When her father, Captain Crewe, goes off to fight in the Boer War, young Sara Crewe is placed into the care of Amanda Minchin, the head of an exclusive private school for girls. Sara lives a wonderful life of a privileged child and is quite happy in her surroundings. When her father is listed as missing in action however, her life goes from one of plenty to that of a poor house maid. Mrs. Minchin agrees to keep her on at the school, but in the absence of her tuition payments, she has to work for her keep. She is soon cleaning out the fireplace and scrubbing floors and is dubbed the little princess by her former schoolmates. She also refuses to accept that her father is dead and prowls the hospitals in the hope of locating him. Luck - and Royal intervention - assist her in her quest.
In Victorian England little Sara Crewe's widowed father is sent to the Boer War. When he is reported killed the evil head mistress at her boarding school turns Sara into a servant.
The story sets in the England ruled by Queen Victoria. Sara is a little girl who doesn't have anything in the world but her father, Captain Reginald Crew. War times run, and Captain Crew's sent to fight with the British army to Africa, to fight against in the Boer War. Sara's worried about her father and she's afraid of his security. The girl is registered in an exclusive seminary for girls, only for a period of time, until Captain Crew returns from Africa. Amanda Minchin is a strict woman who runs the seminary. Sara makes friends with a kindly young teacher, called Rose, and with the horse instructor Geoffrey. So, Sara's life at Minchin Seminary is very happy, but everything there has a monetary cost, even the birthday party and the presents that Miss Minchin sets up for the girl. When Sara finds out about Captain Crew's death, she's devastated but all the privileges will cease, because there's no money to pay for them. Miss Minchin tells Sara that she can stay, but in a dark and creepy attic and she'll have to work as a servant for all her friends. However she makes friends with a nice Indian servant from the house next door and with the other servant girl, Becky, at the seminary. But Sara, keeps hoping that her father is still alive.