The Tudor Society

1 May – A hot-tempered Tudor courtier

On this day in Tudor history, 1st May 1551, in the reign of King Edward VI, Norfolk landowner and Member of Parliament, Sir Edmund Knyvet, died.

Knyvet had an interesting court career, being helped by his Howard connections, but he was known for his rather hot temper, which nearly led to him losing his right hand.

Find out more about hot-tempered Sir Edmun Knyvet in today's talk.

Also on this day in Tudor history, 1st May 1517, foreign traders in London had their shops and property vandalised and damaged by a mob of angry apprentices and labourers, in what was known as the Evil May Day Riot. Find out more in last year’s video:

And 1st May 1536 was supposed to be a fun day for King Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn at the annual May Day joust but suddenly the king left abruptly, taking his good friend and groom of the stool with him. What was going on? Find out in the 1st May 1536 video in The Fall of Anne Boleyn series:

Also on this day in history:

Today is also May Day and you can find out all about how the Tudors celebrated it in this video:


On this day in history, 1st May 1551, Norfolk landowner and Member of Parliament, Sir Edmund Knyvet, died.
Before I tell you about him and his hot temper, I just want to talk about his surname. I’m not entirely sure how Sir Edmund pronounced it, but it’s commonly pronounced Niv-it, but can also be pronounced c-niv-it and even Nifton.

On to Sir Edmund...

• Sir Edmund Knyvet was the eldest son of Sir Thomas Knyvet of Buckenham Castle, Norfolk, and his wife, Muriel Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, and widow of John Grey, 2nd Viscount Lisle. Sir Thomas Knyvet had served King Henry VIII as his standard bearer and master of the horse, but was killed in the naval battle known as the Battle of St. Mathieu with the French in 1512.
• In the 1520s, Edmund married Anne Shelton, daughter of Sir John Shelton of Carrow, Norfolk. The couple went on to have two sons.
• Edmund’s wardship, and that of his half-sister, Elizabeth Grey, were purchased by Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and then sold on to Sir Thomas Wyndham and then Anthony Wingfield.
• Knyvet didn’t come into his inheritance until 1533 as his great-grandfather had outlived his father and then left the estate to another member of the family. Edmund had to wait until that man and his heir had died to enjoy the family lands.
• In late 1536, Knyvet helped his uncle, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, suppress the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion in 1536.
• He served as Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk in 1539, and was knighted in 1538 or 1539.
• Knyvet attended his uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, at the reception of Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, in January 1540.
• In 1546, he testified against his cousin, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, after Surrey was charged with treason, and he was rewarded for his service by the grant of some of the Howard lands in Norfolk.
• He helped John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, suppress Kett's Rebellion in 1549.
• Knyvet was known for his hot temper. In 1539, when Knyvet wanted to be elected as a knight of the shire for Norfolk, and Thomas Cromwell preferred Emund Wyndham and Richard Southwell, Knyvet lost his cool and argued with Southwell. The Duke of Norfolk described what happened in a letter to Thomas Cromwell, saying “Then he fell in such fume with Richard Southewell that divers of the most worshipful of the shire, fearing a breach of the peace, went to entreat between them”. Knyvet and Southwell ended up being called before the Duke of Norfolk, who “desired them to forgive displeasures and be lovers as before”, and the duke reported that Southwell was happy with that, but “Knevet said he would never love him, calling him false gentleman, knave, and other opprobrious words”. The duke reported that he bound them in £2,000 apiece to keep the peace until they appeared before the Star Chamber. The duke went on to explain to Cromwell that Knyvet “is young and trusts too much to his wit, and will neither follow the advice of his father-in-law, Sir John Shelton, nor me, but is ruled by three or four ‘light naughty knaves of Welshmen and others,’ and is running into debt. If he comes to you before I do, ‘be quick with him and give not too much confidence to his words.’”
Another example of his hot temper is from April 1541, when he hit Thomas Clere, a servant of his cousin, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, during a game of tennis at the royal court. The law stated that the punishment for an act of violence at court was the loss of the perpetrator’s right hand and Knyvet was condemned to lose his hand, but he was reprieved at the last moment.
• Knyvet died on this day in 1551 in London while there for a session of Parliament as a knight of the shire for Norfolk. He was survived by his wife and two sons.

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