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Knollys, Sir Francis

Knollys, Sir Francis (1512–96). Knollys was a prominent courtier and parliamentarian during Elizabeth I's reign. His father was a minor courtier, usher of the Privy Chamber. A zealous protestant, Knollys became gentleman pensioner to Henry VIII and escorted Anne of Cleves to her marriage. Knollys's career took off after he married the daughter of Mary Boleyn, first cousin to Princess Elizabeth. Most of Queen Mary's reign he spent abroad, but on Elizabeth's accession he was made a privy counsellor and vice-chamberlain. His accumulation of estates and a large family gave him a powerful electoral interest: six of his seven sons sat in Parliament and Knollys was a leading government spokesman in all the Elizabethan parliaments. In 1567 he became treasurer of the chamber, in 1570 treasurer of the household, and in 1593 was given the Garter. His daughter Lettice married the 1st earl of Essex and then Leicester, and his grandson, the 2nd earl of Essex, was a rising sun at court in the 1590s. His second, but surviving son, was created Baron Knollys (1603), Viscount Wallingford (1616), and earl of Banbury (1626). Though Elizabeth was sparing with peerages, it is surprising that Knollys did not receive one: perhaps he was too useful in the Commons. His religious views, shading into puritanism, may have alienated the queen and his rebukes may have grown tedious.

J. A. Cannon

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