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ORIGIN OF THE FAMILY NAME, KING.
It may now be asked, "How is the name King descriptive of our family?" "Are we descended from Royalty?" "Are we connected with some king of ancient times?" It would be quite absurd to suppose so. In order to bear the name of King it does not at all follow that we are descendants of or in any way related by blood to any person who held the office or title of king. Even if it did the honor would not be so great, if we consider the persons and their stations to whom the title of King has been applied.
While the word king ordinarily means the ruler or sovereign of a kingdom, yet it has far oftener and from time immemorial been also applied to the chiefs of tribes or clans. Such were the kings which Joshua is said to have slain by thirties at a time on the banks of the river Jordan (Joshua, ch. XII, v. 9-24), mere chiefs or sheiks of Arab tribes. The kings of Sparta were hereditary yet they were only subordinate chiefs of a severe republic. In its primary sense the word King (Sax. Cyng, Cynig or Cyning; Ger. Koenig; D. Koning; Sw. Konung, Kung; Dan. Kong; Welsh, Cun) meant merely a cunning, knowing, or able man, a guide, a leader, a head, a chief. The designation or title king was applied to the head men of clans or tribes. Five socalled kings were seen in Ireland when Henry II conquered that country in 1172. Scottish and British chiefs assumed the title of king. So that in reality, king meant little else than a head man, or a leader of a group or tribe.
But even in England, where the king was sovereign and ruler of the whole kingdom, there were those who were attached to the king's service or person as his knights, squires, foresters, soldiers, guards and servants of various kinds who were called the king's men or the king's. It frequently happened that their very occupation such as knight, squire or forester, originated their surnames. It also so happened that as they were the king's men, John, a king's guard, became familiarly called "John, the king's," and in course of time merely "John King." In the same way, too, estates were held and owned by the king which were rented to tenants and they were called tenants of the king, while other persons might be tenants of a Bishop or some other titled person. Even towns have taken the name of king from the fact that they were part of the king's estate. Thus Kings-ton on Thames, County Surrey, England, derived its name from the fact that at an early period it was a royal demesne. ,
In the Domesday book the smaller proprietors, whose christian names alone were given, were grouped in classes as "servientes Regis," "Taini Regis" or "Elesmosynarii Regis," that is the King's Serjeants, the king's Thanes, the king's Almsmen, etc. Each tenant of the king being described by his christian name and the land he held. So it could happen that the tenant of a royal estate would, when spoken of as a tenant, be called, for instance, "Roger, the king's," and in time the surname or descriptive name would become merely "King"—Roger King, from the fact that he was a tenant of the king.
There is indeed an ancient and persistent tradition, several centuries old, that our King family derived its surname and sprang from a line of West Saxon kings; but however agreeable or flattering such a derivation of name and race might be to us, we are in possession of no facts tending to support it. It has also been suggested that perhaps the name was given to some illegitimate issue of a king, but this is fully as preposterous as to assert that the bearers of the name are legitimate descendants and besides, as Mr. M. A. Lower remarks ("English Surnames"), there is no evidence or reason to sustain it. Any reasons given therefor must apply with equal force to the surnames Prince, Duke, Count, Bishop and a host of other names and makes the suggestion absurd.
A much more plausible theory has been advanced which ascribes the origin of the surname King to the very ancient miracle plays. It is said that in these old miracle plays, acted in public upon the streets, greatly favored by the church and in which the people generally took part and represented the characters therein, the individual who played the king or who in the mediaeval pageantries and mock ceremonies was monarch of the feast would be habitually spoken of as the king or as king until the appellation so fastened itself upon him as to originate a lasting and hereditary surname. Even at present in Germany where the miracle and passion plays are still presented, persons are for years thereafter spoken of by the name of the character they represented. In Cornwall and Devonshire these miracle plays were especially popular and in A. D. 1302 we find in Devonshire (Calendar of the Close Rolls, pp. 12-13) tne sur~ name "le Kyng" (the king) and in Calendarium Genealogicum,— Inquisitions Post Mortem—"Robertus dictus King" (Robert called King) which would tend to strengthen this theory.
