Percy, Henry, Earl of Northumberland
- 1) (1394–1455)Through his feud with the NEVILLE FAMILY for dominance in northern England, Henry Percy, second earl of Northumberland, helped cement a series of alliances that allowed Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, to seriously contend for control of the royal government and so bring on the Wars of the Roses.Percy spent his youth seeking to regain the lands and offices lost by his father and grandfather through their rebellion against Henry IV. After his father, Sir Henry Percy (known as Hotspur), died in battle at Shrewsbury in 1403, Percy fled to SCOTLAND with his grandfather, the first earl, who died in rebellion against the king at Bramham Moor in 1408. Held prisoner in Scotland until 1415, Percy was restored to his earldom and to most of his family’s lands in March 1416. The new earl saw some service in FRANCE, but spent most of Henry V’s reign defending the Scottish border, where the king had appointed him warden of the East March and captain of BERWICK.Named to HENRY VI’s regency COUNCIL in 1422, Northumberland also served on various diplomatic missions, especially to Scotland. In 1436, he received a grant of £100 for life for successfully repelling a Scottish invasion, and in 1437 he was reappointed to the royal council when Henry attained his majority. However, by the 1450s, with the earl no longer active in the council, Northumberland and his sons found themselves unable to compete for royal favor with the Nevilles, the other great magnate family of the north. Rivals for lands and offices, the Percies and Nevilles came to the brink of open war in 1453. In August, Northumberland’s second son, Thomas PERCY, Lord Egremont, menaced a Neville wedding party at the Battle of HEWORTH outside York. In October, Northumberland and his sons gathered a large following that for three tense days faced a similar force collected by Richard NEVILLE, earl of Salisbury, leader of the Neville family, and by his son, Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick. Although on this occasion the parties declined to fight and disbanded their armies, continued provocations and acts of violence by members of both families kept the north in turmoil throughout 1454.By 1455, the NEVILLE-PERCY FEUD began to shape national politics, as Northumberland aligned himself and his family with Edmund BEAUFORT, duke of Somerset, a favorite of Henry VI and York’s chief rival for control of the king and government. Because a land dispute between Warwick and Somerset had caused the Nevilles to ally with York, Northumberland associated himself with Somerset to nullify the advantage his rivals drew from their association with York (see First Protectorate). While strengthening Somerset’s resolve to oppose York, Northumberland’s decision also strengthened the Nevilles’ determination to support York. These political arrangements created the tensions that exploded in violence at the Battle of ST.ALBANS in May 1455, where York and the Nevilles seized the king and killed both Northumberland and Somerset. Because his sons considered it murder, Northumberland’s death merged the Neville-Percy feud into the coming war between the houses of LANCASTER and YORK, and transformed the Percies into staunch Lancastrians.Further Reading: Griffiths, Ralph A.,“Local Rivalries and National Politics: The Percies, the Nevilles and the Duke of Exeter, 1452–1455,” in Ralph A. Griffiths, ed., King and Country: England and Wales in the Fifteenth Century (London: Hambledon Press, 1991), pp. 321–364; Griffiths, Ralph A., The Reign of King Henry VI (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Storey,R. L., The End of the House of Lancaster, 2d ed. (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1999).2) (1421–1461)By maintaining his family’s feud with the NEVILLE FAMILY, Henry Percy, third earl of Northumberland, contributed to the local disorder and political instability that made possible the WARS OF THE ROSES.The eldest son of Henry PERCY, second earl of Northumberland, Percy acquired his family’s traditional Scottish border offices of warden of the East March and captain of BERWICK. In 1446, he became Lord Poynings after his marriage to the daughter of the last PERCY, HENRY, EARL OF NORTHUMBERLAND 199 holder of the title. Several times in the late 1440s and 1450s, he led raids into and repelled invasions out of SCOTLAND. In 1448, Poynings was captured and briefly imprisoned by the Scots; in 1451, HENRY VI appointed Poynings to a commission for negotiating a truce with the representatives of JAMES II. Occupied by his duties on the border, Poynings had only a limited involvement in the NEVILLE-PERCY FEUD of the 1450s, which his family conducted mainly under the leadership of his younger brother, Thomas PERCY, Lord Egremont.After the death of his father at the Battle of ST.ALBANS in May 1455, Poynings succeeded to the earldom of Northumberland and continued his family’s rivalry with the Nevilles, whom the earl considered responsible for his father’s murder. In early 1458, Northumberland led a large force to LONDON to attend a great COUNCIL summoned by the king to compose the differences between leading nobles. Joined by Henry BEAUFORT, duke of Somerset, and the sons of other peers killed at St. Albans, Northumberland demanded recompense for those deaths from Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, and his allies, Richard NEVILLE, earl of