19th century England, widowed undertaker Cedric Brown has seven children: Simon, Tora, Lily, Eric, Sebastian, Chrissy and baby Aggie. He loves his children very much, but spends little time with them, unable to handle raising them all on his own, after their mother died. The children have had a series of seventeen nannies, whom they systematically drive out; it is a point of pride for them to get rid of each nanny as fast as possible. They also terrorize the cook, Mrs. Blatherwick but are cared for and loved by Evangeline the young scullery maid. After seventeen failed attempts to hire a nanny from the agency, Cedric takes the advice of a mysterious voice and hires Nanny McPhee, an ugly old lady with magical powers posing as a "government nanny" who begins teaching the children to get in shape.