King, Gregory (DNB00)


KING, GREGORY (1648–1712), herald, genealogist, engraver, and statistician, born at Lichfield, Staffordshire, on 15 Dec. 1648, was eldest son of Gregory King of that city, by his first wife, Elizabeth, daughter of J. Andrews of Sandwich, Kent. His father, an accomplished mathematician, gained a livelihood by surveying land, laying out ornamental gardens, and constructing sun-dials, but his habits were irregular and his income precarious. The son was educated under Thomas Bevans, head-master of Lichfield grammar school. When he left school at the age of fourteen he knew Latin and Greek and the Hebrew grammar. In December 1662 he became clerk to Sir William Dugdale [q. v.], Norroy king of arms. Dugdale held a visitation of the whole of his province between 1662 and 1666, and in many of the northern counties his little clerk, who was very small for his age, delineated ‘the prospects of towns, castles, and other remarquables,’ besides emblazoning armorial bearings on vellum.

Between 1667 and 1669 King was in the service of Lord Hatton, who was forming a collection of the arms of the nobility. In 1669 he returned to Lichfield, where he supported himself by teaching writing and arithmetic, by painting hatchments, signs, and coaches, and by giving instruction in the decipherment of ancient records. He likewise transcribed the family muniments of Walter Chetwynd [q. v.] of Ingestre. At the end of 1669 he became the steward, auditor, and secretary of the Dowager Lady Gerard of Gerard's Bromley, widow of Charles, and mother of Digby, lord Gerard. He resided with the lady's father, George Digby of Sandon, Staffordshire, until August 1672, when he came back to London. On the recommendation of Hollar the engraver, John Ogilby the printer employed him to etch plates for Sir Peter Leycester's ‘Historical Antiquities;’ for the edition of ‘Æsop's Fables’ (2 vols. London, 1672–3, 8vo), the ‘Description of Persia’ (1673), and for a new edition of Camden's ‘Britannia.’ While engaged on the last work King travelled into Essex with a surveyor named Falgate, and in the winter of 1672 they constructed maps of Ipswich in Suffolk and Malden in Essex, which were afterwards ‘very curiously finished.’ King also assisted in drawing the map of London, subsequently engraved by Hollar, and he superintended its production. He projected and managed a lottery of books to recoup Ogilby for the expenses incurred in these undertakings, and a similar lottery which he superintended for Bristol fair proved very profitable. He next edited the ‘Book of Roads,’ digesting the notes and directing the engravings, three or four of which he executed with his own hand, these being his earliest experiments with the graver. He undertook on his own account the map of Westminster (1675), and with the assistance of Falgate completed it in a year. Afterwards he was employed in engraving the letter-work of maps. He continued to engrave from 1675 to 1680, and compiled a portion of Francis Sandford's ‘Genealogical History of the Kings and Queens of England,’ while his friend the author was prostrated by illness.

London was indebted to King for the laying out of the streets and squares in Soho Fields. Soho Square was formerly called King's Square, and Rimbault suggests that Greek Street, formerly Grig Street, was so called after King's christian name. Many of the first building articles or leases in various parts of London were drawn up by him.

At the College of Arms he formed a close friendship with Thomas Lee, Chester herald; and the Earl of Norwich, deputy earl-marshal, on Lee's recommendation, created him Rouge Dragon pursuivant on 24 June 1677 (Noble, College of Arms, p. 294). In Michaelmas term of that year King brought an action for libel in the court of king's bench against one who had charged him with cheating (Keble, Reports, ii. 265).

In 1680 he removed from his house in Covent Garden to the college. He assisted Sir Henry St. George, Norroy king of arms, in his visitations in 1681 and 1682; and in 1684 he was nominated by the Duke of Norfolk to the office of registrar of the College of Arms. He was consulted about the coronation of James II and his queen, and was the principal author of the superb volume containing descriptions and splendid engravings of that ceremony (London, 1687, fol.), though he allowed Francis Sandford to affix his name to the title-page. King contented himself with one-third of the profits, but the book did not appear until just before the landing of the Prince of Orange, and the authors barely cleared their expenses, which amounted to nearly 600l. (Noble, pp. 323, 324).

In 1687 King assisted Sir Henry St. George in his visitation of London. After the revolution he was engaged in the ceremonial of William and Mary's coronation, and succeeded Sandford, who resigned on account of his Jacobite sympathies, in the office of Lancaster herald. He took part in the investitures with the insignia of the Garter of the elector of Brandenburg (afterwards Frederick I, king of Prussia) in 1689 and of the Duke of Zell in 1691. He was sent to Dresden on similar business in 1693, and invested John George, elector of Saxony, with the insignia of the order in January; the elector died next year, and the installation at Windsor took place on 5 July 1694, after his death. A quarrel with the earl-marshal respecting the arrangements at the funeral of Queen Mary led to King's dismissal from the office of registrar, and a charge brought against him by the earl of embezzling fees caused him to be temporarily suspended from service in the college. He became, however, secretary to the commissioners for taking and stating the public accounts and also secretary to the controllers of the accounts of the army. He was in 1710 a candidate for the patent of Clarencieux, and wrote a long letter to Harley stating his claims, but, as his biographer, Chalmers, puts it, the wit of his rival, Sir John Vanbrugh, ‘prevailed over King's arithmetick.’ He died on 29 Aug. 1712, and was buried in the chancel of the church of St. Benet, Paul's Wharf, where a handsome mural monument of stone, with an inscription in English, was erected to his memory.

