Henry Knyvett

A breefe treatis or rather a project for a course to be taken for the defence of this Realm...

Written in 1596 by Sir Henry Knyvett


Sir Henry Knyvett was a Norfolk nobleman who married a wealthy Wiltshire heiress and became one of the leading gentlemen of that county. He occupied various positions of high office and received a knighthood for valour in the fight with the Spanish off Calais. It was the capture of Calais by the French from the Spaniards which caused him to write the Defence of the Realm. His proposals for reorganizing the militia included training in the use of the long bow and the employment of archers. However, since in 1595 Council had ordered that bowmen were to be converted into musketeers, Knyvett’s project was doomed before it had even been written. Knyyett completed the work at the end of April 1596 and it was then written out and lettered in gold and bound in red velvet (Elizabeth’s favourite) for presentation to the Queen.

The manuscript was given to the Library by 24 March 1680. The precise date and the donor’s identity are not known.

The entire manuscript has now been digitised and is available to view as a pdf here.