Every winter, Netflix releases more ridiculous and endearingly cheesy Christmas content, becoming the streaming-era equivalent of the holiday-season programming on Hallmark Channel. (Netflix rarely discloses its viewing metrics, but given that more and more of these movies are green-lit every year, it appears they’re quite popular amongst subscribers.) All of these films are charming in their own silly way, but if there’s a crown jewel to the Netflix Christmas empire—well, it belongs in Aldovia.
Ever since Netflix publicly outed 53 users who watched A Christmas Prince 18 days in a row in 2017, I’ve become obsessed with this franchise that tells a tale of holiday joy, true love, and [checks notes] income inequality. (I’ll explain.) A Christmas Prince told the story of Amber, an enterprising New York blogger at a now-defunct clickbait farm that sent her on assignment to the fictional nation of Aldovia, where she snuck into the royal palace pretending to be a tutor—hooray, journalism?—and quickly fell in love with the country’s soon-to-be king, Richard. There was also disconcertingly casual talk of a dungeon where the royals apparently sent dissidents. Together, Richard and Amber thwarted a plan hatched by Richard’s cousin, Simon, to claim the throne for himself. Later, Richard proposed to Amber outside her dad’s diner—a classic(?) New York scene.
You would assume the sequel, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding, would focus on the happy couple and double down on the romantic cheese. Instead, in a film that I can only assume cost the Bernie Sanders campaign most of its advertising budget, much of The Royal Wedding was about Aldovian labor strikes and the economic turmoil faced by the country’s citizens. And look, I’m all about fair wages for the working class, but this isn’t a real country—I just wanted to shut off my brain and watch something stupid and glamorous. Thankfully, there were a few absurd and not-too-close-to-home moments in the movie, including a man being sent to the aforementioned dungeon in the castle. Also, Cousin Simon became an antihero—and, as confirmed by other pop culture bloggers, a low-key sex symbol.
After that bizarre turn of events, it was hard to know what to expect heading into this year’s entry, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby. Would the third film actually focus on Amber and Richard’s preparations for parenthood, or would it be about Aldovians rising up and overthrowing the monarchy after enough citizens binged all three seasons of The Crown and realized they’d had enough? (Netflix loves crossover potential!) In the end, The Royal Baby found a solid compromise between baby shenanigans and a castle-wide whodunit over a stolen peace treaty that needs to be signed with another fictional nation before the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Eve, otherwise an ancient curse might be placed on Amber and Richard’s child.
Well, that settles it: The Christmas Prince franchise is back, baby! And while I wasn’t busy with my new side project—creating the Aldovian constitution and shipping the contents to Netflix’s headquarters—I took inspiration from Queen Amber and jotted down the 10 biggest developments from The Royal Baby for a blog. Merry Christmas and glory to Aldovia.
1. An Impending Birth Won’t Stop Amber From Blogging
A true blogger intuitively understands that blogging isn’t a profession; it’s a lifestyle. Amber, despite being a literal queen who’s also pregnant, hasn’t stopped blogging from what looks like a basic WordPress site to keep her devoted readers apprised of all things Aldovia—this, apparently, includes details about her royal honeymoon at the world’s most luxurious tropical desktop background:
Also, don’t worry Bernie, the queen has been working on a new and vague “Aldovia initiative” that will include a tech center, so it looks like Aldovia’s citizens have good things set up for them in the future. Anyway, while Amber wants to talk about this initiative and other progressive policies she’s implemented as queen, the press is concerned only with her baby’s due date, gender, and name.
If we want to do a deeper reading of the Christmas Prince franchise—which we must, this is what Martin Scorsese would call cinema—then I believe the press being more interested in a royal baby than socioeconomic policies is a wry metacommentary on parts of the media’s focus on things that don’t matter, like hot goss and monarchies. To which I say: Well played.
Sadly, that preoccupation extends to the rest of the royal family, which suggests baby names like “Hermione” and “Khaleesi,” the latter of which would be pretty messed up, seeing as Daenerys Targaryen was a war criminal and the George W. Bush of Westeros. (Cousin Simon suggests “Simon,” or “Simone” for a girl, because he is perfect.) I’m somewhat interested in what the baby might be named, but I’m way more keen on finding out more about this ancient Christmas curse.
2. Presenting: The Kingdom of Penglia
Time for some faux history: In the 1400s, the kingdoms of Aldovia and Penglia—the latter of which appears to be situated in Asia—were at war. They signed a peace treaty on Christmas Eve, and once every 100 years, the leaders of both countries convene to re-sign the document. Amber goes to meet with Queen Ming of Penglia, who she hopes will approve of her progressive move to have the treaty signed by two women for the first time in its history. (Ming isn’t that into the idea, and seems to regard the blogger turned queen with some reservations because she’s not from a royal bloodline.)
