King, Oliver (DNB00)


KING, OLIVER (d. 1503), bishop of Bath and Wells, a native of London, became scholar of Eton in 1449 (Harwood, Alumni Eton. p. 107), and was elected fellow of King's College, Cambridge. He is said to have been secretary to Edward, prince of Wales, son of Henry VI, and in 1476 was appointed by Edward IV his chief secretary in French for life, being described as a ‘master of the seven liberal arts’ and a licentiate of laws. In 1480 he was made a canon of Windsor, resigning in that year a prebend at Hereford. He was registrar of the order of the Garter, and in 1482 received the archdeaconry of Oxford. Richard III on his accession in 1483 deprived him of the office of secretary and sent him to the Tower. Having been reinstated by Henry VII in 1485, he received a commission on 3 Dec. to meet the commissioners of Charles VIII of France, and treat for a prolongation of the truce. For his expenses on this embassy he received the following year fifty marks, and was further employed on a commission to ascertain the rights of the crown in Calais, Hammes, and Guisnes. He was appointed to the deanery of Hereford in 1487. A grant in 1488 to him, Lord Daubeny, and another of the next canonry which should fall vacant at Windsor is probably connected with a license granted to him in the same year to found the guild of the Holy Trinity at Windsor. On 12 July 1489 he was installed at Wells archdeacon of Taunton through his proctor (Reynolds, from Liber Ruber). Being appointed bishop of Exeter by a papal provision dated October 1492, he was consecrated to that see in St. Stephen's, Westminster, on 3 Feb. following. It is doubtful whether he ever entered his diocese (Oliver). That he stood high in the king's favour is proved by the prominent part assigned to him in the ceremony of the creation of the king's son Henry as duke of York. In 1495 he was translated by a papal bull to the diocese of Bath and Wells. In September 1497 he wrote to acquaint the king of the landing of Perkin Warbeck in Cornwall, and on the 20th Henry wrote to him telling him of the progress of affairs. Three days later he was with the king at Woodstock. He accompanied the king on his march into Somerset, and entered Wells with him on the 30th, which seems to have been the bishop's first visit to his cathedral city. He is said to have visited Bath in 1499, and while there to have had a remarkable dream. The abbey church was in ruins. At night he had a vision of the Trinity and a ladder with angels ascending and descending, and at the foot an olive-tree supporting a crown. He heard a voice saying, ‘Let an olive establish the crown, and a king restore the church’ (Harington). The words fitting his name, he applied them to himself, and, in conjunction with Prior Birde, began to rebuild the church, ordering that all the surplus revenues of the house, after the payment of certain fixed allowances to the prior, monks, and others, should be devoted to the work. His church, which he did not live to finish, is built on the nave only of the older church. He caused his dream to be represented on the west front, with the lines, ‘Trees going to chuse their king said, Be to us the olive king’ (Judges ix. 8). The ladders and angels (now headless) of his dream are still to be seen on the west front. Sir John Harington represents him as apt to listen to wizards and soothsayers, and says that it was thought that he fell into a melancholy after the death of Prince Arthur in 1502, on account of a prophecy foretelling the evils which Henry, afterwards king, would bring on the church. He died on 29 Aug. 1503 (Reynolds, from Liber Ruber; Wharton; Godwin's date, 24 Jan., is wrong). He is said to have been buried according to the directions in his will, on the north side of the choir of Bath Abbey, near the high altar, though it is also asserted that he was laid in the south aisle of St. George's Chapel at Windsor, within a chantry chapel which he founded and which still retains his name. In this chapel there is a tomb of grey marble which is assigned to him, and near it is an incomplete inscription concerning him. A statue of him, standing by the west door of Bath Abbey, was erected early in the seventeenth century.

[Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. i. 142, 167, 376, 477, 534, iii. 389 (Hardy); Rymer's Fœdera, xii. 26, 279, ed. 1711; Materials illustrative of Reign of Hen. VII, i. 193, 356, ii. 49, 104, 474 (Rolls Ser.); Letters, &c., Ric. III and Hen. VII, i. 392, ii. 407 (Rolls Ser.); Ellis's Orig. Letters, 1st ser. i. 34 sq.; Davies's York Records, p. 165; Harington's Nugæ Antiq. ii. 136, ed. 1804; Wharton's Anglia Sacra, i. 575; Oliver's Bishops of Exeter, p. 114; Cassan's Bishops of Bath and Wells, pp. 315–30; Godwin, De Præsulibus, p. 384; Reynolds's Wells Cathedral, pp. 179, 209; Warner's Bath, p. 131; Somerset Archæol. and Nat. Hist. Soc.'s Proc. XII. ii. 37, XXII. i. 29, XXV. ii. 64.]

W. H.