These wills are from a variety of sources – some from the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, and others from county record offices. Most of the wills have been transcribed to include all the names mentioned, but not necessarily all of the details of what each person received, so please see the originals for complete details.
- Knightley, George, gentleman of London, 1608
- Knightley, Matthew, Rector of Cossington, Leicestershire, 1561
- Knightley, William, gentleman of Norwich, Norfolk, 1548
Knightley, George, gentleman of London, 1608
- To be buried near “my deceased good wife.”
- Bound for an annuity of £16 during the life of Henry Reignoldes, gent.
- Cousin John Hare esq
- Godson Reignald Rous esq £5
- Katherine daughter of Reignald Rous £5
- Constance Rous now wife of John Hastings, gent, £50 and some household goods. To John Hastings: two golden 30 shilling pieces
- Servant Lancelot Harvey £10 and a gown. “I do forgive him the debt his brother did owe me because he had little wages of me.”
- Servant Mary Staple £10
- Miss Mary Tipper: a cup
- Reignald Rous son of Owen Rous that was the son of Katherine my sister [ie. Owen is testator’s nephew, and “Reignald” is his great-nephew]: ring with seal of my arms, my armour, certain household goods, and a debt of £150 owed by Edmund Pirton esq, my late wife’s brother. And: £200 in the hands of my cousin Raphe Sadler, £200 in hands of my cousin Michael Heydon, £100 in hands of Simon Hastings. Rest and residue, to be executor.
- Asks Sir Edward Cooke, Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, to be his supervisor.
“All being my own hand.”
Written 22 Feb 1606/7, probate 29 Jan 1607/8
Transcriber’s notes: George married Katherine, daughter of Sir William Pyrton of Essex. They had no children. George’s sister Lettice married first William Clippesby, then William Cardinall (though none of Lettice’s children are mentioned in the will). His sister Winifred married Robert Cooke/Coke, and became the parents of Sir Edward, the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. George’s sister Katherine married Reynold Rous of Badingham, and several of their children are mentioned in the will, along with their grandson being named as George’s executor.
Henry Reignoldes might be the son of Henry Reignoldes of Belstead, Suffolk (bef 1527-1587) and Elizabeth Withypool (1553-?). He was born in Belstead in about 1581 and was swindled from his inheritance by his mother and his stepfather, George Brooke. Elizabeth decided that she wanted to keep the manors and lands that her husband had left him so that she would find another husband more easily, and George monopolised it. Even taking them to the Court of Chancery brought no resolution as George refused to hand the reins to his stepson. Henry might’ve been the poet of the same name who was known to have come from Suffolk. He made a terrible marriage with a young widow, Elizabeth, a daughter of Sir Dru Drury, and went off onto the continent at every opportunity. The Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology contains an article which goes into the tragic story in great depth and is well worth reading.
George was related to Henry Reignoldes of Belstead by marriage. Henry’s stepbrother, William Goldingham, Doctor at Law, married Ann Cotton, and her nephew, William Cotton of Ipswich, married Lucy, the daughter of Reginald Rouse of Badingham. Lucy appears to have been the daughter of George’s sister, Katherine. And Anne Rouse, daughter of Reginald’s relative William Rouse of Badingham, was Henry Reynolds senior’s second wife, and was William Goldingham’s mother. Her first marriage had been to Christopher Goldingham.
“My cousin Raphe Sadler”: Ann, one of the daughters of Sir Edward Coke, married Ralph Sadler. This is probably the “Raphe Sadler” in the will. As Sir Edward was George’s nephew (half-nephew to be precise), it would mean Ralph was George Knightley’s great-nephew-in-law.
“My cousin Michael Heydon”: this is likely to be Michael Haydon, son of Thomas Haydon of North Cott Hill, Tring, Herts, and his wife Margery. Margery was born Jacob alias Bredelaughe (or Bredelaughe/Bradlaugh alias Jacob). George’s mother Agnes Hare was first married to William Bredelaughe alias Jacob, and her two daughters from her first marriage, Mary and Margaret, are mentioned in the will of William Knightley (below). There was a Margery, daughter of William Bradlaugh alias Jacob, but I think she was from his first marriage, to Agnes Derehaugh. If that’s the case, then the relationship between George Knightley and Michael Haydon is convoluted. The easiest way to parse it is to say George’s half-sisters’ half-nephew. Or grandson of his mother’s first husband by his first wife. But George was also related to Michael by marriage via another route – George’s sister Lettice married William Cardinall and two of William’s daughters (one was Lettice’s, the other was by William’s first wife) married Derehaugh brothers who were blood relatives of Agnes Derehaugh, Margery’s mother (yes, it’s very confusing!).
