Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Knightley, Richard (d.1639)

KNIGHTLEY, RICHARD (d. 1639), member of parliament, was son of Edward Knightley of Preston Capes, Northamptonshire, in right of his wife Mary, daughter of Peter Coles of that place. Sir Richard Knightley (1533–1615) [q. v.] was his grandfather, and on the death of his uncle, Sir Valentine, in 1618, he succeeded to the family property of Fawsley. He was returned to the House of Commons as member for Northamptonshire on 22 Nov. 1621, and he was re-elected for the same constituency on 23 Jan. 1623–4, and in 1625. From his first entrance into public life Knightley displayed the puritan leanings of his family, and in the first parliament of Charles I's reign he took his stand beside Sir John Eliot and the opponents of Buckingham and the court. A manuscript journal of this parliament, which is still extant among the Knightley family archives, was printed by the Camden Society in 1873. After the dissolution in August 1625 Knightley, like other deputy-lieutenants of Northamptonshire, was directed to search papists' houses in the county, and proceeding to Lord Vaux's house at Harrowden, was seriously assaulted by the owner. Knightley brought the matter before the privy council, and threatened his assailant with Star-chamber proceedings (Court and Times of Charles I, i. 56). Charles I seems to have already noticed Knightley's political hostility, and, in order apparently to exclude Knightley from his second parliament of 1626, he appointed him sheriff of Northamptonshire in that year. In January 1627 Knightley was reported to the council as one who refused to subscribe to the forced loan. When summoned to appear before the council he made a defiant speech, and accordingly was committed to the Fleet prison. He re-entered the House of Commons for his old constituency early in 1628, and acted through that and the following session in close alliance with Eliot and Hampden. He spoke in favour of the Remonstrance of 1628. When Eliot was arrested Knightley was his chief correspondent, and fourteen of Eliot's letters to him, written from the Tower, are extant (Eliot, De Jure Majestatis and Letter-book, ed. Grosart, 1882, vol. ii.). The intimacy was of the closest and most congenial kind. Knightley was in similar relations with Pym, Hesilrigge, and Hampden. He appointed the puritan John Dod [q. v.] to the rectory of Fawsley in 1637, and was one of the Company of Adventurers for Providence Island (Cal. State Papers, Colonial, 1574–1660, p. 123). He died in November 1639, and was buried at Fawsley (11 Nov.) He married, in July 1614, Bridget, daughter of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, Warwickshire, but left no issue, and his property devolved on his cousin and the stepbrother of his mother, Richard Knightley, with whom he is often confused. This Richard Knightley (1580–1650) was son of Thomas Knightley of Burgh Hall, Staffordshire (d. before 1621), and was a nephew of Sir Richard Knightley, the patron of Martin Mar-Prelate. His mother was Elizabeth, daughter of John Shuckburgh of Naseby, whose first husband was Peter Coles of Preston Capes. He was admitted to Gray's Inn 22 May 1601 (Foster, Reg. p. 101). He seems to have lived in retirement at Fawsley, and was buried there on 19 Sept. 1650. He married Anne, daughter of Sir Edward Littleton of Pillaton, Staffordshire, and left a son, Richard.

This son, Sir Richard Knightley (1617–1661), was admitted to Gray's Inn 17 May 1633 (ib. p. 199), and about 1637 married Elizabeth, eldest daughter of John Hampden, who died in 1643, greatly to the distress of her father. As ‘Richard Knightley, junior,’ he sat in the Short parliament as member for Northampton. He fully shared the political sympathies of his family, and after the dissolution of the Short parliament in May 1640 he invited Hampden, Pym, and other of the opposition leaders to meet at Fawsley to concert a plan of action. He was re-elected member for Northampton to the Long parliament in October 1640, and acted consistently with the opposition. He and Sir Walter Earle were the tellers for their party on the vote on the Grand Remonstrance on 23 Nov. 1641. On 21 Jan. 1642–3 he subscribed a petition to the parliament from the freeholders of Northamptonshire expressing approval of the parliamentary policy. He signed the solemn league and covenant, and was a member of the parliamentary committee for Northamptonshire in March 1643 (Husbands, p. 942; cf. Cal. State Papers, 1645, p. 411). Knightley strongly disapproved of the plans for bringing the king to trial; was consequently imprisoned by the army from 6 to 20 Dec. 1648, and was excluded from the parliament (A full Declaration of the true state of the Secluded Members' Case, 1660, 4to, p. 55). He had a license to go abroad, 24 June 1651 (Cal. State Papers, 1651, p. 529), and in December 1655 he was included in a list drawn up by the quakers of those ‘who do not persecute but are loving to Friends’ (ib. 1655–6, p. 64). He sat in Richard Cromwell's parliament in January 1658–9 as member for Northamptonshire, and was suggested as speaker 9 March 1659, when he excused himself from taking the office (cf. Burton, Diary, vol. iv.; Clarendon State Papers, iii. 433). As an opponent of the army he was not summoned to the Rump—the restored Long parliament in May 1659. But on 7 May he and Prynne made an attempt to enter the house (A true and perfect Relation of what was done between Mr. Prynne and the Secluded Members and those now sitting, 1659, pp. 4, 7). On 17 Feb. 1659–60 he took part in the conference between the secluded and sitting members, and as soon as the former members took their places he was elected (23 Feb.) member of the council of state which arranged the recall of the king. At the coronation of Charles II (April 1661) he was created a knight of the Bath. He died in London on 22 June 1661, and was buried on 6 July at Fawsley. He married in 1647 a second wife, Ann, daughter of Sir William Courten, and widow of Essex Devereux, son and heir of Walter Devereux, fifth viscount Hereford. His widow was buried at Fawsley on 5 Feb. 1702–3, aged 88. By her Knightley had two sons, Richard (1647–1655) and Essex (1649–1671). The latter's widow, Sarah, daughter of Thomas Foley of Witley, married as second husband John Hampden the younger [q. v.]

[Notes kindly supplied by Prof. C. H. Firth; Le Neve's Pedigrees of Knights (Harl. Soc.), pp. 17–18; Baker's Northamptonshire, i. 389 sq.; Northamptonshire Notes and Queries, i. 120–1; Beesley's Hist. of Banbury, 1841; Forster's Sir John Eliot; Return of Members of Parliament. A Richard Knightley, who, according to Wood, joined the royalist standard in 1642, and on his arrival with the Marquis of Hertford's army in Oxford was created M.A. on 16 Jan. 1642–3 (Wood's Fasti, ed. Bliss, ii. 33), was probably son of a distant connection of the family of Fawsley, Edward Knightley, a royalist.]

S. L.