The history of King’s College School
King’s College London, of which the school was the junior division, was founded in 1829 by a group of eminent politicians and churchmen who wanted a Church of England alternative to what later became University College London (UCL, founded in 1826), known as ‘the godless college in Gower Street’. King’s was granted a royal charter by King George IV on 14 August 1829 and was founded on the Masonic principles of tolerance and enlightenment.
King George IV
King’s is named after King George IV (George, Prince of Wales, later Prince Regent; 1762-1830). Eldest son of George III whom he succeeded in 1820. Initiated as a Freemason by his uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, on 6 February 1787 at a special lodge at the Star and Garter, Pall Mall. Founded the Prince of Wales’s Lodge and was its permanent Master 1787-1820. He was elected Grand Master in succession to his uncle in 1790 and held that office until May 1813 when he accepted the title of Grand Patron of the Order.
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
The 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) was the driving force behind King’s foundation. He was the victor of the Battle of Waterloo and Prime Minister, chaired the public meeting which launched King’s on 21 June 1828. Early in 1829 the Earl of Winchilsea publicly challenged Wellington about his simultaneous support for the Anglican King’s College and the Roman Catholic Relief Act. The result was a duel in Battersea Fields on 21 March. Shots were fired but no-one was hurt. The event is commemorated at an annual dinner.
On 31 December 1852 the Freemasons’ Quarterly Magazine and Review reported verbatim Lord Combermere’s words, addressed to the Brethren in October that year: “Perhaps it is not generally known that the Duke of Wellington was a mason; he was made in Ireland; and often when in Spain, where Masonry was prohibited, in conversation, he regretted repeatedly how sorry he was his military duties had prevented him taking the active part his feelings dictated.”
William Howley, Archbishop of Canterbury
William Howley (1766-1848) was archbishop when King’s was founded and backed the Duke of Wellington’s enlightened ideas about education. He was an active Freemason, having joined the Royal York Lodge Bristol on 21 December 1791, aged 25, and served the lodge regularly until his elevation to the episcopate took him to London.