KNYVETT (KNEVETT), Sir Thomas (c.1545-1622), of St. James's Park, King Street West, Westminster, and Stanwell, Mdx.

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



1604 - 3 July 1607

Family and Education

b. c.1545, 2nd s. of Sir Henry Knyvett (d.1546) of Charlton, Wilts. and Anne, da. of Sir Charles Pickering of Killington, Westmld. wid. of Sir Francis Weston (exec. 1536) of Sutton, Surr. educ. fell. comm. Jesus, Camb. 1565, G. Inn 1566, MA (hon.) Oxf. 1592. m. 1597 Elizabeth (d. 5 Sept. 1622), da. of Sir Rowland Hayward† of Elsinge Spital, London, wid. of Sir Richard Warren of Claybury, Essex, s.p. kntd. 1601;1 cr. Bar. Knyvett of Escrick 3 July 1607. d. 27 July 1622. sig. Thos. Knyvett.

Offices Held

Groom of privy chamber by 1572-1603;2 kpr. Westminster Palace and garden 1581-1611, St. James’s Park 1582-1611, Whitehall Palace by 1585-1611;3 warden of the Mint 1599-1609, 1609­-d. (jt.);4 surveyor-gen. Anne of Denmark’s Household by 1609-at least 1618,5 cllr. by 1617, commr. revenues 1618.6

Steward, Penrith Castle and four other manors, Cumb. 1577, Galtres forest, Yorks. 1589 (jt.), Cottingham and other manors, Yorks. and Westmld. 1597-1618;7 commr. subsidy, Westminster 1581, 1593, 1597, 1600, 1603, 1608;8 j.p. Mdx. by c.1583-d., Yorks. (E. Riding) by 1601-at least 1608 (custos rot.), 1608-d., Westminster 1619-d.;9 surveyor, southern parts of the duchy of Lancaster by 1590-98;10 commr. musters, Mdx. 1595-8,11 sewers, Westminster by 1596-at least 1611, London 1606-d. Coln valley 1609;12 steward and recvr. duchy of Lancaster’s lordship of Pickering, Yorks. 1597-9;13 commr. oyer and terminer, Marshalsea 1599, Mdx. 1601-d., London 1601-d., the Verge 1604-at least 1617,14 gaol delivery, London 1601, 1617, Newgate 1606, 1621, Mdx. 1608;15 recvr. of monies for clothing and arming 200 men in Dorset for service in Ire. 1601;16 commr. annoyances Surr. 1611, Mdx. 1613.17

Marshal, Brill, Utd. Provinces 1587-8.18

Commr. sale of goods from Spanish carrack 1602.19


By the time James I ascended the throne, Knyvett, who should not be confused with his Norfolk namesakes, had spent more than 30 years in the royal Household, serving as keeper of both Westminster and Whitehall palaces. He rapidly emerged as a trusted servant of the Stuarts. In June 1605 he and his wife were appointed to care for the king’s short-lived infant daughter, Mary, at a fee of £20 a week.20 Two years later Anne of Denmark entrusted him with £4,000 of her ‘livery money’ for safe-keeping.21 She subsequently appointed him her surveyor-general, influenced, no doubt by a leading member of her Household, Knyvett’s niece, the countess of Suffolk. Well-placed to acquire from the king small grants of land which took his fancy, Knyvett snapped up the Middlesex manor and rectory of Stanwell in August 1603,22 and the reversion to the lease of some tenements in the parish of St. Margaret’s, Westminster in the following year.23 However, in October 1604 he was ordered to surrender his lodgings in the south-western corner of St. James’s Park to the infant Charles, duke of York, despite having been guaranteed possession of these premises for 30 years in 1585.24 Substantial improvements carried out by Knyvett at royal expense had made the newly extended lodgings highly attractive to James, who compensated Knyvett with a lifetime annuity of £20.25 As keeper of Westminster Palace and a Middlesex magistrate, Knyvett led the search of Parliament’s cellars which resulted in the capture of Guy Fawkes on 4 Nov. 1605.26 In July 1607 he was elevated to the peerage, perhaps as a belated reward for helping to foil the Gunpowder Plot.

