Father Andrew is the kindly priest who instructs the pauper Tom. He teaches him reading, writing, and some Latin. He shares with Tom stories of castles and kings and princes, encouraging in Tom the boy’s yearning toward nobility. When Edward is captured by John Canty and taken to be his own son, Father Andrew rises to the boy’s defense as Canty is about to beat Edward. Father Andrew receives a blow to the head from Canty’s cudgel, a blow that later kills him.
Bet is one of Tom’s fifteen-year-old twin sisters. Bet and her twin Nan are portrayed as kind and comforting toward Tom.
Grandmother Canty is Tom’s paternal grandmother. She is prone to drunkenness and often abuses Tom and presumably his sisters as well.
John Canty is Tom’s poor, abusive, drunken father. After beating Father Andrew, who later dies, Canty forces his family to flee their home. Separated from his wife and daughters, he clings to Edward, thinking he is Tom. Canty hopes to be able to use the boy, as he has always used Tom, as a source of meager income from the boy’s begging. After Edward escapes him, Canty continues his pursuit. He treats his son, or the person he thinks is his son, like a possession, something to be utilized for his personal gain. Canty and his band of vagabonds and thieves catch up with Edward, who is able to escape again. After Edward is restored to his throne, John Canty disappears.
Tom’s mother, Mrs. Canty, is depicted as an abused, impoverished woman who tries to protect her children from her husband and mother-inlaw’s abuse. When Edward appears in Tom’s stead, she fears that he is mad and wonders if he can in fact be someone else, but is so desperate for her son not to have disappeared that she convinces herself that Edward is Tom. She refuses to ‘‘give him up,’’ and asserts that ‘‘he must be my boy!’’ Near the novel’s end, she becomes convinced that Tom, about to be crowned as King Edward, is her lost son. In his surprise at seeing her in the crowd, the startled Tom raises his hand to his face, but in his characteristic, and unusual, way: palm outward. Her son denies that he knows her, but it is his shame at having treated his mother so that makes him so willing to relinquish the kingship when Edward attempts to reclaim the crown. She and her children are provided for financially by Edward after his coronation.
Nan is one of Tom’s fifteen-year-old twin sisters. Nan and her twin Bet are portrayed as kind and comforting toward Tom.
As the novel opens, Tom’s birth is announced following the discussion of Edward’s birth. Tom has been born into a family of paupers. He is educated by a priest, Father Andrew, who teaches him reading, writing, and Latin, and gives Tom a taste for stories about princes and kings. As a youth Tom desires nothing more than to see a real prince.When he finally makes his way to Westminster Palace, the residence of the royal family, Tom presses his face to the gate and spies Edward. After Tom is shoved back by a soldier, Edward sees the treatment Tom is receiving and invites him into the palace. He and Prince Edward discuss his life, his poverty, his family, and the freedom Tom possesses to do such things as play in the mud and have races with his friends. Edward listens with interest and genuine curiosity, and claims that to him, Tom’s life sounds ‘‘glorious.’’ After the two boys inadvertently trade places, Tom is initially impressed by the luxury in which Edward lives but he is soon intimidated by the formal court manners of the people around him. He is not used to being served and dressed and bowed to. He strongly feels that he is being held captive, and he cannot convince anyone that he is not the prince. He reflects that while his dreams of living life as a prince had been happy ones, ‘‘this reality was so dreary!’’ However, Tom gradually gains confidence in his new role and enjoys the kindnesses extended to him by Edward’s family as well as the new luxuries and entertainments available to him.When Henry VIII dies, Tom realizes he has inherited the role of ruler that was Edward’s right. His first act is to pardon the Duke of Norfolk, whom he knew Henry had intended to execute. He decrees, almost upon the instant of gaining the kingship, that ‘‘then shall the king’s law be law of mercy, from this day, and never more be law of blood!’’ His inherent kindness rebelled at the often cruel rule of Henry, and his first act as king transforms the monarchy. Tom continues to show mercy, interceding on behalf of individuals sentenced to death, after hearing their cases. The admiration he receives for his intelligent and judicious decisions bolsters Tom’s confidence. He continues to dismantle unjust laws. In short, he becomes kingly, and yet he is ashamed when he thinks of Edward and what the true king must be enduring. He feels similarly wretched when contemplating his mother and sisters, who must surely be as miserable as when he left them. Yet thoughts of Edward and his family recede, and he anticipates the coronation with excitement. When Tom spies his mother in the crowd during the procession preceding his coronation and denies he knows her, however, the shameful and guilty thoughts he has suppressed rise uncontrollably within him. The confidence he has been gaining and gradually turning to an arrogance common among royalty begins to fade: ‘‘A shame fell upon him which consumed his pride to ashes and withered his stolen royalty.’’ Tom’s journey is a complex one. He learns first the confidence he never had. His new power to make positive changes in his kingdom fuels this confidence and the praise he receives inflates his attitude toward one of prideful arrogance. When he denounces his mother, his shame consumes him, and reshapes his sense of self once again. He is now ready to do everything in his power to restore Edward to the throne. When Edward praises Tom and bestows the title and responsibilities of the King’s Ward upon Tom, he feels a sense of worthiness and happiness.
Lady Jane Grey
Lady Jane Grey is a nine-year-old cousin of Prince Edward. Edward’s description of her to Tom is laden with praise. Jane Grey is the first to encounter Tom dressed in Edward’s clothes and is concerned when he denies he is the prince. She sounds the alarm that something is not quite right, and the rumor spreads through the palace that Edward is mad. Jane and Elizabeth, as Edward’s companions, become Tom’s as well.
Arthur Hendon does not appear in the story but is mentioned by Miles Hendon. Arthur is Miles Hendon’s older brother. Arthur was betrothed to Edith, whom Miles loved. Arthur loved another woman, but he was unhealthy and died, presumably before he married Edith. With Arthur dead and Miles in exile at his brother Hugh’s contrivance, Hugh marries Edith.
Edith Hendon is the wife of Miles Hendon’s brother Hugh. We learn her story when Miles recounts the tale of his past life to Edward. Edith was betrothed to another of the Hendon brothers (Arthur), who does not appear in the story. Arthur, however, was not in the best health, and also loved another woman. Miles always loved Edith, but Hugh wanted her, or at least her fortune, for himself. Hugh contrived to make it appear as though Miles intended to run off with Edith; Miles was consequently banished for three years. When Miles and Edward appear at Hendon Hall, the rest of the story unfolds. Hugh falsified documents in order to convince his family that Miles had died. When Arthur died, Hugh married Edith. Upon Miles’s return, Hugh orders Edith to pretend she does not know who Miles is. Edith complies only because the abusive Hugh has threatened to kill Miles. Following Hugh’s departure and subsequent death, the novel’s conclusion informs us that Miles and Edith are finally married.
Hugh Hendon is Miles Hendon’s younger brother. Miles describes him to Edward as ‘‘a mean spirit, covetous, treacherous, vicious, underhanded—a reptile.’’ Hugh’s actions prove this assessment accurate. In an effort to gain lands, wealth, and a noble title, he contrived to haveMiles exiled and then later asserted that Miles was dead. When Miles returns, he has him arrested. In the end, after Edward is restored to the throne, Miles’s status as the rightful heir to the Hendon’s land, wealth, and title is reinstated. Hugh deserts his wife, Edith, and leaves for Europe, where he soon dies.
