KNOLLYS, Henry I (by 1521-83), of the Blackfriars, London and Milverton, Som.

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 1521, 2nd s. of Robert Knollys of Rotherfield Greys, Oxon. by Lettice, da. of Sir Thomas Peniston of Hawridge, Bucks., bro. of Francis. educ. ?Magdalen, Oxf. unm.2

Offices Held

Sewer of the chamber by 1546; chief steward and receiver-gen. of lands formerly of Holywell priory, Mdx. 1549; commr. eccles. causes 1572.3


Henry Knollys may have been educated at Oxford since he remembered the university in his will, bequeathing his great bible to Magdalen College and his collection of Hebrew, Greek and Latin books to various scholars. His understanding of classical languages may have been superficial, but his mastery of French, Italian and Spanish was the admiration of his contemporaries and was undoubtedly the product of early travel and later exile abroad. The interest later shown in him by Sir Philip Hoby and his knowledge of Spanish suggest that in the 1530s he accompanied Hoby to Spain. In 1540 he joined Peter Carew on his continental tour, and together they travelled through France and northern Italy spending the winter at Venice. There the two parted company, Carew to go on to Constantinople and Knollys presumably to return home where he obtained a minor post in the royal household.4

In 1545 and 1546 Knollys received the reversion of a stewardship, a licence to export cloth and an annuity worth £50, but it was not until the accession of Edward VI that he made any mark in politics. In the first Parliament of the reign he took the senior place for a newly enfranchised Cornish borough: his elder brother Sir Francis sat for an equally new constituency, and Hoby was also a Member. Knollys presumably owed his entry to the Commons to the efforts of these two, while his nomination at Grampound was almost certainly the work of another master of tongues, Sir John Russell, Baron Russell. Nothing has been discovered about Knollys’s part in this Parliament, but in the spring of 1551 he probably accompanied Hoby to the French court. He may have reappeared in the Parliament of March 1553, for he was a man likely to have commended himself to the Duke of Northumberland, but the absence of so many returns to the second Edwardian Parliament leaves his Membership in doubt.5

Knollys must soon have realized that Mary’s England offered little future for one of his Protestant convictions, and before going into exile he raised as much money as he could by the sale of his possessions. His whereabouts for the next few years have not been traced, but by the autumn of 1557 he had arrived at Frankfurt where he remained until Mary’s death. He returned to England in the following year and although his subsequent career lacked the brilliance of his elder brother’s, he was employed by Elizabeth on occasional diplomatic missions and became a prominent Member of her early Parliaments. He made his will on 27 July 1583 and died several weeks later.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Patricia Hyde


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from father’s death. Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 103; Her. and Gen. viii. 289-302.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xxi; PCC 45 Populwell; CPR, 1569-72, pp. 440-2.
  • 4. PCC 43 Rowe; Her. and Gen. viii. 289-302; Archaeologia, xxviii. 103; CSP For. 1559-60, p. 154; LP Hen. VIII, xxi.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xxi; CSP For. 1547-53, p. 123.
  • 6. Lansd. 7, ff. 60-61; Troubles at Frankfurt, ed. Arber, 202, 208; PCC 43 Rowe; C142/207/84.