherdess at all). And this certainly could be true, most of the written records we have of Joan of Arc were actually written posthumously. So if that's true, the example of Joan of Arc is a perfect example of what the asker was originally asking about. Source: books.google.com/… Feb 9, 2018 at 9:53
  • @StephanBranczyk: Ok. Fair enough.
    – Tom Au
    Feb 14, 2018 at 1:05
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TLDR: Not for extended periods, okay for short or sudden action

No, but

Thinking about an England/France/Spain type of medieval, no, not really. I assume you want something rather historical and not fantasy. St. Joan of Arc who was eventually burned for wearing men's clothing and is a shining example of the contrary.

A princess could participate in war councils, providing insight and thoughts, but she would not participate in a long action with the boys. Queen Elizabeth of England did not take to the battlefield herself.

Eleanor of Aquitaine accompanied both her husband to war.

  • She would be a distraction to the men who are most likely to try to protect her over accomplishing their own objectives
  • The men would wonder why she is here and her presence would cause disruptions.
  • The rest of the command would look for her.
  • Women would sometime help during sieges by bringing ammunition/ bandages/ help the wounded away from the front.

Now if: - She ran through the lines and charge headlong into combat, that is quite possible, but would create more chaos. - Her army is pushed back and she moves to help in the defense, that could work. (say her army is on the run and she joins the rearguard).

In short, historically men do not want women serving on the front line.

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  • Note, that Joan of Arc was not burned because of "wearing men's clothing", she was burned by her enemies who came up with such a charge. Without being captured, she wouldn't have suffered such a fate. And after she was captured, she would probably have been executed no matter what. So, she is a bad example for your arguments.
    – vsz
    Jan 2, 2018 at 18:07
  • Name one other woman who went in the trenches the way Joan did that people know about... Jan 3, 2018 at 18:10
  • @JPChapleau - Boudica
    – user18397
    Jan 4, 2018 at 10:41
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Historical or historical-fantasy? Remember that you have quite a lot more leeway in the latter not to get derailed by nitpicking of plausibility.

There have been examples of women as power-politics leaders in their own right; I'm thinking of Empress Matilda and her long civil war in England, but there's also the Elizabeth/Mary rivalry. Female duellists and pirates are not unheard of either, for example Julie d'Aubigny. Fighting in plate is a serious physical challenge but fighting with a rapier and light armor much more feasible.

Probably the first step in making this scenario happen would be the current King explicitly naming her as a successor, causing other successors to object at which point the Princess needs to have a personal army to fight her claim.

Legitimate suitors are something of a problem. As Elizabeth I realised, getting married could subordinate her to her husband and lose the top status.

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It was certainly unusual for women to be soldiers. Then and now. But not unheard of. There are a handful of very well-known cases: Joan of Arc, Isabella of Castile, and Eleanor of Aquitaine, for example.

Obvious reasons would be: The male leaders are losing the war and she's convinced, rightly or wrongly, that she can do better. She wants adventure and excitement. Maybe she's encouraged or pushed into it by members of the nobility who want to see her killed to make way for some other member of the royal family that they prefer. She expects to become queen and she believes she needs experience in military matters. She believes her presence will inspire the troops and improve morale. One could think of many reasons.

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If she can join the army out of her own will or by her father's orders, what would be the outcome? Will she refuse to wear dresses?

She could join as a man.

By not wanting do draw attention or even be refused, she would cut her hair, wear men’s clothes and armor, and generally try to behave like a man.

She would undergo training with weapons, combat, etc.

She would watch men and model their behavior.

Her father probably wouldn’t know, she would develop a plan and a cover story so that he would not seek her. And a cover story for her identity as a warrior, who she was, where she came from, and why she joined.

And if she will join the army, what could be the possible reasons?

Coming to rescue the love of her live who is said to have been captured by the enemy.

