The 9th earl of Northumberland:
The nineth earl, yet another Henry was the eighth earl’s son born in 1564 and like his father spent time in the Tower. He was complicit in the Gun Powder Plot, gambled rather too much and had a nicotine habit.
Prior to getting himself into a treasonous sort of trouble he served under the Earl of Leicester in the Low Countries during the 1580s and was in the fleet facing the Spanish Armada. Not withstanding his evident loyalty to the throne there were suggestions that he might marry Lady Arbella Stuart during the early 1590s. Arbella had a claim to the throne via her father Charles Stuart the younger brother of Henry Stuart (Lord Darnley). The earl also had a claim to the throne albeit a rather distant one. It was suggested that the pair might make a winning team as with the death of Mary Queen of Scots a Catholic alternative was required to Protestant James. Instead of marrying Arbella he married Dorothy Devereaux, the sister of the 2ndearl of Essex (the one executed by Elizabeth I for treason in 1601) and step-daughter of the Earl of Leicester. It was not necessarily a wildly happy marriage although they did have a shared friend in Sir Walter Raleigh.
Initially it appeared that the ninth earl would rise to prominence under the Stuarts. He was made a Privy Councillor in 1603 but Percy was not happy about the way Raleigh was treated and the promised tolerance for catholicism never materialised. He also regarded Prince Henry as a more regal alternative. In short when Thomas Percy was found to have conspired in the gunpowder plot it was one short step from there to the incrimination of the earl himself.
Despite the fact that Lord Salisbury (Robert Cecil) wrote that there was no evidence against him the earl was charged with treason and fined £30,000 – £11,000 of the fine fell due immediately. Percy was in the Tower, his wife appealed to Anne of Denmark and James I confiscated some of the earl’s estates. The earl’s years in the Tower were not badly spent in that he and Sir Walter Raleigh spent their time conducting scientific experiments and reading. He also had plenty of time to fulminate on his dislike of all things Scottish which can’t have been good news when his daughter fell in love with one. In all the earl spent almost sixteen years inside the Tower.
The earl, upon release, having taken the waters in Bath retired to Petworth where he died in 1632.
The 10th Earl of Northumberland:
The tenth earl broke with tradition in that his first name was Algernon but like the rest of his family he didn’t get along with the current occupant of the throne. Whilst he was on his European educational tour his father wrote to him from the Tower giving him advice about what to look at and how to behave. He was the MP for Sussex in 1624 and served as an admiral in various campaigns. Charles I favoured him with assorted promotions over the years but ultimately despite looking like a Royalist with his flowing hair and lace collars he fought on Parliament’s side during the English Civil War. By 1649 he was doing everything possible to prevent the king’s execution. Essentially after Charles I was executed Algernon threw all his toys out from his pram and refused to play with Oliver Cromwell. In 1660 when he returned to politics along with a restored monarchy he petitioned against the actions that Charles II took against the regicides.
The 11th Earl of Northumberland:
The 11thearl was called Josceline – born 1644, he had been a page at Charles II’s coronation. When he died in Turin in 1670 there was just one daughter Elizabeth. She was married to Charles Seymour, the Sixth Duke of Somerset. It was her third marriage and she was only fifteen at the time! Her son Algernon became the Duke of Somerset – the title being superior to that of an earl. Normally his eldest son would have taken the title earl of Northumberland until he inherited the dukedom but he also had only one child – a daughter, Elizabeth Seymour pictured at the start of the post. The dukedom of Somerset would pass elsewhere on Algernon’s death but the earldom of Northumberland was held suo jureor in her own right by Elizabeth as indeed her grandmother had held it. So, her husband Sir Hugh Smithson took the surname Percy in much the same way that had happened back in the thirteenth century. In 1766 Sir Hugh Smithson changed his name to Percy by act of Parliament. It was a move to see that an ancient name and title did not die out. He was created the Duke of Northumberland the same year.
From an earl to a duke.
The Dukedom of Northumberland has been created on three different occasions: John Dudley made himself Duke of Northumberland in 1551 – but he had a nasty accident with an axe thanks to the whole Lady Jane Grey gambit. Charles II revived the title for one of his illegitimate sons but George Fitzroy had no heirs. There was a Jacobite duke in 1715 but he is considered not to count because he was installed by the Old Pretender.