1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Knolles, Sir Robert

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KNOLLES (or Knollys), SIR ROBERT (c. 1325–1407), English soldier, belonged to a Cheshire family. In early life he served in Brittany, and he was one of the English survivors who were taken prisoners by the French after the famous “combat of the thirty” in March 1351. He was, however, quickly released and was among the soldiers of fortune who took advantage of the distracted state of Brittany, at this time the scene of a savage civil war, to win fame and wealth at the expense of the wretched inhabitants. After a time he transferred his operations to Normandy, when he served under the allied standards of England and of Charles II. of Navarre. He led the “great company” in their work of devastation along the valley of the Loire, fighting at this time for his own hand and for booty, and winning a terrible reputation by his ravages. After the conclusion of the treaty of Brétigny in 1360 Knolles returned to Brittany and took part in the struggle for the possession of the duchy between John of Montfort (Duke John IV.) and Charles of Blois, gaining great fame by his conduct in the fight at Auray (September 1364), where Du Guesclin was captured and Charles of Blois was slain. In 1367 he marched with the Black Prince into Spain and fought at the battle of Nájera; in 1369 he was with the prince in Aquitaine. In 1370 he was placed by Edward III. at the head of an expedition which invaded France and marched on Paris, but after exacting large sums of money as ransom a mutiny broke up the army, and its leader was forced to take refuge in his Breton castle of Derval and to appease the disappointed English king with a large monetary gift. Emerging from his retreat Knolles again assisted John of Montfort in Brittany, where he acted as John’s representative; later he led a force into Aquitaine, and he was one of the leaders of the fleet sent against the Spaniards in 1377. In 1380 he served in France under Thomas of Woodstock, afterwards duke of Gloucester, distinguishing himself by his valour at the siege of Nantes; and in 1381 he went with Richard II. to meet Wat Tyler at Smithfield. He died at Sculthorpe in Norfolk on the 15th of August 1407. Sir Robert devoted much of his great wealth to charitable objects. He built a college and an almshouse at Pontefract, his wife’s birthplace, where the almshouse still exists; he restored the churches of Sculthorpe and Harpley; and he helped to found an English hospital in Rome. Knolles won an immense reputation by his skill and valour in the field, and ranks as one of the foremost captains of his age. French writers call him Canolles, or Canole.