The first of two prequels to The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Laughing Cavalier is set in Holland in 1623. It tells the story of Percy Blake, a foreign adventurer and ancestor of the Scarlet Pimpernel who goes by the name Diogenes. Diogenes, as told by Orczy, is the real subject of the famous painting The Laughing Cavalier by Franz Hals. Unlike The Scarlet Pimpernel, Diogenes has not yet established himself as a man of sterling character or irreproachable moral integrity. He has spent his life fighting in various battles as a mercenary for hire, but now, along with his two sidekicks he is back in Haarlem, penniless and looking for entertainment.