|Born||15 June 1549|
|Died||c. 1605 (aged about 56)|
|Noble family|| Knollys (by birth)|
Leighton (by marriage)
|Spouse(s)||Sir Thomas Leighton|
Anne, Lady St John
|Father||Sir Francis Knollys|
|Occupation|| Maid of Honour |
Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber
Elizabeth Knollys, Lady Leighton (15 June 1549 – c.1605),  was an English courtier who served Queen Elizabeth I of England, first as a Maid of Honour and secondly, after 1566, as a Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber.   Knollys was the grand-niece of Queen consort Anne Boleyn, which made her a cousin once removed of the Queen. Elizabeth married Sir Thomas Leighton of Feckenham in Worcestershire in 1578.  He served as Governor of Jersey and Guernsey.[ citation needed ]
She is sometimes mistakenly referred to in documents as "Cecilia", which was the name of her youngest sister. 
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 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. 
Knollys went to court as a Maid of Honour to Queen Elizabeth shortly after the latter ascended the English throne in 1558.  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. 
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: 
She died in 1605. On 10 June 1605, her £200 annuity was granted to Elizabeth Howard, Lady Carrick. 
|Ancestors of Elizabeth Knollys|
The character of Lady Penelope Knollys in the children's mystery novels, the Lady Grace Mysteries, is probably based on Lady Elizabeth Knollys. In the books, she is a maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth I and friend to the central character Lady Grace Cavendish. Her fictional father is given as Sir John Knollys and, in 1570, she marries Thomas Penn (rather than Thomas Leighton) at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. Penelope was the name of the real Lady Elizabeth's niece, the daughter of her brother, Sir Thomas Knollys, the Governor of Ostend.
Lettice Knollys, Countess of Essex and Countess of Leicester, was an English noblewoman and mother to the courtiers Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, and Lady Penelope Rich. By her second marriage to Elizabeth I's favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, she incurred the Queen's unrelenting displeasure.
Penelope Rich, Lady Rich, later styled Penelope Blount was an English court office holder. She served as lady-in-waiting to the English queen Anne of Denmark. She was the sister of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, and is traditionally thought to be the inspiration for "Stella" of Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophel and Stella sonnet sequence. She married Robert Rich, 3rd Baron Rich and had a public liaison with Charles Blount, Baron Mountjoy, whom she married in an unlicensed ceremony following her divorce from Rich. She died in 1607.
Catherine Carey, after her marriage Catherine Knollys and later known as both Lady Knollys and Dame Catherine Knollys,, was chief Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth I, who was her first cousin.
Mary Fitton was an Elizabethan gentlewoman who became a maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth. She is noted for her scandalous affairs with William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Leveson, and others. She is considered by some to be the "Dark Lady" of Shakespeare's sonnets.
William Carey was a courtier and favourite of King Henry VIII of England. He served the king as a Gentleman of the Privy chamber, and Esquire of the Body to the King. His wife, Mary Boleyn, is known to history as a mistress of King Henry VIII and the sister of Henry's second wife, Anne Boleyn.
Katherine Ashley, also known as "Kat Ashley" was the first close friend, governess, and Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth I of England. She was the aunt of Katherine Champernowne, who was the mother of Sir Humphrey Gilbert from her first marriage and Walter Raleigh by her second marriage.
Knollys, Knolles or Knowles, the name of an English family descended from Sir Thomas Knollys, Lord Mayor of London, possibly a kinsman of the celebrated general Sir Robert Knolles. The next distinguished member of the family was Sir Francis Knollys or Knowles, English statesman, son of Sir Robert Knollys, or Knolles, a courtier in the service and favour of Henry VII and Henry VIII. Robert had also a younger son, Sir Henry, who took part in public life during the reign of Elizabeth I and who died in 1583. From the time of Sir Francis, the family were associated with Greys Court at Rotherfield Greys and Caversham Park, then in Oxfordshire, as well as the nearby town of Reading in Berkshire, where the family's private chapel could once be seen in the church of St Laurence.
Dorothy Percy, Countess of Northumberland was the younger daughter of Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex by Lettice Knollys, and the wife of Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland.
Sir Francis Knollys, KG of Rotherfield Greys, Oxfordshire was an English courtier in the service of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Elizabeth I, and was a Member of Parliament for a number of constituencies.
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