John Harington
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John Harington (1560 - 1612)

Sir John Harington aka Harrington
Born in London, Englandmap [uncertain]
Ancestors ancestors
Brother of [half] and
Husband of — married 6 Sep 1583 in Cannington, Somerset, Englandmap
Descendants descendants
Died in Kelston, Somerset, Englandmap
Profile last modified | Created 28 Jan 2013
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Biography

Notables Project
John Harington is Notable.

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. [1]

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. [2] 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. [3]

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". [4] He matriculated from Kings College, Cambridge in 1576 and received the degree of BA in 1577-78. [5] 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. [6] After his time at Cambridge, on 27 Nov 1581, he was admitted to Lincoln's Inn,[7] however his father's death in 1582 meant the end of his legal studies and John returned to Kelston to the family estates. [8]

On 6 September 1583, at Cannington, Somerset he wed Mary Rogers, the daughter of George Rogers of Cannington and Joan Winter. [9] 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. [10]

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. [11] 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. [12] 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. [13]

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! [14]

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[15] 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.[16] However, he also found the time to pen numerous epigrams which were, by turns, witty, incisive, or satiric.[17]

English Authors
John Harington is an English Author.

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. [18] 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'. [19] The expedition proved a total failure, and on returning to England, Essex took Harington (whom he had knighted in Ireland) [20] 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"! [21]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 . [22] 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,[23] 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! [24]

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." [25] He visited Court only spasmodically and only for great state occasions such as the visit of King Christian of Denmark.[26]

After being sick of a "dead palsy", Harington died on November 20th, 1612 [27] and was buried in St. Nicholas Churchyard, Kelston, Somerset on 1 Dec 1612. [28] 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 [29]. His widow, Lady Mary Harington, survived him by 22 years.

Research Notes

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.

Sources

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "John Harington (writer)," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed May 20, 2019) Wikipedia
  2. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JQT4-NJ3 : 11 February 2018, John Harington, 04 Aug 1560); citing , index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 547,209
  3. Edwards, J. Stephan Ph.D A New Portrait of Mary Rogers, Lady Harington first published in The British Art Journal, XII:2 (Autumn 2011), pp. 54–57. Some Grey Matter
  4. Harrington, John & Donno, Elizabeth Story A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax: A Critical Annotated Edition by ELIZABETH STORY DONNO Questia.com
  5. University of Cambridge; Venn, John, 1834-1923; Venn, J. A. (John Archibald), b. 1883 Alumni Cantabrigienses; a biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900, pg 310. Archive.org
  6. Harrington, John & Donno, Elizabeth Story A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax: A Critical Annotated Edition by ELIZABETH STORY DONNO Questia.com
  7. University of Cambridge; Venn, John, 1834-1923; Venn, J. A. (John Archibald), b. 1883 Alumni Cantabrigienses; a biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900, pg 310. Archive.org
  8. Harrington, John & Donno, Elizabeth Story A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax: A Critical Annotated Edition by ELIZABETH STORY DONNO Questia.com
  9. Parish Registers of Cannington, Somerset FREE REG, John Harington, Armigier and Mistress Mary Rogers 6 Sep 1583. Marriage entry search made on 29 Apr 2019 FreeReg
  10. Historic England Website, Listing for Kelston Park, List Entry Number:1000536 Historic England.org
  11. Montaño, John Patrick The Roots of English Colonialism in Ireland Cambridge University Press, 11 Aug 2011 pg272 Google Books
  12. Edwards, J. Stephan Ph.D A New Portrait of Mary Rogers, Lady Harington first published in The British Art Journal, XII:2 (Autumn 2011), pp. 54–57. Some Grey Matter
  13. Will of Dame Mary Rogers. King, William Fletcher. Miscellanea genealogica et heraldica : (Volume 3) pg. 28 ebooksread.com
  14. Johnson-Haddad, Miranda. "Englishing Ariosto: "Orlando Furioso" at the Court of Elizabeth I." Comparative Literature Studies 31, no. 4 (1994): 323-50. Jstor.org
  15. Scott-Warren, Jason Lecturer in the Department of English and Related Literature Sir John Harington and the Book as Gift Oxford University Press, 2001 Google Books
  16. Harrington, John & Donno, Elizabeth Story A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax: A Critical Annotated Edition by ELIZABETH STORY DONNO Questia.com
  17. Harrington, John & Donno, Elizabeth Story A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax: A Critical Annotated Edition by ELIZABETH STORY DONNO Questia.com
  18. Edwards, J. Stephan Ph.D A New Portrait of Mary Rogers, Lady Harington first published in The British Art Journal, XII:2 (Autumn 2011), pp. 54–57. Some Grey Matter
  19. Cunningham, A Life of Queen Elizabeth. Compiled from the best authorities Charles Daly, 1839 pg 333 Google Books
  20. Harington, John & McClure, Norman Egbert, Letters and epigrams of Sir John Harington, together with The prayse of private life 1930 University of Pennsylvania Press pg. 20 Archive .org
  21. Strickland, Agnes Lives of the Queens of England: From the Norman Conquest, Volumes 6-7 Lea and Blanchard, 1847 pg.179 Google books
  22. Scott-Warren, Jason Lecturer in the Department of English and Related Literature Sir John Harington and the Book as Gift Oxford University Press, 2001 Google Books
  23. Will of Dame Mary Rogers. King, William Fletcher. Miscellanea genealogica et heraldica : (Volume 3) ebooksread.com
  24. Harington, John & McClure, Norman Egbert Letters and epigrams of Sir John Harington, together with The prayse of private life. 1930 University of Pennsylvania Press pg.20 Archive.org
  25. Harington, John & McClure, Norman Egbert Letters and epigrams of Sir John Harington, together with The prayse of private life. 1930 University of Pennsylvania Press pg.30 Archive.org
  26. Harington, John & McClure, Norman Egbert Letters and epigrams of Sir John Harington, together with The prayse of private life. 1930 University of Pennsylvania Press pg. 30 Archive.org
  27. Harington, John & McClure, Norman Egbert Letters and epigrams of Sir John Harington, together with The prayse of private life. 1930 University of Pennsylvania Press pg. 30 Archive.org
  28. Parish Registers of Kelston, Somerset. FreeReg 1 Dec 1612 Sir John Harington, Knight Burial entry search made 20 may 2019 FreeReg
  29. Find a Grave, database and images (accessed 13 May 2020), memorial page for Sir John Harington (4 Aug 1560–20 Nov 1612), Find A Grave: Memorial #101649781, citing St. Nicholas Churchyard, Kelston, Bath and North East Somerset Unitary Authority, Somerset, England ; Maintained by julia&keld (contributor 46812479) .

