KNIGHTLEY, Richard (d.1442), of Fawsley, Northants. and Gnosall, Staffs.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of Richard Knightley of Gnosall by his w. Joan, da. of Sir John Giffard of Chillington, Staffs.; nephew of John*. m. by Jan. 1416, Elizabeth (d.1474), da. of Thomas Purefoy of Drayton, Leics., at least 2s.1
Teller of the receipt of the Exchequer 2 Mar. 1413-28 Feb. 1425.2
Commr. to bring the forfeited goods of Henry, Lord Scrope of Masham, from Pontefract castle to London Nov. 1415; assemble ships and muster the men of John, Lord Clifford, Kingston-upon-Hull July 1416; muster the men of Sir Thomas Carew, Dartmouth Feb. 1417; of inquiry, Beds., Bucks., Northants. May 1421 (property of felons), Northants. May 1423 (ownership of land in Byfield); to make arrests, Bucks., Leics., Northants., Oxon. Nov. 1421; raise royal loans, Northants. July 1426, May 1428, Mar. 1430, Mar. 1431, Feb. 1436, Mar. 1439, Nov. 1440, Mar. 1442; assess persons liable to contribute to a subsidy, Staffs. Apr. 1431; distribute a tax rebate, Northants. Apr. 1440; raise taxes Feb. 1441.
J.p. Northants. 12 Feb. 1422-July 1423, 3 July 1432-Nov. 1443, Staffs. 12 Feb. 1422-Mar. 1430.
Escheator, Northants. and Rutland 6 Nov. 1424-24 Jan. 1426, 3 Nov. 1434-7 Nov. 1435.
Tax assessor, Northants. Jan. 1436.
This MP belonged to a distinguished family of Staffordshire landowners which could trace its descent from Nicholas Maucovenant, one of the followers of William the Conqueror. His immediate ancestors had settled at Gnosall during the mid 13th century, and his grandfather, John Knightley† (d.1413/14), had further consolidated their holdings by marrying the heiress to the manors of Burgh Hall (in Gnosall) and Cowley. We do not know exactly when Knightley succeeded to these properties, although his appointment to the Staffordshire bench in 1422 may, perhaps, have followed shortly after the death of his father. By then, however, he had made his home at the manor of Fawsley in Northamptonshire, which he and his wife acquired in February 1416 from Geoffrey Somerton. Four years later the MP obtained a lease from the Crown of the hundred of Fawsley, which he and Thomas Lilbourne undertook to farm until 1460 at an annual rent of £16. He was, therefore, particularly fortunate when, in April 1422, Henry V granted him an annuity of £10 payable directly from this rent, since he was thus able to avoid the usual delays in payment experienced by royal retainers. He and Lilbourne were also given custody of the Northamptonshire estates of Humphrey, earl of Stafford, which they held for just over three years until the latter came of age in August 1423. With the passage of time, Knightley and his wife added considerably to their original holdings in Northamptonshire. By February 1420 they and their elder son, John, had purchased the manor of Upton and the hundred of Newbottle Grove from the feoffees of Richard Clendon, who were then pardoned for disposing of the property without a royal licence. They also acquired a substantial amount of farmland in Great Preston, Farthingstone and Staverton, as well as a small estate in ‘Browode’ which they leased out to tenants. Knightley himself was the lessee of the manor of Preston Capes, a property rented to him for £60 a year in about 1422 by his patron, Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, from whom he received many marks of favour. Much later, in December 1440, Sir John Baskerville confirmed Richard and Elizabeth Knightley in both the immediate tenancy and subsequent reversion of his manor of Hellidon with a remainder to their younger, but only surviving son, Richard. This transaction was effected at exactly the same time as a settlement of all the above-mentioned Staffordshire estates upon the young man and his wife, Eleanor, the daughter of Knightley’s old friend and parliamentary colleague, John Throckmorton*, and no doubt marks the date of their marriage.3 Throckmorton, a prominent Warwickshire landowner, had previously been involved with Knightley in certain transactions over the manor of Weston-under-Wetherley, which in 1414 was the subject of a dispute between John Knightley, the MP’s uncle, and various other claimants. The Knightleys evidently won their case, for two years later the manor was settled upon our Member in trust for John’s widow. The latter’s death, in 1418, followed in quick succession by that of her two children, left Richard himself as next heir to the property, although he disposed of it, in 1424, to the lawyer, John Weston*.4
