Oliver King
Bishop of Bath and Wells
Bath Abbey at sunset (December 2004)
Appointed6 November 1495
Term ended29 August 1503
PredecessorRichard Foxe
SuccessorAdriano de Castello
Consecration3 February 1493
Personal details
Died29 August 1503
DenominationRoman Catholic
Previous post(s)Bishop of Exeter
EducationEton College
Alma materKing's College, Cambridge

Oliver King (c. 1432 – 29 August 1503) was a Bishop of Exeter and Bishop of Bath and Wells who restored Bath Abbey after 1500.

Early life

King was educated at Eton, where he was a king's scholar, and King's College, Cambridge, where he graduated Master of Arts by 1456/57, was a Fellow of King's and served as junior proctor of the university in 1459–1460.[1] He became a priest then studied civil law at the University of Orléans as well as at Cambridge, graduating as doctor of Civil Law.


In 1466 King was appointed Rector of Broughton, Hampshire, and in 1473 Warden of St John's Hospital, Dorchester. Under the new regime of Edward IV of England he was appointed Clerk of the Signet in 1473, in 1475 was sent as ambassador to the Duke of Brittany.

On 18 March 1476, Oliver King Master of the seven liberal Arts and Licentiate in Laws, became the king's 'first and principal Secretary' for the French tongue for life, and succeeded William Hatteclyffe as king's secretary in 1480.;[2] and receiving the salary of £20 per annum.[3] Supposedly being expert in "the French language" Dr King was effectively second secretary, discharging the duties of the Signet in Hatteclyffe's absence. Under Edward IV the Secretary's office expanded the number of clerks to at least four, with a Gentleman and "writers of the King's Signet under him".

The Secretary and his clerks pay for their carriage of harness in court, except a little coffer to which the king's warrants and bills are signed, and other letters and remembrances be kept ...Thiis coffer is carried at the King's cost, whereas the Controller will sign. The Secretary has 3 Getlemen-in-waiting on him for all that office. The remnant of all other servants to be found at his livery in the country delivered by the Herberger...whe [sic] he is out, ehe has a yeoman to keep chamber, eating at Chamberlain's board in the hall: both he and his clerks take clothing off the King's Wardrobe.[4]

During the early modern monarchy the Secretaries gradually assumed more importance, and standing at court, their office expanded and their salary improved to the same as the Clerk of the council.[5]

In 1480 he was appointed Canon of the eleventh stall at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, a position he held until 1503.[6]

King was appointed Bishop of Exeter on 1 October 1492, consecrated on 3 February 1493.[7] He was then translated to the see of Bath and Wells on 6 November 1495. He died on 29 August 1503.[8]

Restoration of Bath Abbey

King organised the restoration of Bath Abbey after 1500. The story of the refounding is told on the front of the Abbey in carved Bath stone. King had a dream in which he saw a host of angels on a ladder, the Holy Trinity and an olive tree with a crown on it. He heard a voice:

'Let an Olive establish the crown, and let a King restore the Church.'

King believed this was a call for him to support the candidature of Henry Tudor as King, and to restore the Abbey. These images are carved on the West Front of the Abbey with coats of arms of the Montague Family (who paid for the carved wooden doors) and Henry VII's coat of arms. There are also statues of the twelve apostles, including a large statue of St Peter and one of Saint Paul.


  1. ^ "King, Oliver (KN449O)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. ^ S. J. Gunn, 'King, Oliver (d. 1503), bishop of Bath and Wells' in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004)
  3. ^ Rymer's Foedera, vol.7, p.26; Rotuli Parliamentorum (1477), p.1 and (1478), p.1
  4. ^ Rotuli Parliamentorum, vol.6, pp.220-1
  5. ^ Foedera, vol.11, p.848
  6. ^ Fasti Wyndesorienses, May 1950. S.L. Ollard. Published by the Dean and Canons of St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.
  7. ^ Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 247
  8. ^ Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 228


Political offices Preceded byWilliam Hatteclyff Secretary of State (England) 1480-1483 Succeeded byJohn Kendal Preceded by Clerk of the Signet Succeeded by Catholic Church titles Preceded byRichard Foxe Bishop of Exeter 1492–1495 Succeeded byRichard Redman Preceded byRichard Foxe Bishop of Bath and Wells 1495–1503 Succeeded byAdriano de Castello