Miles Hendon is Prince Edward’s rescuer. Hendon finds Edward during the celebration of the river pageant presided over by the false prince Tom. In the crowd, as he is being jostled and roughly treated, Edward asserts that he is Edward, Prince of Wales. As he is being mocked, Hendon, who has been watching Edward, steps in to defend him. Hendon too is attacked by the mob. The attack ceases when the king’s messenger announces that King Henry VIII has died and Edward is now the King of England. Hendon retreats with Edward, tends to him, and out of pity (thinking the boy is mad), indulges Edward’s assertions of his royal status. When Edward is tricked into leaving Hendon’s protection and is forced by John Canty into the band of homeless beggars and thieves, Hendon persistently pursues Edward. Hendon finally catches up with Edward when Hugo has framed Edward with the theft of a woman’s butchered pig. Hendon aids in rescuing Edward from being hanged for the theft. When Hendon is sent to jail by his brother Hugh, Edward remains with him until Hendon is sentenced to two hours in the pillory. Edward rises to Hendon’s defense when the angry crowd begins to pelt Hendon with rotten food, and is ordered to be whipped for this action. But Hendon insists on taking the blows himself, an act that inspires Edward to make Hendon an earl. In the end, Edward, restored to the throne, is instrumental in returning to Hendon all that he is rightfully due. Despite Hendon’s private belief throughout the novel that Edward is mad, he continues to treat him with the reverence due to royalty, and Edward generously rewards Hendon’s kindness and noble behavior.
Henry VIII is the King of England when the novel opens. The father of Prince Edward, and the Princesses Elizabeth and Mary (who historically all have different mothers), King Henry possesses a reputation for brutality and cruelty toward his subjects. Edward is aware of this reputation, but he notes on more than one occasion that as a father, Henry always treated him gently and lovingly. This is demonstrated through Henry’s behavior toward Tom, who he believes is his son Edward. When Tom is brought before Henry, Henry shows concern for what appears to be his son Edward’s madness. Tom (as Edward) does not recognize the king as his father. Yet Henry, convinced by Tom’s appearance and by his knowledge of Latin, is certain that Tom is Edward, and he assures him that he is his ‘‘loving father.’’ Soon after, Henry dies and Edward becomes king.
The Hermit is a man Edward encounters after he escapes John Canty. The Hermit announces to Edward that he is an archangel, and Edward is initially fearful, for the man appears to be insane. The Hermit does not doubt Edward’s assertion that he is now the King of England (for at this point in the story Henry VIII has died). Rather, he welcomes Edward to dinner and treats him kindly. Edward’s feeling of fear changes to affection. But once he has drifted off to sleep, the Hermit binds him and intends to kill him, claiming that if it were not for Edward’s father, the Hermit would have been made Pope. Hendon’s arrival distracts the Hermit, who leads Hendon away from the cabin where Edward is being held. Edward is then recaptured by John Canty.
Earl of Hertford (later Duke of Somerset, the Lord Protector)
The Earl of Hertford is Edward’s uncle. After Tom and Edward inadvertently switch places, Hertford is one of the men placed in charge of aiding the apparently insane prince in conducting himself in the proper manner. Hertford and St. John become the guardians of Tom (as Edward). When St. John expresses some doubt that Tom is in fact Edward, Hertford passionately defends the boy, saying that the child has been known to him since he was a baby. After King Henry’s death, Hertford is chosen to ascend to the office of Lord Protector (the chief representative of an underage ruler). Tom additionally makes Hertford a duke, the Duke of Somerset.
Hugo is a member of John Canty’s band of thieves, beggars, and vagabonds. He dislikes Edward for his grand assertions, his obvious nobility, and his refusal to do anything (begging, stealing) that will bring money to the group. After Edward is recaptured by Canty and Hugo (when they free him from the Hermit’s cabin), Canty puts Hugo in charge of Edward; he is to prevent Edward’s escape. Yet Hugo is eager to be rid of the boy. He creates a situation in which it appears that Edward has stolen a woman’s parcel, and he abandons Edward to the authorities.
Margery and Prissy
These two peasant girls encounter Edward, dressed in rags, in their barn, where he has just slumbered peacefully with their calf. They are the only people who truly believe Edward is the king. Feeling sorry for him, after hearing his story, they take him to their mother.
