William Knollys KG

William Knollys KG (abt. 1547 - 1632)

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Sir William "1st Earl of Banbury" Knollys KG
Born about in Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married after 11 Mar 1573 [location unknown]
Husband of — married 23 Dec 1605 [location unknown]
Descendants descendants
Father of
Died in London, Middlesex, Englandmap
Profile last modified 1 Jun 2019 | Created 12 Nov 2008
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Sir William Knollys, was born about 1547, in England, he died on 25 May 1632, London, Middlesex, England at Dr. Grant's house on Paternoster Roll. His parents were Sir Francis Knollys, K.G. and Lady Catherine Carey, niece of Anne Boleyn, Queen of Henry VIII. Sir William inherited his father's estates on 19 July 1596.[1]

Sir William education begun with Josceline (Julius) Palmer. Palmer was persecuted in 1556 because of his religious beliefs.[2] William attended Magdalen College, Oxford University, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England. He "was created Master of Arts at Oxford on 27 September 1592."[3]

William Shakespeare may have partly modeled the character "Malvolio" in Twelfth Night after Sir William and Sir Posthumas Hoby. Sir William was in charge of the Queen's Household, and he frowned upon sporting events, and parties. He also, fell in love with Mary Fitton, a girl 31 years younger then him. Trouble was he had a wife, whom he no longer wanted, and young Mary didn't want him. So, he wrote her love letters, hoping to win her love, but she was in love with Wlilliam Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke. Sir William was so obvious about his desire for Mary that songs were written about him.

"Party Beard, party beard--the white hind was crossed: Brave Pembroke struck her down and took her from the clown."

He had the nickname of Party Beard because his beard was three colors, it was white at the roots, yellow in the middle, and black at the ends.[4][5]

Sir William Knollys, was married twice. On 11 March 1573, as a young man of 26, he married Lady Dorothy Bray, the widow of Edmund Brydges, Lord Chandos, a woman twenty years older then him. Dorothy was the daughter of Edmund Braye, 1st Lord Braye. William eventually grew tired of her, and openly pursued the young Mary Fitton. Dorothy died 31 October 1605, at Minty, Gloucestershire, England, and was buried at Rotherfield Greys. She was called Old Lady Chandos.[1]

A few weeks after the death of Dorothy, Sir William married nineteen year old Lady Elizabeth Howard, the daughter of Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk and Katharine Knyvett. Sir William was 39 years older then Elizabeth. They had one daughter, born before 1610, who died as an infant. [1] [2]They possibly had another child, who also died as an infant. [1][2] Sir William and Elizabeth were married twenty-one years, and no surviving children were born until Sir William was in his 80s. When he was approved by Parliament in 1628 as Earl of Banbury, he was assumed to be without heirs. Yet, his wife had son Edward on 10 April 1627. Five weeks after the death of Sir William, Elizabeth married Edward Vaux, 4th Lord Vaux, son Nicholas was born on 3 January 1630/1. There was litigation after his death relating to the succession to his honours due to the reputed illegitimacy of his youngest son, the 3rd Earl of Banbury. The Parliament members assumed that a man as old as Sir William couldn't have been the father of Edward and Nicholas. Edward was finally ruled legitimate. In 1661, Nicholas, Earl of Banbury, was ruled a 'legitimate person.' The battle continued over this issue into the 1800s.[1] [6][7]

Sir William Knollys wrote his will on 19 May 1630, it was proved on 2 July 1632. He left Elizabeth, the Countess of Banbury, everything except for a few legacies to servants. He didn't acknowledge any children in his will. Sir William died in London, and was buried at Rotherfield Greys. [8][9]

Political Career

Sir William was treasurer to James I. He was raised to the peerage of Baron Banbury and Viscount Wallingford by James I and then to Earl of Banbury by Charles I. [1]

