Henry Percy, 2nd Earl of Northumberland

PERCY, HENRY, second Earl of Northumberland (1394–1455), son and heir of Sir Henry Percy [q. v.], called Hotspur, was born on 3 Feb. 1394. His father fell at Shrewsbury on 21 July 1403, and Henry was presented to Henry IV by his grandfather, Henry de Percy, first earl of Northumberland [q. v.], at York in the following August. When the earl fled to Scotland in 1405, young Percy also took shelter there, arriving shortly before his grandfather (Scotichronicon, p. 1166), and after the earl’s death was detained by the Scots as though a prisoner of war, but was treated with honour by them (ib. p. 1184). Henry V pitying him, and being solicited on his behalf by Joan, countess of Westmorland, the king’s aunt, whose daughter Eleanor Percy married at Berwick in that year, restored him in blood, and on 11 Nov. 1414 assented to a petition from him, presented in parliament, for the restoration of his dignities and estates (Rolls of Parliament, iv. 36–7; Walsingham, ii. 300; Collins, Peerage, iii. 273; this marriage is celebrated in Bishop Percy’s ballad ‘The Hermit of Warkworth’). The king desired that he should be exchanged for Murdoch Stewart, eldest son of the Duke of Albany. Some delay took place, and the Earl of Cambridge, who made a conspiracy against the king, plotted to bring Percy into England with an army of Scots (Fœdera, ix. 260). It is evident that Percy had nothing to do with this scheme, and his exchange, which was arranged for on 1 July 1415, took place soon after (Proceedings of the Privy Council, ii. 162–4, 188–90). His hereditary possessions were restored, and on 16 March 1416 he did homage in parliament for his earldom, receiving a new patent of creation (Rot. Parl. iv. 71–2). In April 1417 he was appointed warden of the east marches towards Scotland, and captain of Berwick. He commanded a contingent of the army mustered in July for the king’s second invasion of France, but, if he actually sailed, must have shortly afterwards returned, for the Scots under Archibald, fourth earl of Douglas [q. v.], and the Duke of Albany, having invaded England in October, and made attempts on Berwick and Roxburgh, he, with other lords and with Henry Bowet [q. v.], archbishop of York, raised a force which mustered on Barmoor, near Wooler in Northumberland. The Scots retreated, and the English ravaged the southern border of Scotland (Gesta Henrici V, pp. 121, 272; Otterbourne, p. 279; Scotichronicon, p. 1186). The earl did some service in the French war, and on 24 Feb. 1421 officiated as a steward at the coronation of Queen Catherine [see Catherine of Valois]. In June he was reappointed warden of the east marches with a salary of 5,000l. in time of war and 2,500l. in peace (Fœdera, x. 126).

On the death of Henry V Northumberland attended the council that met on 16 Nov. 1422 to decide on Gloucester’s claim to be regent, and was appointed a member of the council of regency (Proceedings of the Privy Council, iii. 6, 157). He was appointed ambassador to the council of Pavia on 22 Feb. 1423 with a salary of 66s. 8d. a day (ib. pp. 42, 61), and on 6 July was appointed joint ambassador to Scotland, his commission being renewed on 14 Feb. following. He constantly attended the meetings of the council, and on 24 Nov. 1426 assisted in drawing up ordinances for its government (ib. p. 213). In 1429 and 1430 he was a joint ambassador to Scotland, and on 18 Feb. 1434 the council decided that he should be paid 50l. in consideration of his labour and expenses in attending courts for the settlement of disputes between the English and the Scots. Part of the town of Alnwick having lately been burnt by the Scots, he obtained license in June that he and the burgesses might wall it round. As the five years’ truce with Scotland was to expire in May 1436, he made great preparations for war, dubbed many new knights, and probably crossed the border in connection with the raid of Sir Robert Ogle, who was defeated in September at Piperden [see Douglas, William, second Earl of Angus], but did not effect anything. On his return King James [see James I of Scotland] laid siege to Roxburgh in October. The earl promptly advanced to meet him at the head of the local forces, and the king broke up the siege and departed (Hardyng, p. 397; Chronicle of Henry VI, p. 16, ed. Giles; Three Chronicles, p. 166; Gregory, p. 179). In return for his services he received a grant of 100l. a year for life. He was reappointed a member of the council on 12 Nov. 1437, and the next year was a joint commissioner to treat with the Scots. In common with the other lords of the council, he was appointed in 1441 to inquire into all treason and sorcery against the king’s person in connection with the accusation brought against the Duchess of Gloucester (Devon Issues, p. 444). In 1442–3 he had a quarrel with John Kemp [q. v.], archbishop of York, and his men did injury to the property of the see at Ripon and Bishopthorpe. The dispute was finally settled in the council, the king deciding that the earl was to repair the damage (Proceedings, v. 269–70, 309; Plumpton Correspondence, Introd. pp. liv–lxxii). He is said to have had a personal share in his son’s campaign against the Scots in October 1448, to have been unhorsed at the battle by the river Sark in Annandale, and to have been saved by his son, who remounted him; but this seems untrue (Holinshed, i. 273; comp. Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 18). In the summer his two castles of Alnwick and Warkworth had been set on fire by the Earl of Douglas. On 25 May 1450 Northumberland was made constable of England, but resigned on 11 Sept. in favour of the Duke of Somerset [see Beaufort, Edmund].

