Image Source: TVアニメ『プリンセス・プリンシパル』‏‏ on Twitter

Princess Principal is a work of historical fiction and is thus set in a world much like our own—though with at least one major twist that has altered history as we know it. In this case, said twist is the existence of “Cavorite,” a gravity altering mineral which makes airships and other steampunk-esque technology possible. It has also made the British Empire (or the “Kingdom of Albion” as it is called in the anime) far more powerful than in its real-world 1800s counterpart.

Image Source: TVアニメ『プリンセス・プリンシパル』‏‏ on Twitter

Now, while the official plot information says Princess Principal take place at the end of the 19th century, the show hasn’t directly said exactly what year the story takes place in—even the newspapers seen are conspicuously missing a date. However, using various hints within the show along with assumptions based on real-world events in the 1800s, we can certainly narrow down the timeframe—and potentially even find the exact year.

Princess Principal

The inclusion of the Japanese envoy easily narrows down the time period to the back half of the 1800s. While events involving the British Empire have greatly altered the political landscape across the Western world in the anime, it’s likely that Japan, with its centuries-long policy of isolation, was left relatively unaffected.

Image Source: TVアニメ『プリンセス・プリンシパル』‏‏ on Twitter

In fact, the Japanese expedition leader, Lord Horikawa, calls assassin Todo Jubei a “remnant of the shogunate.” This implies that, not only did the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate occur like in our world, it was replaced by a much more outward-looking style government. Assuming that the Meiji Restoration happened at the same time in Princess Principal as in the real world, that would set the anime after 1868.

Moreover, the purpose of Horikawa’s expedition to London is to renegotiate the unequal treaties made with Japan in the past. There were several such envoys in the real world, but the first and most notable one sent by the Meiji government was the Iwakura Mission in 1872—which shares a lot in common with the look of Horikawa’s own. While the Iwakura Mission was not an immediate success, it did set the stage for the talks to come and the eventual repeal of the unequal treaties between Britain and Japan in 1894.

So from that information, if we assume the timeline is basically the same for Japan, then Princess Principal takes place between 1872 and 1894.

But while looking at the Japanese involvement in the story can narrow it down to a bit more than two decades, it is the inclusion of the British royal family that really lets us narrow down when everything takes place.

Queen Victoria by Bassano

While not named explicitly, we see the Ruling Monarch of Albion in the fourth episode of the series—a queen. Not only have there been only a few queens regnant (as opposed to queens consort) in the history of Britain, there was only one ruling queen in the 1800s: Queen Victoria.

Comparing Princess Principal’s queen with photos of Queen Victoria, it’s pretty clear that the latter inspired the former. But it’s not just in looks that the two resemble each other. The Princess Principal queen appears to be a widow like Victoria (as it is The Duke of Normandy that is by her side at the party and not the king consort) and both queens have grandchildren during their reign as well.

So, if we assume that Princess Principal’s queen is their world’s Queen Victoria—and that, by proxy, the royal family is largely the same—then we can extrapolate the time period rather exactly.

Image Source: TVアニメ『プリンセス・プリンシパル』‏‏ on Twitter

“Princess”—i.e., Princess Charlotte—in Princess Principal states that she is fourth in line for the throne. To understand what this means, you first need to know about the British rules for succession.

Simply put, the line is hereditary going from the eldest son to eldest son. If for some reason the eldest son is unable or unwilling to inherit the throne, it goes to the next eldest son. Should there be no sons, then it is the eldest daughter who gains the crown. (This is how both Victoria and the current queen, Elizabeth II, gained the throne.)

So, the simplest way for Princess Charlotte to be fourth in line would be for her father (the queen’s eldest son) to be first in line for the throne. Then her two brothers would be second and third in line. With no other sons, she as the eldest daughter would be fourth in line.

This was, in fact, exactly how Victoria’s royal family was structured.

Edward VII in coronation robes

Victoria had four sons and five daughters. Her eldest son was Albert Edward. He would go on to be King Edward VII (though not until Victoria’s death in 1901).

Edward, in turn, had two sons that lived to adulthood, Albert Victor and George Frederick. (His third son, Alexander John, died around 24 hours after birth.) He also had three daughters: Louise, Victoria, and Maud.

Alexandra, Princess of Wales, with her children

While Albert Victor would pass away in 1892 and George Frederick (who would go on to be King George V) would have his first child in 1894, between 1867 and 1892 the order of succession was set:

1) Prince Edward
2) Prince Albert Victor
3) Prince George Frederick
4) Princess Louise

So given that the queen in Princess Principal is a proxy of Queen Victoria, it stands to reason that Princess Charlotte is one of Princess Louise. Thus, as Louise was born in 1867, let’s assume that Charlotte was as well.

Image Source: TVアニメ『プリンセス・プリンシパル』‏‏ on Twitter

In Princess Principal, it is mentioned that Dorothy, despite pretending to be a high schooler, is actually 20 years old. Moreover, we learn through dialogue that Dorothy is two years older than Charlotte. Thus if Charlotte was born in 1867 and is 18 in Princess Principal, that means the anime is set firmly in 1885—smack dab in the middle of when Louise was fourth in line for the throne and when the Japanese were working on overturning the old unequal treaties with Britain.

Image Source: TVアニメ『プリンセス・プリンシパル』‏‏ on Twitter

Now, of course, this article is assumption built on assumption—the assumption that the two worlds are quite similar and the assumption that the information we are provided by the characters (who are all liers by trade) is correct being the biggest two. But until we have the official word on when Princess Principal takes place, 1885 seems like a pretty good bet.

Princess Principal can be viewed with English subtitles on Amazon Anime Strike (US), HIDIVE (International Territories), and AnimeLab (AU/NZ).

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