HARMAN, John (by 1509-58 or later), of Rendlesham, Suff.

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



? 1536
? 1539
Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1509, 1st s. of Christopher Harman of Tunstall by 1st w. Cecily, da. of Robert FitzRalph of Naunton Hall, Rendlesham. m. (1) Joan, wid. of Richard Langston (d.1525) of Caversfield, Oxon.; (2) by 1547, Margaret, wid. of Thomas Rushton (d. July/Aug. 1543) of London; (3) by 1549, Anne, da. of John Devereux, 2nd Lord Ferrers of Chartley, wid. of Sir David Owen of Cowdray, Suss. suc. fa. 1528.5

Offices Held

Gent. usher, chamber 1540-d.; ?member, household of Queen Catherine Parr in 1543; commr. musters, Suff. 1539, 1546.6


Leland rated John Harman ‘a man of mean lands’. His father had owned two of the four manors in Rendlesham, Naunton Hall acquired by marriage and Colvilles by purchase, to which Harman himself added other property mostly in Suffolk or London. Under his father’s will he received 100 marks from the eventual sale of lands settled on his stepmother for life. This bequest and others gave rise to family dissension, and in 1530 Harman led an affray at Eyke to recover a distress of 200 sheep taken for the jointure due to his stepmother. He was sued by his sister Christian for failing to pay her marriage portion and later by his stepdaughter Denise Osborne for withholding deeds to her property. He was also accused of sharp practice over a lease, and he himself complained of negligence by the clerk who drew up the will of a former husband of one of his wives.7

Harman’s father was an employee of William 11th Lord Willoughby and his sister Christian a servant of Willoughby’s daughter and heir general Catherine, who in 1533 married the Duke of Suffolk. He himself may have owed his post at court to this connexion, but it is possible that by entering the Household he was following in a family tradition as several Harmans can be traced there in the early 16th century, including a namesake in the Queen’s stables in 1509. He was already in the royal service when he obtained a letter of support from the King for a lease from the abbey of Bruisyard, Suffolk, before its surrender in 1539. In his capacity as a gentleman usher he attended the reception of Anne of Cleves in 1540 and during the next two decades he was present at court for all the main state occasions. In 1544 he served in the French campaign where he had charge of the gunners. His three marriages reflect his advancement.8

Harman’s Membership accords with his connexions and experience. His domicile at Rendlesham lay six miles from Orford, for which he is known to have sat in three Parliaments, but he may have sat for it more often as in August 1554 a Suffolk man deposed that he and Richard Poty had been ‘chosen burgesses for the said town at several times and served in Parliament accordingly’. If this meant that the two men sat together, the only possible Parliaments would have been those of 1536 and 1539, when the name of neither Member survives. Harman also sat for Bletchingley in April 1554, probably with the help of his third wife Anne Devereux, who held lands in the locality: other relatives of his there may have been sufficiently well placed to promote his return following the imprisonment of (Sir) Thomas Cawarden who usually exercised the patronage at Bletchingley. On the list of Members for the Parliament later in the same year Harman’s name is struck through with that of his fellow-Member for Orford, Leonard Sandell, but there is no doubt of his Membership on this occasion. He was not present when the House was called early in January 1555, and for this dereliction he was informed against in the King’s bench in the following Easter term: a writ of venire facias was sent to the sheriff but no further process is recorded. Harman’s absence at the call was perhaps connected with the promotion of the bill assuring Sir William Willoughby, 1st Baron Willoughby of Parham, of his title to the inheritance of the Duchess of Suffolk if she died childless, which was rejected on a division in mid January, and the rejection of this bill may in turn have dissuaded Willoughby from lending his support to Harman’s return to the next two Parliaments. Harman is last glimpsed at the funeral of Mary in December 1558. If he made a will it has not been found.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. K. Dale


  • 1. E111/48.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Hatfield 207.
  • 4. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 5. Date of birth estimated from affray of 1530. Copinger, Suff. Manors, iv. 318; Suckling, Suff. ii. 367; Add. 19134, f. 193v; Req.2/301/57; PCC 41 Porch, 24 Spert; The Gen. n.s. xxviii. 116 and n; CP40/1142, r. 684.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, xiv, xvi, xix, xxi; Stowe 571, f. 30v; LC2/4/2; E101/423/12, ff. 8, 40.
  • 7. Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, iv. 75; Copinger, iv. 318, 323; PCC 41 Porch; St.Ch.2/25/29, 34/74; C1/726/4, 767/35, 1148/30; Req.2/301/57.
  • 8. PCC 41 Porch, 28 Jankyn; C1/767/35; LP Hen. VIII, i, xv, xvi, xix, xxi; APC, ii. 129; LC2/4/7, f. 18.
  • 9. E111/48; Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.; KB29/188, rot. 48v.