HARINGTON, John II (c.1540-1613), of Combe Abbey, Warws.; later of Exton Hall, Rutland.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1540, 1st s. of James Harington I of Exton, and bro. of James Harington II. educ. I. Temple 1558. m. c.1572, Anne, da. and h. of Robert Keilway of Combe Abbey, surveyor of the ct. of wards, 2s. 2da. Kntd. 1584; suc. fa. 1592; cr. Baron Harington 1603.

Offices Held

J.p. Lincs. (Kesteven) from c.1559-93, Rutland from c.1579, Warws. from c.1583; commr. musters, Lincs. from c.1570, Warws. 1596, 1597; sheriff, Warws. 1582-3, Rutland 1594-5, 1598-19, 1602-3; dep. warden Leighfield forest, Rutland 1586, warden 1592; dep. lt. Rutland, Warws. by 1587; recorder, Coventry from 1592; member, council in the marches of Wales 1594; j.p. Herefs. from c.1596; guardian of Princess Elizabeth 1603.1


It may have been at the Inner Temple that Harington first met his future father-in-law, who was treasurer there at the time of his admission. By the terms of the marriage settlement, Keilway was to pay Harington’s father £2,000 in return for the couple being given extensive property in Rutland, Leicestershire and Staffordshire. Anne Keilway was sole heiress to her father, and on his death in 1581 brought Harington possession of Combe Abbey. Before he succeeded his father, Harington probably spent the greater part of his time in Warwickshire, and in September 1586 he was chosen to escort Mary Queen of Scots through the county on her way from Staffordshire to Fotheringay. John Chamberlain, the letter-writer, reported him in 1602 as planning to ‘keep a royal Christmas’ at Exton, entertaining

the Earls of Rutland and Bedford, Sir John Grey and Sir Harry Carey with their ladies, the Earl of Pembroke, Sir Robert Sidney and many more gallants.2

Harington was an obvious choice to represent Rutland and Warwickshire in Parliament. He did not take an active part in the proceedings of the 1571 Parliament, but on 13 Mar. 1587 he was appointed to the committee dealing with the question of the Members sequestered in the Tower. He was returned to the 1586 Parliament as first knight for Warwickshire and was thus eligible to attend the subsidy committee (22 Feb. 1587). He played an active role in the negotiations concerning the subsidy bill in 1593, being named to the subsidy committee on 26 Feb. and later (3 Mar.) being one of those appointed to convey to the Lords the unwillingness of the House to confer with them over the subsidy bill at that time. Other activity in 1593 included committees on privileges and returns (26 Feb.), recusancy (28 Feb.), a legal matter (9 Mar.), rogues and vagabonds (12 Mar.) and a private bill (28 Mar.). He may have attended another legal bill committee on 9 Mar. as knight for Rutland. In 1601 he was named to committees concerning the reform of the penal code (2 Nov.)and clothworkers (18 Nov.), and he spoke (4 Nov.) on the subject of Andrew Noel’s election as knight of the shire for Rutland. He may also have attended committees concerning the order of parliamentary business (3 Nov.) and monopolies (23 Nov.) by virtue of his position as knight of the shire.3

On James I’s accession, Harington travelled to Yorkshire with his younger brother James to meet the King, later entertaining him to dinner at Burley, his second Rutland residence. In June 1603 the young Princess Elizabeth stayed at Combe Abbey, and shortly afterwards, at the coronation, Harington was raised to the peerage. The following October he was appointed guardian to the Princess. At the time of the Gunpowder Plot, when news reached him at Combe Abbey that the conspirators planned to abduct his charge and enthrone her after the explosion, he removed her to Coventry two hours before their arrival at his house. In February 1613 Harington preceded her in her wedding procession to Whitehall, receiving from the bridegroom plate worth £2,000. In April 1613, with the honorary title of ambassador, though at his own expense, he accompanied the Elector and his bride to Germany, dying at Worms on the way home, 23 Aug.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.E.M.


This biography is largely based upon DNB; I. Grimble, Harrington Fam.; CP.

  • 1. Lansd. 47, f. 2; PCC 1 Harrington; HMC Foljambe, 25; APC, xxvi, 12, 388, 433; xxiii. 260; C66/1549; Coventry, Original Letters, 70(1); P. H. Williams, Council in the Marches of Wales, 295, 348-9; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 57.
  • 2. C142/232/81; DNB (Keilway, Robert); Lansd. 49, f. 171 seq.; 56, f. 168 seq.; 103, f. 62 seq.; CSP Dom. 1591-4, pp. 35, 544; 1601-3, p. 271; APC, xi. 259; xii. 60; xxv. 141, 157; xxvi. 12, 388, 433; J. Harington, Nugae Antiquae, i. 236.
  • 3. D’Ewes, 409, 415, 471, 474, 477, 481, 486, 495, 496, 499, 511, 622, 624, 625, 642, 649; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 69, 186.