The old feud between the Percys and the Nevilles again broke out, was heightened by political dissension, and caused serious disorder in the north. In July 1453 the king in council wrote to the Earls of Northumberland and Westmorland, charging them to see that the peace was kept (Proceedings of Privy Council, vi. 147). A battle was fought between two of Northumberland’s sons, Lord Egremont and Sir Richard Percy, and Westmorland’s son, the Earl of Salisbury [see Neville, Richard, 1400–1460], and on 8 Oct. another letter was sent to Northumberland urging him to do his duty by preserving order (ib. pp. 159–64). The north remained disturbed, and on 10 May 1454 both the earls were specially bidden to attend the council on 12 June to provide means for preventing the continuance of disorder (ib. p. 178). The Duke of York having taken up arms in May 1455, the earl marched with the royal army against him, and was slain in the battle of St. Albans on the 23rd; his body was buried in the lady-chapel of the abbey. The earl was a benefactor to University College, Oxford (Wood, Colleges and Halls, p. 47), and to Eton College. By his wife Eleanor, daughter of Ralph, first earl of Westmorland [q. v.], previously married, or contracted, to Richard le Despenser, son of Thomas, earl of Gloucester, who died in 1414 at the age of fourteen, he had twelve children: Henry (see below), who succeeded him; Thomas, lord Egremont; George, a prebendary of Beverley, born 1424; Sir Ralph [q. v.]; Sir Richard, slain at Towton on 29 March 1461; William, who was born in 1428, graduated D.D. from Cambridge, where he was chancellor 1451–5, was provided to the see of Carlisle in 1452, called to the privy council (cf. Nicholas, Proceedings, vi. 185 et seq.), and died in 1462 (three other sons died in infancy). Northumberland’s three daughters were: Joan, a nun, buried at Whitby Abbey; Catherine, born in 1423, married Edmund Grey, lord Grey of Ruthin [q. v.], created earl of Kent; and Anne, married (1) Sir Thomas Hungerford, (2) Sir Laurence Rainsford, (3) Sir Hugh Vaughan, and died in 1522 (Collins).

