When history wore a rose and diplomacy moved at the speed of a waltz…
So begins the great classic 1937 swashbuckler movie The Prisoner of Zenda. Based on the 1894 novel of the same name by Anthony Hope (Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins) an English barrister turned writer. There were two other books in Hope’s Ruritanian trilogy Rupert of Hentzau and The Heart of Princess Osra. The Hentzau book was a direct sequel to Zenda with Princess Osra filling in some of the background. The first two books were set in the 1870’s while the last one was set in the 1730’s. Hope wrote many other works as well but none were as highly regarded as The Prisoner of Zenda or as famous.
There have been many versions and variations of this classic adventure story. One of my favorites is The Androids of Tara. This variant is an episode of Dr. Who with Tom Baker and the Doctor and the late Mary Tamm as his companion, Romana. But, without a doubt, my all time favorite is the 1937 movie version with an all star cast including David Niven, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Madelline Carrol, and Ronald Coleman. It is IMO, the best version as well.
There is another version as well. One that I am quite familiar with. My friend Mike McCartin has created an expanded version of Ruritania that is just incredible. I have had a part in creating this but most of the work and all of the graphics are his.
Mike began by locating Ruritania on the map of Europe. Many authors and game designers put it somewhere in the Balkans. Mike and I both disagree with this interpretation. From the literature, Ruritania is part of the German speaking culture of Europe which would tend to put it in central Europe. Besides, Hope has already a mythical Balkan state, Kravonia in his book Sophy of Kravonia. Since I haven’t read that particular work yet, I’m really not sure what that would entail. Mike also made the decision to make Ruritania what is called a mittelstadten much in the same vein as the real world countries of Saxony and Bavaria. The results look like this:
As you can see, Strelsau, the capital of Ruritania, is located pretty much where Hope put it in his book; between Dresden and Prague. The rest of the country is Mike’s creation except for the part in lower southwest corner marked AH. That is Ahrenheim and that is my part of the kingdom.
Ahrenheim means “Home of the Eagles”. It began life as my attempt to create my own mythical kingdom. Part of Ahrenheim’s history was that it was founded by the remnants of the Roman XXIIIrd Legion. They had the title of “Aquila Victrix” (Victorious Eagles). The capital of Ahrenheim is called Roemersburg which means “Town of the Romans” in German.
As I tried to develop it, I found that the task was a little more time than I wanted to put into it so I asked Mike if Ahrenheim could be a part of Ruritania and he graciously agreed. We decided that Ahrenheim had been a small semi-autonomous county of Bavaria but during the Thirty Years War had joined itself to Ruritania. My Ruritanian Steampunk persona is His Highness, Bernhard Heinrich, Markgraf von Ahrenheim, Baron Derhake von Grieffensburg. The cool part is that Bernhard Heinrich Derhake was the name of one of my German ancestors.
So my friends, on behalf of Her Royal Majesty, Queen Flavia, welcome to the Kingdom of Ruritania.