Wolverhampton BTW

Frances Elizabeth [Fanny] King

King, Frances Elizabeth [Fanny] née Bernard, 1757—1821

by Benjamin Colbert

Frances Elizabeth Bernard was born on 25 July 1757 at Lincoln, the third daughter of Sir Frances Bernard, baronet (1712-79; ODNB), and Amelia Bernard, née Offley (c.1719-78). Within six months of her birth, her father assumed the colonial governorship of New Jersey, but left Frances Bernard in the care of a near relation, Mrs. Beresford of Manor House, Nether Winchendon, Buckingham, where she remained until her family returned from North America in 1769.

On 17 August 1782, she married the Reverend Richard King (1748-1810; ODNB), vicar of Steeple Morden in Cambridgeshire, and later Rector of Worthen, Shropshire. She raised her family (2 of 3 daughters survived into adulthood) while ministering to the parish poor and establishing schools for their children. After the death of her daughter Elizabeth (1792-1801), Frances King and her husband travelled to France, taking advantage of the Peace of Amiens for change of scene. During the eight-month visit, Frances King kept the journal that became the basis for her later A Tour in France (1808). After the French tour, Frances King played a role in the Clapham-based Society for Bettering the Condition and Improving the Comforts of the Poor, helping her brother, Sir Thomas Bernard (1750-1818; ODNB), compile reports and attending meetings of the Ladies Committee.

In 1809, she published The Beneficial Effects of the Christian Temper on Domestic Happiness, dedicated to her husband who died the following year. After his death, she removed to Gateshead, Durham, to be near her now-married daughters, but continued her work with the poor, including the establishment of a Sunday School, Sick Fund, and Clothing Society. Her literary activities also continued. Her book, Female Scripture Characters; Exemplifying Female Virtues began as a periodical work in 1811 and, in its collected form, reached a twelfth edition by 1833, proving popular for use in schools. She also published a tale written when she was eighteen, The Rector’s Memorandum Book (1819), purporting to be non-fiction with her role being that of ‘editor’.

Frances King died after a painful illness at Gateshead on 23 December 1821.


King, Frances Elizabeth. Female Scripture Characters; Exemplifying Female Virtues. By Mrs. King, with a Memoir of the Author. 12th ed. London: J. G. & F. Rivington, 1833. Print.

‘King, Mrs. Frances Elizabeth’. The Annual Biography and Obituary 7 (1823): 448-49. Print.

Martin, Mary Clare. 'King [née Bernard], Frances Elizabeth [Fanny] (1757–1821), philanthropist and author'. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 3 Jan. 2008. Oxford University Press. Web. 1 Dec. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/15561

Taylor, Marion Ann, and Heather E. Weir, eds. Let Her Speak for Herself: Nineteenth-Century Women Writing on Women in Genesis. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2006. 112-13. Print.


Title Published
A Tour in France 1808

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