Warkworth Castle, Hotspur and Rebellion against Henry IV

DSC_0030.jpgWarkworth Castle was not always in the hands of the Percy family.  It was presented to them in 1332 by Edward III.  Our interest today is in the 1st earl of Northumberland who was so created at the coronation of Richard II.  The earl’s mother was Mary of Lancaster, a granddaughter of Henry III.  Ultimately the 1st earl sided with his cousin Henry Bolingbroke and helped to topple Richard II from power in 1399.  Henry, who had been exiled by Richard II returned to Ravenspur after his father’s death ostensibly to claim the Duchy of Lancaster which Richard had decided to confiscate upon John of Gaunt’s death.  Richard II was in Ireland at the time of Henry’s arrival at Ravenspur.  Richard returned to England via Wales.  He found himself in Conway Castle having a discussion with the Earl of Northumberland and the Archbishop of Canterbury.  From there he found himself in the Tower of London, deposed by Parliament on an assortment of charges agains this realm and from there sent to Pontefract where he died- either because he was starved, forgotten about or refused to eat.   Henry IV did not see himself as a usurper because legally the throne became vacant when Richard was deposed by Parliament. He had merely stepped up to take the role.

As is the way of these things relations soured between the Earl of Northumberland and Henry IV. Given that there were family links as well as ties of affinity and education it is perhaps unexpected. However, this is where the story becomes more complicated and not just in terms of the politics of power.  Hotspur was married to Elizabeth Mortimer.  The Mortimers were descended from Lionel of Antwerp who was John of Gaunt’s older brother – thus even though the throne may have been legally vacant Henry Bolingbroke really and truly shouldn’t have become king. The title should have gone to the earl of March – Edmund Mortimer- who was the son of Elizabeth Mortimer’s brother Roger who had been killed by the Irish in 1398.  Edmund who was a rather youthful eight at the time. Realpolitik must have noted that Richard II’s minority hadn’t been without its issues. Better a grown man than a youth.

DSC_0042.jpgNow in 1403 the initially pro-Lancastrian Percies needed a reason to turn against Henry IV as they discovered that their courses were not running in parallel.  They had initially supported Henry Bolingbroke to regain what was rightfully his but he had then taken matters further and toppled Richard II from the throne – or so they said- demonstrating the History is about stories and that one person’s story is another person’s work of fiction.  Having been badly disappointed in Henry IV who had taken what was not his, the Percies now decided that it was only right and proper that they help put Mortimer on the throne.

It should be noted that Henry IV had not treated Mortimer or his younger brother badly. They were in receipt of a good education and were, for part of the time raised with the king’s own children.  Matters became complicated when Hotspur’s brother-in-law, Sir Edmund Mortimer, managed to get himself captured by Owen Glyndwr and then changed sides – or was at least accused of changing sides by Henry IV.  It probably didn’t help when Glyndwr married his daughter to Sir Edmund and that Sir Edmund wrote that his nephew, young Edmund Mortimer was actually the correct king of England rather than Henry IV.

The truth is that it was during the fourteenth century that the North of England saw the Percy family expand their territory and their power. The accession of Henry IV saw Percy being made Constable of England. This bred much resentment both nationally and locally. The start of the fifteenth century was a time when the monarch wished to curtail the Percy power base.  Meanwhile there were the local politics to contend with  – the Nevilles of Raby were snapping at Percy heels. The Percies became increasingly aggrieved. They were irritated because they had not been properly paid for their protection of the Scottish borders, Henry IV had confiscated their Scottish captives after the Battle of Homildon Hill and thus deprived them of rich ransoms, Henry IV was offering favour to men like Neville and also to George Dunbar who had sought exile in England after a slight to his family honour in Scotland. Sir Edmund had been captured in 1402 and had not been ransomed. It could be argued that Sir Edmund had taken steps to gain his freedom when he reached an understanding with Glyndwr.

It was at Warkworth that the earl plotted the rebellion that led to the death of his son Henry “Hotspur” at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 and his own exile and loss of title and lands. The key conspirators were related to the Mortimers by marriage: Elizabeth Mortimer was married to Hotspur.  Sir Edmund Mortimer was married to Glyndwr’s daughter Catherine.  They decided to divide the kingdom in three – Mortimer would rule the south, Glyndwr would rule Wales and the Percies would take control of the North.  The earl sent his son Henry and his brother Thomas (the earl of Worcester) on ahead of the earl. They raised their standard at Chester.

Dunbar, loyal to Henry IV raised an army as he marched after his Percy adversaries. Hotspur was killed at the battle of Shrewsbury whilst Thomas was executed two days later. Hotspur was initially buried in Whitchurch but when Henry IV heard rumours that Hotspur was still alive he had the body disinterred and then placed between millstones so that it could be viewed.  He then had the head displayed on the Micklegate in York. Eventually Hotspur’s remains were entombed in York Minster.

