Sir John Harington (also spelled Harrington) (4 August 1561 – 20 November 1612), of Kelston, was a courtier, author and master of art, popularly known as the inventor of the flush toilet. He became a prominent member of Queen Elizabeth I's court, and was known as her "saucy Godson". But because of his poetry and other writings, he fell in and out of favour with the Queen.
The work for which he is best known today, A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, called the Metamorphosis of Ajax (1596) is a political allegory and a coded attack on the monarchy. His New Discourse described a forerunner to the modern flush toilet that was installed at his house at Kelston.
Harington was born in Kelston, Somerset, England, the son of John Harington of Kelston, the poet, and his second wife Isabella Markham, a gentlewoman of Queen Elizabeth I's privy chamber. He had the honour of being accepted as a godson of the childless Queen, becoming one of her 102 godchildren.
The exact relationship between the John Harington of Kelston and the line of his contemporary John Harington, 1st Baron Harington of Exton has not been established. Apparently John of Kelston did not know the pedigree of his obscure grandfather, Alexander of Stepney. Nevertheless it is generally assumed that he was also descended from the first Lord Harington of Aldingham, a baron in Edward II's time.
He was educated at Eton and King's College, Cambridge.
Harington wed Mary Rogers, daughter of George Rogers of Cannington (son of Sir Edward Rogers) and Joan Winter, on 6 September 1583 and together they had nine children, two of whom died young, as his autograph revisions make clear.