King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
The Duke of Wellington

The opening of King's College: 1831

King's in 1833King's in 1833Wellington never again performed on such a public stage on behalf of King's College, but he did work behind the scenes to secure the parcel of Crown land adjacent to Somerset House where building began in 1829.

The main College buildings, which were designed by Sir Robert Smirke, architect of the British Museum, were officially opened in October 1831.

The political climate had changed dramatically since June 1828 amid the crisis surrounding the Great Reform Bill and the ceremony was a more sombre affair compared to the excited atmosphere of the Freemasons' Tavern - the highlights were a worthy lecture by the new Principal, William Otter, and a sermon by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

When King's opened for students, Wellington himself was no longer Prime Minister. The Duke remained involved in the life of the College in a largely honorary capacity as a Life Governor and Council member until his death in 1852, although he never appears to have attended any meetings.

He nevertheless continued to be regarded fondly by students and staff and was cheered to the rafters by them when a royal procession passed the entrance to the College in 1837.

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