A Welsh-born widow from Victorian England, Anna has been engaged by the King of Siam as teacher to the royal children. Though her late husband was an Officer in Her Majesty’s Army, Anna is visiting Siam for the first time. Facing a commanding adversary in the King, Anna confidently stands up for what she believes is right. With unwavering persistence, she gains the King’s respect and ultimately helps to save his kingdom. In the end, Anna decides to remain in Siam with her son Louis to continue teaching the royal children.
Powerful, intelligent and intellectually curious, the ruler of Siam will not tolerate disrespect from anyone. As surrounding countries embrace the ideals of the modern world, the King wishes for Siam to adopt the best of Western culture, including things like a printing press. When Anna’s teachings challenge the King’s strong-held customs, he finds himself caught between the traditions of his own world and his desire for change. In his dying moments, the King bestows a blessing upon his son to rule Siam with a bold new vision.
Anna's son, about eight years old, Louis has been brought up in the middle class of the Victorian era. He is curious, polite and sincerely respectful of those around him. Though fearful of Siam at first, Louis befriends Prince Chulalongkorn and learns to appreciate the people and customs of his new home.
As the King's head wife, Lady Thiang runs the Palace. Her son, Prince Chualongkorn, is heir to the throne and she watches him carefully. Taught English by a missionary, Lady Thiang is more independent than the King realizes, and she forges a special connection with Anna. With love, understanding and admiration for the King, she acts to serve his best interests, convincing Anna to help when British dignitaries question his worthiness to serve as king.
A young woman presented to the King as a gift from a Prince of Burma, Tuptim is in love with the young scholar Lun Tha. Though she must be reserved in the presence of the King, Tuptim is strong, independent and intelligent. She speaks English and is excited by the prospect of reading Anna's books, particularly Uncle Tom's Cabin, which she later presents defiantly as a balletic play delivering a pointed antislavery message to the King.
Tuptim's secret love, Lun Tha is a young Burmese scholar who brings Tuptim to the King on behalf of the Prince of Burma. Though the lovers attempt to keep their romance a secret, Lady Thiang observes their budding relationship, which she knows is a fatal mistake. Dreaming of a new life where he can be with Tuptim, Lun Tha is determined to save her from the King. He attempts an escape with her, but his efforts are tragically thwarted.
Crown Prince Chulalongkorn is the heir to the King's throne and therefore receives deferential treatment from the entire court. Though he tries to walk in his father's footsteps, the prince questions what those footsteps actually are. Leery of Anna's teachings at first, he quickly befriends her son Louis and eventually finds value in their influence. When the King falls fatally ill, Prince Chulalongkorn assumes the throne to pursue a new vision for Siam.
The King's right-hand man, a sort of “Prime Minister,” Kralahome looks out for the King at all times, protecting him from whatever might get in his way. He also conspires with Lady Thiang when they both know what the King needs to hear.
Princess Yink Yaowalak: A very young child, beloved by her father, she reads the final letter from the children to Mrs. Anna.
Sir Edward Ramsay: A British diplomat whom Anna knew in Bombay before she was married. Representing the British dignitaries, he pays to visit the King's palace where he is ultimately impressed by Siam’s customs.
Phra Alack: The King's secretary.
The Interpreter: The King's interpreter.
Captain Orton: A pipe-smoking Captain of the Chow Phya, the ship that brings Anna and Louis to Siam.