George Knightley

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George Knightley
Jeremy Northam as George Knightley in the 1996 American film adaptation of Emma
Jeremy Northam as George Knightley in the 1996 American film adaptation of Emma
Full name George Knightley
Gender Male
Age 36 or 37[1] in the beginning of the novel
Occupation Landed gentleman
Primary residence Donwell Abbey; after he marries, Hartfield
Romantic interest(s) Emma Woodhouse
Sibling(s) Mr. John Knightley

George Knightley is a principal character depicted by Jane Austen in her novel Emma, written in 1815. He is a very wealthy landowner and a lifetime friend of Emma's, though he is nearly seventeen years older than she. He enjoys correcting Emma, as Emma observes in chapter 1.


A kind and compassionate person, Mr. Knightley portrays good judgment, high moral character and maturity in contrast to Emma's still-maturing character. One incident which displays this is his disappointment when he sees Emma insult Miss Bates, a spinster of modest means. Mr. Knightley's reprimand of Emma for this insult also demonstrates his affection and esteem for her as a friend. Another incident which shows his quality is his anger with Emma for persuading Harriet Smith to refuse Robert Martin's proposal of marriage, Martin being in Knightley's eyes an eminently suitable mate for Harriet.

Role in narrative[edit]

1898 illustration of the wedding of George Knightley and Emma Woodhouse

In the course of the story, Emma falls briefly in love with a young, handsome man named Frank Churchill. Mr. Knightley's jealousy is implied, and he makes several negative remarks about Churchill. It is later revealed that Mr. Knightley was afraid that Frank has had a negative influence on Emma. Frank Churchill's guardian—his aunt—dies, and he is now free to publicize his engagement to Jane Fairfax, which had been kept secret to avoid his aunt's disapproval. Emma is shocked, but realizes she had never really had romantic sentiments towards Frank Churchill. Nevertheless, she worries that Harriet has feelings for Frank, but soon discovers that Harriet has become infatuated with Mr. Knightley.

Emma becomes very unhappy; finally it dawns on her that she loves Mr. Knightley—and has for a time, apparently unconsciously—and is distressed as she believes Mr. Knightley and Harriet to be on the verge of marriage. Mr. Knightley is in London, visiting John and Isabella Knightley when he is apprised of Churchill's clandestine engagement. He decided to return to Hartfield to offer support to Emma, whom he believes to be deeply in love with Mr. Churchill. On the spur of the moment, after finding this to be untrue, he declares his love to Emma and asks her to marry him, and she accepts. Harriet and Robert Martin marry; Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill plan a November wedding. Within a month, Emma and Mr. Knightley marry and, because Mr. Woodhouse can't face life without his daughter, Mr. Knightley gallantly moves in with Emma and her father at their estate, Hartfield.

Notable portrayals[edit]


  1. ^ Emma 1996 Film