Charles Kingsley was born in Holne, Devon, in 1819. He was educated at Bristol Grammar School and Helston Grammar School, before moving on to King's College London and the University of Cambridge. After graduating in 1842, he pursued a career in the clergy and in 1859 was appointed chaplain to Queen Victoria. The following year he was appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge, and became private tutor to the Prince of Wales in 1861.
Kingsley resigned from Cambridge in 1869 and between 1870 and 1873 was canon of Chester cathedral. He was appointed canon of Westminster cathedral in 1873 and remained there until his death in 1875.
Sympathetic to the ideas of evolution, Kingsley was one of the first supporters of Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859), and his concern for social reform was reflected in The Water-Babies (1863). Kingsley also wrote Westward Ho! (1855), for which the English town is named, a children's book about Greek mythology, The Heroes (1856), and several other historical novels.