The Percy family
- and Henry Percy who may have written Shakespeare...
Esperance en Dieu
The Percy family motto
'Hope in God'
The Percy family shields, crests and arms
- The banner ... is a Percy standard and is similar to that which hangs in St Georges
Chapel at Windsor. It is a Knights standard and dates from the 15th century. It is quartered
with the arms of Percy, Louvain or Fitz Alan and Lucy.
- The shield ... is the earliest recorded Percy blazon and is considered to date from
Flanders near the town Bethune South West of Lille well before 1066. It is described in
heraldry as, Azure, five fusils in fess argent.
- The shield ... represents a change from the previous blazon to become Azure five fusils
in fess d'or.
- The arms ... are found in Alnwick castle and represent the arms of Louvaine or Fitz Alan
and Lucy. It is interesting that the original family blazon of the fusils is not included.
The Percy family, Earls of Northumberland
Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland (1527 1537)
known as 'The Unthrifty', was dogged with misfortune all his life.
At an early age he fell in love with Anne Boleyn, but was forced to renounce her by Henry
In 1530 he was ordered by the King to arrest Cardinal Wolsey. The meeting between him and
Wolsey is faithfully recorded in Shakespeare's "Henry VIII". When Anne Boleyn's trial took
place the Earl was appointed a member of the Commission to try her-a typical instance of
Henry VIII's brutality. He avoided the office on the plea of sickness.
In 1536 the dissolution of the monasteries led to the Catholic rising known as the
'Pilgrimage of Grace'. The Earl, in spite of threats and persuasions, remained loyal, and
resolutely refused to join it, but his two brothers, Thomas and Ingleram, were leaders in
this revolt. Sir Ingleram summoned the gentlemen of the county to a meeting at Alnwick
Castle on October 15th, at which all present were required to swear to the articles of the
Pilgrimage; in spite of protests, "being enclosed in the Castle of Alnwick, will they or
not, sworn they were". Sir Thomas was executed at Tyburn and Sir Ingleram was imprisoned in
the Tower, where his name may still be seen inscribed on the wall of the Beauchamp Tower.
As the Earl had no son and his brother's family could not succeed owing to their father's
attainder for high treason, he left his estates to the Crown, hoping thereby to placate the
King and to induce him eventually to restore them to his brother's family.
He died in 1537 in dire poverty, encumbered with debt and stricken with grief at the ruin of
It was twenty years before the restoration of the estates took place. In the meantime
Alnwick was occupied by successive Wardens of the Marches, and continued to fill its
historic role of the principal centre and base for the defence of the Eastern Marches and
for expeditions into Scotland by the eastern route.
In 1557 Queen Mary restored the Earldom of Northumberland to the nephew of the 6th Earl,
Thomas Percy, son of the Thomas who had perished at Tyburn.
Thomas Percy had married Eleanor Harbottle and they had 4 sons and 3 daughters. They were,
Thomas Percy K.G.,
Henry Percy (see 8th Earl).
Thomas Percy, K.G., 7th Earl of Northumberland (1557 - 1572)
Was a devoted Roman Catholic, was appointed Warden of the East and Middle Marches by Mary,
and General Warden by Queen Elizabeth. He and his brother Henry were for some years
constantly engaged in Scottish expeditions.
His Catholic sympathies, however, rendered him an object of suspicion to Elizabeth, and the
treatment he received compelled him in 1560 to resign the office of Lord Warden. In 1561
Lord Grey of Wilton was appointed to that office.
He complained that the Earl would not allow him to occupy Alnwick Castle, and had, in order
to prevent him doing so, removed "most part of the stuff there". In 1562 the Earl writes
that he cannot entertain the Scottish Queen at Alnwick because the Castle is "utterly
unfurnished and not so much as one bed in it", and he states that he is in such need of
money that he has not £40 in the world. It is probable that he had deliberately dismantled
the Castle to some extent in order that it should not be used as a residence for the
Having gained this object he would seem to have refurbished it, for a survey of 1567 shows
that it was provided with everything required for his own residence at that date.
At length the slights put upon him, and his co-religionists desire to restore the Catholic
faith and to place Mary Queen of Scots on the throne, led him into the disastrous Rising of
the North. In 1568 while the Earl was mustering his forces in Yorkshire his retainers at his
order garrisoned Alnwick Castle, but Sir John Forster, Warden of the Middle Marches,
promptly advanced against it, and resistance being hopeless, the garrison surrendered.
The Earl kept the field till December 1568, while his forces dwindled away from desertion.
