Trace your ancestry back to the 15th century with the Eton College Register. Discover your ancestor’s name, father’s name, and employment or education details after college, and distinguishing achievements, if any. The records hold the names of Queen Jane Seymour’s almoner, Robert Aldrich, and Queen Elizabeth’s saucy godson, the inventor of the water closet, John Harington.
The transcripts were created with information found in the original records. The detail in the transcript is minimal and further information can be found by viewing the image. Each transcript will include the following details:
Year – the event year is usually a person’s birth year, which is the first year listed next to their name in the register.
School name and place
The entries for each person can vary in the amount of material recorded, but many will include the following information:
Family – names of spouse and children
Distinguishing achievements or awards
Eton College, a boys’ boarding school for 13 to 19 year olds, is an English national institution. Within the picturesque medieval buildings, many of England’s greatest men were educated. The college was first established in 1440 by King Henry VI to provide free education for 70 destitute boys, who would then go on to King’s College at Cambridge University. By 1698, the end of this register, there were almost 300 boys at Eton College. It the early years, life for students was regimented. Following Morning Prayer, students were in the classroom by 6am where all lessons were taught in Latin. The boys were allowed a single hour of play before returning back to their studies. Lessons did not finish until 8pm. Every year they were allowed two three-week long holidays at Christmas and summer.
The college has continued to expand since the 15th century. It survived a bomb attack during the Second World War when the Upper School was destroyed and many of the windows in the chapel were blown out. Today, the school accommodates up to 1,300 students and it is one of only four single sex public schools. David Cameron is the nineteenth Old Etonian (a graduate from Eton) to become Prime Minister.
Within the Eton College Register 1441-1698 we find the names of hundreds of Etonians from Eton’s first 257 years of operation. Among those are Robert Aldrich and John Harington.
Robert Aldrich was the son of Richard Aldrich. After Robert’s time at Eton, he became a scholar of King’s College Cambridge graduating in 1507. Aldrich became the headmaster of Eton in 1515. He was also ordained at Lincoln on 15 March 1521 and later became Bishop of Carlisle. He had to resign from his post as headmaster in 1533 in order to accompany an embassy to the King of France and the Pope in 1533. Afterwards he held the post of Canon of Windsor, 1534-1537, and as registrar he compiled the Register of the Order of the Garter. In 1536, he became Eton’s first ever Eton-educated Provost. He remained in that role until 1547.
During his time as provost, he became the almoner to Queen Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII. An almoner is a church official in charge of distributing alms or money for the poor and charities. After the Queen gave birth to the future King Edward VI, she suffered from illness, possibly the result of an infection. On 24 October 1537, Robert Aldrich performed extreme unction on the Queen and reported her condition to the King. Extreme unction was a religious ritual for those who were in grave danger of death. Queen Jane Seymour died shortly thereafter, only 12 following the birth of her son.
Bishop Aldrich died at Horncastle, Lincoln 5 March 1556.
John Harington was known as the ‘saucy’ godson of Queen Elizabeth’s 102 godchildren. In the Eton College Register, his birth year is recorded as 1561. He was known to fall in and out of favour with the Queen, often because of the poems and satires he wrote. For instance, when his translation of the improper story of Giacomo from Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto circulated around the court and was shown to the Queen, she had him banished from the court until he completed the entire translation of the poem, believing the task would be too difficult to complete. However, Harington completed the translation and returned to court in 1591. His translation is still read by many today.
A second act that had Harington sent away from court was his 1596 publication A New Discourse upon a Stale Subject: The Metamorphosis of Ajax. The work described his invention of the water closet in detail, but he made jokes aimed towards well-known men of the court. For his humour, Harington was banished from court, but returned when he was sent to Ireland with the Earl of Essex in 1599. For his service with the Earl of Essex in Ireland, he was later knighted..
Harington had the first flushing toilet, called an Ajax, installed in his manor in Kelston near Bath. It had a valve to let water out of the tank and a wash-down design to empty the bowl. The ‘jakes’ was a slang term for the privy. Today, in the US, a toilet is sometimes referred to as a ‘John,’ a reference to its inventor. However, his invention did not gain popularity and it was not until the 18th century that the English privy was modernised with the S-bend pipe in 1775 and then the U-Bend pipe, which was invented in 1880 by Thomas Crapper.