And in those lives, many of them, from Meghan Markle to Queen Rania of Jordan, had blossoming (and occasionally surprising) careers that they had to leave behind once they became royalty, only to take on new roles in their new world.
Here, marie claire looks back at 12 such royal women and the jobs they had before becoming royal.
Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark
Well before she became the Crown Princess of Denmark, Australia's own Mary Donaldson had a career in advertising, working for an agency in Melbourne after graduating in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in commerce and law. In 1997, Mary took two years to go travelling following the passing of her mother, returning to Australia in 1999 for a job in Sydney, which is, of course, where her royal fairytale began.
Meeting Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark at the Slip Inn, a Sydney pub during the 2000 Olympics, the pair soon commenced a long-distance relationship (which saw the Prince make secrets to Australia) before Donaldson made the leap over the other side of the pond in 2001, moving first to Paris where she taught English at a Business English school. The following year, she moved to Copenhagen and began a role a Microsoft, before the two announced their engagement in September 2003.
Queen Letizia of Spain
Prior to marrying into the Spanish royal family, Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano followed in her father's footsteps and worked as a journalist and TV news anchor. Holding both bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism, Ortiz Rocasolano worked for ABC (a daily newspaper in Spain), Bloomberg TV and news agency EFE after graduating from her master's. Following a brief period working for CNN+, she moved over to news agency TVE, covering politics, including presidential elections and the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Princess Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia
Born in California, Deena Ali Al-Juhani grew up between the US and the Middle East as her father was a prominent economist, teaching at a number of American universities. At the age of 23, she married Prince Sultan bin Gahad Nasser bin Abdulaziz of Saudia Arabia. In contrast to most other women who marry into royalty, Princess Deena's career only soared after joining the Saudi royal family. In 2006, she opened up an exclusive members-only fashion boutique called D'NA in Riyadh, which she later expanded in Qatar and into the e-commerce space. She also served briefly as the editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine.
Masako, Empress of Japan
Masako Owada first met Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan at a tea party in 1986. Immediately enchanted by her, the prince arranged for them to meet a number of times over the following few weeks, with their courtship continuing over the next few years. However, Masako was reluctant to enter into marriage, turning down the prince's proposal twice, as it would have forced her to give up her promising diplomatic career in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During that time Owada, who already had an economics degree from Harvard, undertook her master's degree in International Relations at Oxford, returning to Japan in 1990. She accepted the prince's third proposal in 1992, reportedly after an onslaught of calls during which the prince apparently argued that being a princess would be just “another form of diplomacy”. Smooth.
Clotilde Courau of Savoy, Princess of Venice
Prior to marrying Emanuele Filiberto Prince of Venice in 2003, Clotilde Courau was a French actress. Kicking off her career in the early '90s, the film star-turned-princess earned multiple César Award nominations during her tenure, and is still acting today, most recently appearing in the 2019 French comedy Une Fille Facile (Easy Girl).
Queen Rania of Jordan
Before ascending to the Jordanian throne in 1999, Rania Al-Abdullah had a career in marketing, holding a bachelor's degree in business administration from the American University of Cairo. Upon her graduation, she worked in marketing for Citibank, followed by a role at Apple in Amman, Jordan.
Charlene, Princess of Monaco
While you often hear of couples first meeting at work, it's not every day that a royal love story starts this way! And that's exactly how it went for South African swimmer Charlene Wittstock, who represented the country at the 2000 summer Olympics, finishing fifth in the medley team. It was that same year, at a swimming meet in Monaco, that Wittstock met Prince Albert II of Monaco. They made their first public appearance six years later, and married in 2011.
The original Hollywood star-turned-princess, Grace Kelly famously bid Tinseltown goodbye after marrying Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956. Considered one of the biggest names of cinema's golden age, the Academy Award-winner memorably starred in films like Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief, Rear Window and John Ford's Mogambo.
Nnabagereka (Queen) Sylvia of Buganda
Marrying King Kabaka Mutebi II of Buganda (a historic kingdom in modern-day Uganda) in 1999, British-born-Uganda-raised Sylvia Nagginda became the first queen of Buganda in 50 years. Prior to becoming royalty, Nagginda obtained her bachelor and master of arts degrees from New York University and the New York Institute of Technology, respectively. She went on to work in multiple fields in New York, holding roles such as a public information officer and research consultant for the United Nations, proposal writer, and public relations and business development consultant for various companies.
Sofia, Princess of Sweden
Before meeting Prince Carl Philip of Sweden in a nightclub in Bastad in 2009, Sofia Hellqvist studied accounting, specialising in business development, in New York. While there, she supported herself by working as as a waitress and yoga teacher. Prior to marriage, she also worked as a glamour model and starred in the Swedish version of a reality TV show called Paradise Hotel, which caused much public criticism after the couple's engagement was announced.
Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex
While Meghan Markle's acting career is well known, having made a name for herself as one of the leads on the hit TV show Suits, she had a number of side gigs during her pre-Duchess days. When she wasn't auditioning for roles, she worked as a calligrapher and a calligrapher instructor (she even wrote the invitations for Robin Thicke and Paula Patton's wedding and holiday cards sent to celebrities by Dolce & Gabbana). She also worked as a restaurant hostess, a briefcase model on Deal or No Deal and a press office intern in Argentina (just casually).
Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge
Before joining the royal family and becoming both the Duchess of Cambridge and future Queen, Kate Middleton had two very normal jobs. After graduating from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland (alongside Prince William), she began a role as an accessory buyer with British fashion brand Jigsaw. She left the retailer in 2007 to work in her parents' event planning business, Party Pieces, taking on the role of both photographer and website designer.