Charles Perrault's version of Sleeping Beauty, published in 1697, includes the following text at the point where the princess wakes up: "'Est-ce vous, mon prince?' lui dit-elle, 'vous vous êtes bien fait attendre'. Le Prince charmé de ces paroles... ne savait comment lui témoigner sa joie". ("'Are you my prince?' she said. 'You've kept me waiting a long time'. The prince charmed by her words... did not know how to express his joy.") It has sometimes been suggested that this passage later inspired the term, "Prince Charming", even though it is the prince who is charmed (charmé) here, not who is being charming (charmant).
In the 17th century, Madame d'Aulnoy wrote two fairy tales, The Story of Pretty Goldilocks, where the hero was named Avenant ("Fine", "Beautiful", in French), and The Blue Bird, where the hero was Le roi Charmant ("The Charming King"). When Andrew Lang retold the first (in 1889) for The Blue Fairy Book, he rendered the hero's name as "Charming"; the second, for The Green Fairy Book, as "King Charming". Although neither one was a prince and the first was not royal, this may have been the original use of "Charming".
In the early Disney animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), when Snow White tells the dwarfs about her prince, she says, "Anyone could see that the prince was charming, the only one for me." However, he is never referred to specifically as "Prince Charming". Andreas Deja initially struggled with the concept of animating a handsome villain in Beauty and the Beast. Deja ultimately based Gaston's appearance on those of handsome soap opera actors in order to create a grotesque version of the Prince Charming stock character.
Prince Charming is the tritagonist of Disney's 1950 animated feature film Cinderella. As his name suggests, he is the prince of a faraway kingdom, known for his dashing and handsome air. On the night of a royal ball, Charming falls in love with a mysterious maiden. Before he could learn her name, the maiden flees the castle, leaving only a glass slipper behind. The enamored Charming thus vows to use the slipper to find and marry his true love.
In earlier drafts of the screenplay, the Prince originally played a larger role and had more character development than what he ultimately received in the final version of the film (the third film would rectify this, however). In one abandoned opening, the Prince was shown hunting a deer, but at the end of the sequence, it was to be revealed that the Prince and the deer were actually friends playing a game. In an abandoned alternate ending, after the Grand Duke discovered Cinderella's identity, she was shown being brought to the castle to be re-introduced to the Prince, who is surprised to learn that the woman he fell in love with was merely a modest servant girl instead of a princess, but the Prince's feelings for her were too strong to be bothered by this, and he embraced her. He also had a solo number at one point, entitled "The Face That I See in the Night", in which he sang about how he couldn't stop dreaming of the mysterious girl who stole his heart at the ball.
Interestingly, despite his position in power and royal status, he is far from shallow and is shown to be rather accepting of those around him, no matter their position or background, and seems to judge people more on their personalities and overall character. As seen in the original film, none of the women gushing over him caught his eyes. It wasn't until he spotted Cinderella, a maiden wandering aimlessly about the palace, paying no attention to the high profile prince, did he become romantically invested in the evening at hand. As seen in Dreams Come True, he supported Cinderella's wishes to abolish peasant discrimination by inviting the village townsfolk to the king's royal banquet, finding her nontraditional way of doing things perfect.
Prince Charming reappeared in the film's sequel. In the first story "Aim to Please" he and Cinderella have just returned from their honeymoon only to find out that he and his father must leave on a trip. While they are gone, Cinderella must learn how to be a princess and set up a ball in honor of their return. When they do, the Prince and his father love the new way Cinderella planned the party. She invited guests from the village instead of just aristocrats as well as brightening up the castle.
In this version, Prince Charming is known as "Kit", and commonly engages in hunting parties and fencing lessons. During one of his hunts, he encounters a girl by the name of Ella as Kit introduces himself to her, explaining that his father calls him "Kit" when in a good mood. Though their meeting is brief, he almost immediately falls in love with her, forming into a romantic obsession. Later on, he soon finds his father, the King, is nearing death, and as a dying wish, he asks that Kit finds himself a bride at an upcoming ball. However, the law states that he can only marry a princess, which Ella is not. Even so, he manages to convince his father to allow every eligible maiden to attend the ball, as opposed to just royalty, which he accepts. At the ball, Ella enters and dances with Kit. But before names can be exchanged, the clock strikes midnight, and she departs.
