KNIGHT, Robert (1768-1855), of Barrells Hall, Henley-in-Arden, Warws.
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Family and Education
b. 3 Mar. 1768, 1st illegit. s. of Robert Knight†, 1st Earl of Catherlough [I], of Barrells by Jane Davies, da. of his tenant of Moat Farm, Ullenhall, Warws. educ. ?Queens’, Camb. 1785. m. 12 June 1791, Hon. Frances Dormer, da. of Charles, 8th Baron Dormer, 1s. surv. 3da. suc. fa. to estates in Warws., Lincs., Mdx., Worcs., Salop, Chester, Mont. and Flints. 1772.
Sheriff, Warws. 1797-8, Mont. 1803-4, 1808-9.
Lord Catherlough had no surviving legitimate sons by his two marriages but, not long after the second, commenced a liaison with Jane Davies, sent, so the story went, by her father to placate him when the rent was overdue, which produced four children. Robert, the eldest, inherited the Knight estates, his mother taking that surname by Catherlough’s will.1
Knight joined Brooks’s Club, 1 Feb., and the Whig Club on 3 Apr. 1792. In January of the same year he had unsuccessfully contested the Warwick by-election as an independent against the Earl of Warwick’s nominee. He was one of the Friends of the People. On 18 May 1797 he was a steward of the Crown and Anchor meeting for parliamentary reform, chaired by Sir Francis Burdett, supported household suffrage at the Marylebone meeting, 30 May, and in the same month, as sheriff of Warwickshire, sent in an anti-ministerial petition.2 He was a steward for Burdett’s election for Middlesex in 1804. He was himself still interested in a seat in Parliament and at one point looked to Great Grimsby, which had returned his father, but to no avail.3 He owed his return for Wootton Bassett to the interest of the 3rd Viscount Bolingbroke, his father’s first wife having been a member of that family. He gave a silent support to his friends in office and voted for Brand’s motion following their dismissal, 9 Apr. 1807. At the ensuing election his patron’s interest in the borough was overthrown.
Knight was expected to find another seat on the open market, but he did not find one and continued to cultivate Wootton Bassett.4 He decided not to pursue a by-election there in 1808, but was successful on the next vacancy in May 1811. For the remainder of that Parliament he silently supported the opposition. He was a friend and steward for the London meeting of constitutional reformers in June 1811 and voted for Irish tithe reform and against the bank-note bill, 11 June, 9 July. In 1812 he voted with the advanced Whigs on Creevey’s and Brougham’s motions, 9 and 21 Jan.; against the King’s household bill, 27 Jan.; for Morpeth’s Irish motion, 4 Feb.; against the framework bill, 17 Feb.; for Turton’s censure motion, 27 Feb., and against the orders in council, 3 Mar. He opposed McMahon’s Regency secretaryship, 14 Apr., and voted for Catholic relief, 24 Apr. He favoured sinecure reform, 4 May, and voted for a stronger administration, 21 May. He again supported Irish tithe reform, 23 June. He opposed the leather tax, 1 July, and the arms bill, 20 July.
Knight did not go to the poll in 1812 when faced with another contest at Wootton Bassett. John Cam Hobhouse, describing him as a friend of Sir Francis Burdett, quoted him as saying in February 1814 that if the allies reached Paris, he would go to America: he was a Buonapartist, and Hobhouse reported ‘little Knight’ as rejoicing at the Emperor’s return to France in 1815. In 1818 Hobhouse and Knight were proposed to the electors of Milborne Port by an irresponsible local agent, as well-to-do friends of Romilly and Brougham: the manoeuvre was quashed by Hobhouse, 16 June.5 In 1820 Knight was defeated at Bishop’s Castle. Not until 1823 did he secure his return to Westminster.
Knight was awarded £7,000 damages in 1805 for his wife’s crim. con. with Col. Fuller. He subsequently repudiated his son and heir and neglected his estate, as if to avenge his illegitimacy.6 He died 5 Jan. 1855.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. W. Cooper, Henley-in-Arden, 124.
- 2. The Times, 13 May; Morning Chron. 8 June 1797.
- 3. Rev. B. Carne, ‘James Kibblewhite’, report of Friends of Lydiard Tregoze (1973), 43.
- 4. Horner mss 3, ff. 207, 209; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 12 Nov. 1807.
- 5. Broughton, Recollections, i. 84, 87, 221; Som. RO, Fooks mss DD/FF, undated handbill ; Add. 47235, ff. 23-25.
- 6. Salopian Jnl. 24 Apr. 1805; Cooper, 159.