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Knyvett [Knyvet], Thomas, Baron Knyvett (1545/6–1622), courtier, was the younger son of Sir Henry Knyvet (or Knyvett; d. 1546) , soldier, gentleman of the privy chamber, and sometime ambassador to the emperor Charles V, and his wife, Anne, heir of Sir Christopher Pickering of Killington, Westmorland, and widow of Sir Francis Weston (executed in 1536). After his father's death, Knyvett's mother married John Vaughan (d. 1577). His grandfather of Buckenham, Norfolk (c.1485–1512), had been master of the horse to Henry VIII, while his elder brother , of Charlton, Wiltshire, a soldier and distinctly belligerent country gentleman, was MP for Wootton Bassett and Malmesbury in several Elizabethan parliaments.

Thomas Knyvett was a fellow-commoner at Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1564–5 and attended Gray's Inn in 1566. He was admitted to the privy chamber by 1572, and remained a gentleman of the bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth and to James I for the rest of his life. He was returned as a knight of the shire for Westmorland in 1572, and was elected as an MP for Westminster in all but one parliament between 1584 and his elevation to the Lords. He was seneschal of Penrith Castle in 1577. On 21 July 1597 he married Elizabeth, widow of Richard Warren, an Essex gentleman, who had died the previous March. Elizabeth was the eldest daughter of , lord mayor of London in 1570–71 and 1591, and his wife, Joan (née Tyllesworth). Knyvett's marriage may explain the timing of a lease in reversion of lands in Yorkshire, granted to him that same year, without fine, in consideration of his loyal service to the crown. He and his wife had no children. Elizabeth was appointed governess to King James's two youngest daughters, Mary and Sophia, both of whom died young.

Knyvett was steward and receiver of the lordship of Pickering from 1597 to 1599. He was created an honorary MA at Oxford when accompanying Queen Elizabeth on her visit to the university in 1592. Warden of the Tower mint from 27 September 1599, he was thereafter constantly at odds with the man he replaced, Sir Richard Martin, who remained a master of the mint. Some doubt surrounds the date of his knighthood, but he was probably knighted in 1601 between April and October (most likely in May). In favour with the new king, James I, Knyvett was given the manor of Stanwell, Middlesex, on 5 August 1603.

By 1597 Knyvett had been appointed keeper of Whitehall Palace and it was in this capacity that he conducted a search of the vaults under the House of Lords on the night of 4 November 1605, an operation which resulted in the arrest of Guy Fawkes, posing as John Johnson, servant to the earl of Northumberland's kinsman Thomas Percy, and standing guard over 18 hundredweight of gunpowder. Knyvett's promotion to the peerage as Lord Knyvett of Escrick, Yorkshire, may have been intended as a reward for this great service to the crown, or, more likely, as a recognition of his long and distinguished career at court. He took his seat in the Lords on 4 July 1607, and served as a privy councillor to Queen Anne. Knyvett's will, made in 1620, bequeathed his estate to his wife and strikingly declared his religious faith; by God's goodness he had attained ‘thorough many conflictes in this my pilgramage to the three skore and fifteeneth yeare of my life’; he firmly asserted his belief in:
one Supreame eternall infinite and omnipotent power divine by the most Glorious name of god The father the sonne and the holie ghost Three personns and one God in essence and power of Creatinge Redeeminge and governinge all his creatures accordinge to his good will and pleasure I beleeve withall every Article of the Nicen Athanasian & Apostolike Creed literallie with out ambiguitie or doubt by which profession I was receyved at my Baptisme to be a member of the Church of Christ. (will)
Knyvett died at his house in King Street, Westminster, on 27 July 1622 and was buried on 1 August. His widow died that September and, despite Knyvett's testamentary request for a modest monument, they were buried together in a magnificent tomb at Stanwell church. This may be the work of their descendants, for the tomb is of a somewhat later style. The Escrick estate was inherited by Knyvett's niece, , daughter of Sir Henry Knyvet of Charlton and wife of Thomas Howard, first earl of Suffolk.

Mark Nicholls

Sources  

state papers domestic, Elizabeth I and James I, TNA: PRO, SP12 and SP14 · will and sentence, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/140, sig. 78; PROB 11/141, sig. 37 · GEC, Peerage · HoP, Commons, 1558–1603, 2.420–24

Archives  

Norfolk RO, corresp.


Likenesses  

N. Stone, marble tomb effigy, 1623, St Mary's Church, Stanwell, Middlesex

Wealth at death  

see will and sentence, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/140, sig. 78; PROB 11/141, sig. 37