KNOLLYS, Francis (c.1550-1648), of Reading Abbey, Berks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Nov. 1640

Family and Education

b. c.1550, 6th s. of Sir Francis Knollys, and bro. of Edward, Richard, Robert, William, and Henry Knollys II. educ. ?Eton 1561; Magdalen Coll. Oxf. c.1564; G. Inn 1565. m. 26 Dec. 1588, Lettice, da. of John Barrett of Hanham, Glos., 2s. 4da. Kntd. Dec. 1587.3

Offices Held

Rear-adm. under Sir Humphrey Gilbert 1578, under Francis Drake 1585; col. of militia, Herts. 1588; j.p.q. Berks. from c.1593, dep. lt. 1596.4


Knollys was returned for Oxford, where his father was high steward, on the death of his brother Edward, and continued to sit for Oxford in all Parliaments until his father resigned the high stewardship in 1592. He sought his fortune in privateering against the Spaniards, and at court, where he made his way through the influence of his sister’s second husband, the Earl of Leicester, and of her son by her first marriage, the 2nd Earl of Essex. Known as ‘the young Sir Francis’, Knollys was knighted by Leicester at Flushing and at the time of the Armada he was commissioner for musters and colonel of militia in Hertfordshire, where Leicester was lord lieutenant. In April 1589 Knollys pursued the Earl of Essex to Plymouth in a vain attempt to prevent him from joining the Portugal expedition in defiance of the Queen.5

When he was included in the Berkshire commission of the peace in 1592, it was probably already intended that property in that county should be his share of the family inheritance. In 1595 the Queen leased to his father the capital messuage of the manor of Battle, Reading, which passed to him on his father’s death in the following year. This valuable property gave the Knollyses influence in Reading for over a century and, combined with the influence of his brother William as lord lieutenant of Berkshire, brought Knollys a county seat in the Parliament of 1597. As his father was also in the House in Knollys’s first four Parliaments, they cannot be distinguished with certainty, but it appears that the younger Francis Knollys took no active part in its business. The father is often, though not always, described in the journals by his office, and the son was not knighted in his first three Parliaments. The only mention that can certainly refer to the son is his membership of the committee considering the excessive making of malt, 12 Jan. 1598. However, as knight for Berkshire, he may have attended committees on enclosures (5 Nov.), the poor law (5, 22 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), the penal laws (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.), Wantage (10 Nov.) and the subsidy (15 Nov.). Knollys’s absence from Parliament in 1601 may have been due to the aftermath of the Essex rising. He was in Essex House at the time of the rebellion, and was arrested and committed to the charge first of his kinsman Sir Francis Leighton, and then of his brother Robert. He protested to Cecil that quite innocent reasons had taken him to the scene ‘that dismal day’, and he was soon released; by August 1601 the Privy Council was again writing to him on county matters.6

One of Knollys’s daughters married the famous John Hampden, and Knollys’s own parliamentary career went on well into the Stuart period. In January 1643 a contemporary described him as ‘old’ Sir Francis Knollys, ‘the ancientest Parliament man in England’. He made his will when in his mid-nineties in December 1646 and it was proved in May 1648. He was buried in the church of St. Lawrence, Reading.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Alan Harding


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. DNB; Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 103.
  • 4. CSP Span. 1580-6, pp. 75-6, 306; Hakluyt’s Voyages, x. 98; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 519; 1591-4, p. 186, 1595-7, p. 296.
  • 5. W. H. Turner, Oxford Recs. 377; Lansd. 30, f. 133; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 466; HMC 4th Rep. 338.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 11; VCH Berks. iii. 366-7; HMC Hatfield, xi. 100; xiv. 172; D’Ewes, 552, 553, 555, 557, 561, 578; APC, xxx. 671 xxxi. 171; xxxii. 194.
  • 7. VCH Berks. iii. 364; M. F. Keeler, Long Parlt. 242; PCC 90 Essex, C. F. Pritchard, Reading Charters, 269-75.