Family and education
He was born at Catton, Norfolk, on 1 December 1654, third son of Sir Standish Hartstonge, 1st Baronet and his first wife Elizabeth Jermyn. His father, who inherited substantial property in Limerick, moved to Ireland in 1659, built up a successful legal practice and became a Baron of the Court of Exchequer.
John went to school at Charleville and Kilkenny College and entered the University of Dublin in 1672: he took his Bachelor's degree in 1677. He then entered Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge, and took a Master's degree in 1680. He spent a year at the University of Glasgow, then travelled abroad for a time before becoming a fellow of Gonville and Caius.
He had a family connection with John Bramhall, Archbishop of Armagh, whose daughter was his stepmother; but the main influence on his career was his friendship with the Dukes of Ormonde. He was family chaplain to James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, and after the first Duke's death was reappointed to the same position by the second Duke, whom he even accompanied on military campaigns. He became Archdeacon of Limerick in 1684.
He was sufficiently prominent in 1689 to be attainted for treason by the Dublin Parliament held in Dublin by James II. After the victory of William III he was made, through Ormonde's influence, Bishop of Ossory in 1693. In 1714 he became Bishop of Derry. His reaction to the downfall of his great patron Ormonde, who was accused of involvement in a Jacobite conspiracy and fled to France in 1715, is unknown.
Belle Danvers was a bitter personal enemy of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, who described her as "not looking human".
Another enemy of Belle, Mary Cowper, portrayed the marriage caustically: "She married an Irish bishop who hoped to be made an English Bishop by marrying one of the Queen's dressers, but, I don't know how it happened, he missed his aim, and got only one of the frightfullest, disagreeablest wives in the Kingdom".
Belle Danvers is a minor character in the novel Shores of Darkness by Diana Norman.
- Ball, F. Elrington, The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921, John Murray, London, 1926
- "Hartstongue, John (HRTG676J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- Beaver, Henry Blacker (1891). "Hartstonge, John". In Stephen, Leslie; Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 25. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Ball Judges in Ireland
- Gregg, Edward Queen Anne Yale University Press 2001 p.290