KNYVET, Sir Edmund (by 1508-51), of Buckenham Castle, Norf. and London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1508, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Knyvet of Buckenham by Muriel, da. of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, wid. of John Grey, 2nd Viscount. Lisle. m. by 1527, Anne, da. of Sir John Shelton of of Carrow, Norf., 2s. inc. Sir Thomas suc. fa. Aug. 1512, gt.-gdfa. 2 Dec. 1515. Kntd. May 1538/Apr. 1539.2

Offices Held

Jt. receiver, Denbigh June 1539-Nov. 1547; sheriff, Norf. and Suff. 1539-40; j.p. Norf. 1543-d.; commr. benevolence 1544/45; member of Henry VIII’s Household.3


Edmund Knyvet was the son of a distinguished sailor who was killed in a naval battle near Brest in 1512. Four years later his wardship was sold for £400 to the Duke of Suffolk, who had also been the guardian (and almost the husband) of Knyvet’s half-sister Elizabeth Grey; Suffolk appears to have resold it at a profit of £100 to Sir Thomas Wyndham, an old naval colleague of Knyvet’s father, who in turn instructed his executors in 1522 to sell the wardship and marriage to Anthony Wingfield for £400 or else to the highest bidder. It is not clear what eventually came of these transactions but Knyvet may have been taken under the protection of his uncle, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, with whom he nevertheless seems to have been on less than easy terms.4

The Knyvet estates were extensive but Edmund’s great-grandfather Sir William Knyvet, who married as his second wife Joan, daughter of Humphrey, 1st Duke of Buckingham, evidently felt that such an important alliance was worth the partial disinheriting of his heir: the eldest son of this marriage, Sir Edward Knyvet, received Buckenham Castle, the manor of Buckenham and other manors and lands in Norfolk, and shared with the other children most of his father’s goods and money. Not until his death without issue in 1528, followed shortly by that of his heir Robert Knyvet, Edmund’s half-cousin, did the lands revert to Sir William’s rightful heirs: Edmund Knyvet had livery of them in 1533 and at his death his lands were to be valued at nearly £215 a year. He had taken his share of church property—he leased Buckenham priory in 1538 and bought a chantry and its manors in 1541—but seems to have parted with most of these.5

In his earlier years Knyvet cannot always be distinguished from his uncle and namesake, serjeant-porter to the King, who died in 1539. It was clearly the younger man who in 1531 wrote to the Duke of Norfolk about a suspected outbreak of heresy at Mendlesham, Suffolk, and who fought under Norfolk against the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536. The cold, wily duke always wrote about Knyvet in terms which revealed small sympathy with his hotheaded, conceited and clever young kinsman. In 1538 he sent one of Knyvet’s letters to Cromwell with the expectation that ‘you shall not much like the inditing of my nephew’s letter’, and after the election dispute of two years later he invoked the minister’s help with the comment ‘the man is young and hath a great wit and trusteth too much therein ... he is only ruled by his own sensual will and three or four light naughty knaves of Welshmen and others and runneth daily so far in debt without having regard to make payment where he cloth owe, that I am much afraid he will waste all’.6

For the Parliament of 1539 the King and Cromwell had settled on Edmund Wyndham and Richard Southwell as knights of the shire for Norfolk. Although Knyvet promised Cromwell his own and his friends’ support, ‘me doubting no deal but that I ... shall cry so loud on him that the voice of other shall ill be heard’, he added a broad hint that he would like to be elected himself, although ‘a man for wit or learning much insufficient in regard of Master Southwell’. Cromwell’s polite refusal of this suggestion, ‘not for that I do think either of them more able for the office than yourself’, but because their election was both convenient and agreeable to the King, merely incited Knyvet to carry the matter further. On 14 Apr., the day for choosing the knights, he appeared at Norwich supported by friends and tenants and intending, according to Norfolk, ‘to have stood for to have been one of them. Notwithstanding that when he saw his power would not suffice, he said he never minded to have been one himself but to have given the voice of his friends to Edmund Wyndham and to one other friend whom he would not name.’ When he realized that he could not win he fell into a rage against Southwell and withdrew from the concourse, seemingly to prepare a challenge to the election: this prompted some of the local gentry to bring both men before Norfolk, and when Knyvet obstinately refused to make his peace with Southwell the duke bound them each in £2,000 to keep the peace and to appear in the Star Chamber a fortnight later, and charged Knyvet on his allegiance not to molest Southwell. Knyvet’s behaviour may appear the more reprehensible in that his side of the story is not given. Southwell’s report to Cromwell after the election does not give the impression that his case was incontrovertible: he reminded Cromwell that he undertook ‘this enterprise’ out of a sense of duty to the King and that he should not suffer for it. Knyvet’s appointment as sheriff in November 1539 may also have been intended to console him for the earlier setback.7

