I don’t watch Christmas movies for the realism; I watch them for the camp factor. That’s what I assumed A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby, third installment of the absolutely unhinged Netflix Christmas Prince franchise, would deliver. Mystery Science 3000, but make it peppermint mocha. Instead, I stumbled upon an absolutely earth-shattering discovery: this movie completely discards all of eastern European history since the late Middle Ages, and maybe even before. I have been absolutely shaken to my core by a historic map show in a bit of backstory and I need answers, immediately.
For years, I have stubbornly resisted the urge to engage in a conspiracy-theorist-style attempt to map all the made-up kingdoms of princess movies onto the real geopolitical history of Europe. But I have finally met my match in the form of Aldovia, the setting for Netflix’s Christmas Prince series, which makes so little sense that I spent an hour last night frantically Googling historic maps of eastern Europe and trying to figure out whether anybody at Netflix has ever even heard of the Hapsburgs.
Frankly, when I watched the first movie, I assumed that Aldovia—like Genovia, the fictional country from The Princess Diaries, and the location of essentially every other princess movie since Grace Kelly—was basically just a version of Lichtenstein or Monaco, a small but fascinating accident of history subsisting on some combination of high-end vacationer money (maybe skiing?) and tax laws very favorable to either the super-wealthy or multinational corporations, or both. But I joked—smugly, I’ll admit it—that it was funny that some minor German principality had managed to dodge Otto von Bismark, Hitler, the postwar reordering of Europe, and the fall of the Soviet Union in order to survive into the present-day.
Turns out I was thinking small potatoes, and Aldovia has so little connection to the realities of European history that we are dealing with an alternate history so ambitious that Watchmen looks lazy!
The latest installment, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby, is deeply involved in the international political situation of Aldovia and provides some more context, which is to say, I almost fell in the floor while watching this movie’s info dump. This Christmas—these people only seem to have major life events at Christmas, which is weird—Queen Amber and the rest of the royal family of Aldovia need to renew a 600-year-old treaty with the somewhat generically Asian nation of Penglia. You see, back in 1419, Aldovia was at war with Penglia—“over Silk Road trading routes,” Amber helpfully adds—until the two countries declared a truce on Christmas Eve, “inspired by the season of peace and goodwill.” Weird that a country presumably based on the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan (though it would have fallen apart by the 1400s) would have been Christianized. But don’t worry—it gets weirder.
In the course of all this explanation, they showed a map from the early 1400s that has now haunted me for a full 12 hours:
So, we’re not dealing with a world where a portion of some nothing-ass German principality smaller than the suburbs of Cleveland inexplicably survived the last 300 years. It’s so much wilder than that! This map posits a country that encompasses Romania, the place where the movie was actually filmed, as well as the entire Balkans and parts of Austria, Hungary, and maybe even Poland and Germany. This map upends much of European history since the Middle Ages! In what universe does this make sense???
This presents so many questions that I genuinely do not know where to start. Is Aldovia supposed to be the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but if the World War I never happened, or if just Vienna had continued to truck along with a king after the Treaty of Versailles? If so, the area around the castle should really be a lot grander and, well, more imperial. Is it supposed to be Romania? Maybe it’s Moldova? If so, I really need some explanation about what happened under Soviet Union and how the royal family of Aldovia was invited back to the throne after the fall of the Iron Curtain, not only as figureheads but as people with actual, real power. How big is modern-day Aldovia? Does it correspond to that map in any way? What is the religious makeup of Aldovia? What’s Putin’s relationship to Aldovia? Is Aldovia in the European Union? If so, why do they have a separate trading relationship with Penglia? What is their currency? Is Aldovia in NATO? Did Aldovia send troops to the Iraq War? Do NATO and the EU even exist in this universe?
Another problem: Aldovia in this map bumps right against the all-important Bosporus, and much of the territory in that map was Ottoman territory for centuries. Did the Ottoman Empire ever exist?
And then there’s Belgravia, whose placement on this map unites multiple Netflix Christmas movies because it’s the setting for Vanessa Hudgens’ The Princess Switch, which posits another European kingdom in what looks from this map to be modern Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Did the Soviet Union ever exist in this universe? Did the Romanovs ever exist in this universe? Penglia doesn’t make sense either but we’ll just chalk that up to 15th-century mapmaking skills.
Where is the break between our timeline and theirs? Is it 1914? Is it the Crusades? Is it the Roman Empire? Maybe they never split it in half and moved the capital to Byzantium? Does it have something to do with Attila the Hun, or maybe Alexander the Great? I cannot rest until Netflix provides more information about this country, its modern incarnation, and possibly an entire textbook of world history from the fall of the Roman Empire onward.