Elizabeth, Lady Leighton (Knollys)

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About Elizabeth, Lady Leighton (Knollys)

Elizabeth Knollys

F, #13762, b. 1549

Elizabeth Knollys

by George Gower, 1577 1

  Elizabeth Knollys was born in 1549. She was the daughter of Sir Francis Knollys and Katherine Carey.

Children of Elizabeth Knollys and Sir Thomas Leighton

1.Elizabeth Leighton+(c1580)

2. Thomas Leighton (1584)

2.Anne Leighton+ (1587)


Elizabeth Knollys was born on 15 June 1549, the second daughter and one of the 15 children of Sir Francis Knollys and Catherine Carey, the daughter of Sir William Carey and Mary Boleyn. This made Elizabeth the grand-niece of Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII. She had 11 surviving siblings, the eldest of whom, Lettice Knollys, would later be banished from court after secretly marrying Queen Elizabeth's favourite, Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester. She was brought up in a staunchly Protestant household at Greys Court at Rotherfield Greys in Oxfordshire and Abbey House at Reading in Berkshire. In 1556, three years after the Catholic Princess Mary Tudor had become queen, Sir Francis Knollys and his wife were compelled to seek refuge in Frankfurt, Germany to escape the relentless Marian persecutions against known Protestants. It is not known if Elizabeth accompanied them as her parents took only five of their children abroad, leaving the others behind in England. Her mother was Chief Lady of the Bedchamber and her sister Lettice was a Maid of the Privy Chamber. Another sister, Anne would later join the royal court. On 5 January 1566, Elizabeth Knollys was appointed a Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber receiving an annual salary of £33 6s 8d which would have the same spending worth of 2005's £5,676.67

Elizabeth Knollys married Sir Thomas Leighton of Feckenham, Worcestershire, son of John Leighton of Wattlesborough in Shropshire and his wife, Joyce Sutton, in 1578. Leighton (who is sometimes called Layton) was a diplomat and soldier, and shared with her father the same strong Puritan beliefs. Following her marriage, Knollys, now styled Lady Leighton, continued to serve Queen Elizabeth in the same capacity as a Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber, despite her sister Lettice's banishment from court. Her husband held the office of Governor of Jersey and Guernsey in the Channel Islands. Lady Leighton, however, did not spend much time on either island, much preferring life at court. Sir Walter Raleigh was her admirer, and had written her a poem.

An unknown artist after George Gower painted her portrait in 1577. It shows her with curled hair; she is wearing a black hat with a feather, and an elaborate, ornamented gown, which are likely indications that she did not share her husband's dour Puritan sympathies. Her black hat was displayed at the National Maritime Museum in an exhibition in 2003 which was curated by noted Tudor historian, David Starkey. Knollys had given Queen Elizabeth a similar black hat as a gift in 1578/9. In turn, Knollys is listed as having been the recipient of many New Year's presents from the Queen.

Together Lady Leighton and her husband had three children:[7]

Thomas (born 1584), married Mary Zouche Elizabeth (died 12 January 1633), married Sherington Talbot, by whom she had issue. Anne (died July 1628 in childbirth), married Sir John St John, 1st Baronet, by whom she had 13 children in 14 years.

She died in 1605. On 10 June 1605, her £200 annuity was granted to Elizabeth Howard, Lady Carrick.

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Elizabeth, Lady Leighton (Knollys)'s Timeline

June 15, 1549
Stanford, Berkshire, England
Feckenham, Worcestershire, England
Hanbury, Worcestershire, England, United Kingdom
Age 55