illustration of the prince and the pauper standing back to back with a castle on the prince's side and a low building on the pauper's

The Prince and the Pauper

by Mark Twain

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What are the major events in "The Prince and the Pauper"?

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The Prince and the Pauper is the story of two boys, one a prince and one a pauper, who trade clothes one day and, because they look identically alike, inadvertently assume each other’s identities. King Henry, seeing a boy in pauper’s clothes in the palace, throws his own son out on the streets, believing him to be a beggar. Tom, a pauper, is accepted into the palace as the prince, but because he acts very unlike a prince, the people come to believe that he must be suffering from madness. A while back, when King Henry was ill, he had given Prince Edward the Great Seal of the Kingdom to guard and protect until the king returned to health. When the king returns and asks for the seal, however, Tom, who has assumed the identity of Edward, knows nothing about it —which, in the eyes of the palace, is further proof of the prince’s madness.

Meanwhile, the real Prince Edward, who is living as a pauper on the streets, experiences injustice like he never knew existed, and he grows to understand the plight of the poor. Determined to right wrongs and correct the social injustices inflicted on his people, he returns to the palace and presents the Great Seal of the Kingdom, proving his true identity. Prince Edward ascends to the throne, and he appoints Tom as his ward. Edward is now able to rule the kingdom with heart and fairness, having experienced unfairness himself when he lived as a pauper.

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The major important events will differ slightly from reader to reader, but I will list out (in no particular order) some of the events that I believe are crucial to the story as a whole.

  • Tom and Edward are both born. They are born to different families, but have a striking resemblance. Tom is poor, and Edward is rich. 
  • Tom goes to the palace, is attacked by a guard, and is invited into the palace by Edward.
  • Tom and Edward decide to swap places for a bit, but Edward winds up being kicked out of the palace by mistake.
  • John Canty kills Father Andrew.
  • King Henry VIII dies. 
  • Tom begins ending Henry's reign of terror by pardoning people. 
  • Edward is captured by John Canty and his gang . . . several times.
  • Miles Hendon saves Edward . . . several times. 
  • Tom and Edward are reunited and convince everybody that they did indeed switch places. Edward is made king, and he gives Miles and Tom royal titles and makes them rich.

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