Katherine Knollys

On the wall of St Edmund's chapel in Westminster Abbey is a coloured alabaster monument near the grave of Katherine, wife of Sir Francis Knollys (he died in 1596 and is buried at Rotherfield Greys church in Oxfordshire).

The inscription on the tablet reads:

The Right Honorable Lady Katherin Knollys Cheeffe Lady of the Quenes Maties [Majesty's] Beddechamber and wiffe to Sr. Frances Knollys Knight Tresorer [Treasurer] of her Highnes Howsholde. Departed this lyefe the 15. of January 1568. At Hampton Courte. And was honorably buried in the flower [floor] of this chappell. This Lady Knollys and the Lord Hundesdon her brother were the childeren of William Caree Esquyer, and of the Lady Mary his wiffe one of the doughters and heires to Thomas Bulleyne Erle of Wylshier [Wiltshire] and Ormond. Which Lady Mary was sister to Anne Quene of England wiffe to Kinge Henry the Eyght father and mother to Elizabeth Quene of England.

Below is a Latin inscription which can be translated:

O, Francis, she who was thy wife, behold, Catherine Knolle lies dead under the chilly marble. I know well that she will never depart from thy soul, though dead. Whilst alive she was always loved by thee: living, she bore thee, her husband, sixteen children, equally female and male (that is, both gentle and valiant). Would that she had lived many years with thee and thy wife was now an old lady. But God desired it not. But he willed that thou, O Catherine, should await thy husband in Heaven.

The date of her death on the monument is given in Old Style dating so that is now called 1569. It has columns and a decorative border with crests of a swan, a bull's head and a maiden's head. There are four shields which include the coats of arms of Knowles, Carey, Spencer, Beaufort and Boleyn among others. The monument was repaired and re-erected higher on the wall in the 1960s.

Katherine's brother Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon has a magnificent monument in St John the Baptist's chapel.

Katherine was the daughter of William Carey and Mary Boleyn and was born about 1524. In about 1540 she married Francis, elder son of Robert Knollys. Francis was a politician, master of the horse to Prince Edward and fought at the battle of Pinkie in 1547, when he was knighted. He was later a Privy Councillor and for a time guardian of Mary, Queen of Scots. Katherine held the post of lady of the bedchamber to Elizabeth I until her death on 15th January 1569. The queen paid the expenses of the funeral.


Of their sixteen children (some of whom probably died young) Edward died in 1575, Henry in 1582, Richard in 1596, Robert in 1619, William in 1632, Francis in 1648 and Thomas was the youngest son. Daughter Lettice married Walter Devereux, earl of Essex and secondly Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, Elizabeth married Sir Thomas Leighton, Anne married Thomas, Lord De La Warr, Katherine married Gerald Fitzgerald and secondly Sir Philip Boteler and Cecilia seems not to have married.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Expenses for her burial are in the manuscript collection at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire

For Francis see also History of Parliament online


15th January 1569


Chapel of St Edmund

Memorial Type

Grave; tablet

Material Type

Marble; alabaster

Katherine Knollys
Katherine Knollys monument

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster