KNIGHTLEY, Sir Valentine (c.1555-1618), of Fawsley, Northants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press




Family and Education

b. c.1555, 1st s. of Sir Richard Knightley† of Fawsley and Anne, da. of Sir Edward Ferrers† of Baddesley Clinton, Warws.1 educ. Hart Hall, Oxf. 1568, aged 13, MA 1605; G. Inn 1583.2 m. settlement 9 June 1575,3 Anne (d.1596), da. of Sir Edward Unton† of Wadley, Berks., 1s. d.v.p. 3da. (1 d.v.p.).4 kntd. 11 May 1603;5 suc. fa. 1615.6 d. 9 Dec. 1618.7

Offices Held

J.p. Northants. c.1584-7, by 1594-1605, 1616-d., Berks. by 1603-d.;8 commr. discovery of priests, Northants. 1591,9 sewers, Oxon. and Berks. 1604, 1612,10 musters, Northants. 1605,11 inquiry, lands of Gunpowder plotters, Northants. 1606,12 subsidy, Northampton, Northants. 1608,13 oyer and terminer, Oxf. circ. 1609-d., Midland circ. 1616-d.,14 swans, Oxon., Berks., Wilts., Glos., Northants., Hants 1615,15 gaol delivery, Northampton 1616,16 inquiry, lands of earl of Somerset, Northants. 1617;17 sheriff, Berks. 1617-18;18 dep. lt. Northants. by 1618.19

Member, Virg. Co. 1611, N.W. Passage Co. 1612.20


Knightley came of a family of Staffordshire origin which first represented that county in 1325. The Fawsley branch was established in 1415.21 His marriage brought him the much-encumbered manors of Wadley in Berkshire and Wickensham in Essex, and in 1603 he obtained, on his daughters’ behalf, confirmation of his rights to these lands.22 His father, whose puritan views he shared, had twice sat for Northamptonshire in Elizabethan Parliaments. In 1604 Knightley obtained a seat at Dunwich on the recommendation of his kinsman Sir Edward Coke*,23 but was also elected for Northamptonshire with the support of Sir Robert Spencer†, who had intended to stand but was raised to the peerage shortly before the election.24 Having plumped for the county, Knightley was presumably responsible for the return of Thomas Smythe*, the guardian of his nephew and heir Richard*, as his replacement at Dunwich.25

Knightley supported his colleague Sir Edward Montagu’s presentation of grievances to the Commons on the first day of business (23 Mar. 1604), and was named to the ensuing committee.26 He twice served on deputations to the king about the disputed Buckinghamshire election (28 Mar., 12 Apr.), and was appointed to a conference with the Lords on the Union with Scotland (14 Apr.), and a committee proposed by Sir Francis Hastings for the increase and maintenance of a learned ministry (16 April).27 His legislative activities included consideration of bills to authorize justices of the peace to release imprisoned debtors (31 Mar.), to confirm titles to assart lands (3 May), and to avoid unjust suits against incumbents of ecclesiastical livings (19 June).28 Knightley left Westminster before the prorogation of the first session, to accompany Smythe on an embassy to Russia.29

Knightley had returned to England by 9 Feb. 1605 when, together with his father and Montagu, he presented a petition from Northamptonshire with 36 signatures on behalf of deprived or suspended puritan ministers.30 James was enraged, both by the number of signatories and their assertion that a denial of their requests would discontent many thousands of subjects. The judges pronounced the petition to be illegal, and the instigators were summoned before the Council.31 Told that their action fell little short of treason, only Montagu and Knightley refused to sign a formal submission, whereupon they were stripped of their offices and sent home in disgrace.32 Knightley received an honorary degree during the king’s visit to Oxford in August, but he was not restored to the Northamptonshire commission of the peace in his father’s lifetime.33