Percy, Henry, third Earl of Northumberland (1421–1461), son of Henry, second earl (see above), was born at Leconfield, Yorkshire, on 25 July 1421, and was knighted by Henry VI on 19 May 1426, being the day on which the little king was himself knighted (Fœdera, x. 356). In July 1439 he was appointed warden of the east marches and Berwick. By his marriage with Eleanor, granddaughter and heiress of Robert, lord Poynings, he in 1446 acquired the baronies of Poynings, Fitzpaine, and Bryan, with estates in Kent, Sussex, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Somerset, and was in December summoned to parliament as Baron de Poynings. In May 1448 he invaded Scotland in company with Sir Robert Ogle, afterwards first Baron Ogle [q. v.], and burnt Dunbar. The Scots retaliated by setting fire to his father’s castles, at Alnwick in June and at Warkworth in July, and doing other damage. Accordingly, in October the king, having advanced into the north, sent him to invade Scotland. He was met by Hugh Douglas, earl of Ormond, forced to retreat, and defeated and taken prisoner near the river Sark (Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 18). He regained his freedom, and was recompensed by the king with the grant of half the goods of Sir Robert Ogle, then outlawed. In April 1451 he was a joint commissioner to treat with the ambassadors of James II of Scotland, and was one of the conservators of the truce made at Newcastle in August (Fœdera, xi. 299). On the death of his father on 23 May 1455 he succeeded him as Earl of Northumberland, the king allowing him relief of his lands without payment, the new earl having on 3 July foiled by his careful preparations an attack of Scots on Berwick, for which he received the king’s thanks. This attack on Berwick was probably connected with the war between King James and James, ninth earl of Douglas [q. v.], in alliance with whom Percy seems to have acted against Scotland about this time. The feud between the Percys and the Nevilles still disturbed the north, and in January 1458 a great council was held at London to pacify that and other quarrels. To this council the earl came up at the head of a large armed force, and the Londoners, who admitted the Yorkists within their city, refused to admit him and the other Lancastrian lords, ‘because they came against the peace,’ so they lodged outside the walls. After much debate a general reconciliation, in which the earl was included, was effected on 25 March (Political Poems, ii. 254). Northumberland attended the parliament at Coventry in November 1459, when the Duke of York was accused of the death of the old earl, and the Yorkist leaders were attainted, and he took the oath to maintain the succession in the king’s line. He was appointed chief justice of the forests north of Trent, and constable of Scarborough Castle (Doyle), and the king is said to have committed the government of the north to him and Lord Clifford as ‘his trusty and most faithful friends’ (Hall, p. 242). In November 1460 he held a meeting at York with Lords Clifford, Dacres, and others, and plundered the tenants of the Yorkist lords. York went north against them, and on 29 Dec. they defeated him at Wakefield, in which battle Northumberland was engaged (Will. Worc. Annals; Gregory, p. 210; Lancaster and York, ii. 236). After helping to raise an army for the queen, he marched southwards with her and the forces of the north, their army plundering and destroying as it marched, and on 17 Feb. 1461 defeated Warwick at St. Albans. The earl then marched to York with the king and queen, and was, in conjunction with Somerset and Clifford, in command of the royal army which marched to oppose the advance of the new king, Edward IV. At the battle of Towton on 29 March the earl commanded the van of the Lancastrian army. Seeing that his archers, who were blinded by a snowstorm, were unable to stand against the arrows of the Yorkists, he hastened to come to close quarters, and was slain. By his wife Eleanor, who survived him, he left among other sons Henry, afterwards fourth Earl of Northumberland [q. v.], and Sir Ralph Percy [q. v.], and three daughters: Eleanor, married Lord De la Warr; Margaret, married Sir William Gascoigne of Gawthorp, Yorkshire; and Elizabeth, married Henry, lord Scrope of Bolton. He was, it is believed, buried in the church of St. Dionys at York, the church of the parish in which stood Percy’s Inn, the York town house of his family. In this church there was a painted window with effigies of the Percys; it was taken down in 1590 (figured in Drake, Eboracum, p. 306).

[Engl. Chron., ed. Davies, Gregory’s Chron. (Collections of a Citizen, &c.) ed. Gairdner, Three Fifteenth-Cent. Chron. ed. Gairdner, Plumpton Corr., Introd. (all four Camden Soc.); Engl. Chron. ed. Giles; Hardyng’s Chron., Fabyan’s Chron., Hall’s Chron. (all ed. Ellis); Holinshed’s Chron. ed. Hooker, fo.; Stow’s Annals, ed. Howes; Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner; Rolls of Parl., Rymer’s Fœdera, Proc. of Privy Council (all three Record publ.); Fordun’s Scotichronicon, ed. Hearne; Chron. of Auchinleck, in ‘Ane Addicioun, &c.,’ ed. Thomson; Ramsay’s Lanc. and York; Tytler’s Hist. of Scotland; De Fonblanque’s Annals of House of Percy; Collins’s Engl. Peerage, ed. 1810; Doyle’s Official Baronage; Dugdale’s Baronage.]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 44
Percy, Henry (1394-1455) by William Hunt

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