A main theme, as relevant to our time as to Twain's, is the importance to leadership of knowing the lives of the people you lead. Prince Edward is not a bad soul, but he is isolated and out of touch in his palace—pampered, surrounded by courtiers, and with no real...
A main theme, as relevant to our time as to Twain's, is the importance to leadership of knowing the lives of the people you lead. Prince Edward is not a bad soul, but he is isolated and out of touch in his palace—pampered, surrounded by courtiers, and with no real idea of the struggles that the ordinary people of London (and England) endure even less than a mile from his home.
Being mistaken for the poor Tom Canty and cast from court radically changes Edward's life and viewpoint. He suddenly has a very real understanding of what it is to be powerless, poor, and voiceless. No matter how many times he states his truth that he is the heir to the throne, almost nobody—especially most adults—will listen or believe him. He gains an enormously powerful insight into what it means to be a nobody. This raises his compassion and empathy, and ensures he will be a better ruler than if he had not ever been exposed to life's reality. In many ways, despite all his power and privilege, he was a deprived person—deprived of knowing what real life is like. As he states,
When I am come to mine own again, I will always honor little children, remembering how that these trusted me and believed me in my time of trouble; whilst they that were older, and thought themselves wiser, mocked at me and held me for a liar.
Second, like other writers of the period, Twain attacks the idea that people born to royal or aristocratic titles are genetically superior to those born to poverty. This is not a surprising point of view coming from an American writer, but nevertheless, it is clear in the novel. Tom Canty is in no way inherently inferior to Prince Edward—his problem has been poverty and lack of opportunity.