HARRIS, John II (c.1586-1657), of St. Michael's Mount, Cornw. and Hayne, Stowford, Devon

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



28 Apr. 1640

Family and Education

b. c.1586, 1st s. of Arthur Harris of Hayne and Kenegie, Gulval, Cornw. and Margaret, da. and h. of John Davells of S. Marland, Petrockstow, Devon.2 educ. Exeter Coll. Oxf. 1603; L. Inn 1607;3 travelled abroad (France), 1608-?1611.4 m. (1) post-nuptial settlement 1 Dec. 1625 (with £2,000),5 Florence (d. 1 Jan. 1631), da. of Sir John Wyndham of Orchard Wyndham, St. Decumans, Som., s.p.; (2) lic. 4 Nov. 1631 (with £3,000), Cordelia, da. of John Mohun*, 1st Bar. Mohun of Okehampton, 1s. suc. fa. 1628. d. 6 Mar. 1657.6 sig. John Harris.

Offices Held

Commr. piracy, Devon 1619-20, 1624, Cornw. 1624, 1626,7 impressment 1623,8 sewers, Devon 1627, swans, W. Country 1629,9 assessment, Devon 1641-2, 1644, 1647-8;10 j.p. Devon 1641-2, 1643-at least 1647, Cornw. from 1647;11 commr. execution of parl. ordinances, W. Country 1644, militia, Devon 1648.12


Of the several strands of the Harris family resident in Devon and Cornwall in the early seventeenth century, the branch seated at Hayne was by far the most prosperous. At the time of his death in 1628, Harris’ father Arthur owned nearly 4,200 acres, including ten manors, a total far in excess of the estates amassed by his distant cousin John Harris I*. Much of this property was located near Hayne, in north-west Devon, but Arthur’s captainship of St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall had also encouraged him to acquire lands in that vicinity. In addition, he possessed several houses in London, close to St. Paul’s Cathedral.13 A magistrate in both Devon and Cornwall, Arthur was also related through his mother to the government ministers Sir Fulke Greville* and Sir Edward Conway I*, and in the 1624 parliamentary elections he nearly secured a seat for the latter at St. Ives.14

Harris enjoyed an extended education, culminating in 1608 with a three-year licence for foreign travel. Greville reportedly sent him advice in November 1609 on how best to profit from his sojourn in France.15 Harris entered Parliament for the first time in 1621, sitting for Launceston, a borough situated just a few miles from Hayne. Whatever he learnt from the experience, he left no mark on the Commons’ records. Although named to assorted West Country commissions during the 1620s, he apparently lacked the appetite for an active career. Writing to his kinsman Secretary Conway in 1625 to recommend a friend for a military command in the Cadiz expedition, he confessed his own lack of judgment in martial affairs, and pleaded a general inability to do Conway good service.16 Nevertheless, he required the secretary of state’s assistance in 1628. The death of Arthur Harris in that year terminated his family’s interest in St. Michael’s Mount, which passed into the hands of the 2nd earl of Salisbury (William Cecil*). However, Harris refused to surrender the castle’s ordnance stores until a Privy Council warrant of discharge was obtained through Conway. Salisbury subsequently sued Harris for retaining documents concerning property linked to the Mount.17

Harris inherited the bulk of his father’s lands, with the possible exception of one manor, and he benefited further by the death in 1634 of his mother, who was herself heiress to six Devon manors. Ten years later the annual value of his estate was estimated at £1,000.18 He was elected to the Short Parliament in a contest at Bere Alston, and entered the Long Parliament in late 1641 as a Launceston burgess once again, following the expulsion from the Commons of William Coryton*. Despite the aggressive royalism of his brother-in-law, Warwick, Lord Mohun, Harris sided with Parliament during the Civil War. However, he was secluded during Pride’s Purge in 1648, and seems to have rapidly fallen out with the Commonwealth regime. Around June 1649 he had several swords confiscated while visiting a staunch Cornish royalist, Sir Richard Vyvyan†. In February 1651 it was rumoured that ‘one Harris ... of the west of Devonshire or Cornwall, formerly in the Parliament’s service’, was abetting plans for a royalist landing in the region.19 Harris drew up his will on 5 Feb. 1657, expressing his ‘assured hope of salvation’, and laying down detailed provisions to cover the minority of his infant son Arthur. He died a month later, and was buried at Lifton, near Hayne. Arthur in his turn entered the Commons in 1671.20

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Secluded at Pride’s Purge, 6 Dec. 1648.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 449.
  • 3. Al. Ox; LI Admiss.
  • 4. SO3/4; HMC Cowper, i. 483-4.
  • 5. Devon RO, 2527 M/TS14.
  • 6. Vivian, 449; Devon RO, 2527 M/TS16.
  • 7. C181/2, f. 348; 181/3, ff. 2, 113v, 130v, 196.
  • 8. APC, 1621-3, p. 437.
  • 9. C181/3, f. 217v; 181/4, f. 3.
  • 10. SR, v. 61, 83, 150; A. and O. i. 545, 963, 1080.
  • 11. C231/5, pp. 457, 507; 231/6, p. 78; Devon RO, QS 28/1-4.
  • 12. A. and O. i. 460, 1236.
  • 13. C142/440/85; Vivian, 447, 449; T. Taylor, St. Michael’s Mount, 158-60.
  • 14. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, pp. 5-6; Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 25, 27, 29; SP14/158/47.
  • 15. He matriculated at Oxf. in 1603 aged 17 as ‘John Harris of Devon’, and most likely also entered L. Inn in 1607 using the same name and suffix. HMC Cowper, i. 483-4; F. Greville, Certain Learned and Elegant Works (1633), pp. 295-8.
  • 16. SP16/521/79.
  • 17. CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 218, 220; APC, 1628-9, p. 52; C2/Chas.I/S41/14.
  • 18. C142/440/85; 142/750/97; PROB 11/154, f. 32; Vivian, 449; Diary of Richard Symonds ed. C.E. Long (Cam. Soc. lxxiv), 44.
  • 19. M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 204; FSL, X.d.483 (41); HMC Portland, i. 559.
  • 20. PROB 11/265, ff. 220v-1v; Vivian, 449.