The fact that Knyvet’s sister-in-law Mary Shelton helped to compile an anthology of poems emanating from the literary circle of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, and Sir Thomas Wyatt I, suggests that Knyvet was the ‘E.K.’ who contributed several of the items, although for some time before Surrey’s death he and Knyvet had been on bad terms. It was for striking Thomas Clere, a servant of Surrey’s, within the precincts of the court, that in April 1541 Knyvet had been condemned to lose his right hand, only to be reprieved at the last moment, and the unspecified misdemeanour for which in February 1542 he was bound in 500 marks to attend daily before the Council may have been of similar provenance. Four years later he was given the opportunity to help in the overthrow of the Howards and he was one of those who testified against Surrey at his trial. His reward was a lease of the manor of Wymondham and other Howard lands.8

The removal of Norfolk’s influence also paved the way for Knyvet’s election as knight of the shire. On 12 Feb. 1549, during the second session of the Parliament, a bill ‘for the inheritance of the half blood’ was committed to him after its third reading. Outside the House, he seems to have remained a thorn in the flesh of authority. In February 1548 he was bound in £1,000 to be in readiness to wait on the Protector and Council to answer charges perhaps connected with his alleged adultery with the Countess of Sussex; two months later he sued out a pardon as of Buckenham, late of London, Greenwich and Henry VIII’s Household. His intemperance showed to better advantage when in the following year he led his servants in a spirited attack against the Norfolk rebels, who ‘bore great malice’ against him but decided against assaulting Buckenham Castle. He served under the Earl of Warwick in the final battle against Ket, having been sent beforehand with Sir Thomas Palmer to parley with the rebel leader. It is not known whether he supported Warwick, his distant cousin, in the subsequent struggle for control of the government.9

Knyvet died in London on 1 May 1551 and before the last session his place in Parliament was taken by Sir Robert Dudley. He had made a brief will on 18 Apr. 1550 bequeathing all his goods and chattels to his wife and settling a manor on his younger son. He named his wife and John Flowerdew executors but they renounced the duty and on 27 Oct. 1551 administration was granted to his son Thomas.10

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from age at gt.-gdfa’s i.p.m., C142/30/4. Vis. Norf. (Norf. Arch.), ii. 346; LP Hen. VIII, i, xiii, xiv; C142/91/66.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xiv, xx; CPR, 1547-8, p. 87; 1548-9, p. 159.
  • 4. Chron. Calais (Cam. Soc. xxxv), 9; Index 10217(1), f. 2v; PCC 3 Bodfelde.
  • 5. C142/30/4, 91/66; E150/631/13; LP Hen. VIII, vi, xiii, xvi.
  • 6. DNB (Knyvet or Knevet, Sir Edward) confuses uncle and nephew; C142/61/71; LP Hen. VIII, i, v, xii, xiii; SP1/146/242, 150/155-6.
  • 7. SP1/146/242, 274, 150/155-6, 160-1.
  • 8. Add. 17492; R. Southall, The Courtly Maker, 17, 18; Wriothesley’s Chron. i (Cam. Soc. n.s. xi), 125; LP Hen. VIII, xvi, xxi; PPC, vii. 181, 312; APC, ii. 17.
  • 9. CJ, i. 8; APC, ii. 168; M. A. E. Wood, Letters of R. and Illustrious Ladies, iii. 239; CPR, 1548-9, p. 159; Holinshed, Chron. iii. 969; Blomefield, Norf. iii. 234, 243-5; A. Neville, Norf. Furies (1615); B. L. Beer, Northumberland, 83, 84.
  • 10. PCC 30 Bucke.