John Harrington was an English writer. In addition to being an accomplished poet and courtier, John is credited with inventing the first English flushing toilet. 
John Harington was born in about 1560, probably in London, England to parents John Harington and his second wife Isabella Markham. He was baptised on August 4th, 1560 in the Church of All Hallows, London Wall.  Queen Elizabeth I stood as Godmother to John Harington as a result of his parents' close connection with her during her period in the Tower of London under the reign of Queen Mary. 
John, like many other young men of his class and time, was well educated. He studied at Eton, under two future Bishops of Winchester, William Day and William Wickham. In his own words, his schoolmasters showed him "as fatherly a care, as if he had bene a second tutor".  He matriculated from Kings College, Cambridge in 1576 and received the degree of BA in 1577-78.  At about that time he received a letter from Lord Burghley, exhorting him to attend to his studies and become proficient in all tongues and sciences. He clearly took this advice and was awarded an MA in 1581.  After his time at Cambridge, on 27 Nov 1581, he was admitted to Lincoln's Inn, however his father's death in 1582 meant the end of his legal studies and John returned to Kelston to the family estates. 
On 6 September 1583, at Cannington, Somerset he wed Mary Rogers, the daughter of George Rogers of Cannington and Joan Winter.  This marriage brought a great deal of wealth to the already affluent Harington family and allowed John to complete construction of the ostentatious house on the family’s manor of Kelston, begun by his father in about 1570. When it was completed in about 1590 it was said to be the largest and grandest house in the county. 
A daughter Frances, was baptised at Cannington, Somerset in 1585. This was followed by the baptism of another daughter Jane at Cannington in 1586. It was at about this time that John left England and went to Ireland with his brother in law Edward Rogers to act as one of the undertakers of the" repeopling" of Munster. This was an attempt to re-establish settler communities in the region, using more scientific methods of farming and a way to closely observe and control the Irish.  According to Francis Poynton, a later rector of Kelston and author of a book on the Harington pedigree, their first son John, named for his father and grandfather, was born in 1589.  He was followed in 1591 by another daughter Ellina (Helena) who was baptised at Kelston, Somerset. A son Robert was baptised in 1594, but it seems he died in infancy as another son, also named Robert, was baptised there in 1602. Several children were named in the 1598 will of their grandmother Dame Joan Rogers, mother of their mother Mary. She made bequests to John and George Harington, sons of John and four daughters Frances, Jane, Ellen and Elizabeth; so clearly they were all born before 1598. 
John divided his time between his duties at Kelston as husband, father and member of the landed gentry; and the attractions and lifestyle of the glittering Elizabethan court in London. There is a widely accepted (though not certain) story that one of Harington's first "courtly" escapades was concerned with a translation which he made of the improper story of Giacomo in the 28th book of Ariosto's 'Orlando Furioso'. The manuscript was circulated among the maids of honour at the Court and when it fell into the hands of the Queen she thought it most improper and exiled John from the court until he had translated the whole of Ariosto's poem into English! 
During this period, he managed to stay involved in Somerset county affairs: serving as a JP in 1588 and then as high sheriff of Somerset in 1592. In 1593 he was the Privy Council's candidate for Steward of Bath In truly Elizabethan fashion, it was at about this time that John Harington embarked on a quarrelsome and litigious feud with his brother in law Edward Rogers. Among the ten charges that Harington made against him, were that he had boasted 'that he pulled out a handful of hair from the said John Harington's beard'; that on meeting Francis Harington he had 'jostled him for the wall,' and that on Twelfth Eve he had told the said John Harington that he would have certain trees he had taken out of his ground 'out of his throat,' to which Harington characteristically responded 'there grew none there. However, he also found the time to pen numerous epigrams which were, by turns, witty, incisive, or satiric.
The written work for which he is best known today, is A New Discourse of a Stale Subject Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax (1596). The title is a play on that of the ancient Greek epic poem by Ovid, ‘The Metamorphosis of Ajax.’ The ‘stale subject’ of Harington’s title is, however, the privy or toilet, known in Elizabethan England as ‘a jakes’. Harington illustrated his text with a woodcut of his own invention, one of the earliest versions of a two part ‘water closet’ or flushing toilet. Models were later installed not only at Kelston but also at the queen’s Palace of Richmond and in Robert Cecil’s house at Theobalds.  It seems however, that in his treatise Harington could not resist a sly dig at some of the notables of the Elizabethan court, which of course led to trouble with Queen Elizabeth and so he was banished from her court again.
In 1599 Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex, set out on his ill-fated expedition to Ireland to subdue the Gaelic cheiftans. John Harington accompanied him as Master of the Horse with orders from his kinsman Robert Markham 'to take account of all that passes in your expedition and keep journal thereof, unknown to any in the company: this will be expected of you. I have reasons to give for this order'.  The expedition proved a total failure, and on returning to England, Essex took Harington (whom he had knighted in Ireland)  with him to his interview with Elizabeth. The Queen was in a furious temper and ordered Harington back to Kelston. In his own words "I did not stay to be bidden twice. If all the lrish rebels had been at my heels, I should not have made better speed"! One can almost imagine him scuttling off to Kelston to be out of range of the Royal wrath! However, he was granted a private audience, and restored to her Majesty's favour instead.
Already by 1602, a year before the Queen's death, Harrington had written a tract 'On The Succession to the Crown' in which he supported the claim of James VI to the English throne. He sent a copy, which included a representation of the Crucifixion with the inscription, 'Lord, remember me when thou comest into Thy Kingdom', to King James .  Unfortunately for John Harington, he did not ever enjoy the same level of favour from King James as he did from Queen Elizabeth.
In an effort to shore up his dwindling finances, John Harington embarked on the continued pursuit of his brother in law Edward Rogers through the courts. In 1602, after the death of his mother in law Dame Joan Rogers, the family feud came to a head. Acting in the name of his wife, who was named as one of the executors of her mother's will, he took possession of the Lady Roger's house and refused admittance to his brother in law Edward. In retaliation, Rogers forced an entrance to the property and locked up Sir John for several hours without light or food! 
During the last few years of his life, Harington resided mostly at Kelston with his wife and his seven surviving children. In 1606 he wrote " I have now passed my storms, and wish for a quiet place to lay up my bark, for I grow old and infirm."  He visited Court only spasmodically and only for great state occasions such as the visit of King Christian of Denmark.
After being sick of a "dead palsy", Harington died on November 20th, 1612  and was buried in St. Nicholas Churchyard, Kelston, Somerset on 1 Dec 1612.  There is a floor slab in the church of St Nicholas, Kelston, that names him and the year of his death and which can be viewed on his Find A Grave memorial . His widow, Lady Mary Harington, survived him by 22 years.
The Dictionary Of National Biography incorrectly names John Harington as a student of Christ College, Cambridge.
No parish baptism records have been found for children James, John, or George although they are named in other documents such as wills.
Some American family historians insist John Harrington was the father of Robert Harrington (of Watertown) and was the one who drowned in 1630. English historian Ian Grimble (‘The Harington Family’ – Jonathan Cape – London) clearly shows that Sir John Harrington of Kelston’s eldest son John married the daughter of the Ist Earl of Marlborough and they both remained in England. This John Harrington actually became a Member of the English Parliament.
There were several disputed children attached to John Harington. Currently, there is no evidence for a son named Edward or a son named Henry so they have been disconnected.
Have you taken a DNA test? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.