Crowds hungry for blood cheer in Paris, in 1792, as the heads of hundreds of aristocrats - men, women and children - fall under the blade of the guillotine. The French Revolution has entered its phase of terror. A mysterious rescuer known only by his alias of The Scarlet Pimpernel, aided by a series of brilliantly effective disguises, is proving the scourge of the Revolution as he daringly snatches aristocrats from the very jaws of death under the noses of the executioners. Sir Percy Blakeney (Anthony Andrews), a foppish English gentleman, an ardent follower of fashion and leader of London society, is paying one of his many social visits to Paris when, with surprising bravery, he rescues a handsome young man, Armand St. Just (Malcolm Jamieson), from the hands of thugs. This results in his first meeting with Armand's sister, the stunningly beautiful Marguerite St. Just (Jane Seymour), Frances most celebrated actress. At one of her soirees, Sir Percy meets for the first time Paul Chauvelin (Ian McKellen). Ambitious and ruthless, he is Robespierre's Chief Agent for the Committee of National Security. Chauvelin, too, loves Marguerite and plans to marry her. He and Percy cross verbal swords with Percy emerging the victor. Robespierre audiorises Chauvelin to seek out and destroy the Pimpernel and his Agent leaves for England. To Chauvelin's fury, Sir Percy marries Marguerite and takes her back to London where she becomes the toast of society. Armand, realising die injustices of the Revolution, has meanwhile learned the identity of his brother-in-law and, although Chauvelin's assistant, secredy joins forces with the Pimpernel Due to Chauvelin's evil machinations, Percy becomes estranged from his bewildered wife. Learning Armand is in league with the Pimpernel, Chauvelin blackmails Marguerite into leading him to his enemy. Still not realising the Pimpernel is her husband, she tries to help him escape. In a deserted fortress off the shores of France, Chauvelin sends Percy to face the firing squad. As he kisses Marguerite farewell, he vows to return.