Archbishop William King

King, William, Archbishop of Dublin, was born at Antrim, 1st May 1650. He received his preliminary education at Dungannon, and took his degree of M.A. at Trinity College in 1673, and in the same year took orders in the Church. He became chaplain to the Archbishop of Tuam (who, we are told, took him into his protection), in 1679 was preferred to a chancellorship of St. Patrick's, and next year was made Dean of the Cathedral. He took a prominent part in forwarding the interests of the Prince of Orange, and on James II.'s accession to power in Ireland, suffered several months' imprisonment. Eventually he was liberated and permitted the free exercise of his religion.

At this period he prepared the materials for one of his great works — The State of the Protestants of Ireland under the late King James's Government (London, 1691). This book was characterized by Burnet as "not only the best book that hath been written for the service of the Government; but without any figure it is worth all the rest put together — and will do more than all our scribblings for settling the minds of the nation." It is indeed an extremely interesting and valuable work, containing a mass of information regarding James II.'s Irish career. Heavy spiritual cares devolved upon him until after the battle of the Boyne, in consequence of many Protestant clergymen having fled to England. He was by William III. preferred to the bishopric of Derry, left vacant by the death of Bishop Walker at the battle of the Boyne.

In his diocese he did much to repair churches burned or dilapidated during the war; he improved the episcopal palace, established a library, and was altogether untiring in the affairs of the see, and in exertions for the amelioration of the condition of the clergy. In 1703 he was promoted to the archbishopric of Dublin. On four occasions he acted as one of the Lords-Justices. Harris says: "He knew the temper, disposition, and genius of the nation most exactly, and as he was remarkably happy in a quick and clear conception of things, a piercing judgment into the consequences of political affairs, and a marvellous sagacity and readiness in properly executing business of the greatest importance; so he exerted all these excellent qualities with continued vigour and resolution to their utmost stretch to promote the public good and his Majesty's interest in the kingdom."

Disappointed in his expectations of being raised to the primacy on the death of Archbishop Lindsay (the excuse being that he was too old), we are told that he received the new Primate, Dr. Boulter, without getting out of his chair, remarking, "My lord, I am sure your grace will forgive me, because you know I am too old to rise" Archbishop King died at his palace of St. Sepulchre's, Dublin, 8th May 1729, aged 79, and was by his own desire buried in Donnybrook old churchyard. In Harris's list his works number some twenty. The State of the Protestants was replied to in 1692 by the Rev. Charles Leslie, a non-juror.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica, in commenting on Archbishop King's writings, says: "The greatest of all his works was his essay On the Origin of Evil, published in Latin at Dublin in 1702. In this essay he advocated what is known as the optimist view, which, with differences on subordinate points, is that adopted by Augustin and Leibnitz. According to this view, King, in common with these great thinkers, attempts to reconcile the existence of evil with the government of a perfectly holy, good, and powerful being, by treating it as the necessary result of creature limitation. His work attracted great attention both at home and abroad. Among its assailants was Leibnitz, who, while holding the monoistic hypothesis, denied much of King's reasoning and many of his conclusions on minor points; and Bayle, the last and greatest defender of the dualistic hypothesis. King did not publish any reply to either of his assailants, but left notes of a defence, which, after his death, were given to the world by Edmund Law, Bishop of Carlisle, along with an English version of the De Origine Mali.

Amongst his other works may be mentioned his Discourse on Predestination, which has been edited, with valuable annotations, by Archbishop Whately. King's personal character stood very high through life; and his correspondence with Swift shows him to have been a man of fine wit and great general accomplishments." Interesting notes upon his correspondence will be found in Notes and Queries, 4th Series; and upon other matters relating to his life in the 2nd and 3rd Series.


38. Biographical Dictionary: John Gorton. 3 vols. London, 1833.

124. Encyclopaedia Britannica. London, 1860.

254. Notes and Queries. London, 1850-'78.
O'Callaghan, John C., see No. 186.

332. University of Dublin; History, with Biographical Notices. William B. S. Taylor. London, 1845.

339. Ware, Sir James, Works: Walter Harris. 2 vols. Dublin, 1764.