But then the treaty gets stolen the night before the big signing. I’m not sure why nobody in the castle thought to lock the room where this centuries-old document is stored, but then again, if the royals are still literally throwing people into dungeons, maybe the creation of Aldovia’s tech center is a more pressing issue than Amber let on. This is a big deal: If the treaty isn’t signed, Aldovia and Penglia technically return to a state of war. Imagine if the fourth installment of this franchise is the Apocalypse Now of Christmas movies—actually, holy shit, that sounds awesome. Amber can be the Colonel Kurtz of blogging!
Also, if the treaty isn’t signed, not only would relations between the nations be fractured, but a curse would fall upon Amber and Richard’s newborn baby. There are repeated assurances that sorcery isn’t really a thing anymore and this shouldn’t be taken seriously—but I guess I’d be concerned if I had reason to believe that my child would be beset by the bubonic plague or something. Move over, Knives Out: It’s time for a castle-based treaty whodunnit.
3. A Christmas Prince Might Exist in a Parallel Universe
But first, let’s address the Christmas Prince’s version of Eurasia. In addition to Aldovia and Penglia—hopefully, you didn’t need me to tell you these aren’t real countries—we get a glimpse of another fictional nation on the map, Belgravia.
Viewers steeped in the Netflix Christmas-verse might find this name familiar, as it’s where The Princess Switch took place, a movie about a baker and a princess, both played by Vanessa Hudgens, who pull a Prince and the Pauper. Now, you would assume this is all a single interconnected universe—obviously existing in a parallel world from our Earth, with so many fake nations. But wait—in The Princess Switch, we also see A Christmas Prince on a TV.
Does this mean Aldovia exists in the world of The Princess Switch, and that the universe’s version of Netflix basically made a biopic of a real-life blogger-prince romance? Is Belgravia a real place in both universes, but Aldovia isn’t? Where does Penglia and Montenaro—another fake country brought up in The Princess Switch—fit into all of this? I’ll consult my Netflix Christmas vision board and get back to you.
4. Everyone Is Really, Barely PG-approved Horny
A hallmark (sorry) of Hallmark Channel Christmas movies, aside from the cheesiness, is that any romantic advances begin and end with a wholesome smooch. Like on Disney+, there’s barely anything risqué in the material. That was certainly true of the Christmas Prince franchise thus far—Amber and Richard have some of the worst chemistry I’ve ever seen on film. But apparently an aphrodisiac has spread across Aldovia in The Royal Baby, because in the threequel, hardly anyone can contain their urges.
When everyone teases the typically staid Aldovian royal gatekeeper, Mrs. Averill, of not knowing how to loosen up, she says, “I have carefree moments, I had one last Sunday,” with a twinkle in her eye. (“MISSES AVERILL!” I shouted, alone in my apartment.) Princess Emily really wants to lure a boy she met in The Royal Wedding during a theater production under mistletoe. And Cousin Simon, who’s now in a relationship with Amber’s best friend Melissa, gets all flirty with a Penglian aide, Lynn, whom he went to school with. (There’s even talk of Simon “working the angles,” whatever that means.) Melissa is jealous, and as I wrote down in my notes, “they should have a threesome.”
Amber and Richard are still arguably the most sexless members of the Christmas Prince ensemble, which is impressive because, if nothing else, the existence of the royal baby confirms they have boned at least once. Missionary is definitely their favorite position.
5. Amber Has a Strange Understanding of Investigative Journalism
Oh, right, there’s a war that everyone needs to prevent. Thankfully, there’s a plot device—[clears throat] sorry, an Aldovian blizzard—that traps everyone in the castle, meaning whoever stole the treaty wouldn’t have been able to leave; thus, the treaty is still somewhere on castle grounds. Amber, noted blogger, is on the case.
Amber plans to do some “investigative journalism 101,” which, if you’ll remember the plot of The Royal Wedding, amounted to Amber sneaking around the castle to search for any financial discrepancies. I’m not sure if that’s, uh, my definition of investigative journalism—but if that’s what Amber wants to call breaking into people’s rooms and searching through their personal belongings, go off, queen.
The investigative journalism doesn’t yield any exciting developments in the missing treaty case. I also recommend that Amber takes some time after giving birth to watch Spotlight.
6. Amber Will Never Grow Out of Her Converse Phase
Since the beginning, the Christmas Prince franchise has doubled as a Converse advertisement; they seem to be the only shoes Amber will wear. (She wore them going down the aisle at her wedding, of course.) This trait will apparently be passed on to her firstborn, if Richard’s gift after the royal baby shower is anything to go by.