Dunbar was created the Earl of the March of Scotland  and given Thomas Percy’s estates as a reward by Henry IV.

DSC_0047.jpgThe grief-stricken earl of Northumberland made his peace with Henry IV on that occasion but it was not long before he rebelled once again, fled to Scotland with his grandson and finally returned to die at Bramham Moor.

Warkworth did not immediately hand itself over to the Crown.  It was briefly besieged although just seven canon shots were required to bring its surrender and then handed into the custody of Henry IV’s younger son John who history would best know as the Duke of Bedford.  Eventually when Henry IV died the earl’s grandson who had lived in exile in Scotland was restored to his property although a marriage to Eleanor Neville, the daughter of Ralph Neville and Joan Beaufort was negotiated first – in part to keep Ralph sweet as he had acquired much of the Percy lands and offices in the intervening time.

For more information on Warkworth follow this link: http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/English%20sites/2879.html

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick CastleAlnwick, like most of the great castles, has had a succession of owners  beginning with Ivo de Vesci who married the granddaughter of Gilbert Tyson, a Saxon killed at Hastings in 1066. The zigzag moulding on the arch in the arch that leads to the inner courtyard reminds visitors that Alnwick has been a fortification for the better part of a thousand years.  The barony of Alnwick and its castle continued in the de Vesci hands until the fourteenth century with intermittent lapses into the hands of David of Scotland and William the Lion although it should be noted that during the reign of Henry I Eustace FizJohn was the castle’s owner.  He married the de Vesci heiress of the period and their son William assumed his mother’s name.

IMG_0237Ivo built a motte and bailey castle from timber – by which we can suppose some hapless Saxons found themselves moving soil and digging ditches. There were two baileys – one to the east and one to the west.  Over the years fortifications were added to the central shell keep and to de Vesci’s two baileys. By 1135 it was one of the strongest castles in Northumberland. In actual fact when William the Lion besieged the castle in 1172 he was unable to capture the castle from William de Vesci. In 1174 the Lion had another go at it and was captured by the English.  Part of the reason why William spent so much time hammering on Alnwick’s doors was that he had originally been the Earl of Northumberland but Henry II had removed it from him some twenty years earlier. Perhaps that was why William joined in the revolt by Henry II’s sons and his queen against Henry II in 1173.  William found himself bundled off to Newcastle and from there to Normandy.  William was forced to recognise Henry II as his feudal overlord and in so doing sewed the seeds of the Scottish Wars of Independence when Edward I insisted on the right to naming the Scottish king and to being the feudal overlord of Scotland.

The de Vescis who did not get on terribly well with King John.  It was only luck that the castle wasn’t razed in 1213.  William de Vesci died at the Battle of Bannockburn the following century without heirs so the king sold it to Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham who sold it to Henry de Percy.  De Vesci did have an illegitimate son and was able to hand his Yorkshire lands to his natural son.

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The Percys did rather a lot of rebuilding based on the income from the Scottish wars; either loot or ransoms.  The two huge octagon towers that tower above the inner gateway were built sometime around 1350  and this phase of rebuilding included the rebuilding of the keep with seven U shaped towers.  The castle had been successively strengthened by all its owners but this was the time when the Percy family were most wealthy and the reality of having a bellicose neighbour meant that fortifications were a good investment.

IMG_0215The outer wall, around those two baileys encloses something like five acres of ground.  The wall contains several towers and turrets.  One of them houses a water tower and very sensibly it was here that the castle’s laundry was done.  There is also a rather fine well in the inner court yard near the entrance to the keep.  The Constable’s Tower is open to the public

IMG_0224The fortunes of the Percys declined with the Wars of the Roses and the accession of the Tudors.  Margaret of Anjou had garrisoned Alnwick with three hundred french troops in the aftermath of Town in a bid to retain a toehold on her husband’s kingdom. It was a Scot who rode to the garrison’s rescue on that particular occasion so that Margaret’s troops could make good their escape from the forces of the Earl of Warwick.

Put simply they were the over mighty subjects that a strong monarch needed to keep firmly in check. They continued to fulfil their role  on the borders however.  The Alnwick Muster Roll dating from 1513 identifies the men who fought under the Percy colours at Flodden and survived the encounter with the Scots.  When not at war with Scotland there was intermittent raiding.  In 1528, for example fourteen Scottish reivers were hanged in Alnwick.  However, not even their hereditary role of warden was secure any longer nor were the earls necessarily cut out for border warfare.

The Percy family were not as wealthy as they had once been and in 1567 when George Clarkson was commissioned to assess the castle it was deemed unfit for purpose.  Perhaps lack of cash was something that the earl should have considered before conspiring with the Earl of Cumberland and Leonard Dacre to raise the north in rebellion against Elizabeth I.

