KNYVET, Thomas I (c.1545-1622), of Westminster, Mdx. and Escrick, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

b. c.1545, 2nd s. of Sir Henry Knyvet by his w. Anne; bro. of Henry Knyvet and half-bro. of Sir Henry Weston. educ. Jesus, Camb. 1565; G. Inn 1566. m. 1597, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Rowland Hayward, wid. of Richard Warren of Claybury, Essex. Kntd. by 1601; cr. Baron Knyvet of Escrick 1607.

Offices Held

In the privy chamber by 1572; seneschal of Penrith castle and other royal manors in Cumb. 1577; j.p.q. Mdx. 1583, Yorks. (E. Riding) 1596; commr. musters, Mdx. 1595-8, sewers, Westminster 1596; keeper of Whitehall palace and of Shere and Whitehall parks by 1597; steward and receiver of lordship of Pickering 1597-9; keeper, St. James’s park; warden of the Tower mint 1599.2


It is probable that Thomas Knyvet was already in the Queen’s household when he was returned as Member for Westmorland. A potentially lucrative patent granted to him in May 1572 describes him as ‘of the privy chamber’; later, in the first extant list of its officials, dated 1579, he occurs as one of the grooms, and he was still a groom in 1597. His mother, who married thirdly John Vaughan I, was a Westmorland heiress, and his elder brother, a Member of the 1571 Parliament, re-elected in 1572, had served in Scotland under the Earl of Sussex, the president of the north, to whom the Knyvets were related, as well as under the warden of the west march, the 9th Lord Scrope. Also significant in the Westmorland context may have been the marriage link between the Knyvets (see KNYVET, Sir Thomas) and the 3rd Earl of Derby, whose son and heir had married Margaret Clifford, the only surviving issue of the 2nd Earl of Cumberland by his first wife and effective head at this time of the Clifford family, her young half-brother, the 3rd Earl, being a minor. Whether or not Burghley had a hand in Knyvet’s first election is unknown, but it was doubtless Burghley, steward of Westminster, who secured Knyvet’s return in 1584 as fellow-Member with Robert Cecil.3

In the course of his parliamentary career, always thenceforward representing Westminster, Knyvet was named to several committees concerning the Scottish borders (25 Feb. 1581), the Norfolk election dispute (9 Nov. 1586), cordwainers and curriers (6 Mar. 1589), privileges and returns (5 Nov. 1597, 31 Oct. 1601) and armour and weapons (8 Nov. 1597). He was also named to a committee on 15 Dec. 1584 concerning a bill promoted by Westminster for the better enforcement of law within its boundaries. The Members for Westminster were appointed to the committees concerning purveyors (27 Feb. 1589) and the better setting of watches (7 Nov. 1601). During the debate on Mary Queen of Scots (23 Nov. 1586) he offered a paper to the Speaker setting out his own thoughts on the matter, claiming that Members had been given permission ‘to deliver their conceits ... either in speech or in writing’, but Hatton the vice-chamberlain corrected him: such notes in writing should have been presented in committee and could not be offered in the House. During the same Parliament he was appointed with his brother Henry, Sir Thomas Scott and Richard Topcliffe to search houses in Westminster suspected of sheltering Jesuits. On 5 Nov. 1597 he reported to the House that he had been subpoenaed to appear in Chancery. A committee was appointed to look into this breach of privilege, and ordered on 8 Nov. that the subpoena should be revoked.4

Knyvet accompanied the Queen to Oxford in 1592 and received an honorary MA. A lease in reversion of lands in Yorkshire was granted to him in 1597, the year of his marriage, without fine in consideration of his 60 [sic] years of service. He received other grants and appointments at about this time. On 18 Jan. 1598 he introduced a private bill to enable him to sell some of his entailed estates. Rejected in its original form, it eventually received a second reading and then disappears from the record. A more lucrative office became his in 1599, when he ousted Sir Richard Martin as warden of the Tower mint. But Martin stayed on as one of the masters, and the two men were constantly at feud. Writing to Cecil early in 1602 Martin accused Knyvet of trying to dispossess him of his remaining office. Knyvet appears to have objected to the new coins proposed by Martin, maintaining that they could be too easily counterfeited, and had offered to mint new coins more cheaply. Martin, with 30 years’ experience, denied that this was possible and begged Cecil not to allow Knyvet’s greatness to oppress him.5

Prospering further and becoming a peer under James I, taking his title from his estate in Yorkshire, Knyvet made his will on 20 July 1620, in his 75th year. After expressing his absolute belief in the three creeds ‘literally, without ambiguity or doubt’, he asked to be buried in the parish church of Stanwell, Middlesex, without pomp or superfluous charge, under a marble gravestone inscribed: ‘I believe with these eyes, to my comfort, shortly to see my Redeemer in the land of the living.’ He died 27 July 1622, at his house in King Street, Westminster. His wife, to whom probate was granted 3 Aug., died 5 Sept. following and was buried with him, simply, as she too had wished. The huge and costly monument, showing their kneeling effigies at prayer beneath an entablature supporting an achievement of arms of 22 quarterings, memorializes a later fashion in piety and pride.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Authors: A. M. Mimardière / E.L.C.M.


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. OR, i. 438; CPR, 1569-72, pp. 427-8; PRO Index 16774, f. 29; APC, xxv. 156; xxvi. 386, 388; xxviii. 359; Lansd. 47, f. 41; 81, f. 70; 83, f. 216; Somerville, Duchy, i. 534-5; CP, vii. 351.
  • 3. CPR, 1569-72, pp. 427-8; Lansd. 104, f. 41; CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 380.
  • 4. CJ, i. 129; D’Ewes, 339, 396, 406, 410, 443, 552, 553, 554, 622; Bull. IHR, xii. 11.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 380; D’Ewes, 582, 587, 588; HMC Hatfield, xii. 22.
  • 6. PCC 78 Savile.

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