LYTTON, Rowland (1562-1616), of Knebworth, Herts.

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. 1562, 1st s. of Rowland Lytton of Knebworth by his 2nd w. Anne, da. of John Carleton of Brightwell Baldwin, Oxon. educ. Caius, Camb. 1576, aged 14; G. Inn 1579. m. Anne, da. of Sir Oliver St. John, 1st Baron St. John of Bletsoe, wid. of Robert Corbet, 3s. 4da. suc. fa. 1582. Kntd. 1603.1

Offices Held

J.p. Herts. from c.1587, commr. musters by 1588, sheriff 1594.


The Lyttons had been seated at Knebworth since the reign of Henry VII and were in the first rank of county families. Lytton himself was in charge of the Hertfordshire contingent at Tilbury in 1588. He raised 300 men in response to the Spanish invasion scare of 1599 and again during the trial of Essex, when they ‘continued watch and ward day and night in arms through the city’.2

Lytton’s activity in Hertfordshire local affairs brought him close enough to the Cecils to be recognized as a channel for patronage requests. Two examples are a suit by Sir John Wallop to Robert Cecil, and another by Dudley Carleton, who wanted a job in the household of Thomas Cecil when Cecil was talked of as ambassador to France in 1601. Lytton was on friendly terms with Michael Hickes, with whom he exchanged Latin jokes, and through his wife and his sister’s marriage he was connected with Anthony and Walter Cope. In August 1598 Lytton was one of the mourners at ‘the sorrowful solemnity of my lord treasurer’s funeral’. The relationship was such that Chamberlain could write to Carleton in 1605 that ‘your cousin Lytton is coming to do his observance to the young Master of Cranborne, for it is concluded he must follow his father in an hereditary dependence on that house’.3

Lytton first entered Parliament for Truro, a borough which often returned Burghley’s nominees. In fact he was not a complete outsider, for he owned some land in eastern Cornwall. He took no known part in the proceedings of this Parliament and did not sit again until 1597 when he secured the contested junior seat for Hertfordshire. This time he was appointed to committees on privileges and returns (5 Nov.), forestallers (16 Nov.) and malt (committed to him 7 Dec., 12 Jan. 1598). The knights for Hertfordshire were appointed to the committees on enclosures (5 Nov.), the poor law (5, 22 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), the penal laws (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.) and the subsidy (15 Nov.).4

Lytton’s house at Knebworth became the centre of a group of scholars, such as (Sir) Thomas Bodley, William Camden and (Sir) Henry Savile II, and of promising young diplomats and politicians who formed a protestant, anti-Spanish pressure group during James I’s reign. Lytton and the letter writer John Chamberlain, who shared the role of mentor, made it their task to soothe any ruffled feelings as, for example, when William Trumbull and Thomas Edmondes thought that Ralph Winwood was supercilious, or when Winwood resented Dudley Carleton’s failure to address his despatches to him. In his turn Carleton gave Lytton’s son Philip a place in his household at Venice, and the care he would have given his own son. The young diplomats followed the development of Bodley’s library with interest and Carleton collected material for Savile’s great edition of St. Chrysostom and publicised it in Europe.5

Lytton was buried at Knebworth 30 June 1616.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Irene Cassidy


  • 1. Clutterbuck, Herts. ii. 375; Vis. Oxon. (Harl. Soc. v), 123; Vis. Herts. (Harl. Soc. xxii), 73.
  • 2. E163/14/8; HMC Foljambe, 38, 79, 80, 83; HMC Hatfield, xi. 54; xvii. 437; APC, xxxi. 155; Lansd. 56, f. 168 seq.; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 603; Chamberlain Letters ed. McClure, i. 80, 96, 121.
  • 3. HMC Hatfield, xi. 266; x. 231; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 83; Lansd. 89, f. 197; Chamberlain Letters, i. 41, 122, 200.
  • 4. Jnl. R. Inst. Cornw. xiv. 214; HMC Hatfield, vii. 396; Neale, Commons, 28-30; D’Ewes, 552, 553, 555, 557, 558, 561, 569, 578.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 150; 1603-10, p. 630; 1611-18, pp. 173, 277; Chamberlain Letters, i. 527, 550, 605; Stowe, 171, ff. 5, 35, 143; SP99/15/24, 20/138; CSP Ven. 1613-15, pp. 80, 81; W. Notestein, Four Stuart Worthies, 29-119.
  • 6. Clutterbuck, Herts. ii. 375.