Huntington, Robert (1637–1701), provost of TCD and bishop of Raphoe, was the second of four sons of Robert Huntington, curate of Deerhurst in Gloucestershire. He was educated at Bristol grammar school and matriculated at Merton College, Oxford, in 1654, graduating BA in 1658 and MA in 1663, and becoming a fellow of the college.
His overriding scholarly interest was in oriental languages, leading him to take up the post of chaplain to the Levant Company at Aleppo in 1671. He remained for ten years studying, travelling in the region, corresponding with other scholars, and collecting great numbers of manuscripts. On his return to Oxford in 1681 he resumed his fellowship and in 1683 he took the degrees of BD and DD. When his friend Narcissus Marsh (qv), provost of TCD, was appointed to a bishopric in 1683 Huntington was selected – after consultations between Marsh, Dr Fell (bishop of Oxford), and the duke of Ormond (qv) (lord lieutenant and chancellor of both universities) – as successor in the provostship. He was persuaded only with difficulty to accept, but having done so his application to his duties was admired.
He assisted Marsh in bringing to completion in 1685 a project, funded by Robert Boyle (qv), to revise and publish the translation into Irish of the Old Testament undertaken by William Bedell (qv) in the 1630s. He was an early member of the Dublin Philosophical Society and he invited the members, who had hitherto assembled informally in a coffee-house, to meet at his lodgings in January 1684. His purely scientific interests were limited, but his patronage and his English connections were useful to the society, on whose behalf he also attempted to open a French correspondence. His private view of Irish learning was not complimentary. While in the Levant he had collected plants for dispatch to Oxford, and in 1687 he oversaw the founding of the Dublin college's first physic garden.
After the accession of James II (qv), Huntington, as head of one of the most conspicuous bulwarks of Ireland's protestant establishment, was faced with less agreeable tasks. In 1686–7 the college resisted the government's attempt to appoint Arthur Green, a catholic, to a lectureship in the Irish language, and an attempt to have another catholic, Bernard Doyle, admitted to a fellowship. In early 1687 allegations were made of a plot among some of Trinity's students to assassinate the newly arrived catholic lord deputy Tyrconnell (qv). About the same time the college, having received the permission of the lord lieutenant Clarendon (qv) to ship its collection of plate to England, was obstructed by the lord deputy, who had several interviews with the provost as tension grew between the government and the college.
In July 1688, on the death of Ormond, the university rapidly elected his grandson, the second duke of Ormond (qv), chancellor in succession. Though the government was angered at the lack of consultation, Tyrconnell granted Huntington leave in September to travel to England to install the duke there. As the situation in the college was deteriorating he remained in England; this was not seen as an abandonment of Trinity, rather he was praised for his solicitude for the college fellows, who had taken refuge there. On receipt of the news of the Williamite victory at the Boyne, Huntington and a body of fellows sailed for Ireland in July 1690. He had long wanted to be released from his duties and in 1692 resigned the provostship.
His scruples apparently prevented him at this time from accepting an offer of the bishopric of Kilmore, in succession to the deposed non-juror William Sheridan (qv). Instead he settled for a living at Great Hallingbury in Essex, and before 1692 closed he married Mary, a daughter of John Powell. The following years were on the whole unhappy, as he was removed from the company of friends and scholars, and he failed in an attempt to gain the wardenship of his old Oxford college. The recommendation by Bishop William Moreton (qv) of Kildare in 1699 that he be reappointed as provost of TCD, with an exemption for his married status, was not acted on. In June 1701 he was appointed bishop of Raphoe, but he died 2 September 1701 within weeks of his consecration (20 July 1701). He had no children, and was survived by his wife.
His collections of oriental manuscripts passed by gift, sale, and bequest to Merton College and the Bodleian Library in Oxford and to TCD and Marsh's Library in Dublin. A copybook of letters written during his provostship is in the Bodleian (Rawlinson M. B. 497, reported in Anal. Hib. i).