King's College, Cambridge

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King’s College, Cambridge
King’s College heraldic shield
Full name The King’s College of Our Lady and St Nicholas in Cambridge
Motto Veritas et Utilitas
Truth and usefulness
Named after Henry VI
Previous names -
Established 1441
Sister College(s) New College, Oxford
Provost Prof. Ross Harrison
Location King’s Parade
52°12′15.4″N, 0°6′59.8″E
Undergraduates 397
Postgraduates 239
Homepage Boatclub
The Gatehouse, built in the neo-Gothic style, as seen from King’s Parade.
The Gatehouse, built in the neo-Gothic style, as seen from King’s Parade.

King’s College, Cambridge is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Formally The King’s College of Our Lady and St. Nicholas, it is often referred to as King’s within the university.


[edit] History

King’s was founded in 1441 by King Henry VI. His first design was modest, but by 1445 was intended to be a magnificent display of royal patronage. There were to be a Provost and seventy scholars, occupying a substantial site in central Cambridge whose drastic clearance involved the closure of several streets. The college was granted a remarkable series of feudal privileges, and all of this was supported by a substantial series of endowments from the King.

The college was to be specifically for boys from Eton College, which he had also founded. The connection with Eton remained strong for many years: it was not until 1865 that the first non-Etonian undergraduates arrived to study at King’s, and the first fellow to have not attended Eton was elected in 1873.

The very first buildings of the college, now part of the Old Schools, were begun in 1441, but by 1443 the decision to build to a much grander plan had been taken. That plan survives in the 1448 Founders Will describing in detail a magnificent court with a chapel on one side. But within a decade, civil war meant that funds from the King began to dry up. By the time of his deposition in 1461, the chapel walls had been raised 60ft high at the east end but only 8ft at the west; a building line which can still be seen today as the boundary between the lighter stone below and the darker above. Work proceeded sporadically until a generation later in 1508 when the Founder’s nephew King Henry VII was prevailed upon to finish the shell of the building. The interior had to wait a further generation until completion by 1544 with the aid of King Henry VIII.

It has been speculated that the choice of the college as a beneficiary by the two later Henry’s was a political one, with Henry VII in particular concerned to legitimate a new, post civil war, Tudor regime by demonstrating patronage of what was by definition the King’s College. Later building work is marked by an uninhibited branding with the Tudor rose and other symbols of the new establishment, quite against the precise instructions of the Founders Will. Henry VI is not completely forgotten at the College, however, which holds a sumptous annual dinner in his memory called "Founder's Feast" to which all members of College in their last year of studies are invited.

[edit] King’s College Chapel

King’s College Chapel (partially obscured by the Gibbs’ Building), seen from The Backs
King’s College Chapel (partially obscured by the Gibbs’ Building), seen from The Backs

Main article: King's College Chapel, Cambridge

The College Chapel, an example of late Gothic architecture, was built over a period of 100 years in three stages. The Chapel features the world’s largest fan vault, stained glass windows, and the painting “The Adoration of the Magi” by Rubens.

The Chapel is actively used as a place of worship and also for some concerts and college events. The world-famous Chapel choir consists of choral scholars (male students from the college) and choristers (boys educated at the nearby King’s College School). The choir sings services on most days in term-time, and also performs concerts and makes recordings and broadcasts. In particular, it has broadcast its Nine Lessons and Carols on the BBC from the Chapel on Christmas Eve for many decades. Additionally, there is a mixed-voice Chapel choir of male and female students, King’s Voices, which sings evensong on Mondays during term-time.

The Chapel is widely seen as a symbol of Cambridge, as seen in the logo of the city council ([1]).

[edit] Education at King’s

The unofficial and sometimes disputed Tompkins Table ranked King’s tenth out of a total of twenty-nine rated colleges at the University of Cambridge in 2005; the college’s position has fluctuated between tenth and twentieth over the years 2000-2005.

King’s offers all undergraduate courses available at the University, except for education and veterinary medicine, although Directors of Studies for Anglo-Saxon Norse & Celtic, Geography, Land Economy and Management Studies all visit from other colleges.

Since its foundation, the college has housed a library, providing books for all students, covering all the subjects offered by King’s. Around 130,000 books are held: some available for teaching and for reference, others being rare books and manuscripts.

[edit] Intake and access profile

King’s College dining hall
King’s College dining hall

The college has gradually broadened its intake to include many students from state schools, often having the highest proportion of maintained school acceptances of the undergraduate colleges. It also has a large percentage of students of Asian origin, particularly China and the Indian subcontinent. Inevitably this has led to accusations of reactionary bias against public school pupils and of affirmative action (positive discrimination), although the relatively high proportion of state-school students reflects the far greater number of applications from pupils at maintained schools.[2]. King's has established a Schools Liaison Officer post in order to provide support to students, whatever their background, and schools and colleges of any type to find out more about the University of Cambridge and the college[3]. In general, the atmosphere at Kings is considered to be a little easier to integrate into than are other colleges if you come from a working class or minority background.

[edit] Student life

Gibbs' Building
Gibbs' Building

As with all Cambridge colleges King’s has both its own student union for undergraduates (King’s College Student Union or KCSU), and graduates (King’s College Graduate Society or KCGS). Having a reputation for being more politically active than other colleges, students at King’s have used both organisations to assist in the decision-making processes in the College itself and the University. The Student Union has a long record of activism. In the eighties a long rent strike against Kings' investment in apartheid South Africa was organized.

King’s students successfully established a university-wide rent strike, through the formation of the King’s Access Alliance, during the 1999-2000 academic year in response to increased living costs (which, they believed, would deter potential applicants and thus affect the college’s access profile); a second rent-strike in 2003 was, however, much less successful, due partly to a failure to secure support outside of the college and the hard line taken by the then Provost.

King’s has a venue known as the Cellar Bar, a small room in the basement of the college, which regularly acts as a music venue. The main bar at King’s is far older, and is the site of more informal meetings between students. The bar has been traditionally painted a socialist red, including a depiction of a hammer and sickle. In 2004 it was redecorated, with the walls painted yellow and the overall decor lightened. A hammer and sickle survives in a frame on the wall, a source of some controversy. King’s also has a dedicated Coffee Shop adjacent to the bar. A Vacation Bar, or “vac bar”, also sometimes operates during the summer vacation, run by (and mainly for) the graduate students who remain in College throughout the year.

Whereas most Cambridge colleges celebrate May Week with a May Ball (which actually falls in June), since the early 1980s King’s has instead held a “June Event” — a much more informal version of a May Ball. The down-scaling followed a huge invasion of crashers over the backs when the Stranglers played at the last King's ball. An important consideration in the enduring popularity of the June Event is its cheapness compared to the May Balls of other colleges, a ticket generally costing in the neighborhood of £50 rather than the £90-200 common for May Balls.

[edit] Alumni

Time Magazine published in 2000 a list (at of what it considered the most ‘influential and important’ people of the twentieth century. In a list of one hundred names, King’s was the only European institution that could claim two: Alan Turing and John Maynard Keynes who had been both students and fellows at the college. Other alumni of King’s College have included prime ministers, archbishops, authors Zadie Smith and Salman Rushdie, folk musician John Spiers, journalist Johann Hari and David Baddiel, the comedian and composer of a chart topping football anthem. Montague Rhodes James, celebrated ghost story writer and mediaevalist, spent much of his life here as student, don and Provost. Many of his finest stories were read at Christmas to friends in his rooms in the College.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  • Saltmarsh, John: King’s College (in Victoria County History of Cambridgeshire, Volume III, ed JPC Roach, 1959)

Coordinates: 52°12′15″N, 0°07′00″E