No, the royal family didn’t postpone a baby shower to search for an ancient treaty that could bring a curse upon the newborn and technically start a war, because the foremost priority in the castle is to keep morale high. These are special films.
7. The Dungeon Is Where Prisoners Go to Die
The castle’s dungeon, which has evolved from a throwaway joke by Princess Emily in the first film to a very real thing in the sequel, finally makes its on-screen debut in The Royal Baby. It is admirably generic and wouldn’t be out of place in a Scooby-Doo movie, but it’s also got some terrifying signs that people have died down here.
In The Royal Wedding, Lord Leopold was responsible for trying to bring down Aldovia’s economy—and was sent to the dungeon as punishment. That was concerning in and of itself—are the royals above the law? Shouldn’t Leopold be tried in court?—but this scribbled message seems to imply he perished down there. Was Leopold tortured? Did he starve to death? Was he eventually sent to a proper Aldovian prison? The fact that we don’t actually know of his fate is a dark stain on the Aldovian monarchy, which has distracted us with weddings, romance, and peace-treaty whodunits.
Speaking of which: Even though Amber and Co. didn’t really gather any helpful clues, Princess Emily and the Queen Mother, Helena, discover the treaty stowed away in the dungeon. The culprit was the family’s formerly loyal steward Mr. Little, who’s the descendant of a prince from the losing end of a 1400s love triangle. (He defends his actions by saying he had to fulfill a “blood oath,” and had no idea the royal baby would’ve been cursed.) I’ll say this for the Christmas Prince franchise: It’s certainly original. “Take Mr. Little to the Leopold Suite,” Helena orders, where, presumably, he’ll die from malnourishment.
8. Stop Scapegoating Cousin Simon, You Monsters
Because Cousin Simon was the first film’s main antagonist and is the closest thing this franchise has to a Bad Boy, he was the character everyone suspected to be the treaty thief. Melissa’s jealousy didn’t help things: She assumed Simon and Lynn were conspiring to steal the treaty and hook up. Oh, how they all misjudged Simon, who is hot and good.
Simon and Lynn’s planning revolved around helping both countries with economic amendments to the treaty, and when he brought Lynn to his bedroom, it wasn’t to fool around—it was to show her his engagement ring for Melissa. When confronted about it, Cousin Simon low-key steals the thunder from Amber’s royal childbirth by proposing to Melissa. (Though if we’re being honest, he has much better chemistry with Lynn.)
It’s what he deserves after being treated so poorly by everyone. We should applaud Cousin Simon for having the best—erm, only?—character development in the franchise.
9. Amber and Rudy Are Terrible New Yorkers
Amber, ostensibly a New Yorker, has her diner-owning dad flown in for the holidays. (His name is Rudy and the place is Rudy’s Diner; I’m sure it’s a staple for folks absolutely sauced on weekends.) Rudy’s New York accent is so, what’s the word, gabagool that I’m convinced he was actually in witness protection before Amber was born and read New York City for Dummies to try and disguise himself. (And this is disregarding the fact that Rudy was played by a different actor in the first movie, which is its own mindfuck casually addressed by Princess Emily, who says Rudy “looks like a different person” in The Royal Wedding. He is still played by the second actor, John Guerrasio, in The Royal Baby.)
My suspicions increased when Amber was gifted one of those lame “I Love New York” tourist-trap shirts for her baby, which she loved. And then, during the movie’s end credits, Rudy and Amber enjoy some New York bagels that he brought over on the flight … without spreading anything on them.
What kind of sociopath eats a plain bagel? If I ever see someone do this in Brooklyn, I’m calling the authorities. (Side note: In the end credits, we also find out Mr. Little was transferred to an actual prison, so at least he went through the criminal justice system and wasn’t killed in a dungeon.)
10. I Want This Franchise to Outlive Me
A blogger-prince meet-cute, a royal wedding, a royal baby—where will this exemplary franchise go next? I can’t really say—though I’d recommend a Cousin Simon–centric venture for all the Simon-heads out there. All I know is that it must go on. Like with John Wick, please just keep making Christmas Prince films.
Ideally, Netflix will keep making Christmas Prince movies until the Earth is uninhabitable and streamers become a relic of a time before the Great American Sand Wars. The romantic hijinks of Aldovian royalty is what I want to be spoon-fed in a beautiful, timeless loop; Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence with holiday cheer. Long may the royal baby live; long may Cousin Simon live; long may the Christmas Prince franchise live.