KNOLLYS, Sir Robert II (1589-1659), of Stanford-in-the-Vale, 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

bap. 6 Apr. 1589, 2nd s. of Richard Knollys† (d.1596) of Stanford-in-the-Vale and Joan, da. of John Heigham of Gifford, Suff. educ. ?Eton 1599; Oriel, Oxf. 1603. m. by 1614, Joan (bur. 29 Dec. 1660), da. of Sir John Wolstenholme*, Merchant Adventurer and farmer of the customs, of Great Stanmore, Mdx. and Nostell Priory, Yorks., 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 5da. (at least 2 d.v.p.).1 suc. bro. Henry aft. 1596; kntd. 10 or 12 Jan. 1613.2 bur. 26 June 1659. sig. Robert Knollys.

Offices Held

Freeman, Abingdon, Berks. 1614;3 j.p. Berks. 1617-38, Oxon. 1633-at least 1640;4 commr. subsidy, Berks. 1622, 1624,5 charitable uses 1626-at least 1639,6 dep. lt. by 1626,7 commr. martial law 1626,8 Forced Loan 1626,9 sewers, Berks. and Oxon. 1634,10 oyer and terminer, Berks. 1640,11 impressment of soldiers, Berks. (roy.) 1644.12


Richard Knollys, father of this Member, was a younger son of the Elizabethan privy councillor and treasurer of the Household Sir Francis Knollys†. By the mid-1580s Sir Francis had conveyed to Richard the manor of Stanford-in-the-Vale, in north-west Berkshire, where Knollys and his elder brother Henry were baptized. On Richard’s death in 1596 Stanford passed to Henry, whereupon Knollys inherited Milverton farm in Somerset.13 However, Knollys eventually came into possession of Stanford as Henry failed to reach adulthood. Knollys was probably raised in the household of his uncle William Knollys†, Berkshire’s leading magnate, for on being admitted to Oriel College, Oxford in May 1603 his address was given as Rotherfield Greys, his uncle’s Oxfordshire seat. At any rate, Knollys evidently enjoyed William’s special favour, as the latter used his influence as high steward of Abingdon on four occasions to secure the borough’s parliamentary seat for his nephew.14 William’s intervention must also explain how Knollys achieved the knighthood of the shire in 1620, and also how, in 1628, he came by the senior seat at Wallingford, where William was high steward. In acknowledgement of his uncle’s many favours, which included his appointment as a deputy lieutenant, Knollys christened his eldest son William. The relationship between uncle and nephew was so close that in May 1632 William, by now earl of Banbury and near to death, conveyed Rotherfield Greys to Knollys rather than allow it to pass to the eldest of his own two sons, both of whom were probably illegitimate.15

Knollys played almost no recorded part in any of the parliaments of which he was a Member. The only legislative committee to which he secured nomination, on 15 Apr. 1624, concerned the naturalization of the London-based merchant Philip Jacobson,16 a measure in which he may have been persuaded to take an interest by his father-in-law, the customs’ farmer Sir John Wolstenholme. The latter’s City connections may explain why in 1621 the London Woodmongers’ Company included Knollys on the list of Members whom they wished to consider a bill submitted by their rivals, the carmen.17 In the event no committee was appointed as the bill did not progress beyond a first reading. Knollys’s presence in the Oxford sitting of the 1625 Parliament is established by a formal record that he and three other Members had not received communion before taking their seats, ‘which they are ... to do with all speed’.18

Like most of Berkshire’s Forced Loan commissioners, Knollys failed to attend a meeting at Reading in December 1626. However, if he objected to the Loan in principle he later had second thoughts, for in March 1627 he was one of four commissioners who complained to the Council of the refusal to appear of one of the county’s Loan collectors.19 In 1638 Knollys informed the king that property purchases and the cost of providing for a large family had led him into financial difficulties, despite owing an estate which, excluding manors in Suffolk and Essex, he estimated to be worth £800 p.a. He consequently sought permission to sell off the Essex and Suffolk properties, which he had inherited from his mother in 1631. The precarious condition of Knollys’s finances was eased in 1639, when his father-in-law bequeathed two of his daughters sizeable sums as dowries and bestowed £50 per annum on Knollys’s wife as an addition to her jointure.20 However, on the marriage of Knollys’s eldest son William† in May 1642 Rotherfield Greys was settled on trustees for William’s benefit as the estate remained seriously encumbered.21

Knollys played no recorded part during the Civil War, although he was appointed to a royalist commission to press 334 able men in Berkshire in March 1644. A letter addressed to the Westminster-based apothecary Dr. Joseph Colston, written some time after 1642, indicates that, for a ten-day period one October, Knollys was confined to his chamber by a debilitating stomach ailment.22 Nothing is known of his final years except that he died intestate and was buried at Rotherfield Greys on 26 June 1659. No monument was erected in his memory, although he himself had put up monuments to at least two of his mother’s brothers.23 His son William represented Oxfordshire in the Cavalier Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. F.G. Lee, Hist. of Church of Thame, 595; Al. Ox.; Eton Coll. Reg. comp. W. Sterry; Berks. RO, T/R 37, entries of 6 Apr. 1589, 5 Mar. 1626 and 29 Mar. 1629; T/R 29, entries of 30 Apr. 1630 and 16 Mar. 1632; T/R 50, p. 13; Oxon. RO, transcript of Rotherfield Greys par. reg., entry of 2 Nov. 1634; HP Commons 1660-90, sub ‘William Knollys’; PROB 11/181, f. 279v.
  • 2. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 152.
  • 3. A.C. Baker, Historic Abingdon, 70.
  • 4. C231/4, f. 45; 231/5, ff. 101, 312; C66/2858, dorse.
  • 5. C212/22/21, 23.
  • 6. C93/10/22; 93/11/13; 93/15/19; 192/1, unfol.
  • 7. APC, 1626, pp. 357, 365.
  • 8. Add. 21922, f. 86.
  • 9. SP16/40/39.
  • 10. C181/4, f. 179.
  • 11. C181/5, p. 353.
  • 12. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 162.
  • 13. PROB 11/88, f. 152.
  • 14. Pprs. of Capt. Henry Stevens ed. M. Toynbee (Oxon. Rec. Soc. xlii), 37.
  • 15. HMC 4th Rep. 22.
  • 16. CJ, i. 767a.
  • 17. Hants RO, TD540/scrapbook.
  • 18. Procs. 1625, p. 375.
  • 19. SP16/40/39; 16/58/10.
  • 20. PROB 11/181, f. 279v.
  • 21. HP Commons 1660-90, sub ‘William Knollys’.
  • 22. Sloane 118, ff. 124-5.
  • 23. Vis. Suff. ed. Howard, ii. 233-5.