Hon. Marquis F. King of Portland, Me. (recently deceased), a genealogist of note, in an historical and genealogical address delivered at Taunton, July 20, 1899, says:
"Genealogists have generally accepted the theory that King as a surname originated in those popular mediaeval pastimes in which 'Kings of the Bean,' 'of May,' 'of Cockneys,' 'of Misrule' and others held temporary sway; and sometimes the title was given for some special accomplishment or leadership; for instance, Adenes, le Roy of the minstrels, Robin Hood, King of the Greenwood. I do not think the supposition entirely improbable, but conclude it more likely that as so many surnames came from occupation, that in those countries where state and king were synonymous terms, 'de King,' or 'du Roy' would naturally become an affix to any servitor's name in the absence of official titles. I have noted that even as late as 1445 Nicholas de King and others were witnesses to the conveyance of one virgate of land in his manor of Wattume, for the health of his soul and the souls of his two wives, Juliana and Lucy, and his father and mother and all his ancestors and successors by Robert de Berklai, to God and the Church of St. Mary of Kingeswode. The location of the church suggests the probability that Nicholas was the forester."
It is needless to attempt to enumerate the ways in which the name could first have arisen. Many may occur to one who reflects upon the way in which William of the forest, or Richard, the brown skinned, or Peter, the long-legged, became respectively William Forest, Richard Brown and Peter Long, transmitting to their posterity the surnames Forest, Brown and Long. In a way similar to the origin of the name King arose such other surnames as Prince, Duke, Earle, Baron, Knight, Noble, Marshall, etc.
The word or name King was in olden times spelled in various ways. In Domesday book (of course the monarch or sovereign is always written Rex) the Saxon word is spelled in two ways, viz: "Cinge" and "Chinge," but this is because of the disuse of the letter k in the Latin language in which Domesday is written, and because c and ch in Latin have the hard sound of k in English. In the Exon Domesday, however, also written in Latin, but several years later, the word is occasionally spelled "Kinge" though in some places it is "Cinge" and in others "Chinge." In St. Paul's Domesday it is "King." In some ancient documents it is "Kynge" and "Kyng" and in one it is "Kyng alias King." ("Inquisitions Post Mortem"—Chancery Proceedings—p. 7.) We have records, as will appear hereafter, where our name was anciently, in 1389-1548, spelled Kynge; a century later, 1643, spelled Kinge, though the name of the same person was twenty years subsequently, 1662, spelled King.
The surname King could have originated in so many different ways, as we have seen, that it is probable the name was applied independently to persons in widely separated localities and of no relationship to or even acquaintance with each other, though probably to avoid confusion it would be applied as a surname to but one family in any one particular neighborhood or county. In this way the frequency with which the family name King is met with in different parts of Great Britain would be easily accounted for and it is not surprising that there are only thirty-five names that occur more frequently or are more common than King in England, while the number of individuals claiming that name there is over forty-five thousand. Of the old established families of that name in Great Britain, Burke in his General Armory blazons no less than thirty-eight King and fifteen Kinge coats of arms. Many of these, however, are related to each other.
DEVONSHIRE, ENGLAND, THE BIRTHPLACE OF OUR FAMILY.
Our own family name, King, may or may not have originated in some such way as has been above described. Certain it is, that the King family was well established in Devonshire several centuries ago, but the source of our family name there is, of course, merely speculative and is completely lost in antiquity. "The Calendar of the Close Rolls" (published by authority of the British Government) at pages 12 and 13 shows an order of release to the sheriff of Devonshire for Richard le Kyng and his relative Herlewyn Kyng, made March 4, A. D., 1308, and the Chancery Records, known as "Inquisitions post Mortem" for the 28th year of Henry III (A. D. 1244) mention "Willielmus Kyng alias King" (see Calendarium Genealogicum of Great Britain p. 7,) showing the transition also of the name Kyng to King, also frequently therein spelled Kinge.
The most interesting of these records is an ancient charter made in the year 1389 at Dodebrook (eight miles from Ugborough), Devonshire, England, by Rogerus Kynge, which is now preserved in the family and is in the possession of Harvey J. King, Esq., of Troy, N. Y. Of this ancient document we will speak more fully hereafter when we come to consider the subject of our English ancestry.
Devonshire is the third largest county in England. The British tribes which inhabited this part of the west of England were called Dumnonii by Ptolemny; and Dumnonia or Dammonia, the Latinized name of a kingdom, which long remained independent after the arrival and early conquests of the West Saxons, seems to be identical with the Cymric "Dyfnaint" which survives in the present "Devon." The Saxon settlers as they advanced into the country called themselves "Defenas," that is, men of Devon or Dyfnaint, thus adopting the British name. For some time after the landing of William, the Conqueror, and the battle of Hastings, Devon remained undisturbed. In the