Have you seen Netflix’s latest political drama, The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star? In it, Queen Margaret of Montenaro and Princess Stacy of Belgravia (Vanessa Hudgens and Vanessa Hudgens, respectively) must prevent an intentional incident after they lose a priceless relic that is on loan from the Vatican. The film is the latest offering in the fiercely rendered Princess Switch series, which has previously tackled abdications, coronations, and the gritty rivalries of royal life.
Some say the Princess Switch films—and other royalty-based Christmas movies peddled by Netflix—are silly, lighthearted comedies designed to inspire goodwill and cheer, not overzealous analysis. “Some” are wrong. Netflix has now conjured up so many monarchies that it is about time they were properly indexed: How democratic are these nations? How fascistic are their royal families? How wedded are they to the idea of human rights? Below is a ranking of all of the fictional principalities thus far created by Netflix, listed in order of just how much their citizens need to invest in a guillotine (or to put it another way, ranked from least to most democratic).
Aldovia is a mountainous central European nation situated to the south of Belgravia; its main export is wooden Christmas decorations. The kingdom is most prominently featured in Netflix’s Christmas Prince trilogy, which follows the interpersonal drama of the royal family, the Charltons.
While at first glance a free press flourishes in Aldovia—with journalists vocally critical of the monarchy during a media conference in the first film—we later see the color drain from a reporter’s face as Princess Emily Charlton threatens to throw him in the palace dungeons if he doesn’t leave the country immediately. At the end of the second film, elderly palace adviser Lord Leopold Plumtree is detained in these very same dungeons after he is accused of corruption—he is never granted a trial.
In the third film, viewers see that Leopold was incarcerated long enough to scratch “Leopold was here” in his cell’s mossy, dripping rock. The Aldovian palace’s dungeons have no natural light, electricity, or central heating, and they are visibly filthy; Leopold’s imprisonment is a clear violation of Section 1, Articles 3, 5, and 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Thankfully, Aldovian citizens do have the right to protest—but boy, do they have a lot to protest about. While Aldovia initially appears not to be a principality, with the first film introducing us to a prime minister, the sequel reveals that this role is largely ceremonial (if not an outright sham). It is the King of Aldovia himself who dictates the country’s economic policy, and he does this so badly that the entire nation goes on strike over unpaid wages. Rather than figure out how to get the workers paid, the Charltons (or should that be charlatans?!) plan an elaborate play, go sledding, and bake. Let them eat gingerbread, indeed.
When one Aldovian worker sends a Christmas card to the queen, reading, in part, “I’ve lost my job, as the company I’ve worked for my whole life was put out of business by your ‘New Aldovia’ disaster,” the gathered royals do nothing about their failed policies, and simply hang the card with other festive well-wishes on the high cornices of their gilded hall.
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Finally, Aldovia is a deeply sexist nation that only changed its laws to allow women to inherit the throne in 2019—plus, the royals repeatedly serve “jellied meat” at their balls.
Penglia lies to the east of Aldovia and is the nation’s closest ally. While viewers don’t get to visit Penglia itself in the Christmas Prince franchise, royals King Tai and Queen Ming feature throughout the third film. During a casual conversation, Ming asserts that Tai is “the only leader Penglia needs,” heavily hinting at the royal family’s despotic nature. Later, the true horrors of Tai’s leadership are fully realized when he attempts to build a baby’s crib and declares, “We’ll build like we lead, by instinct,” before discarding the instruction manual. Inevitably, the finished furniture falls apart.
Toward the end of the film, when Tai sees how Aldovia’s queen is beloved by its fawning populace at a Christmas market, he ominously tells Ming: “You deserve the same.” We can safely assume that Aldovia and Penglia are such close allies because neither believes in government by the people, for the people. We can only hope that one day their citizens will be free.
The northern European country of Belgravia is an absolute monarchy; it is most famous for its International Christmas Baking Competition, meaning its workers are bound by the perils of a seasonal income. Yet on the whole, the Wyndham royals appear unconcerned with the plight of their people—at a charity ball to raise money for a local family shelter, Belgravia’s queen says, “I don’t know exactly” when asked how many people use the service, while the king adds, “We don’t concern ourselves with the details. We have people for that.”
Despite their fundraising efforts, it’s later revealed that the royals managed to cobble together only enough money for food and clothes for the shelter’s occupants, meaning there isn’t enough to buy any toys for the children living there (though not monitored by Guinness World Records, this could surely win the title of Least Money Raised at a Charity Ball). In addition to this, the Wyndhams are so unconcerned with the state of their nation that the heir to the throne skips an important meeting “with Spain” to go horse riding, further endangering the economic well-being of his kingdom.
Still, there are no dungeons or egregious human rights violations in the land at the center of Netflix’s Princess Switch trilogy, in which Vanessa Hudgens plays three separate roles. On the whole, Belgravia has far fewer constitutional crises than Aldovia, and while there is probably something in the water that forces people to mutate into clones of Vanessa Hudgens, the populace seem happy enough.
The frosty nation of Montenaro is the only Netflix kingdom to have a constitutional monarchy, as the Princess Switch films mention its “civil government” and “treasury secretary.” As head of its royal family, Queen Margaret takes her duties very seriously—long before her coronation, when she was but a duchess, she was willing to enter into a loveless arranged marriage out of duty to her people. To top it all off, when she throws a charity ball in the second Princess Switch film, it is specifically referred to as a “toy drive”: At last! A monarch who respects Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, that children have the right to play!
Unlike other Netflix nations, Montenaro doesn’t seem to rely on Christmas for its income, and it is so well-respected internationally that the Vatican have no qualms about loaning it a priceless relic that once belonged to Saint Nick. Most impressively of all, when ne’er-do-wells are apprehended in Montenaro, they are taken into police custody (not dungeons) and they are sentenced to community service rather than imprisoned indefinitely. The democratic freedoms enjoyed by the people of Montenaro only make it clearer just how disturbingly backward its neighboring nations are—it is remarkable that the king and queen of Aldovia felt able to show their faces at Margaret’s coronation in The Princess Switch: Switched Again.
There is only one way that the kingdom of Montenaro could become an even more admirable nation, and that is by granting asylum to Aldovians, Penglians, and Belgravians alike.
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