Peter the Wild Boy
The court of George I
In the summer of 1725, a naked and completely silent teenage boy was found living in the woods near Hanover in Germany.
He was brought to London in the spring of 1726 and spent time at the courts of King George I and of his son and daughter-in-law, the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Peter became a celebrity in London. Daniel Defoe wrote a book about him and a wax figure of him was exhibited in the Strand.
At Kensington Palace, William Kent painted Peter amongst other members of King George I’s court on the east wall of the King’s Staircase.
This is where he can still be found today, standing opposite the large windows wearing a green coat and holding oak leafs and acorns in his right hand.
Not long after King George I’s death in June 1727, Peter was passed into the care of a yeoman farmer in Hertfordshire who was awarded a pension to care for the boy.
In 1782 James Burnett, Lord Moboddo, the Scottish philosopher and judge, visited Peter who was by then about 70 years old. Moboddo provided the last description of Peter.
He had a healthy complexion with a full beard, apparently understood what was said to him quite well but could only say the words ‘Peter’ and ‘King George’.
Whilst in the care of James Fenn, Peter was in the habit of wandering off and was fitted with a collar, which is still preserved in the collection of Berkhamstead Collegiate School.
Peter’s gravestone can still be seen in the churchyard of St Mary’s Church, Northchurch in Hertfordshire.