KNIGHTLEY, Richard (by 1484-1538), of Upton and Fawsley, Northants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1484, 1st s. of Sir Richard Knightley of Fawsley by Joan, da. and h. of Henry Skennard (Skynnerton) of Alderton; bro. of Edmund. educ. M. Temple, adm. 12 Feb. 1504. m. settlement 1521/22, Jane, da. of Sir John Spencer of Althorp, 5da. suc. fa. 8 Dec. 1534.1

Offices Held

J.p. Northants. 1511-d.; commr. subsidy 1523, 1524; gent. usher extraordinary by 1525-d.2


A residual element of doubt attaches to the identification of the second knight of the shire for Northamptonshire in the Parliament of 1529. A tear in the list of Members has removed both the name of the shire and the christian name of the second knight, and whereas the first of these can be supplied by reason of its position in the sequence of shires the loss of the second cannot with certainty be made good. What is left is the surname ‘Knightley’ and the style ‘armiger’, enough to show the family which furnished the Member but not to clinch his identity. If the style appended serves to eliminate the head of the family, Sir Richard Knightley of Fawsley, who had been knighted in 1494, it still leaves for consideration his surviving sons, of whom there were at least three, and possibly two more. Of these it is only the second, Edmund, who can be eliminated as having been returned in 1529 for Wilton, and thus a choice has to be made between Richard, Valentine and, perhaps, Thomas and John Knightley. Two considerations point to Richard: he was the eldest of the brothers and he appears to have been in London while the Parliament was in session, and in the company of Edmund, when both were assaulted by Sir William Spencer. He is therefore taken to have been the Member.3

The Knightleys were the senior armorial family of Northamptonshire, tracing their ancestry back to the 12th century; they had been settled at Fawsley, near Daventry, since the reign of Henry V and by descent and marriage Richard Knightley was connected with many leading families in the east midlands. He was trained as a lawyer and may have practised as one, for when rated for the subsidy of 1523 he still had a chamber in the Middle Temple, but on succeeding to his inheritance, if not earlier, he adopted the life of a country gentleman, managing his estates and producing wool for export, with occasional visits to court where he held a minor appointment. The settlement made on Knightley by his father included four manors in Northamptonshire: one of these, Blisworth, had been purchased by Sir Richard Knightley from Thomas Wake, whose son later alleged in Chancery that it had been sold under compulsion and subject to return if within 12 years the purchase money were repaid: the case itself was due to be heard during the spring of 1534 but the dispute had first come to a head several years before, at about the same time as Knightley became involved in a dispute with his brother-in-law Sir William Spencer over a contract with Elizabeth Vernon broken by Spencer.4

Like his brother Edmund, Knightley may have sat in one or more of the earlier Parliaments of the reign for which the Members’ names are largely lost. When returned in 1529 he was joined in the Commons by a number of his relatives: besides his brother Edmund, there were Edmund’s brothers-in-law Sir John Neville I and Sir Anthony Wingfield, and a ‘cousin’ Sir George Throckmorton. It was in the company of Wingfield that the brothers Knightley were attacked, when leaving the Horse’s Head in Cheapside, by Sir William Spencer: as the incident took place on 9 Nov. (in a year not given but almost certainly 1529), it may have occurred within a few days of the opening of the Parliament. Edmund Knightley took the matter to the Star Chamber, but harmony was not re-established until Spencer’s death, when the Knightleys came to the support of Spencer’s widow (their sister) in an effort to save her and her children from destitution and Spencer’s creditors. Nothing has come to light about Richard Knightley’s part in the House of Commons, but presumably he was returned again for Northamptonshire to the Parliament of 1536, when the King asked for the re-election of the previous Members.5

Knightley enjoyed the headship of the family for less than four years. He was a sick man when on 29 Mar. 1538 he made his will. He remembered his wife, his two daughters (one of whom he had arranged should marry the son of ‘Master Fitzwilliam’), his brother Edmund and Sir George Throckmorton, and authorized his wife, his sole executrix, to sell what lands she liked ‘by the advice of my brother’ Edmund. Knightley died on the following day and was buried at Upton; the will was proved on 14 July 1540. As he left no male issue and his paternal estates were held in tail male, his daughters were passed over in favour of his brother Edmund. His widow, who was harrassed by financial difficulties and by her brothers-in-law, married as her second husband Sir Robert Stafford, who defended her rights.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/57/2; VCH Northants. gen. vol. 169-82; Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 31.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, i-xii.
  • 3. Ibid. iv. 6043(2) citing SP1/56, f. 5v; VCH Northants, gen. vol. 181.
  • 4. VCH Northants. gen. vol. 169 seq,; LP Hen. VIII, i-iv; C1/586/65-68.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, iv, v; C1/710/29, 915/1-3; 142/57/2; St.Ch.2/17/233.
  • 6. Bridges, Northants. i. 7. 45, 61-65, 86, 110, 251, 254, 335; PCC 8 Alenger; LP Hen. VIII, xiii; Pevsner and Cherry, Northants. 438; C1/1020/36-38, 1269/46-49.