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F. D. Maurice - a life at King's
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F. D. Maurice - a life at King's

a light sketch and slightly faded portrait drawing showing F. D. Maurice wearing a formal suit, with a signature and date (1859)F. D. Mauricea drawing showing King’s College in Victorian London. It is drawn from inside the quad looking outwards, with St Mary and the Strand Church in the background.King’s in Victorian BritainFrederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872) can be counted amongst the most prominent theologians of the modern Anglican Church.

At a time of economic, social, and political turmoil in the mid-19th century, he became the spiritual leader of the influential ‘Christian Socialism’ movement.

In this capacity and in the course of his life’s work he strove to create a brand of Anglicanism that could overcome what he saw as the major challenges of the age – a divided society and a dwindling interest in the moral guidance of Christianity.

However, driven by two seemingly incompatible belief systems – ‘a truly radical faith’ and ‘a truly monumental conservatism’ – his arguments were sometimes confusing and often contentious.1

Indeed, Maurice was never far from controversy.

One particularly notable controversy occurred whilst he was a professor at King’s College London.

King’s was founded in 1829 with the aim of instilling in its students a ‘knowledge of the doctrines and duties of Christianity, as inculcated by the United Church of England and Ireland.’

Under these terms, Maurice had become a professor of Theology in 1846.

However, in November 1853, the College Council expelled Maurice from the university, citing the ‘dangerous’ tendencies of his newly published Theological Essays.

The event prompted fierce debates across the country and thrust King’s into the national limelight.

Since then, Maurice’s legacy has come full circle: his time at King’s is now celebrated rather than deplored and his picture adorns the Strand campus.

As such, examining the story of his expulsion from King’s reveals as much about the changing place of religion at the university as it does about the life of this influential but controversial religious thinker.

1: O. Brose, F. D. Maurice: rebellious conformist (1971)

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