The Campden Wonder
"Time, the great Discoverer of Truth, shall bring to Light this dark and mysterious Business"

Information Wanted

If you can help, please email  or reply on my blog.

John Harrison, Envoy to Barbary

I would welcome any comments or information relating to a man named John Harrison who was the English government's "envoy to Barbary" in the early 17th c.

Whether this man has any relevance to the Campden Wonder story, I don't  know, probably not, but he is interesting in his own right and there are a number of intriguing, if tenuous, links between him and William Harrison of Campden, other than the surname, of course.

John Harrison's background and origins are obscure. According to the Dictionary of National Biography, he married Elizabeth, daughter of one Ambrose Wheeler, "gentleman usher, quarter-waiter", but I have been unable to trace this marriage. Wheeler appears to have been connected  in some way to the goldsmith family of that name that founded Child's bank(see I say this because William Wheeler's name crops up in some of the documents relating to William Harrison among the State Papers at the National Archives.

Harrison fought in Elizabeth I's army in Ireland and was groom of the privy chamber to the ill-fated Prince Henry, elder brother of the future Charles I. This would have been around the time that Sir Thomas Overbury, the poet poisoned in the Tower and uncle of the author of the Account of the Campden Wonder, was also prominent at King James' Court. Harrison appears to have travelled widely. In 1610 he is said to have been sent on a mission to Morocco, while in 1619 he was in Heidelberg when the Elector Palatine was offered the crown of Bohemia. In 1622, he was briefly governor of the Somer Isles (modern day Bermuda), a colony in which Sir Baptist Hicks, Viscount Campden, had a substantial interest.

In 1625, he was sent on a mission to "Barbary", i.e. North Africa, at that time controlled by the Turkish Ottoman Empire. This was an area notorious for its pirates, who were in the habit of attacking ships to take their crews and passengers into captivity and hold them to ransom.

Harrison's mission was to negotiate the release of English prisoners held in Sallee and elsewhere and he is said to have been responsible for the freeing of 260 British subjects. This is all very reminiscent of the tale told by William Harrison, protagonist of the Wonder, who claims to have been sold into slavery in Turkey.

Despite his success, John Harrison appears to have been poorly treated by the English government and many of the letters written by him that survive at the National Archives include complaints that he is out of pocket and owed money. He also appears to have become embroiled in a dispute between his sister Eleanor, wife of David Lindsay, Bishop of Ross, and her nephew Peter, Clerk of the Peace of Cambridge. According to some theories, he may have been related to the presidents Harrison of the USA (see

John Harrison's brother George has the claim to fame that he was the first man killed in a duel in the colony of Virginia. See There are letters among the state papers relating to George's will and mentioning his brother John, envoy to Barbary.

John Harrison was responsible for several published works:

I would very much like to know more about John Harrison's origins, i.e. where and when he was born and who his parents were, and also about his own family, i.e. did he and Elizabeth have any children. Given the various fact that we have about his family, as listed above, I would have thought it should be possible to find out more about him, but I have so far failed to do so.

One possibility is that he may be connected in some way to the Harrisons of Balls Park, Hertforshire, but I've not been able to firm
up that link at all.

William Harrison, Treasurer of the Northern Army

I would welcome comments or information relating to one William Harrison, Treasurer for Sir Ferdinando Fairfax's Northern Army during the English Civil War.

He is mentioned in the House of Commons Journal for 2nd May 1644:

This William Harrison appears to have been the same man who published "The Humble Petition or Representation of Mr. William Harrison, Gentleman and Souldier. To His Excellency Sir Thomas Fairfax Captain Generall of the Forces raised for the King and Parliament. Together with a further Relation of the said Mr William Harrison, with a true discovery of abundance of Treasure sent down into the West, and divers Persons there imployed to raise Forces (under pretence of the Service for Ireland) to make warre against the Army commanded by his Excellency. As also the desire of the Souldiery to the Committe of Northampton. By Sir William Harrison gent. Souldier under his Excellency Sir Thomas Fairefax." dated July 3rd 1647 and catalogued at the British Library under E296(12).

This is a puzzling document. I have published a transcript here.

Please note that while there is no evidence that this William Harrison was the same man who was the steward to Lady Campden and protagonist of the Campden Wonder events of 1660, there are some intriguing parallels between the two stories.