Salisbury, and Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick. He participated in the LOVE-DAY reconciliation mediated by Henry VI in March 1458, but in November 1459 he supported the ATTAINDER of York and the Nevilles in the COVENTRY PARLIAMENT, and in December 1460 he was a leader of the Lancastrian army that defeated and killed York and Salisbury at the Battle of WAKEFIELD. He marched south with Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU in early 1461 and fought at the Battle of ST. ALBANS on 17 February (see March on London). He was killed commanding the van of the Lancastrian army at the Battle of TOWTON in late March. The earl was posthumously attainted by the first PARLIAMENT of EDWARD IV, who confined Northumberland’s son, Henry PERCY, future fourth earl of Northumberland, for most of the 1460s.Further Reading: Griffiths, Ralph A.,“Local Rivalries and National Politics: The Percies, the Nevilles and the Duke of Exeter, 1452–1455,” in Ralph A. Griffiths, ed., King and Country: England and Wales in the Fifteenth Century (London: Hambledon Press, 1991), pp. 321–364; Griffiths, Ralph A., The Reign of King Henry VI (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Storey,R. L., The End of the House of Lancaster, 2d ed. (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1999).3) (1446–1489)By refraining from opposing EDWARD IV in 1471 and from supporting RICHARD III in 1485, Henry Percy, fourth earl of Northumberland, twice affected the course of the WARS OF THE ROSES.The only son of Henry PERCY, third earl of Northumberland, who died fighting for HENRY VI at the Battle of TOWTON in March 1461, Percy was confined after his father’s estates were forfeited to the Crown by act of ATTAINDER. In 1464, Edward IV granted the earldom of Northumberland to John NEVILLE, Lord Montagu, as a reward for Montagu’s victories over Lancastrian rebels at the Battles of HEDGELEY MOOR and HEXHAM. However, in October 1469, after freeing himself from the control of Montagu’s elder brother, Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, Edward IV released Percy from confinement. In March 1470, after driving Warwick from England, the king stripped Montagu of the earldom of Northumberland and conferred the title on Percy, who also resumed his family’s traditional office of warden of the East March (i.e., the eastern border with SCOTLAND). After Edward IV was overthrown in October 1470 (see Edward IV, Overthrow of), Northumberland ignored his family’s Lancastrian past and did not actively support the READEPTION government of Henry VI, which was controlled by the Percies’ ancient rivals, the NEVILLE FAMILY. When Edward IV landed in northern England in March 1471, Northumberland remained quiet, a neutrality that allowed the Yorkist king time to build support (see Percy, Henry, Earl of Northumberland; Edward IV, Restoration of). Edward rewarded Northumberland by restoring him to the Scottish wardenship, which Warwick had withdrawn, and by naming him to several additional offices, including the constableship of BAMBURGH CASTLE. Northumberland was appointed chief commissioner to Scotland in 1472 and accompanied the king on the French expedition of 1475. In 1482, the earl participated in the duke of Gloucester’s Scottish campaign, and was named captain of the newly recovered town of BERWICK. Gloucester, after taking the throne as Richard III in June 1483, was careful to cultivate Northumberland’s support. The earl was confirmed in all his offices and was named great chamberlain of England after Henry STAFFORD, duke of Buckingham, forfeited the office for his involvement in BUCKINGHAM’S REBELLION in the autumn of 1483. Richard also granted Northumberland some of Buckingham’s estates, and in 1484 PARLIAMENT returned to him all the Percy lands that had been lost to the family since their rebellion against Henry IV in 1403. Despite these many rewards, Northumberland’s support for Richard III was only lukewarm. In August 1485, when Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond, invaded England, Northumberland obeyed Richard’s summons and was present in the royal army at the Battle of BOSWORTH FIELD. Nonetheless, he took no part in the battle, and later writers claimed that he would have defected to Richmond had not a suspicious Richard III kept him under close watch. It is also possible that the fighting drew so rapidly to its conclusion that the earl never had an opportunity to engage; after the battle, Richmond, now HENRY VII, thought Northumberland sufficiently associated with the late king to order the earl’s imprisonment. He was, however, soon released, admitted to favor, and restored to all his offices. Northumberland was killed in April 1489 by Yorkshire rebels protesting a recent tax assessment.Further Reading: “Henry Percy,” in Michael Hicks, Who’s Who in Late Medieval England (London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 1991), pp. 343–344; Hicks, Michael,“Dynastic Change and Northern Society: The Career of the Fourth Earl of Northumberland, 1470–89,” in Richard III and His Rivals: Magnates and Their Motives in the Wars of the Roses (London: Hambledon Press, 1991); Ross, Charles, Edward IV (New Haven, CT:Yale University Press, 1998); Ross, Charles, Richard III (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).
Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. John A.Wagner. 2001.
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