Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/King, John (1639-1677)

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KING, Sir JOHN (1639–1677), lawyer, of a Huguenot family of Rouen, originally named Le Roy, was eldest son of John King, M.D., of Aldersgate Street, London, by his second wife, Elizabeth, youngest daughter of Barne Roberts of Willesden, Middlesex. He was born at St. Albans on 5 Feb. 1638–9, and was educated first at the free school there, and then, from the age of thirteen, at Eton, where he obtained a foundation scholarship and became head of the school. He proceeded to Queens' College, Cambridge, in November 1655, and graduated B.A. Though personally desirous of taking orders, by his father's desire in November 1660 he was admitted a member of the Inner Temple, and on 9 Feb. 1667 was called to the bar. He became a bencher of the inn 31 Jan. 1674, and treasurer in 1675. He began his practice by appearing before the commission for the rebuilding of London after the fire, but soon obtained business in Westminster Hall, and eventually a very large chancery practice. He was made a king's counsel and attorney-general to the Duke of York, and on 10 Dec. 1674 was knighted. In 1676 his fees amounted to 4,700l. His fine memory, his polished eloquence, his affable manners, and still more his incredible industry, had secured for him an enormous amount of work, and he was in the front rank of his profession in nine years from his call. Burnet says of him that the court party were weary of ‘Sir William Jones [q. v.], Attorney-general, and were raising Sir John King to vie with him, but he died in his rise, which indeed went on very quick’ (Hist. of my own Time, fol. ed. i. 396). His health broke down under the strain of work, and in his later years he could not sleep more than three hours together. He died at his house in Salisbury Court on 29 June 1677. He was buried in the Temple Church on 4 July, where there is an inscription in the triforium and a stone in the churchyard to his memory.

King married, on 20 Feb. 1666–7, Joyce, daughter and heiress of William Bennett of High Rothing, Essex, by whom he had two sons and five daughters.

[From a family manuscript written by his father in 1677, and contributed to Gent. Mag. lii. 110, reprinted with additions in 1855; Roger North's Life of Lord Keeper Guildford; Chauncy's Hertfordshire, p. 467 a; Echard's History of England, ed. 1718, iii. 438.]

J. A. H.