15

I know that Leia was referred to as a princess from the start of A New Hope on account of her being the daughter Bail and Breha Organa - despite the fact that she was adopted. Her royal status undoubtedly stems from position on Aldaraan, rather than any connection to the royal family of Naboo through her birth mother.

Midway through the film, Aldaraan - and, by extension, its monarchy - are obliterated. Yet people still continue referring to Leia as Princess Leia.

HAN: Well, Your Highness, I guess this is it.
LEIA: That's right.
HAN: Don't get all mushy on me. So long, Princess.
(The Empire Strikes Back)

Eventually, of course, she becomes General Organa. But she seems to be known as Princess Leia for much of the Original Trilogy, despite not having a planet to be a princess for.

Why don't people just refer to her as Leia?

  • 24
    You're still a princess if a daughter of a king or queen regardless of your actual day to day duties. – Ryan McDonough Jul 9 at 10:00
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    That sort of thing happens in our galaxy too. The widow Jones may still be called Mrs. Jones even though Mr. Jones is dead. Contemporary Romanoffs use titles such as Duke and Duchess, Prince and Princess, although there is no longer a Russian Monarchy for them to rule. On the TV news you often hear ex-governors and ex-senators addressed as "Governor" and "Senator". Go figure. – user14111 Jul 9 at 11:00
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    Alderaan isn't a place. It never was. It's where Leia's people stand! As long as they're alive, then... er... oh, right, they're all dead too. – Paul D. Waite Jul 9 at 16:40
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    @PaulD.Waite Surely there must have been some other Alderaanians offworld at the time it was destroyed. – JAB Jul 10 at 2:24
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    Because Lucas was playing the long game and that was the only way for Leia to become a Disney princess. – reirab Jul 11 at 1:32
40

Whether she is still technically a princess or not is up for debate but I'd argue that it doesn't really matter if she is or not, there are other reasons to call her a princess.

Out of respect

Lor San Tekka explains this point quite clearly in The Force Awakens, it is still respectful to call her a princess even if the place she was a princess is now gone.

Poe: Well, because of you now we have a chance. The General's been after this for a long time.

Lor San Tekka: "The General." To me, she's royalty.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

That's what they know her by

It would be odd to instantly call someone else and against your nature to instantly call someone else by another name. Heck I still (it's only been a month and a half!) refer to my wife as girlfriend in my head and sometimes use her maiden name. Things take time to get used to and adjust to.

In addition to this point it is easier to refer to someone as their common and most well known name than the new version of it. Tarkin does this in ANH when alerting people about her because it is what they know her by and princess is quicker than Leia Organa. It just makes communication easier initially.

Tarkin: The princess! Put all sections on alert!

Star Wars: A New Hope

In Han's (and sometime Vader's) case to mock

One of the best cases I think is the quote you use in the question, Han uses princess to mock her, note how he often emphasises it when talking. As he grows fonder of her this changes to be more playful but still used in a jokingly kind of way.

Han: Well, Your Highness, I guess this is it.

Leia: That's right.

Han: Don't get all mushy on me. So long, Princess.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

  • 7
    My husband and I have not relinquished former titles: so we'll often refer to hanging out with "a friend" (each other), "my boy/girlfriend","my fiancé/e." So no need to stop calling her a girlfriend -- just confuse people and say you're sneaking out with your girlfriend! – April Jul 9 at 19:08
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    "What do you think, princ ... oh, right, I forgot, your entire family was wiped out. Ms. Leia, then" would probably not go over well. – Acccumulation Jul 9 at 19:32
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    When did Vader mock her? – The Dark Lord Jul 9 at 22:10
  • Even after the Noghri learn that the name, Mal'ary'ush, or "Daughter of the Savior", stems from a misnomer, they still call her The Lady Vader out of respect (and because that's what they know her by), somewhat to her own chagrin. – Mazura Jul 10 at 16:40
55

Leia was adopted as a baby by Senator Organa and Queen Breha Organa, this makes her a princess. You're still a princess regardless of your duties on a day to day basis - you don't actually need to rule anywhere to maintain your status.

A comment on a similar question expands:

A "princess" is a title not limited to daughters of kings and queens. It just happens to be the title also used for daughters of kings and queens. Whether her mother was a queen or not when Leia was born doesn't make a difference. If she comes from a princely family, she is a princess. And adoption by a queen would also make her a princess. Prince Charles princely title is indeed the "Prince of Wales" (Wales is a principality) and the husband of Queen Elizabeth is also a "prince" despite not being the son of a king or queen.