As well as being keeper of two royal palaces, Knyvett was warden of the Mint, but his tenure of office was characterized by a long-running feud with his predecessor, the elderly Sir Richard Martyn, now master of the Mint. In 1601 Knyvett accused Martyn of not casting enough coins from the silver and copper alloy delivered to him,27 and of designing a new Irish coinage which could be easily counterfeited. Martyn angrily responded that Knyvett was trying to drive him from office, and claimed that, despite his age, he did more service every month than Knyvett did in a year.28 By 1605 the dispute had reached the law courts after Knyvett retained £7,394 which Martyn claimed was owed to him for bullion.29 Before the matter could be settled, however, lord treasurer Buckhurst (Robert Sackville*), demanded that Knyvett let him have £2,000 of this money to help him pay for entertaining the king of Denmark.30 Knyvett refused, explaining that if his lawsuit failed he would have to hand this money over to Martyn. Buckhurst ‘vehemently’ recommended that Knyvett should be forced to comply regardless, but James, reportedly ‘somewhat tempered’ by his sense of ‘favour’ to Knyvett, instead instructed the Privy Council to discover whether there were sufficient grounds to press Knyvett for payment before the determination of his suit.31 In the event, Knyvett kept the money until February 1607, when the Exchequer condemned Martyn’s accounts as ‘unorderly and unjust’.32 Seven years later Martyn unsuccessfully tried to reverse this verdict, claiming that much of the copper that was apparently unaccounted for had simply wasted away in the process of combining it with silver.33

In 1604 Knyvett was returned to Parliament for Westminster, the constituency which he had represented ever since 1584. Over the following four sessions he was named to 30 committees, many of which were concerned with purely local matters, such as the proliferation of new houses in the London area (24 Jan. 1606), the conversion of old buildings into smaller tenements (27 Apr. and 2 July 1604; 15 May 1607), the paving of Drury Lane (19 Mar. 1606) and the clarification of a Henrician statute regarding Southwark churchwardens (25 Feb. 1607).34 A member of the royal Household, he was not surprisingly nominated to consider naturalizing the Scottish courtier Sir David Foulis (18 Apr. 1606) and investigate alleged abuses in the Marshalsea Court (21 Mar. 1606 and 21 Feb. 1607). Moreover, he was one of a select group chosen on 27 Apr. 1604 to present the petition against purveyors to the king.35 On 19 Nov. 1606 Knyvett was named to help consider any matters of privilege that had arisen that session. He was subsequently appointed to discuss the discomfort of standing bareheaded at conferences with the Lords (12 Mar. 1607) and the problem of proceeding with business during the Speaker’s illness (23 Mar. 1607). On 19 June 1607 he was detailed to help inspect the entries in the Journal for the previous three sessions.36 Knyvett was named to just one joint conference with the Lords, on 20 Apr. 1604, at which the king explained ‘his own meaning in the matter of the Union’. He was later also on the committee to consider the Instrument of Union (29 Nov. 1606).37 One month before he was ennobled, Knyvett made his only recorded speech of the Parliament, when he attacked the hostile laws bill as ‘dangerous’ (5 June 1607).38

By the time he was elevated to the peerage, Knyvett was in his early sixties. He subsequently decided to share the wardenship of the Mint with his protégé, Edmund Doubleday*, and to surrender the keeperships of Westminster and Whitehall palaces. Childless, he drew up his will on 20 July 1620, in which he declared that he believed ‘every article of the Nicene, Athanasian and Apostolic Creed literally, without ambiguity or doubt’. He also left £40 for the relief of the poor of Staines and Stanwell, and in a codicil dated 17 July 1622, instructed his wife and executrix to build a free school and schoolmaster’s residence in Stanwell within two years of his death.39 He died aged 77 on 27 July 1622, and was buried in the parish church of Stanwell. Lady Knyvett proved unable to settle her husband’s debts of about £1,000 before she died.40 Life-size effigies of both Knyvett and his wife, who was interred with her husband, adorn their monument of veined marble.41

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


WCA, E149 (1602-3 acct. unfol; 1604-5 acct. f. 3; 1606-7 acct. f. 2v).

