What Does Ruritania Mean in 'The Crown'?

imelda staunton as queen elizabeth
What Does Ruritania Mean in The Crown?Netflix
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Episode six of The Crown's final season has an interesting title: "Ruritania." But what does it even mean? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Ruritanian is defined as "of, relating to, or having the characteristics of an imaginary place of high romance."

But what does that mean, in the context of The Crown? In the episode, the word is used during a meeting between the Prime Minister and the Queen.

When Tony Blair (Bertie Carvel) asks Queen Elizabeth (Imelda Staunton) if she reviewed his office's recommendations for modernization of the monarchy, she replies, "We have now conducted a thorough review of all the offices in my household, and what we have discovered was not indefensible extravagance or luxury or a collection of empty Ruritanian titles, but an extraordinary array of precious expertise, skills that had been passed down for generations, all from within the same families."

Here, she's using the word to indicate the monarchy's purpose is not Ruritanian—romantic, imaginary, and perhaps how Blair sees it—but rather as upholding an important tradition.

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The word 'Ruritanian' dates back to 1894, when British author Anthony Hope wrote and published The Prisoner of Zenda. As the dictionary explains, The Prisoner of Zenda, set in the mythical kingdom of Ruritania, "relates the adventures of Rudolf Rassendyll, a British gentleman who impersonates the king of Ruritania to save him from a treasonous plot. An improbable but high-spirited tale filled with heroes, villains, courtly intrigue, romance, and sword play, Hope's narrative (and its fictional locale) quickly captured the imagination of the public."

By 1896, "Ruritanian" was used as an adjective, and now, centuries later, it's the title of an episode of The Crown.

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