All Ludstadt was in an uproar. The mad king had escaped. For ten years no man of them all had set eyes upon the face of the boy-king who had been hastened to the grim castle of Blentz upon the death of the old king, his father. Into this troubled country came Barney Custer of Beatrice, Nebraska, a virtual twin of the mad king. Burroughs wrote this tale of confused identity and royal intrigue in 1914-15, just as World War I was about to begin, and the events that led to the war inform the book as Burroughs wrote. It means to be an homage to Anthony Hope's Prisoner of Zenda but the war's influcence makes it a very different story from Hope's almost-whimsical novel.
All Lustadt was in an uproar. The mad king had escaped. Little knots of excited men stood upon the street corners listening to each latest rumor concerning this most absorbing occurrence. Before the palace a great crowd surged to and fro, awaiting they knew not what. For ten years no man of them had set eyes upon the face of the boy–king who had been hastened to the grim castle of Blentz upon the death of the old king, his father. There had been murmurings then when the lad's uncle, Peter of Blentz, had announced to the people of Lutha the sudden mental affliction which had fallen upon his nephew, and more murmurings for a time after the announcement that Peter of Blentz had been appointed Regent during the lifetime of the young King Leopold, "or until God, in His infinite mercy, shall see fit to restore to us in full mental vigor our beloved monarch."