George was buried at St Andrew’s, Holborn, on the same day as his great-nephew probated his will.
Knightley, Matthew, Rector of Cossington, Leicestershire, 1561
- To buried in a grave already purchased in the chancel of Cossington church
- Money to the mother churches in Lincoln and Ely
- Money to his parish of Fulm. [Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire] and the curate
- Money to the church of Cossington, and to each household
- Money to the poor and the curates/vicars of: Sylebye [Sileby], Segrave [Seagrave], Ratcliff, Sythestone [Swepstone or Syston?], Rotheleye [Rothley], Mountsorrel, Querdon [?], Burrowe [most, if not all, in Leicestershire]
- Money to the poor, the vicar, and the school of Downe and parish of Bruyde [Brewood, Staffs], where I was born
- William Knyghtleye, if he be alive
- Thomas Thorpe
- Nephew Mr Robert Cooke
- Niece Gaudie
- Niece Mistress Cardinall
- Goddaughter Anne Shurleye [Shirley]
- Cousin Mistress Dorothy Shurleye
- Mr Thomas Babington and his wife
- Godson Matthew Watkyn
- Former servants Robert Saunders and Richard Garland
- Richard Wilkins and his wife Emme, my day woman
- My cook Ralph Peake
- William Monncke of Sylbie
- My chaplain William Pollard
Executors: William Monncke and William Pollard
Supervisor: Mr Francis Shurleye of Stanton esquire
Witnesses: John Felton, curate of Sylbie; Matthew Watkyn, Robert Wyld, Richard Chamberlayne
Written 21 June 1560, probate 19 July 1561.
Testator buried at Cossington 12 July 1561.
Leicestershire wills (accessed on Findmypast)
Transcriber’s notes: Matthew Knightley was the brother of William Knightley of Norwich (see will below). He studied at Cambridge (college unknown on Alum. Cam.), being awarded his BA in 1498/9 and his MA in 1502/3. He was the rector of Fowlmere in Cambridgeshire from 1517 to his death, and of Cossington in Leicestershire, where he was buried.
He mentions a William Knightley in his will, if he is still alive. His brother had died in 1548, so it’s unlikely he means him. William and Matthew had a brother, Thomas (presumably the eldest as the Essex Visitation for Knightley (1558) says that Thomas was the heir of their father (another Thomas) – the William named in the will could be Thomas’ son. He then names Robert Cooke (who had married William’s daughter Winifred), his niece Gaudie (William’s daughter Audrey, who married Thomas Gawdey), and his niece Mistress Cardinall (William’s daughter Lettice, whose second husband was William Cardinall).
Thomas Babington and his wife Eleanor (daughter of Richard Humphrey and Jane Parsell) lived in Cossington, so would have known Matthew. Interestingly, they had a son called Matthew, who may have been godson of Matthew Knightley. Eleanor’s grandmother was Maud/Matilda Knightley, daughter of Richard Knightley and Eleanor Throckmorton, so Matthew Knightley and Eleanor were relations – even though this isn’t stated in the will. Maud Knightley’s first husband was William Humfrey of Barton Seagrave, and her third husband was Hugh Shirley.
The Shirleys – Anne, Dorothy, and Francis – lived in Staunton Harold, Leicestershire. Francis and Dorothy’s son George was the first Shirley baronet (and the second man to ever become a baronet), and the family would eventually become the Earls Ferrers, in 1711. The fact that Dorothy is named as a cousin helps to back up part of the Essex Visitation, which says that Matthew, William and Thomas’ father, Thomas Knightley, married a Gifford. We know that Dorothy was the daughter of Sir John Giffard (c1465-1556) of Chillington in the parish of Brewood, so Thomas Knightley must have married one of the Chillington Giffards – perhaps a sister of Sir John. Going back further in the Knightley tree, there’s an earlier Knightley/Giffard marriage (going back to the 1300s or 1400s), when Richard Knightley of Gnosall married Joan daughter of (another!) Sir John Gifford. Although could the link be Maud Knightley’s third husband? That said there could be two links – Gifford and Shirley.
