News story

Grave of Peter the Wild Boy listed

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Georgian court jester’s final resting place protected.

The grave of an 18th century ‘feral’ boy has been Grade II listed by Heritage Minister Ed Vaizey.

‘Peter the Wild Boy’ was discovered as a teenager, apparently abandoned in a forest near Hanover, Germany in 1724. King George I (who was also Elector of Hanover) invited him to live in England following a visit to Germany.

He spent several years living as a curiosity, or ‘court jester’ in the King’s court. Later, as his novelty waned, he became a farm labourer in Northchurch, Hertfordshire.

Peter the Wild Boy's gravestone

It is now believed he suffered from a chromosomal disorder called Pitt-Hopkins Syndrome. He died, aged 72, and was buried in St Mary’s Church. The gravestone is said to have been paid for by local people. Flowers are regularly laid on it to this day.

“Poignant and unsettling”

Mr Vaizey awarded the listing following expert advice from English Heritage. He said: “Peter the Wild Boy’s story is both extremely interesting and, at the same time, poignant and unsettling. It also reminds us how far public attitudes to disability have changed.

“His gravestone survives in good condition and has considerable historic interest. Its preservation will help to keep his extraordinary history alive for many generations to come.”

Further information

Press release

English Heritage website

Historic environment: what we do

Painting image: © Historic Royal Palaces, Photo Robin Forster

Gravestone image courtesy English Heritage