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When Captain Crewe is called to service during the Boer War, he enrolls his little daughter Sara in a boarding school run by the heartless Amanda Minchin. Sara, a generous, unspoiled child, is dubbed "The Little Princess" by her schoolmates because of her distinguished family. At the school, Sara is befriended by Amanda's jolly brother Bertie; her riding teacher, Geoffrey Hamilton; her tutor, Rose, who is in love with Geoffrey; Becky, the little skullery maid, and Ram Dass, the servant of Lord Wickham who lives across the way. On the day of Sara's birthday party, Miss Minchin receives word that Captain Crewe has been reported killed in action and all his assets confiscated by the enemy. To pay for Sara's expenses, Miss Minchin sells the girl's clothes and makes her a kitchen servant, sending her to live in the attic. After losing her father, Sara also loses her friends when Geoffrey goes off to war, Rose is fired by Miss Minchin when she learns of her love affair, and Bertie leaves because he can no longer tolerate his sister's cruelty. However, Sara's spirit remains undaunted, and she refuses to believe that her father is really dead. After each debarkation of wounded men, she rushes to the hospital to find him, missing him several times as he lies in bed, shell-shocked. Finally, on the day that Captain Crewe is to be shipped to Edinburgh, Sara runs to the hospital where Queen Victoria is visiting. The queen intervenes on behalf of the little waif, and with her help, Sara is at last reunited with her beloved father.