Kingsford was born on 25 December (Christmas Day) 1862 in Ludlow, Shropshire, the third son of Rev. Sampson Kingsford, formerly Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, vicar of St. Hilary, Cornwall, and at this date headmaster of Ludlow Grammar School.
He was sent to Rossall School, and went up to St John's College, Oxford, as a scholar, and obtained honours in the classical schools and in modern history. In 1888 he was awarded the Arnold prize for an essay on "The Reformation in France", and in the following year he joined the editorial staff of the Dictionary of National Biography. In 1890 he was appointed an examiner in the Education Department, and was an assistant secretary from 1905 to 1912, when he resigned after internal reorganization made work less congenial.
During the First World War, he served as a special constable in London, for which he received the Special Constabulary Long Service Medal with clasp. He was later employed as private secretary to Sir Arthur Boscawen at the Ministry of Pensions from 1917 to 1918.
Kingsford was vice-president of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 1920–23, Ford Lecturer in British History at Oxford, 1923–24, and a vice-president of the Royal Historical Society and the London Topographical Society. In 1924 he was elected a fellow of the British Academy.
Kingsford was recognised at time of his death "as our greatest modern authority on the history of the late 15th century". With Thomas Andrew Archer he published in 1894 a book on the Crusades, which was well received. His edition of John Stow's Survey of London in 1908 increased his reputation, which was further enhanced by his English Historical Literature in the Fifteenth Century (1913) and his Prejudice and Promise in Fifteenth Century England (1925). For the Royal Historical Society he wrote on Sir Otho de Grandison, and for the British Society of Franciscan Studies a volume on the Grey Friars of London. His last work, which appeared at the beginning of 1926, was The Early History of Piccadilly, Leicester-square, Soho, and their Neighbourhood, which was based on a plan drawn in 1585 and published by the London Topographical Society. To the "Heroes of the Nations" series he contributed the volume on Henry V of England; he wrote the histories of the Royal Warwickshire and the Middlesex Regiments; and he edited the first volume on the manuscripts of Lord De L'Isle and Dudley in the publications of the Historical Manuscripts Commission. To these and other works he added over 400 articles to the Dictionary of National Biography, and over 30 to the Encyclopædia Britannica, besides the Camden Miscellany, the English Historical Review, Archaeologia, the Cambridge Medieval History, and the London Topographical Record.
His obituary in The Times concluded: "To all his work he brought the scholarship of the true researcher, and by his patient ingenuity and insight he added materially to the sum of historical knowledge."
Kingsford married Alys, daughter of C. T. Hudson, LL.D., F.R.S.
- Dockray, Keith (2004). "Kingsford, Charles Lethbridge (1862–1926)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/34329. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Dictionary of National Biography, 1922–1930. Oxford University Press. 1931. p. 471.Article by J. Tait.
- Times staff 1926.
- "Review of Henry V by C. L. Kingsford". Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art. 93 (2431): 701. 31 May 1902.
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 31. p. 702.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Times staff (29 November 1926). . The Times (44441). p. 14; col D.
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Charles Lethbridge Kingsford