Beds, Herts & Bucks

Peter the Wild Boy grave gets Grade II listing

Headstone of Peter the Wild Boy
Image caption Peter the Wild Boy was buried at St Mary's, Northchurch in Hertfordshire, after he worked as a farm labourer in the county

A stone marking the Hertfordshire resting place of a feral German child, invited to England by George I, has been Grade II listed.

The headstone inscribed "Peter the Wild Boy", stands in the graveyard of St Mary's in Northchurch.

English Heritage said the boy was found in a Hanover forest in 1724, unable to speak and walking on all fours.

It said he was brought to the English royal family's court as a "curiosity" two years later.

He eventually became a farm labourer in Hertfordshire, where he died in 1785, aged about 72.

'Erratic behaviour'

Peter was buried at the government's expense but his gravestone is said to have been paid for by local people, and flowers are regularly laid on it to this day.

Image caption William Kent's portrait of Peter the Wild Boy hangs at Kensington Palace

The stone's Grade II listing by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, means its "special interest" must be taken into account if changes to its appearance or location are proposed.

English Heritage, who advised the on the listing, said Peter "appeared to be in his early teens" when he was found in Hertswold forest, apparently abandoned.

Following a visit by George I, who was also Elector of Hanover, he was invited to England where he lived, as a curiosity in the King's court where "his strange appearance and erratic behaviour caused a sensation".

Peter, so named because it was initially the only word he would respond to, became the subject of satires by Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe as his fame spread, and a wax figure of him was exhibited in the Strand.

When his "novelty waned", Peter was entrusted to the care of James Fenn, a yeoman farmer at Axters End, who was given a generous allowance by the Crown.

English Heritage said results of recent analysis of Peter's portrait by a professor of genetics, now suggested he had Pitt-Hopkins syndrome, a chromosomal disorder first identified in 1978.

It said its most distinctive effect is apparent in his curvy Cupid's bow mouth, and the condition would also have affected his mental development.

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