Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Knyvet, John

KNYVET or KNIVETT, Sir JOHN (d. 1381), chancellor of England, was eldest son of Richard Knyvet of Southwick, Northamptonshire, and custos of the forest of Clyve in that county, by Joanna, daughter and heiress of Sir John Wurth. Knyvet was practising in the courts as early as 1347; in 1357 he was called to the degree of serjeant-at-law, and on 30 Sept. 1361 was appointed a justice of the court of common pleas. On 29 Oct. 1365 he was raised to the office of chief justice of the king's bench (Fœdera, iii. 777, Record ed.) In the parliament of 1362 he served as a trier of petitions for Aquitaine and other lands over sea, and afterwards in each parliament down to 1380, except while he was chancellor, as a trier of petitions for England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland (Rot. Parl. vols. ii. and iii.) On 30 June 1372, after the death of Sir Robert Thorpe, who had been appointed chancellor in consequence of a petition by the commons that the great seal should be entrusted to laymen, Knyvet was appointed his successor. Knyvet held the office for four years and a half, acting with great wisdom and discretion; three speeches which he made at the opening of parliament in 1372, 1373, and 1376 respectively, are given in the ‘Rolls of Parliament’ (ii. 309 a, 316 a, 321 a). In January 1377 Edward III, under the influence of John of Gaunt, reverted to the custom of appointing ecclesiastical chancellors, and Adam de Houghton [q. v.] was appointed to succeed Knyvet on 11 Jan. Knyvet did not again hold judicial office, though he was appointed with the two chief justices to decide a question between the Earl of Pembroke and William la Zouch of Haryngworth (Rot. Parl. iii. 79). Knyvet died in 1381. Sir Edward Coke speaks of him as ‘a man famous in his profession,’ and praises his administration of the law (Fourth Inst. 78, 79). Further testimony to his worth is given by his appointment as executor of Edward III, and of other eminent persons. He married Eleanor, daughter of Ralph, lord Basset of Weldon, and by her left two sons, John and Ralph (cf. Bridges, History of Northamptonshire, ii. 354–5). He owned large estates in various counties, but especially in Northamptonshire (Cal. Inq. p. m. ii. 333, iii. 30).

[Authorities quoted; Foss's Lives of the Judges, iii. 451–3; Campbell's Lives of the Chancellors, i. 264–8.]

C. L. K.