Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland

Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland (November 10,1341February 20,1408), was the son of Henry de Percy, 3rd Baron Percy and a descendent of Henry III of England. His mother was Mary of Lancaster, daughter of Henry Plantagenet, 3rd Earl of Leicester, son of Edmund Crouchback, who was the son of Henry III. Henry Percy married Margaret Neville, daughter of Ralph Neville, 2nd Baron Neville de Raby and Alice de Audley. They were the parents of Henry "Harry Hotspur" Percy.

Henry Percy was originally a follower of Edward III of England, for whom he held high offices in the administration of northern England. He went on to support King Richard II. He was given the title of Marshal of England and created an Earl at Richard's coronation (1377). But, after Richard II created his chief rival, Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland in 1399, he switched to the side of Henry Bolingbroke (later, Henry IV)

On King Henry IV's coronation he was appointed Constable of England and granted the lordship of the Isle of Man. Percy and his son, Henry Percy, known as "Hotspur", were given the task of subduing the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr, but their attempts to make peace with the Welsh rebels did not meet with the king's approval. In 1403 the Percies turned against Henry IV in favour of Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March, and then conspired with Owain Glyndŵr against King Henry.

The Percy rebellion failed at the Battle of Shrewsbury, where Hotspur was killed. Since the earl did not directly participate in the rebellion, he was not convicted of treason. However, he lost his office as Constable. In 1405 Percy supported Richard le Scrope, Archbishop of York, in another rebellion, after which Percy fled to Scotland, and his estates were confiscated by the King.

In 1408 Percy invaded England in rebellion once more and was killed at the Battle of Bramham Moor.

In literature and media

Northumberland is a major character in Shakespeare's Richard II, Henry IV, part 1, and Henry IV, part 2.

His position as a character in the Shakespearean canon inspired the character of Lord Percy Percy, Duke of Northumberland in the historical sitcom The Black Adder, set during the very late Plantagenet era.

Further reading

  • Towson, Kris Henry Percy, first earl of Northumberland : ambition, conflict and cooperation in late mediaeval England St Andrews PhD Thesis, 2005.
  • Rose, Alexander Kings in the North - The House of Percy in British History. Phoenix/Orion Books Ltd, 2002, ISBN 1-84212-485-4 (722 pages paperback)

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