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On the same day in 1537 that Edward Tudor, the son of King Henry VIII, is born in London, a poor boy named Tom Canty is born in the slums of London. As Tom grows, he studies with Father Andrew and dreams of a life apart from the beggers and thieves that surround him, while Edward, pampered by the luxuries of royal life, becomes curious about the real England. One night, when Tom hides in the palace yard to escape a driving rain, the two boys meet, realize there is a striking resemblance between them, and playfully exchange clothes. In the midst of a game, the Captain of the Guard mistakes Edward for the beggar-boy and throws him out of the palace. When the Earl of Hertford, the King's scheming advisor who hopes to be appointed Edward's Lord High Protector, discovers the switch, he seizes the opportunity to control the throne by forcing Tom to continue the pretense, allowing him to order the murder of the real Edward. The boy is befriended by Miles Hendon, a soldier of fortune who indulges the boy's "fantasies" that he is Prince of England. Soon the King dies, and Edward manages, with Miles's help, to escape Tom's vicious father, John Canty, and return to the palace. The coronation is in progress, but Edward proves himself by revealing the whereabouts of the Great Seal of England. Finally, the true Edward is crowned, Hertford is banished, Miles is recognized for his bravery, and Tom is made a ward of the court.