He married, first, 1 July 1674, Anne, daughter of John Powel, of Firley in the parish of Forthampton, Gloucestershire; secondly, in 1701, Frances Grattan, by whom he had three children, who all died in infancy.

King was a man of remarkable versatility. As a herald and genealogist he was the equal of his master, Sir William Dugdale; and as a statistician he surpassed Sir William Petty.

His chief statistical work is entitled ‘Natural and Political Observations and Conclusions upon the State and Condition of England, 1696’ (Thorpe, Cat. of MSS. pt. v. for 1839, p. 62). It supplies the best account accessible of the population and wealth of England at the close of the seventeenth century. Some extracts from it were published by Charles Davenant, but the treatise itself was not published till 1801, when George Chalmers added it, with a notice of King, to his ‘Estimate of the Comparative Strength of Great Britain.’ Chalmers, who drew attention to King's originality as a political arithmetician, his local knowledge, and scientific methods, appended to the ‘Observations’ two other tracts by King, viz. ‘A Scheme of the Inhabitants of the City of Gloucester,’ laid before the board of trade in 1696, and ‘A Computation of the Endowed Hospitals and Almshouses in England,’ presented to the same board in 1697. Another of King's statistical undertakings was ‘A Scheme of the Rates and Duties granted to his Majesty upon Marriages, Births, and Burials, and upon Batchelors and Widowers, for the term of five years from May 1, 1695,’ London, 1695, fol. An interesting account of the chief conclusions in King's ‘very valuable estimate’ is given by Mr. Lecky in his ‘England in the Eighteenth Century,’ i. 560–1.

King's heraldic or genealogical works are: 1. ‘The Order of the Installation of Prince George of Denmark, Charles, Duke of Somerset, and George, Duke of Northumberland, at Windsor, April 8, 1684,’ London, 1684, fol. 2. ‘The Order of the Installation of Henry, Duke of Norfolk, Henry, Earl of Peterborough, and Laurence, Earl of Rochester, at Windsor, July 22, 1685,’ London, 1685, fol. 3. ‘An Account of the Ceremony of investing his Electoral Highness of Brandenburgh with the Order of the Garter,’ London, 1690, 4to. 4. ‘The usual Ceremony observed by the Lord High Steward and Peers of Great Britain, the officers of the Court, their assistants and attendants, on the Arraignment and Trial of some Peer or Peeress … for Treason or Felony,’ London, 1746, fol. 5. ‘The Visitation of Worcester, begun by Thomas May, Chester, and Gregory King, Rouge Dragon … 1682, and finished by Henry Dethick, Richmond, and the said Rouge Dragon … 1683. With additions by Sir Thomas Phillipps, Bart. Edited by W. C. Metcalfe,’ Exeter (privately printed), 1883, 4to. 6. ‘The Visitation of the County of Gloucester, begun by Thomas May, Chester, and Gregory King, Rouge Dragon … and finished by Henry Dethick, Richmond, and the said Rouge Dragon. With additions. Edited by T. Fitz-Roy Fenwick, and W. C. Metcalfe,’ Exeter, 1884, 4to.

Some of King's collections are printed in Arthur Collins's ‘Proceedings, Precedents, and Arguments in Claims and Controversies concerning Baronies by Writ and other Honours,’ 1734.

An autobiography bringing King's career down to his quarrel with the earl-marshal, entitled ‘Some Miscellaneous Notes of the Birth, Education, and Advancement of Gregory King,’ remains in manuscript in the Rawlinson collection in the Bodleian Library. It was printed in the appendix to Dallaway's ‘Inquiries into the Origin and Progress of the Science of Heraldry in England,’ Gloucester, 1793, 4to, and also in the anonymous ‘Heraldic Miscellanies,’ London, n.d. 4to.

The following writings of King have not been printed:

  1. Letter to H. St. George describing a masquerade at the Court of Dresden, 10 Feb. 1693 (Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 6321, f. 44).
  2. Ordinary of Arms (Addit. MS. 26690).
  3. Transcripts of the Council Books of the reign of Edward VI (Addit. MSS. 14024–6).
  4. Arms of Families of the name of Russell (Addit. MS. 26690, f. 28). 5. Heraldic Miscellanies (Harl. MSS. 6591, 6821, 6832, 6833).

King painted a pack of cards with the arms of the English nobility in imitation of ‘Claud Oronce Fine Brianille.’

[King's Autobiography; Chalmers's Memoir of King; Gent. Mag., 1800, pt. i. p. 973, vol. xc. pt. i. p. 233; m'Culloch's Lit. Pol. Econ. p. 210; Noble's College of Arms, pp. 294, 313, 324, 335; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 98; Hamper's Life of Dugdale; Macaulay's Hist. of England, chap. iii.; Pepys's Memoirs, v. 183.]

T. C.