KNIGHTLEY, Richard (c.1610-61), of Fawsley, Northants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Apr. 1640
Oct. 1640

Family and Education

b. c.1610, o.s. of Richard Knightley of Burgh Hall, Staffs. and Fawsley by Jane, da. of Sir Edward Littleton of Pillaton, Staffs. educ. Lincoln, Oxf. matric. 24 Oct. 1628, aged 18, BA 1631, MA 1633; G. Inn 1633. m. (1) c.1637, Elizabeth (d.1643), da. of John Hampden of Great Hampden, Bucks., 1s. 1da.; (2) 22 July 1647, Anne, da. of Sir William Courteen, merchant, of London, wid. of Hon. Essex Devereux of Leigh Court, Warws., 1s. 2da. suc. fa. 1650; KB 23 Apr. 1661.2

Offices Held

Commr. for forests, Northants. 1641, assessment, Northants. 1643-8, 1657, Jan. 1660-d., Rad. 1647-8, Westminster Aug. 1660-d., sequestration, Northants. 1643, levying of money 1643, new model ordinance 1645, appeals, Oxf. Univ. 1647, militia, Northants. 1648, Northants. and Westminster Mar. 1660, drainage, Bedford level 1649; j.p. Mdx. 1655-?Mar. 1660; Westminster 1655-d., Northants, 1656-d.; commr. for oyer and terminer, Midland circuit July 1660.3

Commr. for regulating excise 1645, relief of Ireland 1645, sale of bishops’ lands 1646, member, committee of both kingdoms May-Dec. 1648; Councillor of State 25 Feb.-31 May 1660; commr. for maimed soldiers Dec. 1660-1,4


Knightley was descended from a certain Nicholas Maucovenant, who was seated in the 12th century on the Staffordshire estate from which the family later derived their surname. Fawsley was acquired in 1415, and their long parliamentary record began four years later with the return of Richard Knightley for Northamptonshire. Strongly puritan under Elizabeth, they were consistent in opposition to the early Stuarts, though Knightley’s father, after nomination to the committee for the midland association in 1642, led a retired life. Knightley himself was a Parliamentarian and an unenthusiastic Presbyterian during the Civil War, but he opposed the trial of Charles I, and was imprisoned at Pride’s Purge. He sat for the county in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament, and both in May and December 1659 supported the efforts of William Prynne to open the Rump to the secluded Members. When they were eventually readmitted by George Monck he was appointed to the Council of State.5

Knightley stood for Northamptonshire in 1660 with another Presbyterian, John Crew; but when some of the electors

told him they hoped that he would be instrumental to the bringing in the King and that it should be honourably, he replied, ‘Will you have him brought in on horseback?’ This being bruited about the field, such offence was taken at the answer that his whole party immediately deserted him, and chose Sir Harry Yelverton.

He was returned for St. Germans, however, on the interest of John Eliot, and listed by Lord Wharton as a friend. Lord Mordaunt included him in the ‘cabal of Suffolk House’, whose main aim was to use their interest in the Commons to disband the greater part of the standing army. An active Member, he made 28 recorded speeches, and was appointed to 48 committees in the Convention, including the drafting committee and the joint committees to instruct the messengers to the King and to prepare for his reception. On 26 May he was named to the committee for dealing with the maimed soldiers, widows and orphans, so that ‘the kingdom may be most eased of the charge’, and he was later appointed to the commission for this purpose. On the same day he informed the Upper House that the Commons agreed to their amendments to the assessment ordinance.6

After the Restoration Knightley was one of those appointed to administer the oaths of allegiance and supremacy to the other Members. He proposed that the £20,000 voted to Monck should be charged on the assessment, and was appointed to the committee to hear the petition from the intruded Oxford dons. More moderate than Prynne on the indemnity bill, both in particular and general cases, he spoke in favour of Richard Salway, who had joined with him in redeeming the forfeited estate of his Staffordshire cousins, the Littletons, and against excluding those who had abjured the monarchy or signed the Instrument of Government. He wished all petitioners to be heard, but he acted as teller for an unsuccessful proviso to permit Royalists to recover debts and rents not paid in to the Commonwealth. On religious questions he generally followed the Presbyterian line, supporting Prynne’s complaint of 30 June about unauthorized Anglican propaganda. On 2 July he urged that the supply debate should be deferred until more progress had been made with the indemnity bill, and objected to Prynne’s proposal to disable a large number of Cromwellian officials on the grounds that ‘the proviso is too large, and not to be mended’. He also opposed another proviso to exclude those who would not take the oaths. When it was proposed to require the clergy to assent both to the Protestant faith according to the scriptures and the government of the church according to law, he moved ‘silently to glide off this clause, and not put it to the question’. He wished ‘to let the discipline alone to the consideration of the King and divines’, but agreed that the bill for settling ministers in their livings should be referred to a committee, on which he served. When the indemnity bill returned to the Commons, he twice spoke against the Lords’ amendment to exclude all the King’s judges. He was named to the committee to establish how far the amendments reached, and urged a conference before putting them to the vote. He was against double taxation of recusants, whether Catholic or Protestant. He spoke in favour of a grant of £10,000 to Sir George Booth, but wished the House to lay aside for the present a bill to compensate the royalist Marquess of Winchester.7

Knightley continued to be an active Member in the second session. On 6 Nov. he moved for a settlement of the militia, and took the chair in the committee to bring in a bill. Wharton sent him a copy of the case for modified episcopacy ‘with some circumstances’, and he supported the bill to give effect to the Worcester House declaration. He urged rejection of the bill to prevent wives from leaving their husbands. His first report of the bill to make Covent Garden a parish was recommitted, but he was able to carry it up on 11 Dec. He favoured compensating the crown for the loss of feudal revenues by a land tax rather than an excise, and opposed any grants to officials of the court of wards. He urged the Lords to concur in acknowledging a debt of £1,387 for provisions supplied to Dunkirk on the orders of the Council of State on which he had served, and on 20 Dec. carried up a naturalization bill.8

In 1661 Knightley was again unsuccessful for Northamptonshire, thanks to the machinations of the sheriff, Sir William Dudley. He was created knight of the Bath for the coronation of Charles II but his reluctant participation in the Popish ceremony hastened his end, and he died shortly afterwards in London on 29 June. He was buried at Fawsley. His son inherited an estate valued, for matrimonial purposes, at £2,000 p.a., but the next member of the family to enter Parliament was Valentine Knightley, who sat for the county as a Tory from 1748 to 1754.9

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / Paula Watson


  • 1. Secluded at Pride’s Purge, 6 Dec. 1648, readmitted 21 Feb. 1660.
  • 2. VCH Northants. Fams. 189-90.
  • 3. Keeler, Long Parl. 243.
  • 4. CJ, viii. 213.
  • 5. VCH Northants. Fams. 173, 180; DNB; D. Underdown, Pride’s Purge, 64, 233.
  • 6. Add. 15750, f. 47; Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 12, ff. 162-3; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 674.
  • 7. Bowman diary, ff. 5, 7, 20v. 28, 36v, 41, 43, 53, 69, 86, 104, 110, 129v, 134, 140, 147, 153; CJ, viii. 79, 106, 127.
  • 8. Old Parl. Hist. xxiii. 2, 9, 14, 16, 18, 27, 32, 49, 61; CJ, viii. 179, 184, 193, 199.
  • 9. Northants. RO, IC515; Voyce from the Watch Tower, 288; Pepys Diary, 17 May 1662.