Some felt he did not understand princes and was, therefore, unable to successfully portray his principal character in this novel. Significantly, just around the time he wrote The Private Life of an Indian Prince, Anand had suffered a nervous breakdown over his affair with a hill woman, and his doctors had advised him to somehow work this anguish out of his system. Mulk Raj Anand followed their advice by writing this novel. It need not be seen as merely the story of the sexual escapades of a young, childish and impulsive maharaja, hopping from bed to bed of his many mistresses. In Anand’s own words, this novel "is a study in pity, absolute pity for those who love absolutely—in this case the Prince".
Anand’s knowledge of Indian rajas and maharajas in the dying days of the Raj was sketchy and elementary. His only close contact with people of this category was confined to his experience of working for two months as the tutor of the young Rana of Bhajji, one of the smaller Simla Hill States. Anand has written elsewhere that "the middle sections and the nabobs and rajas were also to be included as a species of untouchables.... There has not been time to show the poor-rich of our country, who deserve pity more than contempt".