Ruritanian Romance - The Mad King
dictionary.com defines "Ruritania," noun form,
1. a mythical, romantic kingdom conceived as the
setting for a fairy tale, costume drama, comic
operetta, or the like.
2. Facetious meaning: any small, little-known
country or region considered remote, backward,
Ruritanian, adjective form
Origin: after the fictional Central European
kingdom in the novel The Prisoner of Zenda (1894)
by A. Hope
Related terms "Graustark" and "Graustarkian" -
from a novel (1901) by George Barr McCutcheon
about the romantic and melodramatic adventures
of military and courtly figures in the fictional
kingdom of Graustark.
Ronald Coleman and Madeleine Carroll in John Cromwell's 1937 film of The Prisoner of Zenda
A Ruritanian Romance is a story set in a fictional country, usually in Central or Eastern Europe. The genre derives its name
from the country of Ruritania, a fictionalized place in three novels by Anthony Hope, the first being the wildly popular The
Prisoner of Zenda. Hope's success led to a new genre of novels featuring similar elements: mistaken identity, aristo-cratic
romance, intrigue, narrow escapes, and close calls. The themes of honor, loyalty, and love predominate, and the books
frequently feature the restoration of kings to their thrones.
Although recognizable Ruritanian romances such as Robert Louis Stevenson's Prince Otto were written prior to Hope's The
Prisoner of Zenda, that 1894 novel set the type, with the handsome decoy restoring the rightful king to the throne, and
resulted in a burst of similar popular fiction, such as George Barr McCutcheon's Graustark novels and Frances Hodgson
Burnett's The Lost Prince. Edgar rice Burroughs' contributions to this tradition were The Mad King, a novel, and "The Rider," a
The Mad King is one of his most popular non-series works. He wrote the first half of the present book in October and
November of 1913 and submitted it for publication as "The Mad King of Lutha" to All-Story Weekly in 1914. The success of
this novelette inspired a sequel "Barney Custer of Beatrice" in 1915. Both novelettes were combined in 1926 to form the
present volume, The Mad King.
W. C. Fairchild, illustrator
Cover art for August 7, 1915 issue of ALL-STORY WEEKLY
Cover art for April 1964 paperback edition