Margery and Prissy’s
Mother This peasant woman is moved to pity when her daughters bring her the bedraggled and starving Edward. She feeds him and treats him with kindness. She does not believe him but allows Edward to eat with the family before finding chores for him to do.
Humphrey Marlow is Prince Edward’s whipping boy. As Humphrey explains to Tom (whom he obviously believes to be Edward), his job is to receive any lashings with which Edward would have been punished for transgressions such as inattentiveness to his lessons. Humphrey becomes very useful to Tom, as he has extensive knowledge of the royal court and its members and practices.
Duke of Somerset
See Earl of Hertford
Lord St. John
Lord St. John is one of the men, along with the Earl of Hertford, who is placed in charge of Tom when everyone believes him to be Edward gone mad. Speaking with Hertford, his fellow keeper of Edward, St. John tentatively conveys his doubt that Tom is indeed the king, explaining that the way the madness afflicts Edward seems inconsistent. He claims to have felt haunted by Tom’s assertion that he was not the prince. Hertford denounces St. John’s thoughts as treasonous, and St. John immediately begs forgiveness. Along with Hertford, St. John continues to guard, monitor, and advise Tom throughout the course of the novel.
Edward Tudor is the adolescent son of King Henry VIII and his now-dead wife Jane Seymour. Historically, Edward was nearly ten years old when he became king. In Twain’s novel, Edward and Tom are fifteen years old. Edward is depicted as a kindly boy, quick to rise to Tom’s defense. Throughout his adventures, after he is dressed as a pauper, he demonstrates his truthfulness, honor, and bravery. He never wavers from the truth of his story and is only occasionally convinced to remain silent about his identity by his protector Miles Hendon. He recognizes the sacrifices others make to protect him, as when Father Andrew and Tom Canty’s mother receive the blows John Canty intended for him. He faces his new hardships without panic, seeking ways to escape Canty and, with Hendon’s help, to return to London. Edward is observant, commenting on the harshness of the laws and punishments of his country and vowing to improve things when he returns to the throne. From the very beginning of his adventures as a pauper, Edward diligently strives to remember the details of the journey in order to make positive changes in the future. Treated roughly by a group of boys, Edward vows to make learning, not just food and shelter, an integral part of the charity offered at Christ’s Hospital. Loyal to those who helped him, Edward rewards Hendon, as well as Tom and his family, after he has been recognized once again as the rightful ruler. Edward initially shows an arrogant and vengeful streak as well. His arrogance is born of his station; he has always been waited upon and has always been treated as though his person were sacred. Yet during his travels, he finds he is happy snuggled with a calf in a barn stall and awaking with a rat on his chest. His initial desire is to seek revenge on Tom when he realizes Tom must be impersonating him in the palace; he vows that Tom will hang for treason. However, when he interrupts Tom’s coronation, he is moved by Tom’s own honesty in acknowledging Edward as king. Rather than punishing Tom after he has proved his identity, he rewards Tom and his family. His adventures as a pauper teach him both humility and mercy.
Elizabeth, who will later become Queen Elizabeth I, is Edward’s fourteen-year-old sister. She and Lady Jane Grey are Edward’s most frequent and favorite companions. He speaks fondly of them to Tom and they become Tom’s companions as well, thinking him, of course, to be Edward gone mad. Elizabeth is quick to notice when, in social and courtly settings, Tom (as Edward) is in need of assistance. She intuitively and gracefully smoothes over any awkwardness Tom’s ignorance creates in her presence.
Mary, who will later become Queen Mary I, is only mentioned periodically by Edward during the course of the novel. He describes her as his ‘‘gloomy’’ sister when he and Tom discuss their families; she does not appear in the story.
Sara Constantakis (Editor), Novels for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels, Volume 31, Mark Twain, Published by Gale, Cengage Learning, 2010.