Francis H. Leggett (1840-1909) and Betty Leggett (1852-1931)—American couple who with their family were Swamiji’s closest friends in America, the staunchest supporters of his work in America and India. Francis Leggett, also known as Frank and called by Swamiji affectionately “Frankincense”, was a wealthy businessman of New York. Betty and her sister Josephine MacLeod first saw and heard Swamiji at New York on 29.1.1895 and never missed any of his lectures thereafter. Frank having attended a lecture with them, invited Swamiji to dinner and thus began Swamiji’s beautiful relationship with the Leggetts and Miss J. MacLeod. Frank married Betty, then a widow, and Swamiji attended their wedding at Paris in September 1895. Frank invited Swamiji to Ridgely Manor, his beautiful country estate in April 1895. In June1895 Swamiji spent 12 days with Frank and the two ladies at Percy, a charming, lakeside village where he is said to have been found in a state of samadhi one day. Used to meditate under the birch trees. Also spent 10 days in 1895 during Christmas with the Leggetts at Ridgely. The Leggetts knew and understood him well—his need for personal freedom, for solitude, his habit of occasionally entering into samadhi, his brilliance as well as his simplicity. With them, Swamiji was sure of rest, care and companionship, besides freedom. His last visit to them was in August 1899 when he spent 10 weeks with them. The New York Vedanta Society registered in October 1898 had Frank as its President. He, with Mrs. Bull, helped publish Swamiji’s lectures in book form (The Life of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. 2, p. 535). In August 1900 Swamiji was again the guest of the Leggetts at Paris for some weeks. Fine opportunity for him to interact with the leading thinkers of West and spread his message among them, met celebrated and distinguished people from all walks of life. Gave a talk in French in the Leggetts drawing-room. Regarding the at-homes of the Leggetts, Swamiji wrote, “That incessant outflow of words, clear and limpid like a mountain-fall, that expression of sentiments emanating from all sides like sparks of fire, bewitching music, the magic current of thought from master minds coming into conflict with one another… used to hold all spellbound, making them forgetful of time and place…” (Ibid., pp. 537-38).
Frank took care of Swamiji’s money in America (Swami Vivekananda in the West—New Discoveries, Vol. 5, pp. 346, 352). Broke ties with the Vedanta Society after disputes arose between him and Swami Abhedananda, resigning from its presidentship. Betty Leggett was the President of the Ramakrishna Guild of Help in America. She donated large sums of money for the construction of Swamiji’s mausoleum at Belur Math, the Vivekananda Mandir at Varanasi Sevashrama, and Rs. 20,000 to purchase the Leggett House. Also donated a thousand dollars for Sister Nivedita’s school. Visited India (1912) with Alberta (her daughter by her first marriage), George Montagu, her son-in-law, and Miss Catherine Margesson. Met Holy Mother at Baghbazar and Swamiji’s brother-monks at Belur Math. Betty bought “Hall’s Croft”, house of Shakespeare’s daughter in Straford-on-Avon, and died there (2.10.1931) at the age of 80. Hollister Sturges, her son by her first marriage, visited India in 1908 with his wife.