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In June, 1900, legations in Peking representing 11 countries are threatened by the fanatical Boxers, a band of terrorists determined to drive the "foreign devils" out of China. Encouraged by Dowager Empress Tzü Hsi and her adviser, Prince Tuan, the Boxers move into the city and murder the German ambassador. Although most of the envoys vote to flee Peking, British Ambassador Sir Arthur Robertson persuades them to remain and make a stand. With only 500 military units at their disposal, the legations depend on the leadership of U. S. Marine Maj. Matt Lewis, who has prevented the deportation of Russian Baroness Natalie Ivanoff, widow of an aristocrat who committed suicide over her infidelity. Meanwhile, the empress orders the Imperial Army to aid the Boxers in their attack on the foreign powers. When their situation becomes desperate, Natalie obtains precious food and medicine by selling an emerald necklace, but she is fatally wounded while bringing the supplies into their compound. The situation appears hopeless as the Chinese launch a final assault, but on the morning of August 14th, 55 days after the initial uprising, reinforcements from all 11 nations arrive to turn back the Boxers, dethrone the empress, and topple the Manchu Dynasty.