KNIGHT, Ralph (c.1619-91), of Langold, Yorks. and Langwith, Notts.
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Family and Education
b. c.1619, o.s. of William Knight of Newbury, Berks. by Alice Worthington. m. (1) 23 June 1646, Faith (d. 18 Apr. 1671), da. and h. of William Dickinson, vicar of Rotherham, Yorks., 8s. (3 d.v.p.) 7da.; (2) lic. 17 May 1687, Elizabeth, wid. of John Rolleston of Sookholme, Notts., s.p. Kntd. May/June 1660.2
Maj. of ft. (parliamentary) 1643-5; capt. of horse 1645, maj. 1647, col. 1659-Dec. 1660; capt. indep. tp. 1667, lt.-col. Duke of Buckingham’s Ft. 1673-4.3
J.p. Yorks. (W. Riding) 1653-87, Notts. Mar. 1660-87, 1689-d., Westminster July 1660-87; commr. for militia, Notts. Mar. 1660, assessment (W. Riding) Aug. 1660-1, 1663-80, 1689-90, Northumb. Aug. 1660-1, Notts. Aug. 1660-3, 1664-9, 1677-80, sewers, Westminster Aug. 1660, recusants (W. Riding) 1675; dep. lt. Notts. ?1676-Feb. 1688, Oct. 1688-d., (W. Riding) 1677-?87, lt.-col. of militia ft. ?1679-87.4
Commr. for security [S] 1656.
Apart from the vague account of his parentage which Knight gave to the heralds in 1663, nothing is known of him before he was commissioned in the parliamentary army during the Civil War. He continued to serve throughout the Interregnum, and bought Langold in 1650. On the second expulsion of the Rump in 1659, George Monck sent Knight and John Cloberry to negotiate with the military regime. They were persuaded by Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper and Sir Arthur Hesilrige to advise the recall of the ump. Knight, described as a great friend of the Presbyterian Earl of Manchester, took part in Monck’s invasion of England, and was recommended by him to the electors of Morpeth. A moderately active Member of the Convention, he was appointed to 16 committees, acted as teller in five divisions and made nine recorded speeches. Although he stood to lose £900 p.a. in land and salary, he took the lead in restoring discipline and promoting the Restoration in the army. He was ordered to convey the House’s appreciation of the thanksgiving sermon preached by Monck’s chaplain on 10 May. He was given permission to attend the reception of the King on Blackheath on 28 May at the head of his regiment, which, to avoid accidents, he ordered not to shoot until the royal party had passed. On the following day he commanded the guard which gave Members passage from the House to Whitehall. He was knighted, and given a pension of £600 p.a. ‘for good service’ until lands of equivalent value should be settled on him.5
In the House, Knight sometimes acted as spokesman for Monck, though he was less prominent in this capacity than Thomas Clarges. He intervened several times in the debates on the indemnity bill in defence of his old comrades, even the most unpopular. He was teller for the motion to put the question on excepting Major-General William Boteler, pointed out that Major-General James Berry had no property to forfeit, and defended the conduct of General Charles Fleetwood. On 7 July he was appointed to the committee to consider the proviso about Colonel John Hutchinson. He opposed the imposition of penal taxation on recusants, and on 11 July reminded the House of Monck’s request for expedition of the land settlement. On the religious issue he declared himself a supporter of episcopacy, though loth to see many ministers turned out of their livings by the imposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles. He opposed the bill to enable Sir George Booth to alienate part of his entailed property on 30 July: ‘’Twas not fit for a worthy person that had done such service should be forced to sell his lands to pay those debts which he contracted for the good of the nation’. On 1 Aug. he presented a report on the repayment of three bills of exchange drawn by the Commonwealth representatives at the Sound since the Restoration. On the report of the conference with the Lords on 23 Aug. he spoke in favour of allowing Hesilrige the benefit of the indemnity bill. He was appointed to the committees for the disbandment bill and for the bill to exempt discharged soldiers from apprenticeship. In the second session he acted as teller for the second reading of the bill to prevent marital separation and against hearing a complaint against the militia.6
Knight probably did not stand again. His circumstances prospered despite his large family. In 1671 he commuted his pension for a lump sum of £8,000, and in 1675 he bought the Nottinghamshire manor of Warsop. Described as a rich Presbyterian, he supported the country candidates for Yorkshire in 1679. But it is probable that his opinions had moved to the right: Danby called him ‘my old friend’, he was helpful to Lady Danby when her husband was in the Tower, and he made no protest at the renewed persecution of dissenters in 1682. He evaded the questions on the Tests and Penal Laws in Nottinghamshire on the grounds that he was no longer in the commission of the peace, to which he was restored after the Revolution. He died on 21 Apr. 1691, aged 71, and was buried at Firbeck, the only member of his family to sit in Parliament.7
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: M. W. Helms / John. P. Ferris
Notts. County Recs. ed. Copnall, 10.