Based on Mark Twain's novel, a pauper replaces the prince just as the king dies; much intrigue and crime occurs before Edward VI gets his place back.
Prince Edward is born in 1537. Henry VIII (Montagu Love) thanks and dismisses the queen. Ten years later the pauper Tom Canty (Billy Mauch), born on the same day, plays at king and is beaten by his father John Canty (Barton MacLane). Tom asks the priest Andrew (Fritz Leiber) to let him read; but his father takes the book, and Tom has to beg. Henry VIII calls the Earl of Hertford (Claude Rains) a rat but prefers him to the Duke of Norfolk (Henry Stephenson). Henry VIII tells Edward (Bobby Mauch) about power and gives him the great seal. Edward finds a guard beating Tom, and they become friends. Edward changes clothes with Tom. Edward hides the seal, goes looking for his dog, and is expelled by the guards. Hertford finds Tom asleep and calls him prince. Tom says he is not the prince, and Hertford tells the king that the prince is mad. Henry VIII dies before naming a Lord Protector. Hertford has Tom appoint him, and Tom tells him what happened. Hertford asks the captain (Alan Hale), and the prince's dog barks at Tom. Hertford won't let Tom go and tells the captain to eliminate Edward.
In the street Edward learns that his father died and says he is king. People beat him, but Miles Hendon (Errol Flynn) defends him and takes him home for dinner. As king Edward knights Miles so he can sit in his presence. Tom signs bills for Hertford but objects to taxing windows. Miles looks for Edward; but Tom's father John grabs Edward and beats him. Andrew intervenes, and John strikes him down dead. John goes away with Edward. Hertford asks Norfolk for more money; but Norfolk wants it for the navy. Norfolk challenges Hertford, who has Tom sign an order, asking where the seal is. Tom has been using it to crack nuts. Norfolk is arrested. Edward learns how witches are killed, and a man was enslaved by English law. Edward says he will end those laws and calls John a murderer; but they laugh at him. Miles overhears the captain talking. John makes Edward steal; but Edward stops a murder and is seen by Miles, who fights and kills John. Miles and Edward are arrested for robbery. The captain sees Edward and takes him. The barmaid (Phyllis Barry) cuts Miles free. Edward learns that the captain is going to kill him and prays. Miles arrives and fights two men and the captain with his sword, killing them.
At the coronation Tom is anointed by the Archbishop (Halliwell Hobbes). Miles arrives with Edward, who runs into the cathedral and says he is the king. Tom confirms it. Edward answers questions and says where the great seal is after Tom reminds him. Edward is put on the throne and crowned. He banishes Hertford, reforms begging laws and ends slavery. Miles declines most of Edward's gifts. Edward makes Tom his ward, and they crack nuts with the seal.
By switching the extremes of society this story satirizes the inequalities and intrigues of monarchy that is out of touch with the needs and problems of the poor.