  • 1
    Not sure about this. If Earth blew up and Prince Charles somehow survived then I think it would be odd and redundant to keep referring to him as a prince just because it was a title he used to hold in a previous life. – The Dark Lord Jul 9 at 10:10
  • That doesn't quite equate to the question, that would only count if Prince Charles was ruling Mars then Mars blew up but Earth remained, then that would be the same scenario. – Ryan McDonough Jul 9 at 10:37
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    There have been several examples among history, where although their respective countries were absorbed by a conquering nation, royalty families maintained their original titles or were granted new ones (usually due to active collaboration with the new regime). So nobility titles can extend themselves further than the existence of the country that creates them. – Bardo Jul 9 at 11:48
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    Also note that Prince Philip is only Prince Philip because Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II granted him that title on Feb 22nd, 1957, via Letters Patent. Prior to that, he was not Prince Philip, because to marry Her Majesty he had to renounce his previous Greek and Danish titles. (citation) He is not Prince Philip just because he's a member of a princely family. – T.J. Crowder Jul 10 at 10:34
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    Europe is full of princes whose grandfathers lost their kingdoms a hundred years ago. While their titles have been cut or turned into surnames, the public still likes to address them as "Prince X" and "Princess Y", for fame or shame (usually the latter). – Karl Jul 11 at 19:16
15

It's a title that her people have bestowed on her by "ancient tradition" and persist on calling her, even after the destruction of their homeworld. Note that a significant number of Alderaanians survived the cataclysm and continue to play a role (albeit reduced) in galactic affairs so it's not like the title is necessarily obsolete, even if the planet is gone.

Eventually she discards the appellation in favour of 'General', but some of her people do still refer to her as 'Princess'

She can’t help but smile. “Evaan Verlaine,” she says.
“Hello, Last Princess of Alderaan.”
“I don’t go by that anymore.”
Evaan tilts her head and gives Leia a bemused look. “To me, it’s who you are. You carry the torch for our world. For our home. Don’t ever set it down.”

Aftermath: Life Debt

8

Technically, I don't know how large the state or kingdom of Alderaan was. Did the Kingdom of Alderaan only rule the planet Alderaan, or did it rule every planet, moon, comet and asteroid in the Alderaan system, or did it rule the Alderaan system and other nearby systems? If the state of Alderaan included other astronomical bodies, and if there were Alderaan bases or colonies on or orbiting some of those bodies, an unknown percentage of the total Alderaan population might survive.

And if an unknown percentage of the total population of the Kingdom of Alderaan survived on astronomical bodies ruled by Alderaan, what would the governmental status of those astronomical bodies be?

It seems to me that there might be some expectation or hope that if the Empire was defeated Leia might become the Queen of Alderaan, even if the kingdom without the planet Alderaan might not seem as glorious as it once was. And possibly there was a faction of Alderaanians who recognized Leia as the princess and future queen of Alderaan.

So possibly one reason why Leia was called "princess" was the expectation, hope, or desire that the Kingdom of Alderaan be restored once the Galactic Empire was defeated. Another reason to call Leia "princess" might be a belief that exploding Alderaan was illegal and thus the Kingdom of Alderaan still existed legally and Leia was still legally the Princess of Alderaan. It is common in Civil Wars for each faction to claim that everything that the other side does is illegal and thus legally null and void.

5

Titles generally persist after a person has completed their term in the position. For instance, the moderators in the Democratic debates refer to Biden as "Vice President", even though he is no longer serving in that role. And who's to say that having all Alderaans die ends her position of princess? She is the daughter of the king, therefore she is princess. She doesn't stop being princess just because her father is dead. Although arguably she's Queen Leia now that her parents are dead.

  • While his wife was the ruling queen of Alderaan, it seems the title "King" was not given to Leia's (adoptive) father. Instead, he served as (galactic) Senator, and had that as his title. – GreenMatt Jul 9 at 20:24
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    Political titles persisting seems rather odd to this Brit. They usually don't here. (A retired bishop is still "your Grace" because he has still been ordained a bishop; military and academic titles do persist; aristocratic titles persist until death of course.) – Martin Bonner Jul 11 at 13:52
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    @Martin Bonner Yep, and we Americans aren't supposed to have any sort of aristocracy. That was kind of the whole point. I imagine this has a lot to do with reporters 1) needing to contextualize their interviewees and 2) wanting to get access without violating journalistic ethics, by easy flattery. – Grault Jul 11 at 15:05

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