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    You just summed up Mulan
    – Pawana
    Jan 3, 2018 at 6:59
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    @Pawana LOL wasn’t aware, probably an age old topic in literature, female strength and courage in a male world
    – michi
    Jan 3, 2018 at 8:30
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    Mulan and Elizabeth Swan as well. :D
    – J. Line
    Jan 14, 2018 at 11:31
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Ummm, she can order the general to let her join. When he refuses, she orders the slaughter of his troops. The General, as she anticipated, takes the first option. That sends a clear message of what's at stake, asserts her authority and clarity of vision. Of course, there's unintended consequences of such an action. If she is to become a great leader, she needs to defeat the country's long standing, threatening, arch rival. Something her father's advisors repeatedly failed at. She does so through cleverness and guile but there's an unintended consequence to her victory. A new rival appears who is every bit her match and seemingly immune to her style.

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In general, no

In German medieval times, it sounds unlikely that a princess, i.e. the daughter of a living king, would be able to join the army in any credible manner. The main reason is that she would not have the authority to partake such a decision, nor she would be considered able in terms of fighting, or commanding. Remember that soldiers or aristocratic extractions in medieval times were far more trained than professionals: they trained their entire life. The other soldiers were akin to random fodder.

Maybe in some special situations

If the king were to die, and there were no other heirs, and the woman in question were old enough, then the situation would be different. Depending on the country, the princess may become ruler, hence she would have access, for instance, to a commanding role in the army.

Another special situation, as suggested in other answers, would be to follow the path of Jean D'Arc.

A real life example of a successful Margrave from the Dark Ages

Finally, for the very special "one-of-a-kind", I suggest giving a read to the life of Matilda of Tuscany, who not only lived during the time of German middle ages, but managed to crush the military dreams of the German King, Henry IV.

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My genre of choice is historical novels set in the Medieval period. I know of one historical figure in particular that can be interesting for you:

1. Jeanne de Flandre (14th cent.)

Wife of Jean de Monfort and mother of his only male heir. In 1341, Jean de Monfort was a claimant to the Duchy of Brittany against Charles de Blois, nephew of the French King. Jean de Monfort was imprisoned by the King and his wife acted as his representant, rallying an army against Charles de Blois and capturing an enemy town. When her stronghold of Hennebont was under siege, she donned armour and led 300 men in a successful attack, then went on to gather reinforcements before returning to her castle through the siege.

Note that she acted as a regent of sorts: she was defending her husband's and her son's rights. It was under that banner that the men obeyed her orders and followed her lead (although they must have recognised her value as a strategist and effective leader in battle, otherwise they wouldn't have followed her).


I know of several historical figures who acted as head of the family, either because they were widows or because their husbands were at war and they must organise the family estate. For some powerful families, this required a lot of cunning and, occasionally, organising the defenses of a stronghold.

Elvira of Castille, Countess of Toulouse, is an example of a woman who accompanied her husband in a crusade (12th century), standing by his side through a siege and through a pregnancy.

Such examples lead me to believe that for a princess to act as an army leader would be uncommon but not impossible.

First of all, there must be no male above her to shadow her. If there are no male heirs, for example, then the army will have to accept her as their leader. One could imagine the king recognising her abilities and sending her off with a group of men in order to gain experience. In this scenario, she should act the way a male would while respecting dress-codes most of the time. In the heat of the battle, she'd naturally have to don armour... which would be male in shape, since those were the only types being made.

Naturally, she'd have an older man acting as a mentor-chaperone, and she'd still have a (very small) group of ladies-in-waiting to serve her in her tent.

While the king is alive, I doubt anyone would take her serious on her own, without royal backing. Once the king died, the counselors would start looking for a suitable suitor. Naturally, she'd have the last word (though it wouldn't be wise to go against the Council, not unless there were plenty of nobles backing her alternative choice. Even kings can get in a civil war if they choose their brides against the Council (and their subdits)).

Suitors would be chosen based on politics, not finer feelings (though one can always try to have both). I doubt she'd fight them, though. The natural thing to do would be to have a champion to fight in her stead. In such a scenario as I set up, one wouldn't endanger the future queen lightly. Anyway, what would be the objective of such a physical fight? If she is cold-headed and her strategic prowess is respected, then she'll know how to maneuver her allies into supporting her choice.

There's another scenario possible: the princess is not the heir, as her brother is next in line. But say that both the king and the prince like her military vein and support her endeavours. A strategic mind and manly bravery will win the army's respect (well, most of it), and anyone who disapproves of it will swallow their opinions to avoid displeasing the king and the prince (well, except for the priests, they'll complain loud and clear).