In the second session Knightley was appointed to a committee to consider how best to provide a learned ministry and prevent non-residence (22 Jan. 1606), and to attend conferences on the recusancy laws (3 Feb.) and ecclesiastical grievances (10 April). He was also named to committees for bills to enable Sir Christopher Hatton* to sell entailed property (4 Apr.) and to attaint the Gunpowder plotters (30 April).34 At the end of the session he helped to supervise the collection of the Benevolence.35 He was one of those ordered to examine the Instrument of Union (29 Nov. 1606), the main business of the third session; nevertheless religious measures continued to dominate his appointments, including bills to regulate ecclesiastical courts (29 Nov.) to explain an Elizabethan statute concerning clerical disorders (9 Mar. 1607), and a committee to draft the address on religion proposed by Sir John Heigham (18 May).36 Knightley was named in the fourth session to attend the supply conference of 15 Feb. 1610, and to consider bills against clerical pluralism (26 Feb.) and swearing (30 May).37 He played no recorded role in the brief fifth session, and does not appear to have stood for Parliament again.

Knightley invested in the Virginia Company, of which Smythe was governor, and the North-West Passage Company.38 He died on 9 Dec. 1618, only three years after his father, and was buried at Fawsley.39 In his will he directed that the profits of Wadley and Wickensham should be used for six years to pay his debts. Nevertheless, his legacies to his daughters and grandchildren make it clear that he was a rich man. He left £10 to the incumbent of Farrington, Berks., and after him ‘to such a preaching minister as shall instruct the people there’, £10 to the poor of the parish, and generous bequests to his servants.40 The Fawlsey estate passed to Knightley’s nephew, Richard, who served as knight of the shire four times during the 1620s.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. VCH Northants. Fams. 185.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; GI Admiss.; J. Nichols, Progs. of Jas. I, i. 555.
  • 3. VCH Northants. Fams. 185.
  • 4. Baker, Northants. 282.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 105.
  • 6. C142/358/105.
  • 7. C142/375/65.
  • 8. Lansd. 737, f. 149; E163/14/8, f. 24; C66/1421, 1620, 1988; C231/4, f. 21.
  • 9. HMC Var. iii. 61.
  • 10. C181/1, f. 85; 181/2, f. 168v.
  • 11. Northants. Musters ed. J. Wake (Northants. Rec. Soc. iii), 119.
  • 12. C181/2, ff. 5, 13.
  • 13. SP14/31/1.
  • 14. C181/2, ff. 78, 259v, 315v, 316v.
  • 15. C181/2, f. 233.
  • 16. Ibid. f. 260v.
  • 17. Ibid. f. 281v.
  • 18. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 6.
  • 19. Montagu Musters Bk. ed. J. Wake (Northants. Rec. Soc. vii), 174.
  • 20. Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, iii. 328; A. Brown, Genesis of US, 466, 935; CSP Col. E.I. 1513-1616, p. 239.
  • 21. VCH Northants. Fams. 180.
  • 22. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 44.
  • 23. HMC Var. vii. 89.
  • 24. HMC Montagu, 32; HMC Buccleuch, i. 237; iii. 77-8.
  • 25. PROB 11/92, f. 317v.
  • 26. CJ, i. 151b; HMC Buccleuch, iii. 91.
  • 27. CJ, i. 157a, 169b, 172a, 173a.
  • 28. Ibid. 160b, 197b, 241b.
  • 29. Arch. Cant. xx. 88.
  • 30. SP14/12/69.
  • 31. B.W. Quintrell, ‘Royal Hunt and the Puritans’, JEH, xxxi, 53-6.
  • 32. HMC Montagu, 46; Winwood’s Memorials ed. E. Sawyer, ii. 48-9; Illustrations of British History ed. E. Lodge, iii. 140.
  • 33. Nichols, i. 555.
  • 34. CJ, i. 258a, 263a, 293b, 296b, 303a.
  • 35. Ibid. 313b.
  • 36. Ibid. 326b, 350b, 375a.
  • 37. Ibid. 393b, 400b, 434a.
  • 38. Brown, 466, 935.
  • 39. C142/375/65.
  • 40. PROB 11/132, f. 466.