At length the approach of the royal army compelled him to seek refuge in Liddesdale, then
regarded as a sanctuary for outlawed men. He was, however, betrayed to the Earl of Moray,
Regent of Scotland, and remained a prisoner in that country until 1572, when he was sold for
a large sum to Queen Elizabeth and handed over to Hunsdon, Governor of Berwick.
He was taken to Alnwick, where he was placed in charge of Sir John Forster, who conveyed him
to York, guarded by a large escort throughout the journey, as, owing to his great popularity
in the North, an attempt at rescue was feared. He was beheaded at York on August 22nd, 1572,
declaring the realm to be in schism and his own adherence to the Church of Rome, which has
numbered him among her martyrs and has beatified him.
He carried out considerable restorations at the Castle, which was evidently in a bad state
of repair at this date.
He married Ann Somerset and they had 2 sons and 5 daughters. They were,
Thomas Percy d 1560 s.p.
It is said that Ann Somerset escaped to France with her children. Records in existence show
that her son Ferdinand did have issue there. Ann Somerset died in Belgium.
Henry, 8th Earl of Northumberland (1572 -1585).
On the death of the 7th Earl in 1572, his brother, the 8th Earl, succeeded. He had gained
the reputation of an able soldier, diplomatist and administrator in Border warfare. He was
professedly a Protestant, and had taken the side of the Government against his brother in
the Rising of the North. This prejudiced him in the eyes of the Catholic North; but his
conduct in general appears to justify the charges brought against him by contemporaries of
being ruthless, crafty and unscrupulous. He soon fell under suspicion of attachment to the
Church of Rome, was kept under close surveillance by the Government, and served two terms in
In 1584 he was arrested on false charges of complicity with Mary Queen of Scots and sent to
the Tower for the third time. In the following year he was found in his cell shot through
the heart. The Government tried to prove that he had died by his own hand, but there were
circumstances pointing to murder, ie. there were 3 bullet holes in him.
Queen Elizabeths writ against the 8th Earl
He married Katherine daughter of John Nevill Baron Latimer. They had 9 sons and 2 daughters.
Henry Percy K.G.,
Thomas Percy d.y.
William Percy d.s.p.
Sir Charles Percy K.t., d.s.p.
Sir Richard Percy K.t.,
Sir Alan Percy K.t.,
Sir Josceline K.t., d.s.p.
George Percy went to usa, d.s.p.
Ralph Percy b 1575 of Newburn had issue.
The Earl was succeeded by his son Henry.
Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland (1585 1632)
To be known later as the Wizard Earl was twenty-one years of age when he succeeded in 1585.
He soon afterwards joined the army in the Netherlands and took part in the famous siege of
Ostend. In 1588 he hired a ship and participated in the victory over the Spanish Armada. He
used all his influence to support the claims of James I to the throne of England, and was
treated with great favour by that monarch after his accession in 1603.
Unfortunately, Northumberland had in 1594 appointed his cousin, Thomas Percy, to be
Constable of Alnwick Castle and his Commissioner and Auditor, and his family resided in the
Castle. This man, a bigoted Catholic, was neither a faithful servant to his master nor a
loyal subject to the King. Many complaints as to his unjust, harsh and dishonest conduct
were made to the Earl by the tenants, who, in order to extort money from them, were
frequently thrown into prison in the Castle by Percy. In spite of these complaints the Earl
continued to trust him, with disastrous results to himself.
In 1605 Percy was one of the principal conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot, on the discovery
of which he fled, but was hunted down and shot at Holbeach in Staffordshire. Suspicion
naturally fell upon the Earl, who, although nothing could be proved against him, was
confined in the Tower for fifteen years, and only released on payment of a heavy fine.
He was known as 'the Wizard Earl' on account of his devotion to the study of chemistry and
astronomy. He was a man of great ability and learning, the close friend of Raleigh and other
learned men, but his pride and ungovernable temper made him many enemies.
He married Dorothy Deveraux daughter of the 1st earl of essex and they had 4 sons and 2
daughters. They were,
Henry Percy d.y. 1596
Henry Percy d.y. 1597
Henry Percy b 1605, Baron Percy of Alnwick.
He died in 1632, and was succeeded by his son Algernon.
The Earl of Northumberland now ceased to reside in Northumberland, (leaving relatives in
Alnwick) and from this time onwards the influence of the family in the north waned until its
revival in the eighteenth century.
Here are some links to interesting and related sites.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PERCYS?
Who were the Percys?
Henry Percy ... was he Shakespeare?
The Percy lion
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