In this second scenario, she'll have much less power when it comes to suitors. She'll have to bow her head to her father and brother's wishes... or have enough cunning to maneuver them (meaning, getting enough powerful allies to support her choice).


A note concerning the word 'princess'. In the 14th century in the Iberian Peninsula, the kings called themselves 'principes', or princes. They meant that they (and all other kings, naturally) were the 'principal people' of the world. There wasn't yet a feminine counterpart for 'principes'.

A princess of the time had nothing to do with "princessy". They might be rich, they might be spoilt, but their lives were harsh nonetheless, and they must be cunning if they have any ambition. In the 14th century in the Iberian Peninsula, Kings, Queens and their heirs would often travel throughout the country, sometimes spending the night (or a few weeks-months) in a royal castle, but often spending time in other castles or even in small villages... with less than ideal conditions.

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Probably not, for the type of medieval 'Princess' most readers imagine.

Most Old Testament societies (Jews, Christians, Muslims) in medieval times considered women the property of a male, and princesses, while respected, had no real authority to order any man except, perhaps, some servants or slaves. (If her father was dead, her ownership went to a senior male relative; such as a grandfather, uncle, brother, cousin, whatever).

A "princess" would be the daughter of a king and thus the property of the king, and should her father die, his crown and property would belong to a male heir, including the princess.

The Old Testament of the Bible, for example, still gives specific instructions on the price a man should get for selling his daughter (not a 'dowry', an outright sale). It talks about Moses giving captured virgins to his soldiers as rewards, and tells men a few rules to follow when having sex with his slaves or servants (which was his right in the Lord's eyes).

A medieval princess was an asset to be married off to another king or prince, not because she was necessarily loved by her father, but because if she bore boys, her father would be a grandfather to the men they became. This kind of blood line connection was very important to people then. It is still important today and a strong component of inheritance law to this day, even illegitimate children of a parent are entitled to inherit a share of that parent's estate.

Back then, it was less general, and applied primarily to males. Women were subjugated and guarded primarily to control access to their vaginas, at the time it was the primary way for a male master to ensure HE was the father of any child she bore. Marriages could be annulled if a woman came to the marriage bed without an intact hymen (even though a hymen can be broken by strenuous sport without any sexual penetration, and even though sperm can travel past the hymen and induce pregnancy -- it is not an impenetrable barrier to fluids, as menstrual blood itself proves).

(Of course now a simple DNA paternity test would suffice to prove fatherhood.)

I don't know when Queens were allowed to inherit power directly, but I suspect it was after medieval times; back then men would battle for the crown, and if a relative of the princess did not win the crown, then she would be his property but no longer a princess. In any case, even if a Queen inherited the power of the crown, that does not inherently give the Princess any special authority or rights.

Other religions and societies (like Vikings and other Pagans) allowed women more autonomy. I am not sure what cultures existed in medieval times in most of the world: Asia, Polynesia, Africa or North or South America. Many had kings, with favored daughters we'd call princesses, but I consider that a technicality: Medieval Princess conjures in most people the pampered and expensively dressed daughter of a European King in a stone Castle. That girl was literally livestock in Old Testament law, groomed to be a healthy and sexually desirable gift that could bear children that would join families by common blood, thus making (in the culture of the time) a strong alliance.

Such girls would NOT have been allowed to join the military; they were far too valuable as political tools, and the nature of the military itself would be too much of a threat to their virginity, which was highly prized at the time by people with many superstitions and misconceptions [pun intended!] about intercourse and impregnation.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Jan 4, 2018 at 2:29
  • @MonicaCellio : the original comment by kingledion should have been preserved, as it directly addresses a significant issue with this answer.
    – vsz
    Jan 4, 2018 at 5:01
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    @vsz All comments ARE preserved, in the chat at the link. It would be unfair and biased against me to preserve any comments critical of my post without preserving my responses to them.
    – Amadeus
    Jan 4, 2018 at 11:50
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    To confirm, all the comments, even the ones that should have been deleted as rude, are in the chat room. Shoveling it all into chat was easier than untangling 45 comments, some of which ought to be deleted. Everybody remember to Be Nice, and don't take everything in that chat room as an indication of what's ok. Jan 4, 2018 at 15:27

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