KNOLLYS, Robert (c.1590-1626), of Abbey House, Reading, Berks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. c.1590, 1st s. of Sir Francis Knollys I* (d.1648) of Abbey House, Reading, and Catherine, da. of William Carey of Aldenham, Herts.; bro. of Sir Francis Knollys II*. educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 1604, aged 14, BA 1607; M. Temple 1607;1 travelled abroad 1616;2 embassy, Brussels 1619.3 unm. kntd. 26 Apr. 1619.4 bur. 19 Jan. 1626.5

Offices Held

Soldier, Sir Edward Cecil’s* forces, Jülich-Cleves 1610;6 capt., Sir Horace Vere’s forces, Palatinate 1620-2, 3rd earl of Essex’s regt., Neths. 1624-5.7


After completing his education at Oxford and the Middle Temple, Knollys, the heir of one of Berkshire’s leading gentry figures, participated in the brief siege of the Rhineland town of Jülich in the summer of 1610, probably as a volunteer. In 1614 he was elected to Parliament for his native town of Reading, most likely at the request of his father. Though a novice, he participated in at least two Commons’ debates, the first of which followed the second reading of a bill to naturalize the Scotsmen Sir Francis Stewart* and William Ramsey (23 May). Sir Robert Phelips proposed inserting a clause into this bill to bar Stewart, Ramsey and all Scots naturalized in future from membership of the Commons, but Knollys objected that such a proviso ‘might imply that those that are naturalized already might be of the Parliament’. He was subsequently appointed to the bill’s committee. His second intervention occurred on the final day of the session (7 June), when he opposed a motion to consider the king’s supply in committee.8

While the 1614 Parliament was in session it was reported that Knollys had fallen out with the eldest son of the imprisoned Sir Walter Ralegh†. The quarrel was evidently serious, and given young Ralegh’s addiction to duelling it would probably have ended in violence had Knollys not been prevented by the government from travelling to Flushing to meet him.9 In November the two men were arraigned before Star Chamber, but all trace of any proceedings against them has been lost.10 Two years later Knollys obtained leave to travel abroad for three years, his passport being signed by, among others, his uncle, William Knollys†, Viscount Wallingford. Nothing further is known of his whereabouts until April 1619, when he was knighted at Theobalds prior to his departure for the Continent as part of Viscount Doncaster’s extraordinary embassy to Germany. On reaching Heidelberg Knollys was dispatched to Heilbronn by Doncaster with letters to the Protestant princes.11 His brief sojourn in Germany evidently alerted him to the gravity of the threat to the Palatinate posed by Spain and the emperor, for on returning to England he volunteered to serve in the forces then being raised by Sir Horace Vere to assist in its defence. As commander of a foot company, he doubtless fought with Vere at Mannheim, but after the city capitulated in September 1622, he made his way back to England, the garrison having been permitted to depart with their arms. On reaching Gravesend in January 1623 he was allegedly refused permission to land, being ordered instead to join the forces in the Netherlands commanded by Sir Edward Cecil*.12 However, he was in England in September 1623, when he sought to renew his passport.13

Following the summons of the 1624 Parliament, Knollys postponed his departure for the Continent in the hope of obtaining re-election, as he undoubtedly wanted to influence the forthcoming debates on foreign policy. However, despite a nomination from Wallingford he came third in Reading’s poll with just nine votes.14 In the aftermath of this defeat he travelled to Holland, where he commanded a company in the 3rd earl of Essex’s regiment at Schiedam. At the beginning of 1625 the English government considered a recommendation from the Elector Palatine that he be given command of a company in Ireland, but nothing came of this.15 By January 1626 he was back in England, and again approached Reading’s corporation to re-elect him to Parliament, but he fared even worse than in 1624, receiving only four votes.16 He was not able to dwell upon this second humiliation for long, however, as within three days of his defeat he was dead. Interred at Rotherfield Greys, Oxfordshire, home of his uncle Wallingford, he left behind him neither widow nor will.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss. 89.
  • 2. APC, 1616-17, p. 62.
  • 3. BL, HMC transcript, Trumbull ms Alphab. XXIV/40.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 171.
  • 5. Oxon. RO, transcript of Rotherfield Greys par. reg.
  • 6. PRO 30/53/7, f. 14.
  • 7. APC, 1619-21, p. 225; E101/612/73; SP84/121, ff. 255v, 277; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 242.
  • 8. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 320, 325, 441.
  • 9. HMC Downshire, iv. 409-10. For Ralegh’s penchant for duelling, see ibid. v. 209, 277.
  • 10. PRO 30/53/7, f. 14.
  • 11. Relations Bet. Eng. and Germany ed. S.R. Gardiner (Cam. Soc. xc), 130.
  • 12. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, ii. 355.
  • 13. APC, 1623-5, p. 87.
  • 14. Reading Recs. ed. J.M. Guilding, ii. 168-9.
  • 15. CSP Ire. 1647-60, p. 46.
  • 16. Reading Recs. ii. 273.