From Commoner to Royalty: The Women Who Did It
RANIA AL YASSIN
Considered one of the most powerful women in the world, Queen Rania was on a career track (at Citibank and Apple) before marrying then Prince Abdullah II on June 10, 1993, after a five-month courtship. Since becoming Queen, the mother of four has stepped into the role of global ambassador for education and community empowerment, using social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to connect with her growing legion of supporters.
As the reigning princess of Hollywood (and an Academy Award winner), the Philadelphia beauty became a real-life one at age 26 when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco. Their lavish fairy-tale wedding on April 19, 1956, drew a guest list of 600, which brought together foreign dignitaries and Hollywood A-listers, and was dubbed "The Wedding of the Century" by the press.
METTE-MARIT TJESSEM HOIBY
In a thoroughly modern courtship, Crown Prince Haakon fell for his princess, a single mother, at the Quart Festival rock concert in summer 1996 – and would go on to live with her before their engagement. But it was the drug-fueled parties she had once attended that earned the disapproval of the public, so before her royal wedding on Aug. 25, 2001, Hoiby gave a tearful apology for those wild past days.
The Harvard University-educated Owada gave up a promising career in the Japanese Foreign Ministry to wed Crown Prince Naruhito on June 9, 1993 – but not before turning him down twice in their six-year courtship. Since their marriage, the Crown Princess has given birth to a daughter, Princess Aiko, but has remained largely out of the public eye amid pressure to produce a male heir.
The twice-divorced American socialite remains a controversial figure in British history as the woman for whom King Edward VIII abdicated the throne. In giving up his birthright, Edward (who later became the Duke of Windsor), said in an emotional radio address, "I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility, and to discharge my duties as King ... without the help and support of the woman I love."
Her 10-year marriage to Prince Andrew was marked by scrutiny, ridicule and gossip. But Sarah Ferguson proved to have one enduring quality through the trying times: pluck. As the Duchess of York weathers another scandal – being caught on camera attempting to sell access to her ex-husband – it's her repeated success at pulling off a comeback that keeps the public watching.
As the first female to be acknowledged publicly and given a royal title in the African nation, the Princess Consort of King Mohammed VI has helped usher in a new era for Muslim women in the 21st century. And while the redheaded beauty keeps a lower profile than her global counterparts, she has made the fight against cancer her personal cause and founded the first cancer prevention association in her country.
LETIZIA ORTIZ ROCASOLANO
Before her May 22, 2004, marriage to Prince Felipe of Spain, Princess Letizia (whose first non-religious marriage ended in divorce in 1999) was a journalist with a résumé boasting stints at Spanish-edition Bloomberg , CNN+ and TVE (Televisién Española), where she was named anchor. Eventually, she could be the first Spanish queen to have been born a commoner.
As the fourth wife of King Hussein of Jordan and a non-Arab Muslim by birth, Halaby has often been viewed as an outsider. But the Princeton University-educated Queen's regal bearing and grief won over supporters during the King's illness and subsequent death on Feb. 7, 1999. Though her stepson King Abdullah now rules Jordan with his wife, Rania, Noor continues to be a tireless advocate for Arab women through her many causes and speaking engagements.
Country: The Netherlands
Theirs was a fairy-tale introduction, or one straight out of Hollywood: Unaware of his royal ties, Zorreguieta, daughter of wealthy Argentinean landowners, met Willem-Alexander, the heir apparent to the Dutch crown, at a party in Seville, Spain, in 1999. So began their storybook romance – with one hitch: The Dutch parliament nearly blocked their Feb. 2, 2002, marriage when news broke that the princess-to-be's father had ties to Argentina's military dictatorship in the '70s.
MABEL WISSE SMIT
Country: The Netherlands
Like King Edward VIII of England, Willem-Alexander's younger brother Prince Johan Friso gave up his place as second in line to the throne to marry Smit in 2004. The drastic measure was prompted by the Dutch government's refusal to give approval to the union after Smit provided false information about a liaison she had had with a drug dealer. Seven years later, the scandal reared its ugly head again when the royal couple admitted to altering a Wikipedia entry about the Princess to wipe away the scandal.