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K-drama Flashback: ‘Princess Hours’

Set in a society dominated by avarice and political agendas, ‘Princess Hours’ is a light-hearted youthful romance with a royal family, friendship, love, and coming-of-age narrative

Debashree Dutta Feb 26, 2022

'Princess Hours' - Photo courtesy of HanCinema

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Princess Hours is an iconic K-drama series starring Yoon Eunhye, Joo Jihoon, Kim Jeonghoon, and Song Jihyo that aired in 2006. It was one of the most successful dramas of 2006, which went on to become a global sensation, adding to the ‘Hallyu’ wave.

‘Chae Kyeong’ is a regular art student in high school. One day, she’s shocked to learn that, as per her grandfather’s will, she must marry Crown Prince ‘Lee Shin’, who studies at the same school. The free-spirited Chae rejects the proposal but marries him reluctantly under compulsion to support her debt-ridden family. Lee’s cousin and second-in-line to the throne, ‘Yul’, enters her life just as she is struggling to adjust to the customs and royal obligations of palace life, as well as her grumpy husband. She trusts Yul to assist her, but at the same time can’t help but be concerned about her pompous, cold-hearted husband.

With Yul’s mother’s (Lady ‘Hwayoung’) machinations (she has returned to reclaim her son’s right to the throne), what follows is a series of events, which is exacerbated by the various scandals involving the imperial family. Yul develops feelings for Chae, while Shin maintains an illicit relationship with his old flame, ‘Hyo Rin’, a ballerina. The imperial family takes matters into their own hands when things spiral out of control, a time when Lee and Chae, unknowingly but surely, fall head over heels in love with each other. The question is whether the Crowned Princess will ever be ready for the trials and tribulations of royal life.

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Chae, played by Yoon Eunhye, is spunky and cute, although she is clumsy and lacks style and grace. But that’s exactly what I love about her; she has no desire to be a princess. Lee, the archetypal haughty prince played by Joo Jihoon, is handsome, well-liked, and conceited at the same time.

I believe the detailed representation of a wonderful slow-burn relationship between the characters, has helped this drama the most. You’ll adore how a hasty marriage gradually transforms into a charming tale of romance between two young adults. The natural acting of Joo Jihoon and Yoon Eunhye as Crown Prince Lee and the girl next door turned princess, Chae, depicts the gradual progression of their romance beautifully. It’s a must-watch to see moments of unexpressed agony, disliking yet love for each other, unspoken jealousy, craving for each other’s attention, presence, and all in between. This is set against the backdrop of a monarchy that has its own imperial family. The drama, also rife with principles of family values and traditions, commitment and faithfulness, filial piety, and responsibility, charts the growth of the protagonists as the story revolves around these themes.

As previously stated, Chae is awkward, hesitant, and lacking in aspirations and decorum. But, throughout the series, she matures substantially and by the epilogue, she becomes a fully grown individual. Essentially, the show is a light-hearted youthful romance with a coming-of-age narrative, including almost all the elements of a classic popular K-drama. Princess Hours is set in a society characterized by avarice and political agendas, amidst traditions of an ethos that in a way disregards emotion and love. What works, however, are the sentiments beyond words that keep the lovers together till the end. Kudos to the magnificent OSTs that also contributed to the show’s success. “Perhaps Love,” an all-time hit, is a personal favorite from the playlist.

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