The long association between Knightley and Throckmorton probably began when they were both still comparatively young men in the service of the earl of Warwick (who also retained John Weston among his legal advisors). We know that Knightley had become one of Warwick’s councillors by 1417, and that he subsequently held some office on the Beauchamp estates. His appointment as a teller of the Exchequer, which was made earlier, in the spring of 1413, may also have owed a good deal to the earl’s patronage, since the latter held the hereditary post of chamberlain of the Exchequer and was certainly responsible for Throckmorton’s subsequent promotion to the Warwick chamberlainship. Knightley’s duties as teller occasionally took him abroad, as, for example, in 1419, when he spent four months in France and paid out over 50,000 marks on military expenses. He went overseas again in February 1422, this time with a consignment of 2,000 marks for the war-effort. By June of that year he had been elevated to the rank of a royal serjeant-at-arms, once again probably through the influence of his noble patron.5
Although preoccupied with his official duties, Knightley still found the time to play an active part in the affairs of his friends and neighbours. In October 1419, he was the joint recipient of bonds totalling £240 which he held as security for the payment of a fixed rent from certain estates in Buckinghamshire to Sir John Chastelioun and his wife, Margaret. His name appears two years later among the mainpernors of John Iwardby, another Buckinghamshire man, who had taken over the farm of the manor of Marsh at the Exchequer. Knightley participated in a third financial transaction in December 1423, acting as a guarantor for the settlement of a suitable marriage portion upon Elizabeth, the wife of Richard Curson; and it is interesting to note that his associates then included John Throckmorton and other members of the Beauchamp affinity.6 The demands of local government likewise occupied much of our Member’s attention during this period. He was twice escheator of Northamptonshire and Rutland, and also served for a number of years on the county bench. In addition, we find him among the voters present at the Northamptonshire elections to the Parliaments of 1425, 1429, 1431, 1433, 1435 and 1437.7 The general equilibrium of his life was somewhat disturbed during the early months of 1425, when the bondmen of his manor of Fawsley ‘at the procurement of certain of their councillors, maintainers and abbetors’ formed into an association and categorically refused to perform the usual labour services. Knightley used his position to ensure the appointment of a royal commission of oyer and terminer which evidently settled the affair to his advantage. He appears to have been previously involved in a lawsuit for the recovery of 60s. from a Northampton labourer, but this case proved less successful, and in November 1429 the defendant was pardoned his outlawry for failing to appear in court. As a result of his attempts to raise security for a loan of £20 which he borrowed in 1423 from a London tradesman, Knightley was faced with an action in Chancery brought against him by the merchant to whom he had turned for further credit. The outcome of the case is not, however, recorded. The next few years of his life passed uneventfully enough, until in 1434 he offered his private chapel for a clandestine marriage between Sir Thomas Green† and Mary Bellers. He and his wife, together with a small group of friends, some of whom were retainers of the earl of Warwick, attended the ceremony, which subsequently led to Green’s prosecution in the ecclesiastical courts. Among those present was John Catesby†, whose connexion with our MP dated back to at least 1420, when he had settled his Warwickshire estates upon Knightley and the earl to hold as trustees. It is worth noting that they also held part of Sir Thomas Green’s estates in trust, so there was clearly a longstanding and close relationship between them all. Knightley established a more independent connexion with Sir Ralph Butler (the future Lord Sudeley), who, shortly before June 1436, made him a feoffee-to-uses of various holdings in Warwickshire.8
Knightley died towards the end of December 1442, having already settled his Staffordshire estates upon his son, Richard. The latter’s death occurred in 1476, barely two years after that of the widowed Elizabeth Knightley, who retained all her husband’s land in Northamptonshire, and was thus sure of at least £40 a year to support her in her old age.9
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. C139/110/44; CPR, 1413-16, p. 391; VCH Northants. Fams. 180 (where the date of his marriage is mistakenly given as February 1415).
- 2. PRO List ‘Exchequer Offs.’ 226.
- 3. VCH Staffs. iv. 125; J. Bridges, Northants. i. 65-66; Northants. Fams. 173-80; CPR, 1413-16, p. 391; 1416-22, pp. 259, 440; 1441-6, pp. 91, 151; CCR, 1441-7, p. 169; CFR, xiv. 327-8; Feud