Although Prince Charming himself doesn't appear in this book, Gaston mentioned a prince from a neighboring kingdom who finds success "after the matter of the glass slipper was sorted", hinting that Cinderella takes place in the same world as Beauty and the Beast, along with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and The Little Mermaid.
He also appeared along with Cinderella in the former castle stage show Dream Along with Mickey at the Magic Kingdom. When Minnie wishes to be a princess, Mickey grants her wish and welcomes Aurora, Phillip, Snow White, her prince, Cinderella, and Prince Charming for a waltz.
He's an aristocrat with a magnetic personality, probably dashing, brave, gallant, and kind, a true prince. In Fairy Tales, he often rescues the Damsel in Distress and marries her to live Happily Ever After. If he's saving himself for his true princess he'll be her Celibate Hero but if he's more interested in impressing the ladies with his father's money, he's a Millionaire Playboy.
Except, actually, all the princes in those tales were very seldom named. It was simply a "prince" or "king" or royalty of some sort. And when they did have names, they were commonplace names: John, Ivan, Jean, Hans, etc.
Comic Books Bill Willingham's comic book Fables (about characters from fairy tales living in secret in New York) has Prince Charming, who was married three times, to Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. He's a bit of a Magnificent Bastard and eventually becomes Mayor of Fabletown. Deconstructed as well, in that the effortless charmer is an absolute master at getting what he wants, but actually putting in the hard work to keep it is another matter entirely. He ends up failing horribly as mayor and resigning, and instead leading the Fabletown war effort against the Adversary, where his personal daring, intense focus on goals, and excellent mind for Xanatos Speed Chess over longterm chessmastering make him extremely successful.
Young Avengers: Loki suggests that Hulkling is really this, having been created by his boyfriend Wiccan's Reality Warper powers to subconsciously fulfill his fantasy of meeting and falling in love with this type of character. He points out the improbability of a gay teenage boy meeting, and perfectly matching, a gay alien prince. Of course, this is coming from Loki, and both Hulkling and Wiccan were listed as part of the Avengers Fail-Safe Program, being descendants of prior members of The Avengers. Prodigy dismisses it as "existential nonsense", and eventually Hulkling even acknowledges there's no way Wiccan at that point could've done it.
The Mirror Universe counterpart of King Sombra from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) is the trope played very much straight.
The Queen of Fables thinks that Superman is Prince Charming and wants to either kill him or marry him. Maybe both.
Fairy Tales "Tattercoats": The prince runs into a poor, rag-wearing goose girl walking around barefoot and begs her to marry with him. When Tattercoats tells him to stop mocking her, the prince asks her to go to the court so he can prove his sincerity by presenting her as his bride to everybody.
Theater Cinderella (Lloyd Webber): Prince Charming is the favored son and heir of the queen, a handsome and strapping young land adored throughout the land. However, he's now vanished and the Spare to the Throne is seen as a lame nerd in comparison.
Into the Woods actually has two examples: there are two Prince Charmings, married to Cinderella and Rapunzel, respectively. In the second act, they abandon their wives for Snow White and Sleeping Beauty."I was raised to be charming, not sincere." - Cinderella's Prince
Tsukino Empire - Unleash your mind - has Shun as the second prince of the empire. He certainly is charming, enough to win over Kai to being his knight upon their first meeting. The twins from the fourth fleet are also dazzled by him.
Webcomics Girl Genius: Gil is a kind of reconstruction. The Prince Charming has often been deconstructed by making him (the heir of) a tyrant or dictator. But Gil is very good at arguing his father is the most enlightened despot in the continent, and he's probably right. Gil is also a handsome warrior who always saves the girl; he just fails for the romantic side.
Another sort of reconstruction is Gil's rival Tarvek Sturmvoraus (though he's a prince of a principality instead of a king's son). He grew up in a Decadent Court and had to be an ambitious schemer to even survive, but his love interest Agatha ended up becoming his romantic Morality Chain, and in turn he gave her the know-how to survive the whole "lost heir" thing.
No Rest for the Wicked has Prince Ricardo, aka "Picky Dicky." He's great with heroics, but insists on only marrying the best princess in the world, and has subsequently insulted just about every other in his search. His Establishing Character Moment has him getting through the vines surrounding Sleeping Beauty's castle, which have claimed countless other men, leaning in to kiss her...and then leaving in disgust when it turns out that she wheezes in her sleep.
In Sinfest, is displeased with Happily Ever After so she declares Prince Charming really cheated on her so she killed him in his sleep.