For many of us, the idea of living as a member of royalty is the ultimate lifestyle fantasy – the epitome of living the high life and living the dream. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend their days in plush palaces, travelling in style and comfort, dining on the finest foods, and mixing with the creme de la creme of society? 

It’s true that the lives of royalty may seem idyllic and perfect, free from the normal cares of ordinary people, privileged beyond our imagination. 

And yet, it’s also true that some members of royalty don’t exactly cherish their royal status, or they’re unable to accept the restrictions and limitations that are demanded of those within the royal circles, particularly at the highest levels. 

Reluctant Royals

While the lot of a royal may appear to be a luxurious one on the surface, particularly to the vast majority of the population who only ever glimpse their royal lives from a distance, it would seem that being born into (or marrying into) royalty is not a guarantee of happiness. 

Many reluctant royals simply accept their role and make the best of their situation, quite often driven by a touching devotion to their country and their subjects. 

This option seems to be an easier arrangement for those born into royalty, no doubt as they’ll have been brought up to prioritise duty and honour and public service, as well as having been raised with the sense that their royal birth is proof that they are meant to assume their elevated status. 

For those marrying into royalty, however, it can be a rude awakening that the day-to-day life of royals is less the fairytale existence and more of a gilded cage. Without the benefit of a royal childhood, new royals can have a difficult time adjusting to the various demands and limitations of royal status. 

Rejecting Royal Life

While it may be that not all members of royalty would choose their royal lifestyle, the vast majority accept their status, or they find ways to adjust to a more acceptable arrangement. 

There are some, however, who find that they cannot align their hopes for happiness with their royal life. Some of these truly unhappy royals even go so far as to reject their royal titles, in a bid to live a more normal, or less restricted lifestyle. 

Here are some of the royals of recent times who have taken the bold and controversial step of rejecting their royal status and opting for a simpler, more ordinary life. 

Rejecting The Role Of King

Perhaps the most famous example of a high-ranking royal rejecting their title and status is that of the British King, Edward VIII. 

In 1936, Edward, the head of the British throne, famously abdicated from his position of king in order to marry the lady he loved, a twice-divorced American woman called Wallis Simpson. 

King Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson on holiday in Yugoslavia 1936
King Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson on holiday in Yugoslavia 1936

The strict rules around royal marriages had prohibited the union, due to Mrs Simpson’s previous marriages and her alleged unsuitability for the role of queen. 

The king was determined to marry her, however, even if it meant giving up the throne, and so less than a year after becoming the King of England, Edward VIII rejected his royal title, so that he could be free to follow his heart and marry his beloved American companion. 

The rejection of the title of king – known as an abdication – caused a tremendous scandal for the British royal family, and the entire constitution of the monarchy was rocked by the events. 

The royal family endured, however, with Edward’s brother assuming the role of king in his place, where he reigned successfully for 15 years when the throne was passed to his daughter, the current queen of England, Elizabeth II. 

Rejecting The Role Of Princess

A more recent example of royal rejection is the story of the former Princess of the Japanese Imperial Household. 

Princess Mako, as she was formerly known, is a high-ranking member of the Japanese Imperial family. Her parents are the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, her uncle is the current reigning Emperor, and her grandparents were the previous Emperor and Empress of Japan. 

With such prestigious credentials and lineage, it was a shock to the world when the princess gave up her royal title and opted to bow out of the imperial role within her family in order to marry the man she loved and live a simpler, quieter life. 

The former princess also took the brave step of additionally rejecting substantial funding that had been available for royals who choose to leave their role and status. 

It’s believed she turned her back on a million-dollar payout that she would have been entitled to, preferring to take a complete step back from royal living and imperial status. 

In interviews, the former princess revealed that she had no particular thoughts about what she might do in the future, with her only preference being a ‘peaceful life’. 

It’s believed that media scrutiny and intolerable levels of public attention were the catalysts for the dramatic rejection of her royal title. This is certainly something that has been a contributing factor for a substantial number of modern royals, as the global fascination with royalty in recent years has led to increasingly invasive privacy violations and considerable emotional pressure. 

While the royal life appears to be a dream for those of us admiring it from a distance, it seems that the reality is far less perfect. The act of rejecting a royal title is a serious step and is even more shocking when it’s taken by someone who was raised within the royal circle and lived their entire life with regal status. 

The fact that lifelong royals choose to reject their titles shows that the lifestyle of wealth and privilege is not the key to happiness for everyone, and even those born into the highest stations of society can sometimes prefer the simpler lives of freedom and anonymity, rather than fame, riches and the extravagances of royal living.