HARINGTON, John I (by 1499-1553), of Exton, Rutland.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1499, 1st s. of Sir John Harington of Exton by Alice, da. of Henry Southill. m. settlement 1513, Elizabeth, da. and h. of Robert Moton of Peckleton, Leics. 5s. inc. Edward and James 4da. suc. fa. 1524. Kntd. ?16 Jan. 1542.2

Offices Held

Sheriff, Rutland 1520-1, 1533-4, 1540-1, 1552-d., Warws. and Leics. 1532-3, Lincs. 1537-8, commr. subsidy, Rutland 1523, 1524, for survey of monasteries 1536, relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553; other commissions 1530-d.; j.p. Rutland 1524-d., Lincs. 1537-d., j.p. Rutland 1524-d., Lincs. 1539-40, steward 1542-3; receiver, duchy of Lancaster, Leicester honor 1538-d., bailiff, Leicester town 1538-bef. 1547; esquire of the body by 1539; keeper, Beaumanor park 1543, counsellor to warden of east and middle marches 1549.3


The Harington family acquired Exton by marriage in the 15th century. John Harington’s marriage to an heiress, the ward of Sir Richard Sacheverell, marked a further step in their steady advance to a position of power and influence in the shire. Harington’s father settled lands in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Suffolk to the value of £30 a year on the couple at their marriage and Harington was thus qualified to take his share in local government even before his father’s death made him a wealthy man, able to contribute £281 to the loan in 1524 and to purchase expensive wardships. His election in 1529 as junior knight of the shire which his grandfather had represented thus answered to his local standing, but he probably also enjoyed the support both of his fellow-knight Sir Everard Digby, who appears to have been sheriff at the time, and of the local magnate Thomas, 1st Earl of Rutland, under whom he was later to serve. Harington became a close friend of Digby’s son Kenelm Digby and may have been responsible for his return at Stamford in 1539. Nothing is known of Harington’s role in the House but since he was to sit again in 1539 and 1542 (being returned on the second occasion when Kenelm Digby was sheriff), and each time as senior knight, he was doubtless also elected to the intervening Parliament of 1536, when in any case the King asked for the return of the previous Members. He was wrongly styled ‘miles’ on the list of Members of the Parliament of 1529.4

It was the Pilgrimage of Grace that first brought Harington to more than local prominence. He was one of the first to rally to the crown, and he was later one of the pledges delivered to Aske in exchange for the messengers sent to Doncaster to declare the rebel grievances. Afterwards he played a leading part in the punishment of the rebels and the restoration of order and was among those whom Sir William Parr singled out for praise in that regard. Within three years, shortly before his attendance at the reception of Anne of Cleves, he had been made an esquire of the body, and the numerous leases and purchases of monastic lands which he made at this time, together with his knighting in 1542, probably at the opening of Parliament, were further signs of favour. He had earlier been indebted to the King for distraint of knighthood.5

Harington's service on local commissions was to continue until his death but he was now qualified for higher employment and in 1542 he was appointed treasurer to the Earl of Rutland on the expedition to Scotland. Throughout the autumn he signed all the letters from the north, which contained such perenial grumbles as lack of money and supplies and the disloyalty and disobedience of the borderers; he also acted as a messenger from Rutland to the commissioners at York. He must have acquitted himself well for in 1543 the Duke of Suffolk asked particularly that he might have him as treasurer, and he was continually employed in this capacity for the rest of the reign. In 1544 he led 10 horses and 100 foot to the war in France, where he played an important part as vice-treasurer and was solely responsible for the safety of the treasure while his chief was absent. In 1546 he was appointed treasurer to the Earl of Hertford's expedition and was stationed at Calais to ensure safe transport. When this army was dispersed Harington remained in Boulogne, commissioned with (Sir) Hugh Paulet* to survey Boulogne and the English pale. The task took them 30 days and they were finally recalled on 24 Mar. 1547. Two years later Harington was again commissioned in royal service, being appointed to the council of the young and inexperienced 2nd Earl of Rutland.6

Harington's reputation for honesty as a financial administrator was impugned by his servant John Bradford, who was moved by one of Latimer's sermons to restore moneys misappropriated while in Harington's service. Interrogated by Bishop Gardiner in 1553, Bradford claimed that he had never deceived his master but whether Harington had been equally dishonest it is impossible to say, although his general behaviour may be thought to give colour to the story. He was continually engaged in lawsuits in which his own case was very doubtful. Soon after his succession he attempted to uphold his wife's right to her father's manor of Peckleton, which had been entailed in such a way that it descended to her distant cousins German Poole and George Vincent*; even when the case was decided against him he attempted to embarrass his opponents by claims for title deeds so that as late as 1547 they were bringing suit for possession against him. He continually distresses his neighbour Francis Macworth with claims to water and pasture rights, disturbed Robert Packenham's tenure of his half of the manor of Witham, forcing him of fight two lawsuits, and claimed more of the property of Owston abbey than had in fact had been granted to him. Whether or not he embezzled crown funds, Harington did succeed in purchasing a considerable amount of property, and he more than doubled his inheritance. In every year after 1538 he appears to have made some purchase in Rutland or in neighbouring counties. In all he seems to have acquired lands worth over £200 a year and to have re-alienated lands worth at most £50. In 1542 he entered into a recognizance in 1000 marks to Sir Richard Gresham*, but that is the only indication of any resort of borrowing. The enormous increase in the size of his estate enabled him to leave three of his younger sons a manor each, without appreciably affecting his eldest son's inheritance.7

Harington made his will on 20 Aug. 1553, appointing as executors his son John, his brother Robert and his friends Sir Thomas Tresham* and Edward Griffin. He died five days later in the parish of St. Helen's, Bishopgate, and 'from that day that he died till he was carried into his country was mass and dirige every day sung', a procedure which, together with his choice of executors, suggests that he was conservative in religion. On 4 Sept. he was carried in some state to Rutland for burial.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. I. Grimble, Harrington Fam. 62; PCC 1 More.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, iii-v, viii, x, xii-xv, xvii-xxi; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 75, 77, 88, 186; 1550-3, p. 141; 1553, pp. 357, 415; Stamford hall bk. 1461-1657, ff. 128, 130 136; Somerville, Duchy, i. 567, 571; CSP Dom. 1601-3, Add. 1547-65 p. 396.
  • 4. VCH Rutland ii. 129; HMC Hastings , i. 307; LP Hen. VIII , iv.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, x-xv; H. H. Leonard, 'Knights and knighthood in Tudor Eng.' (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1970), 69.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, xvi-xix; APC i. passim; ii. 22, 83; CPR, 1547-8, p. 186; CSP For, 1547-53, passim; CSP Dom. 1601-3, Add. 1547-65, pp. 396-7, 402.
  • 7. Grimble, 64 seq.; C1/1125/43, 1129/18-24; St.Ch.2/24/185, 28/28; Req.2/14/22, 18/95; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 36; VCH Rutland, ii. 117, 197; LP Hen. VIII, xiv, xvi-xxi; CPR, 1548-9, p. 170; 1550-3, p. 209; 1553, p. 101; C142/101/68, 101; LC4/187/502.
  • 8. PCC 1 More; Machyn's Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 43.