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Comments: 12

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Invented the first 'English' flushing toilet? Sir "John" did us all a great favor.
Is it possible to remove the 'Massachusetts Bay Company' section from this biography? This is obviously a throwback to the old 'Ann Clinton' story - A. He wasn't an Earl. B. He wasn't a Puritan & neither was his wife. (try reading his poetry) C. Did they use a ouija board to contact him for his involvement in a company founded in the 1620's?
posted by [Living Felix]
Hi profile managers, the England Project would like to take on co-management of this profile due to the disputed children. See Help: Project Protecting and Merging for more information. I'll send you a trusted list request to add me to the trusted list for the profile. Please contact me if you would like to discuss. Regards, Gillian, Leader, England Project.
posted by Gillian Thomas
What relationship does Christopher Catesby “Kit” Harington have to Sir John Harington, III, who is my 10th -great-grandfather?
Harrington-5322 and Harington-46 appear to represent the same person because: these were set as rejected, but they look like duplicates to me. Please take a look & merge if you agree. Thanks!
posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
Can somebody fact check the connection with the Massachusetts Bay Company?

I can't find anything to support it, and the referenced link only mentions Thomas Clinton-Fiennes, 3rd Earl of Lincoln in relation to the Massachusetts Bay Company unless I am misreading it.

John married in Cannington, but I could not find any support that he had been born there, so I deleted it from the "Birth location" field.
posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
Wikipedia shows 1561 for birth (link added as footnote). A link from the Wikipedia article to a subscription-required site has bap. 1560 in the link's text. http://www.oxforddnb.com/index/12/101012326/
posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
Harington-46 and Harrington-2203 appear to represent the same person because: Removed rejected match and proposed merge based on identical dates/facts
posted by Bob Tonsmeire

John is 23 degrees from Ludwig Kraayenbrink, 8 degrees from Henry VIII of England and 25 degrees from Ferdinand von Zeppelin on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.