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Who is Little Lord Fauntleroy?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Little Lord Fauntleroy is a book concerning the title character, also known as Cedric Errol. The book was first published in serial form in 1885, and has since been a popular children’s book, though popularity has waned. The author, Frances Hodgson Burnett, was an English-born American writer, whose other popular children’s books The Secret Garden and The Little Princess have received much attention.

Little Lord Fauntleroy is the loving, and sentimental young child who finds he is the heir to the earldom of Dorincourt. Since Fauntleroy has grown up in relative poverty with his widowed mother in America, his response to inheriting an earldom is mixed.

His grandfather, the current earl, convinces Cedric’s mother to allow him to be raised in England. Yet the grandfather refuses to have anything to do with Cedric’s mother, since he feels his deceased and most beloved son made a poor match by marrying an American.

Fauntleroy’s mother, who is very dear to him, is established in a small house away from the Earl’s estate. Her good deeds to the poor of Dorincourt soon annoy the earl. While the Earl hopes to inculcate the values of the aristocracy in Fauntleroy, instead he finds himself deeply loving the boy for his “Americanisms,” such as less distinction among classes, sensitivity and kindness to the poor, and an independent and undaunted ability to express his mind.

The Earl, in spite of himself, begins to adopt his grandson’s point of view, and finds he is acting in ways very out of character with his former self. Fauntleroy represents the transforming power of love, and as the Earl loves Fauntleroy more, he begins to change his fundamental viewpoint on how to care for the people in his earldom.

Conflict occurs when suggestions arise that Little Lord Fauntleroy may not actually be the true heir. However, this conflict is brushed away because of Cedric’s former contacts with an American grocer and a bootblack. Resolution occurs, when Cedric’s grandfather realizes that such an extraordinary child is really the result of a gentle and kind mother.

Little Lord Fauntleroy concludes with the reconciliation of mother and grandfather. This can also be viewed symbolically as a decrease in tension between Americans and British. As history marched further away from the Revolutionary War and additional incursions, Britain and the US became more closely aligned. Thus the book was part commentary on the hope of a respectful partnership of two great nations, as they discover that more similarities exist than differences.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Pharoah — On Jul 16, 2012

@ceilingcat - I think a lot of Americans are simultaneously fascinated and horrified by the idea of aristocracy, especially since we have none of our own in this country. So I'm not surprised these types of stories are still being told today!

Anyway, when I was younger I remember reading all of Frances Hodgson Burnett's books, Little Lord Fauntleroy included. I remember really enjoying the stories and the way they were written. So I imagine this book will stay popular among children for quite awhile longer.

By ceilingcat — On Jul 15, 2012

@Azuza - Interesting perspective. I didn't read this book in school, but my mom read it to me at home. I just thought it was a traditional "rags to riches" surprise wealth kind of story. The kid things he's just a normal American, but finds out he's really English aristocracy!

In fact, this theme still plays out in movies and television today. The movie The Princess Diaries, which came out in 2000 or 2001 I think, features an American girl who thinks she's just a normal teenager. But then she finds she's the heir to the throne of a fictional country! I imagine whoever thought up the idea for that movie was probably inspired by Little Lord Fauntleroy.

By Azuza — On Jul 15, 2012

I remember discussing this book in school, and my teacher said the same thing the article said: that the book represented a reconciliation between the United States and Britain. However, I didn't read it that way exactly.

As the article said, Cedric Errol brings his American ways to Dorincourt, and ends up changing his grandfather's mind about a lot of things. I kind of felt like this was the author's way at getting a dig in at British culture. The American way is "better" and Earl eventually realizes how wrong he (and his whole country) is and changes his ways.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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