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In Brooklyn in the 1880s, after Captain Errol, an Englishman, dies, his American widow and son Ceddie live frugally, but are happily devoted to each other. When Ceddie turns nine, his miserly grandfather, the Earl of Dorincourt, who had earlier denounced his son for marrying an American, calls Ceddie to England to take the title Lord Fauntleroy, the earl's successor. Ceddie's best friend, grocer Mr. Hobbs, believes all aristocracy are pretentious and unkind. Ceddie, therefore, is reluctant to accept his new title. However, when Havisham, the earl's lawyer and envoy, gives Ceddie money that enables him to help those most dear to him, he believes the earl is filled with generosity. When Ceddie and his mother, whom he calls "Dearest," arrive in Erlesboror, he learns that his mother will not be living with him at the castle. Dearest, not wanting Ceddie to think ill of his grandfather, does not tell him it is the earl's bigotry that forces them to live apart. The handsome and well-mannered Ceddie treats the earl with a candor and sweetness that soon softens the old man's heart, causing his family and tenants to think kindly of him for the first time. Trouble starts when Minna, a fortune-hunting woman who claims to have married the earl's eldest son, comes forward to claim Ceddie's title for her own ill-mannered boy, Tom. When the court barrister regretfully names Tom Lord Fauntleroy, Ceddie swears his devotion to his grandfather, with or without his title. Broken-hearted, the earl decides Minna's actions are retribution for his cruelty to Dearest and apologizes. Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, bootblack Dick, Hobbs' and Ceddie's friend, reads about Minna's claim and recognizes her as his actress sister-in-law. Soon Hobbs, Dick and Dick's brother Ben are in England, where Ben identifies Minna as his wife and is reunited with his missing son. On Ceddie's tenth birthday, Dearest comes to live at the castle, and Hobbs, changing his mind about earls, says he has come to England to stay.