Henry PERCY

(8th E. Northumberland)

Born: ABT 1532, Petworth, Sussex, England

Died: 21 Jun 1585, Tower of London

Father: Thomas PERCY (Sir)

Mother: Eleanor HARBOTTLE

Married: Catherine NEVILLE (C. Northumberland) 28 Jan 1562

Children:

1. Henry PERCY (9 E. Northumberland)

2. Thomas PERCY

3. William PERCY

4. Charles PERCY (Sir)

5. Lucy PERCY

6. Richard PERCY

7. Joscelyne PERCY (Sir)

8. Anne PERCY

9. Alan PERCY (Sir)

10. Eleanor PERCY

11. George PERCY


Younger son of Sir Thomas Percy, brother of the childless Henry Percy, sixth Earl of Northumberland, by his wife Eleanor, daughter of Sir Guiscard Harbottle.

Henry Percy served both Mary I and Elizabeth I in many capacities. To the surprise of his brother, Thomas, seventh Earl of Northumberland, Henry sided with Queen Elizabeth during the 1569 rebellion and moved his soldiers against the rebels. Henry Percy wrote a letter to Lord Cecil on 7 Jun 1570. In this letter he enclosed a copy of a letter he had previously written to his brother Thomas. The latter consists of the most bitter reproaches and insults and concludes with a description of the condition in which Henry had found four of Thomas's children at Topcliffe that previous Winter. The letter is quoted in Sir Cuthbert Sharp:

'...In what case ye have left your iiij children. I may tearme them the young beggars, for so had they bene had nott the prynces liberality byne more then the goodnes of their friendes...'

Henry Percy wrote to the Earl of Sussex on 9 Jan 1570 that 'Passing by the younge ladys, I founde them in harde case. They wolde gladly be removyde'. He took them along and raised them within his own family, which soon moved to the Percy castle at Petworth.

The creation of Earl of Northumberland on 1 May 1557 was "with remainder, failing heirs male of his body, to his brother, Henry Percy". Queen Elizabeth had promised during the rebellion to Henry Percy that if he remained loyal, he would inherit the earldom. The Queen wrote him that she approved of his constancy and forwardness, "although the same be against your brother of Northumberland"; and assured him, that she "will have regard to have the continuance of such a house, in the parson and blood of so faithfull a servant, as we trust to find you". The 7th Earl was executed on 22 Aug 1572 and immediately the brother, Henry Percy, was recognised as the next Earl.

By the attainder of the 7th Earl, the Barony of Poynings and the Earldom of Northumberland (1416 creation of which he was 'de jure Earl') became forfeited, and have ever since so continued; but the Statute "De Donis" (1285) was held to protect the honours conferred on him in 1557 by the special remainder in their creation, and accordingly devolved on his brother. Any right as "heir general" to the forfeited disnities created in 1337 and 1416 (subject to the attainder of 1571), and to the ancient Barony (1299) of Percy (subject to the attainder of 1406), devolved on his daughters and coheirs, and now vests in the descendants of the two who alone left issue. (The Complete Peerage Volume IX, footnote pages 729, 730)

Henry Percy was not a pleasant man. He wanted to possess his brother's earldom of Northumberland. According to a letter of Cecil to the Earl of Shrewsbury in Oct 1571, Henry Percy stated explicitely that he had to become Earl after his brother's death. He threatened that if he could not get the earldom, he was going to follow his brother's example and take the side of Mary Queen of Scots against Elizabeth. Cecil writes that Henry Percy told the Bishop of Ross that:

'He had a sute at this parliament, to be enheritour to his brother; and if that toke not effect, he wold do the best he could for the deliverie of the Scots Quene; but if it did, he wold not medle'

Sir Henry Percy, thought James Croft was his own worst enemy. To Burghley in 1578, he wrote:

'The man has not the readiest way to do good to himself as other courtiers have, and finds he is hindered by indirect means. He standeth in need of help more than, perhaps, his stomach will yield to make show of to the world'

He had been imprisoned upon suspicion of complicity in a Catholic plot, the Throckmorton plot, favouring the claims of Mary Queen of Scots. He was committed to the Tower. The Earl was found dead in bed, slain by three bullets from a pistol. The inquest brought in a verdict of suicide.

A spy-report sent from Paris to London in Aug 1585 states that Charles Neville, the fugitive Earl of Westmoreland, might, as part of a concerted Catholic invasion of England, land in Cumberland or Lancashire, bringing with him the son(s) of the late Earl of Northumberland. Historians suppose this "late earl" to be Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland. Hence, the historians wonder which son(s) the spy-report refers to, as sources indicate that all sons were in England at the time of their father's suicide/murder. It is known for certain that Earl Henry's eldest sons were in England in Jun 1585, as were his three youngest sons. However, three other sons, William (b 1570), Charles (b 1572) and Richard (b 1573) had been in France in the early 1580s to complete their schooling. The brothers seem to have gone to France sometime after Christmas 1582, but they returned before Jun 1585.

He was succeeded by Henry, ninth Earl, his eldest son.

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