Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 31.djvu/294

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Knollys
Knollys
288

1655, Anne, daughter of William, lord Sherard of Leitrim. In June 1660 he attended the Convention parliament in the House of Lords, but it was not until 13 July 1660 that the first attempt was made to dispute his right to his seat there. It was then moved that ‘there being a person that now sits in this house as a peer of the realm, viz. the Earl of Banbury, it is ordered that this business shall be heard at the bar by counsel’ on the 23rd. Knollys attended the house daily in the week preceding that appointed for the hearing, and was present on the day itself. But no proceedings were taken, and on 24 July he was nominated, under the style of Earl of Banbury, to sit on the committee on the Excise Bill. On 21 Nov. it was ordered that the earl ‘hath leave to be absent for some time.’ On 29 Dec. the Convention parliament was dissolved.

No writ of summons was sent to Knollys for the new parliament, meeting 8 May 1661. He therefore petitioned the king for the issue of the writ and for all the old earl's rights of precedency. His petition when forwarded to the House of Lords was referred to a committee of privileges. This committee examined the servants who were at Harrowden at the time of his birth. The attorney-general argued on behalf of the king that the old earl had died childless, but the committee reported on 1 July 1661 that ‘Nicholas, Earl of Banbury, is a legitimate person.’ The House of Lords, after a long debate and an examination of witnesses before the whole house, declined to accept this report, and the committee was directed to reconsider it, and also to examine Knollys's title to the old earl's precedency. In the result another report was issued on 19 July declaring the claimant to be ‘in the eye of the law’ son of the late earl, but denying him his claim to precedency. The House of Lords adjourned before taking this second report into consideration, and after reassembling in November, although it was decided to discuss it on 9 Dec. following, a bill declaring Knollys illegitimate was, on that date, read for a first time. The report was never considered, nor did the bill go beyond the initial stage. When the house met on 26 Oct. 1669, nearly eight years later, the committee of privileges, at the suggestion of some friend of Knollys, was directed to examine the grounds on which the Earl of Banbury's name was omitted from the roll, but their report merely rehearsed the previous proceedings, without suggesting any conclusion. On 23 Feb. 1670 Knollys once more petitioned the lords to admit him to their house, but the petition was passed over without notice. On 14 March 1673-4 Knollys died at Boughton, Northamptonshire. His widow survived till 10 March 1679-80.

Charles Knollys, called fourth Earl of Banbury (1662-1740), son of the above by his second wife, was baptised at Boughton as ‘Viscount Wallingford,’ son of ‘the Earl of Banbury,’ 3 June 1662, and on 10 June 1685 petitioned the House of Lords for a writ of summons; the committee of privileges for a second time issued a report of the earlier history of the case, and the house resolved to hear counsel for and against the claim on 6 July, but owing to adjournments and prorogations the case was not heard. The controversy entered on a new phase in 1692. In that year Knollys fought a duel with his brother-in-law, Captain Philip Lawson, and killed him. He was arrested, and on 7 Dec. 1692 was indicted for murder under the style of ‘Charles Knollys, esq.’ He at once stated, in a petition to the House of Lords, that as Earl of Banbury he was entitled to a trial by his peers. On 9 Jan. 1692-3 the lords heard arguments for and against the plea. Finch and Sir Thomas Powis represented Knollys, while Sir John Somers, attorney-general, appeared for the crown and resisted his pretensions. A proposal to invite the opinion of the judges on points of law was rejected by the lords (17 Jan. 1692-3), and a resolution declaring the petitioner to have no right to the earldom was carried. Twenty peers protested against this decision. Meanwhile Knollys remained in Newgate, but he obtained a writ for the removal of his trial from the Middlesex sessions to the court of king's bench, and when arraigned there in Hilary term 1693 in the name of Charles Knollys, he pleaded a misnomer. The trial was delayed while this plea was under consideration in the law courts, and the prisoner was admitted to bail 3 May 1693. The attorney-general insisted that the resolution of the lords destroyed Knollys's case, but in Trinity term 1694 Lord-chief-justice Holt [q. v.], with the three other judges of the king s bench, unanimously quashed the indictment and set the defendant free on the ground that he was Earl of Banbury, and that his name was wrongly entered. In January 1698, on 19 May 1712, and on the accession of George II in 1727, Knollys again petitioned the crown to issue a writ of summons. On the first of these occasions the lords were once more invited to consider the question. Maintaining their hostile attitude a committee of privileges summoned Holt and the other judges to explain their recent judgment. Holt declined to offer any explanation, and the matter dropped. Owing to accidental circumstances the advisers of