Archibald Robertson (bishop)

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Archibald Robertson
Bishop of Exeter
Archibald Robertson.jpg
Portrait of Robertson as Bishop of Exeter
Diocese Diocese of Exeter
In office 1903–1916
Predecessor Herbert Edward Ryle
Successor William Cecil
Other posts Principal of King's College London (1897–1903)
Vice-Chancellor of the University of London (1902–1903)
Ordination 1878 (deacon); 1882 (priest)
by John Mackarness
Consecration 1903
by Randall Davidson
Personal details
Born (1853-06-29)29 June 1853
Sywell, Northamptonshire, United Kingdom
Died 29 January 1931(1931-01-29) (aged 77)
Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Denomination Anglican
Parents George Robertson & Helen Kerr
Spouse Julia Mann (m. 1885)
Children 3 sons, incl. Archibald
Alma mater Trinity College, Oxford
1912 Coat of arms of Bishop Archibald Robertson on Exeter City Wall. Arms: Gules, a sword erect in pale argent hilted or surmounted by two keys addorsed in saltire of the last (See of Exeter) impaling: Gules, on a chevron between three wolf's heads erased argent langued azure three mullets of the field (Robertson)[1]
Memorial in Exeter Cathedral

Archibald Robertson (29 June 1853 – 29 January 1931)[2] was the seventh Principal of King's College London who later served as Bishop of Exeter.

Early life and education[edit]

He was born at Sywell rectory, Northamptonshire, the eldest son of George Samuel Robertson, curate of Sywell, (1825–1874) and his wife, Helen née Kerr, and grandson of Archibald Robertson and William Charles Kerr junior, both physicians of Northampton.[3] He was educated at Bradfield College and Trinity College, Oxford, where he graduated in 1876 with a first class degree in Classics (Lit. Hum.). He became a Fellow of Trinity in 1876 (until 1886), Dean of the same (1879–1883), and a Doctor of Divinity (DD).[2] He was ordained (both times by John Mackarness, Bishop of Oxford): a deacon on Trinity Sunday (16 June) 1878 in Cuddesdon Parish Church;[4] and a priest on St Thomas's day (21 December) 1882 in Christ Church.[5]


From 1883 to 1897 he was Master of Hatfield Hall in Durham.[6] He went on to serve as Principal of King's College London from 1897 to 1903, during which he was elected to serve as Vice-Chancellor of the University of London for the year 1902–1903.[7] He also served as an examining chaplain for Forrest Browne, Bishop of Bristol, in 1897, and became a Fellow of King's College in 1899. He received an honorary doctorate (Doctor of Divinity, DD) from Durham University in 1893[2] and a further one (Legum Doctor, LLD) from the University of Glasgow in June 1901.[8] He was Boyle Lecturer in 1900 and Bampton Lecturer in 1901, became an honorary fellow of Trinity in 1903 and was a Vice-President of the Clan-Donnachaid Society.

In his academic career, Robertson was a specialist in patristics and church history, in which field he was widely-published and respected.[3] He was elected Bishop of Exeter on Easter Monday (13 April) 1903,[9] consecrated (ordained) as a bishop on 1 May (by Randall Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury, at St Paul's Cathedral) and enthroned and installed at Exeter Cathedral on 5 May;[10] he legally took up the See upon the confirmation of his election, which took place between his election and consecration (i.e. during April 1903). In 1912 Lollards Tower on the Exeter City Wall was rebuilt and several sculpted stone tablets displaying the arms of Bishop Robertson were set into the walls, including one over the arched entrance known as Bishop Carey's Postern.[11] He served as diocesan bishop until 1916,[2] when he resigned due to ill health, retiring to Oxford, where he died at home in 1931.[3]


Robertson married in 1885, shortly after his arrival in Durham. His wife was Julia Mann, daughter of Charles, Rector of Mawgan-in-Meneage and St Issey, Cornwall.[2] They had three sons.[12] The eldest of these, of the same name, was the communist and atheist Archibald Robertson (atheist) (1886–1961).[13]


  • Robertson, Archibald (editor) (1882). St Athanasius On The Incarnation: Edited For The Use Of Students With A Brief Introduction And Notes (first ed.). London: David Nutt. 
  • Robertson, Archibald (editor) (1891). St Athanasius On The Incarnation (second ed.). London: David Nutt. 
  • Robertson, Archibald (editor) (1892). A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Volume IV: St. Athanasius Select Work and Letters. 
  • Robertson, Archibald (1896). Roman Claims to Supremacy. London: S.P.C.K. 
  • Robertson, Archibald (1901). Regnum Dei: Eight Lectures on the Kingdom of God in the History of Christian Thought. Bampton Lectures. London: Methuen. 
  • Robertson, Archibald; Plummer, Alfred (1911). A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (first ed.). Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark\. 
  • Robertson, Archibald; Plummer, Alfred (1914). A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (second ed.). Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark\. 


  1. ^ Exeter Memories[1]; Arthur Charles Fox-Davies, Armorial families : a directory of gentlemen of coat-armour, Volume 2, p. 154 [2]
  2. ^ a b c d e Robertson, Archibald. Who Was Who. 1920–2016 (April 2014 online ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. Retrieved 6 March 2017.  closed access publication – behind paywall
  3. ^ a b c "Robertson, Archibald". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/35774.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ "Ordinations on Trinity Sunday (Archived; subscription only)". Church Times (#804). 21 June 1878. p. 351. ISSN 0009-658X. Retrieved 14 March 2017. (Subscription required (help)). 
  5. ^ "Ordinations on St. Thomas's day (Archived; subscription only)". Church Times (#1040). 29 December 1882. p. 938. ISSN 0009-658X. Retrieved 14 March 2017. (Subscription required (help)). 
  6. ^ Oxford Index, from Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church: Archibald Robertson
  7. ^ "University intelligence". The Times (36804). London. 26 June 1902. p. 6. 
  8. ^ "Glasgow University jubilee". The Times (36481). London. 14 June 1901. p. 10. 
  9. ^ "Church news. (Archived; subscription only)". Church Times (#2099). 17 April 1903. p. 502. ISSN 0009-658X. Retrieved 15 March 2017. (Subscription required (help)). 
  10. ^ "The Bishop of Exeter. Consecration and Enthronement. (Archived; subscription only)". Church Times (#2102). 8 May 1903. p. 589. ISSN 0009-658X. Retrieved 15 March 2017. (Subscription required (help)). 
  11. ^
  12. ^ Hatfield College History: Principals & Masters
  13. ^ I. Also Gerald Robertson, Royal Navy (died 12 August 1936, and Hugh Robertson who practised as a GP in Oxford (died circa 1963)). D. MacKillop The British Ethical Societies, 2011, page 70: "Archibald Robertson (1886–1961) had joined the Communist Party in 1937, having published as 'Robert Arch' for some years, first to escape the attention of his father (Bishop of Exeter, died in 1930), and then that of the Admiralty in..."

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Henry Wace
Principal of King's College London
Succeeded by
Arthur Headlam
Preceded by
Henry Roscoe
Vice-Chancellor of University of London
Succeeded by
Philip Pye-Smith
Church of England titles
Preceded by
Herbert Edward Ryle
Bishop of Exeter
Succeeded by
William Cecil