His mother was Alice, daughter and coheiress of John Wenlock, a captain of Calais.
His great-grandfather, John Finet, an Italian of Siena, came to England as a servant in the train of Cardinal Campeggio in 1519, settled here and married a lady named Mantell, maid of honour to Catherine of Aragon.
John was brought up at court and commended himself to James I by composing and singing witty songs in the royal presence after supper. Sir Anthony Weldon credits Finet's songs with much coarseness. On 17 January 1617-18 he is said to have offended his master by the impropriety of some verses that he introduced into a play produced at court.
Finet was in Paris early in 1610, and sent home an account of the treatment accorded to duellists in France, dated 19 February 1609-10. He escorted William Cecil, Viscount Cranborne, future 2nd Earl of Salisbury, through southern France and Northern Italy 1609-11. He had his portrait painted by Domenico Tintoretto in Venice.
Diplomat and courtier
Finet remained for a time in the service of Cranborne's father, Lord-treasurer Salisbury. Wood states that he was in France on diplomatic business in 1614, but on 15 December 1614 he was reported in a contemporary news-letter to have just returned from Spain, whither he had been despatched to present gifts of armour and animals to members of the royal family. Next year he was with the king at Cambridge. On 23 March 1615-16 he was knighted, and on 13 September 1619 he was granted the reversion of the place of Sir Lewes Lewknor, master of the ceremonies, whom he had already begun to assist in the performance of his duties. On 19 Feb. 1624-5 he was granted a pension of 120l., vacant by the death of Sir William Button, assistant-master of the ceremonies, and on 18 March 1624-5 he was formally admitted into Button's office on the understanding that on Finet's promotion to Lewknor's place the office should be abolished., On Lewknor's death Finet succeeded to the mastership of ceremonies (12 March 1625-6). Thenceforward Finet was busily employed in entertaining foreign envoys at the English court, and determining the numerous difficulties regarding precedence which arose among the resident ambassadors. He was intimate with all the courtiers. Lord Herbert of Cherbury (Autobiography, ed. S. L. Lee, p. 164) had made his acquaintance before 1616. In 1636 it was proposed at Oxford to confer on him the degree of D.C.L., but it is doubtful if the proposal was carried out.
Family and successors
In 1618 Finet married Jane, the 'lame' daughter of Henry, lord Wentworth, of Nettlestead, Suffolk, whose brother Thomas was created Earl of Cleveland 7 February 1624-5. By her he had a son, John, and two daughters, Lucy and Finetta.
Finet was the author of the following :
- 'The Beginning, Continvance, and Decay of Estates. Written in French by R. de Lusing, L. of Alymes, and translated into English by I. F.' (London, 1606); dedication, signed Iohn Finet, to Richard Bancroft, archbishop of Canterbury : an essay on the history of the Turks in Europe.
- 'Finetti Philoxenis : some choice observations of Sr John Finett, knight, and master of the ceremonies to the two last kings, Touching the Reception and Precedence, the Treatment and Audience, the Puntillios and Contests of Forren Ambassadors in England,' London, 1656. The dedication to Philip, viscount Lisle, is signed by the editor, James Howell. The incidents described by Finet chiefly concern the reign of James I. A manuscript copy of the book belongs to C. Cottrell Dormer, esq., of Rousham, near Oxford.
Some recipes by Finet appear in a manuscript volume belonging to the late E. P. Shirley of Ettington Hall, Oxford (ib. 5th Rep. 365).
- Cal. State Papers, Dom. 17 January 1618
- see Cott. MS. Titus, C. iv.
- Edward Chaney and Timothy Wilks, The Jacobean Grand Tour: Early Stuart Travellers in Europe (I.B. Tauris: London, 2014)
- Cal. State Papers, Dom. 29 April 1612
- A.J. Loomie ed., Ceremonies of Charles I: the Note Books of John Finet, 1628-1641 (Fordham University Press, 1987)
- Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. 83