1572-1583, Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Tregony
1584-1586, M.P. for Oxfordshire
7 October 1586, appointed Knight by Robert, Earl of Leicester
1592-1593, M.P. for Oxfordshire
1596-1600, Held Office of Comptroller of the Household
1596-1632, Office of Lord-Lieutenant of Berkshire
30 August 1596, Privy Counsellor (P.C.)
1597-1598, M.P. for Oxfordshire
1599, Delegate State of Holland
1600-1616, Office of Treasurer of the Household
1601, M.P. Oxfordshire
13 May 1603, Created 1st Baron Knollys of Greys, co. Oxford, England
1614-1618, Master of the Wards
24 April 1615, Knight, Order of the Garter (K.G.)
7 November 1616, 1st Viscount Wallingford, co. Berks
1620, High Steward of Oxford
18 August 1626, 1st Earl of Banbury, co. Oxford, England that he shall have precedency as if he had been created the first Earle after his Majestys access to the Crowne. The King desired to do this honor for William because, desires this may pass for once in this particular, considering how old a man this Lord is, and childless,--- On 9 April 1628, Act of Parliament permitted this, but it was for only his lifetime.[1]

Research Notes

A birthplace of France was previously listed for Sir William, but no sources have been found to support that.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 George Edward Cokayne, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom: Extant, Extinct, or Dormant. [Second edition] (13 volumes in 14 parts, 1910-1959; with a 14th volume of corrections and additions, 1998) Volume 1, pgs. 400-408, BANBURY Sir William Knollys
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Dictionary of National Biography By Sidney Lee, p.286, 1892, [1]
  3. Historical Notices of the Parishes of Swycombe and Ewelme in the County of Oxford, By Henry Alfred Napier, 1858, p.379 William Knollys received master of arts
  4. Wikipedia contributors, "William Knollys, 1st Earl of Banbury," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=William_Knollys,_1st_Earl_of_Banbury&oldid=866041662 (accessed February 13, 2019).
  5. The Shakespeare Enigma By Peter Dawkins, 2004, Polair Poblishing, p.140 Shakespeare, Malvolio
  6. A Treatise on the Law of Adulterine Bastardy, with a report of the Banbury Case, by Sir N. Harris Nicholas, 1836, p. 588
  7. A Digest of the Laws of England Respecting Real Property, Volumes 3-4 By William Cruise, p.266, https://books.google.com.au/books?id=Z3c0AQAAMAAJ&pg=RA3-PA110#v=onepage&q&f=false
  8. Historical Notices of the Parishes of Swycombe and Ewelme in the County of Oxford, By Henry Alfred Napier, 1858, p.387 Will of Sir William
  9. A Treatise on the Origin and Nature of Dignities, Or Titles of Honor: Containing All the Cases of Peerage, Together with the Mode of Proceeding in Claims of this Kind, By William Cruise, 1823 p.286, https://books.google.com.au/books?id=JpYDAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA286#v=onepage&q&f=false

Also See:

  • History of Parliament, KNOLLYS, William (c.1545-1632), of Rotherfield Greys and Caversham, Oxon. Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981 William Knollys
  • A biography of Sir William Knollys, ThePeerage.com.
  • Source: Ancestry Family Trees Publication: Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network. Original data: Family Tree files submitted by Ancestry members.


WikiTree profile Knollys-60 created through the import of Newmans.ged on Nov 14, 2011 by Kathryn Newman. See the Changes page for the details of edits by Kathryn and others.

Thanks to Kerry Fisher for starting this profile.

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On 10 Feb 2019 at 09:21 GMT Gillian Thomas wrote:

Hi Kerry, following previous communication with you, the England Project is taking on management of this profile. See Project-Managed Profiles Help for more information. Thank you for your care of this profile and we hope you will join the England Project to maintain your close interest. Regards, Gillian, Leader, England Project.

On 16 Apr 2018 at 08:05 GMT C. Mackinnon wrote:

Is there any source that says he was born in France? Surely a matter of interest but no one mentions it.

William is 19 degrees from Cari Starosta, 11 degrees from Marie-Antoinette d'Autriche and 4 degrees from Henry VIII of England on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.