  • 1. Oxford DNB. The widely repeated claim that Knyvett was knighted on 14 Mar. 1604 (Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 131; J. Nichols, Progs. of Jas. I, i. 322) is incorrect.
  • 2. Add. 5750, ff. 111, 117.
  • 3. E403/1693, f. 11; E310/19/97; Draft CPR, 1585-7, p. 222; Jacobean and Caroline Revels Accts. ed. W.R. Streitberger (Malone Soc. xiii), 4, 17, 27; SO3/5 unfol. June 1611, grant to Visct. Rochester; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, i. 104.
  • 4. C66/1822/10; E351/2030, 2034.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 574; 1611-18, p. 387; 1619-23, p. 66; Misc. (Thoresby Soc. xi.), 370; E101/433/17, 627/11-12; E315/107, f. 24; E403/2602, ff. 88v, 95; LC2/122, f. 2; LR7/80/2.
  • 6. E315/243, ff. 189v-90, 195-7.
  • 7. CPR, 1575-8, p. 213; SO3/1, f. 203; SC6/Jas.I/1268; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 596; SP39/9/88.
  • 8. Lansd. 32, f. 69; E115/148/43; E179/142/235, 237, 245; SP14/31/1.
  • 9. Lansd. 737, f. 148v; Harl. 474, f. 24; C181/2, f. 331; C193/13/1, f. 29; C66/1549, 1988, 1620; SP14/33.
  • 10. DL4/40/73.
  • 11. APC, 1595-6, p. 156; 1596-7, pp. 386, 388; 1597-8, p. 359.
  • 12. Lansd. 81, f. 70; 168, f. 151v; LR1/44, f. 340v; C181/1, ff. 88, 100; 181/2, ff. 90, 140, 153; 181/3, f. 26v.
  • 13. R. Somerville, Hist. Duchy of Lancaster, 534-5.
  • 14. C231/1, f. 80v; C181/1, ff. 11, 13, 93; 181/2, ff. 3v, 30, 72, 107v, 108, 155, 156, 158, 177v, 179v, 235, 287, 301v, 304; 181/3, f. 45v, 46v.
  • 15. C181/1, f. 12; 181/2, ff. 5, 72v, 301; 181/3, f. 22v.
  • 16. SP15/34/55.
  • 17. C181/2, ff. 142, 199.
  • 18. E351/240, rot. 16.
  • 19. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 152.
  • 20. SO3/3, unfol.
  • 21. Add. 27404, f. 41v. See also SC6/Jas.I/1648 unfol. payment of 17 Mar. 1608.
  • 22. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 27; C66/1629.
  • 23. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 104; C66/1631.
  • 24. E310/19/97.
  • 25. H.J.M. Green and S.J. Thurley, ‘Excavations on West Side of Whitehall’, Trans. London and Mdx. Arch. Soc. xxxviii. 103, 105, 108; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 161.
  • 26. Nichols, i. 582; G. Carleton, A Thankfull Remembrance of God’s Mercy (London, 1624), pp. 203-4.
  • 27. Harl. 4712, f. 29.
  • 28. HMC Hatfield, xii. 22; xvi. 338; Bodl. Selden Supra 150, passim.
  • 29. E126/1, f. 22v; 124/3, f. 250.
  • 30. Harl. 4712, f. 268.
  • 31. HMC Hatfield, xviii. 246, 248-9.
  • 32. E124/3, ff. 250-1. For Martyn’s rival accts. see Add. 24190, passim.
  • 33. E112/99/1012; E124/19, f. 265v. For further pprs. relating to the dispute, see Harl. 251, ff. 85v-94, 130-4, 136v; E101/305/1. See also New Hist. of Royal Mint ed. C.E. Challis, 259-60.
  • 34. CJ, i. 188a, 251a, 259b, 287a, 340b, 374a.
  • 35. Ibid. 187b, 288a, 300a, 339b.
  • 36. Ibid. 316a, 352a, 354a, 386a.
  • 37. Ibid. 180a, 326b.
  • 38. Ibid. 1049b.
  • 39. PROB 11/140, ff. 124v-6v.
  • 40. Ibid. f. 175r-v.
  • 41. D. Lysons, Environs of Mdx. 259-60.