It would seem that Matthew was born in Brewood because it was where the Giffords lived. In 1553, Matthew Knightley and Sir Thomas Gifford re-established the Grammar school in Brewood (it had been a chantry school, which had been closed at the Dissolution of the Monasteries) – this is the school which Matthew mentions in his will. A Thomas Knightley – most likely to be Matthew’s father – appears in Brewood’s manorial records in the 1470s, around the time Matthew would’ve been born. Sir Thomas would be his cousin just as Dorothy Shirley was, but I don’t know exactly how they are related.[as of May 2023, I’m trying to work out how the Giffords fit into the Knightley tree, and trying to iron out possible errors in the Essex Visitation for Knightley. For instance – the Visitation says that Richard Knightley of Fawsley, Northants, married Elizabeth Purefoy and they had two sons, Sir Richard and second son John. Then Thomas, the father of William, Matthew, and Thomas jnr is John’s son. However, several sources, such as the History of Parliament, say that John was the eldest and had no surviving children, so that the Knightley name continued with Sir Richard and his wife Eleanor Throckmorton. The Knightley arms used by “my” Knightleys have the blue border denoting they are a cadet branch, so I wonder if this means that Thomas senior was in fact Sir Richard and Eleanor’s younger son? It’s not unknown for families at that time to have more than one child with the same name. They could have had an eldest son called John, a second son called Richard, and a third called John. Once the eldest John died, they shuffled up one place, so that Richard became the eldest, and John junior became the second son.]
Knightley, William, gentleman of Norwich, Norfolk, 1548
- Money for: repairs to the church of St Peter Per Mountergate, for the Guild Hall, and for prisoners in the castle
- 10 marks to be spent on mourning gowns, smocks etc for the poor
- Son George to “be found a school”, and to have 5 marks yearly
- Daughters Audrey and Katherine: to have 40sh yearly until married, and then to have 40 marks each on their marriages. If either reach 21 without marrying, to be paid 40 marks.
- My wife’s daughters Mary and Margaret 5 marks each
- Executors to occupy my manor of Meye and all my other lands and tenements in Sawston, Heverland and other nearby towns to perform my will, until my son George reaches 18, and to his heirs. Once George inherits the properties, his 5 marks annually to cease. Default of heirs: to my daughters Winifred, Audrey and Katherine and their heirs.
- All land, tenements etc in Bawton, Smalburgh, and others to executors until son George is 24, and to his issue. If no issue, to daughters as abovesaid.
- After the death of wife Agnes, manor of Mahgnt? [Martham?] to son George and his heirs. If no heirs, reversion as before.
- Wife Agnes: property in Aylesham to sell, using the money to perform will
- Wife Agnes: for life, house in St Martin’s, Ipswich
Executors: wife Agnes, her brother Sir Nicholas Hare kt, my cousin Sir William Pawe, parson of Beloud, Norfolk
Witnesses: Henry Attemere, Henry Humfrye, Robert Humfrye, Frances Wollmer
Written 12 Oct 1547, probate 24 Aug 1548
Transcriber’s notes: the father of George Knightley, above. He’s also the father of Lettice (wife of William Clippesby of Oby and William Cardinall of Great Bromley), Elizabeth (wife of Christopher Hill of East Bergholt), Winifred (wife of Robert Cooke/Coke and Robert Bozom), Audrey (wife of Thomas Gawdey), and Katherine (wife of Reginald Rouse of Badingham).
The testator was married twice, to Margaret Pawe (his “cousin” William Pawe was in fact his brother-in-law), and to Agnes Hare. Agnes had been married before, as the testator left money to his wife’s daughter’s Mary and Margaret. The Essex Visitation 1558 for Knightley only gives his wife “Anne” Hare (Agnes), and attributes all of William’s children to her, but this is incorrect. Lettice, Elizabeth, Winifred and Audrey are all named in William Pawe’s will as his nieces, so they must be Margaret Pawe’s daughters. Then Catherine and George are named in the will of Sir Nicholas Hare, Agnes’ brother – meaning they are Agnes Hare’s children [sad as I am to discover that I’m not related to Sarah Hare, whose waxwork is in a cabinet at Stow Bardolph church in Norfolk].
The Essex Visitation also incorrectly gives “Anne’s” Hare’s father’s name as Thomas – he was in fact John Hare of Homersfield (his 1526 will is at NRO). Agnes was buried at Homersfield in 1568 as “Anne Knightley, gentlewoman.” Her administration is also at NRO.