Knighton, Henry (DNB00)


KNIGHTON (or CNITTHON, as he himself spells the name), HENRY (fl. 1363), historical compiler, was a canon of St. Mary's Abbey, Leicester. He is the author of a ‘Compilatio de eventibus Angliæ,’ a work in four books beginning with Edgar and ending in 1366. His name, Henricus Cnitthon, is supplied by the initial letters of the sixteen chapters of each of the first three books. In his prologue he states that he follows the seventh book of Cestrensis (i.e. Higden), and that he adds to his extracts from him the accounts of other matters, ‘quæ aspectui meo sparsim se obtulerant.’ But he carefully conceals that almost the whole of the additional matter, with the exception of a few references to Leicester and its abbey, is transcribed from Walter of Hemingburgh. When Hemingburgh speaks of his own monastery (Gisburn) as ‘nostram,’ this is altered to its own name (e.g. ‘quandam ecclesiam de Gysburne,’ Twysden, col. 2522). At the end of the third book he states that he is proceeding alone, and the fourth book, which is not divided into chapters, and occupies from 1337 to 1366, may be original. It gives nearly the same sequence of events as is found in Robert of Avesbury. He speaks of being present at the visit of Edward III to the abbey of Leicester in 1363. As the history breaks off abruptly in 1366, he probably did not survive that year.

A fifth book is added in the manuscripts, begun ten years later (1377), and carrying on the history to 1395. This is clearly the work of another writer, whose style as well as ‘his whole tone of speaking of church matters’ is very different from that of Knighton. The documents preserved by the continuator, the details respecting the rising of 1381, and those of the history and opinions of Wycliffe, are of great value. He ‘is a partisan of the Duke of Lancaster,’ and almost ‘the only writer of that day on the less popular side.’ He was clearly, like Knighton, a canon of St. Mary's, Leicester, but there is no clue to his name. The book was in the library of Leicester Abbey, as may be seen in Nichols's ‘History of Leicester,’ App. p. 102. It is preserved in two manuscripts in the Cotton collection in the British Museum, Claudius E. 3 and Tiberius C. 7, from the latter of which Twysden printed his edition in the ‘Decem Scriptores.’ A new edition is in progress in the Rolls Series, under the editorship of the Rev. Dr. Lumby.

[Authorities given in text.]

H. R. L.