This interesting name is of Anglo-Saxon origin and is a locational surname from any one of the various places called "Knightley", for example in Staffordshire. The placename is composed of the Old English pre 7th Century elements "cniht", which mean servant or retainer with "leah", wood or clearing in a wood. The modern sense of "knight", which derives from the same "cniht", did not develop until the late Middle Ages, when it was generally used to denote an honourable estate conferred by the King on men of noble birth who had served him well. Locational surnames were given particularly to those who moved to another area and were known as for example, Robert de (of) Knyghteleye, recorded in Essex in 1351. Anne Knightley married Robert Hobbey on January 23rd 1563 in London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Jordan de Knitteleg, which was dated 1207, Pleas before the King's Justices, Staffordshire, during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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