"A Nice Boy".

Indeed, in spite of all his faults, George III. did more to preserve the sanctity of marriage in this country, and to promote the honour and dignity of woman, than any other man of modern times. And in his relations to Hannah Lightfoot he lived up to his own ideal. He loved her as a woman should be loved, and, what is more, he reverenced her. And so he kept his love a secret. It was much too precious to be paraded before the vulgar gaze, much too precious to be corroded by the breath of scandal. Is this an unreasonable theory ?

Yes, George III. had ideals both as a king and as a man. And it was his mother who instilled them in him. She was really a good woman - perhaps this explains her intense unpopularity in the country - and from the very outset set herself to prevent her son from becoming tainted by the profligacy of the Court. And the Court of his grandfather, King George II., was notorious everywhere.

The Prince, therefore, was forced to pass his childhood in comparative seclusion at Leicester House, where he lived in an atmosphere of extraordinary respectability. But he did not suffer through it. On the contrary, although a son of the disreputable Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales, he grew to become a clean, healthy-minded young Englishman. " A nice boy," one writer calls him, and it is a fitting description.

Brilliant he may not have been, but he possessed a goodly store of common sense, and to a Prince this is a quality perhaps of greater value even than are brains. In addition, George was delightfully imaginative, and soon acquired a real love for art. Is it to be wondered at, therefore, that he became a sentimentalist ? Surely it is the natural corollary.

The Lass Of Richmond Hill

At any rate, he did become a sentimentalist. And this is the only answer that can be given to those who say that it is ridiculous to maintain that, at the age of fifteen and a half, he could have fallen seriously in love - this, and the fact that, at the age of fifteen and a half he did fall seriously in love, and with a woman much older than himself.

Of course, in those days, to fall in love was the right thing to do; one could not begin too young. Besides, there is such a thing as calf-love. What does Calverly say:

The people say that she was blue, But I was green, and loved her dearly ;

She was approaching thirty-two, And I was eleven, nearly.

Incidentally some authorities declare George to have been only eleven years of age when he first met Hannah Lightfoot. But this, it would seem, is doubtful. None the less, there is a delightful picture of the boy Prince dallying, during a stay at Hampton Court, with the object of his youthful passion :

On Richmond Hill there lives a lass,

More bright than May Day morn, Whose charms all other maids surpass,

A rose without a thorn ; This lass so neat, with smile so sweet,

Hath won my right good will; I'd crowns resign to call thee mine,

Sweet lass of Richmond Hill.

A pretty story, but one must pass it by as fable. Besides, there is no need to burden Hannah Lightfoot with the onerous role of the " Sweet lass of Richmond Hill " ; she is sufficiently fascinating alone as the "Fair Quaker." And in this role George first saw her some time later ; in fact, one evening when going to the Opera with his parents.

The Opera House then occupied the site now filled by His Majesty's Theatre, and apparently, at the back of the building, was an entrance especially reserved for the use of the Royal Family. This door opened into Market Street, a narrow passage which ran from Pall Mall to Jermyn Street.

Now, at the Pall Mall corner of Market Street stood the shop of a certain Mr. Wheeler, a linendraper, and a successful one - perhaps because he always kept a cask of good ale with which to regale his customers. And it was there, in the shop window, watching the Royal procession pass, that Prince George saw Hannah Lightfoot.

The Prince Meets Hannah Lightfoot

He could have had but a fleeting glance of her, for, the Royal party were, as usual, proceeding to the Opera House in chairs, attended only by footmen, and perhaps a dozen Yeoman of the Guard. But that one glance was enough. George had seen, and had been conquered. Nor, later, did the vision of the blushing maiden's beauty prove to be an illusion.

But how came Hannah to be at Mr. Wheeler's shop ? Well, partly because Mr. Wheeler was a Quaker, and, therefore, a man given to good works; but chiefly because he had need of somebody to assist him in the management of his business, and, incidentally, of his large and growing family.

As a matter of fact, Hannah was his niece, the only daughter of his sister Mary, whose husband, Matthew Lightfoot, shoemaker, of Wapping, had died in 1732, leaving his family in desperate poverty. Perhaps, therefore, Hannah had been fortunate to find a home in her uncle's house. But she had to work there ; indeed, every moment of her day was occupied - not that she objected, for, being a Quaker, work came to her as second nature. In spite of her Quaker training, however, she took a very live interest in the grand world, and in people of high degree

And so it happened that, on the evening in question, she came to be sitting in the shop window - after closing hour - a demure and charming little figure.

And perhaps it was this, her very simplicity, which won Prince George's fancy. Indeed, in her sombre but dainty Quaker dress, unpainted, unpatched, quite free from artificiality, she must have appeared in delightfully refreshing contrast to the ladies with whom normally he came in contact, for, as already has been said, George was " a nice boy."

But then she was really beautiful.

A Bewitching Quaker and " With her dainty little head," writes some unknown admirer, "running over with golden curls, large blue eyes dancing with merriment or mischief, dimpled cheeks with a bloom as delicate as any peach, and with as petite figure as that of a sylph, we cannot wonder that Hannah, whose charms were enhanced by her demure Quaker dress, set going pit-a-pat the hearts of every gallant whose eyes fell on so fair a vision."