In 1569 matters came to a head with the Earl of Northumberland revolted along with the Earl of Cumberland in a bid to return England to Catholicism.  The people of Alnwick were caught up in the rebellion.  Although numbers of rebels dwindled rapidly after the initial success of capturing Durham and celebrating the Mass there before marching into Percy’s Yorkshire estates Alnwick Castle did prepare to withstand the Queen’s forces.  Hartlepool was also captured by the rebels with the intention of providing a safe harbour for the Duke of Alva to land Spanish troops. The Spanish Ambassador it should be noted had already told the conspirators that they had not chance of succeeding in their venture.

The arrival of Sir John Forrester  (or Forster depending on the source) the Warden of the English Middle March on the East side of the country was sufficient for earl’s tenants to hand over the castle and hurry to their own homes.  Forrester also blocked the passes so that men who might have joined the rebels could not join with the earls whose thoughts swiftly turned to flight.

There was much rebuilding during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to transform the medieval fortress into a stately home. It was in the 1750s that it became the main residence for the Duke of Northumberland who commissioned Robert Adam to make the castle more habitable not to mention fashionable.   In the Nineteenth Century Salvin was appointed to create more modifications – the fourth duke liked his castle with a romantic tinge.  It remains the second largest inhabited castle in England and reflects a gothic Italian styles admired by the family at that time.

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The earls of Northumberland and the Percy family part 4 of 4

Lady Elizabeth Percy, Duchess of Somerset (1667-1722)by Sir Godfrey Kneller (Lübeck 1646 - London 1723)

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.

 

 

The earls of Northumberland and the Percy Family – part 3 of 4. The magnificent and unlucky Tudors.

The 5th Earl of Northumberland:

5th north coat of armsThe 5th earl  carried the Coronation sword at Richard III’s coronation but grew up in Henry VII’s court as part of the group of young men who were schooled alongside Princes Arthur and Henry. In the first instance it helped remind the 4th earl where his loyalties lay and in the second place it kept the Percy power base under control. He was at Arthur’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon and  was part of the train that took Princess Margaret to Scotland to be married to James IV.  He had a reputation for being magnificently dressed and travelling in the manner befitting an earl.   As such it would be easy to assume that he had royal favour but it is clear that becoming warden of the border marches was something of an issue once he attained his majority.  Nor for that matter did he acquire any important national roles.  The stumbling block would appear to be the  “ravishment” of Elizabeth Hastings – which sounds unpleasant.  In reality Elizabeth was the daughter of Sir John Hastings of Yorkshire. She was a ward of the Crown and Percy had arranged her marriage.   The language of ravishment and abduction is the language of property being removed from Henry VII’s grasping fingers rather than an account depicting the earl’s predatory nature.  Initially he was fined £10,000 but this was later reduced by half.  Part of the problem for Percy was that the Tudors had learned important lessons about over mighty subjects. Consequentially Henry VII took a dim view of anyone standing on his prerogatives and he didn’t trust the Percy clan in any event because of their landholding and wealth – not to mention prior form. It was Henry VIII who cancelled the debt once he became king. The question is was Percy unsuited for power or did Henry VII use the case of Elizabeth Hastings to financially kneecap a man known for his lavish lifestyle?

 

Meanwhile Percy and his wife, Katherine Spencer – a three times great grand-daughter of Edward III had four children born in the first decade of the sixteenth century; Henry (1502), Thomas (1504), Ingram (1506) and Margaret (1508).   The year after Margaret was born it was rumoured that the earl had come to an agreement with the Duke of Buckingham to overthrow the Tudors.  It was supposed that he would rule north of the Trent. It says something that when Buckingham found himself in the Tower in 1521 on charges of treason that the earl was spared though he had been in the Fleet a few years previously on another ward related charge.  It is also evident that Henry VIII ordered Cardinal Wolsey to keep an eye on the earl despite the fact that nothing can really, at this point in history, be levelled against him.

 

He did all the usual things that Tudor nobles did. He went to war in France in 1512 so was not on hand when James IV of Scotland took the opportunity to invade England.  By 1522 he was back on the borders and indulging in some light feuding with the Dacre family.  The problem was that Percy saw the warden role in the east and middle marches as one that he was entitled to whilst Dacre had other ideas.  The only reason that the Dacre family had become used to serving in the capacity of Warden was that the fifth earl had been a minor when his father was killed by a mob near Thirsk in 1489.  Whilst the earl was a ward of the Crown, the Percy estates were administered by the Earl of Surrey and many of the offices associated with the Percy family were offered out to other families.  The truth is that Percy had never played the role his forefather’s played either through his youth or because of Tudor distrust.  Despite that he attempted to regain the position in northern society he felt was his. By the time he was offered a wardenship he knew that he did not have the necessary military skills to fulfil the role and resigned his commission. The magnificent earl might perhaps have been better described at that stage as the very grumpy earl.

 

Dacre complained from the borders to the king he wasn’t getting the help from Percy that he thought should have been forthcoming.  In 1517 when Margaret Tudor returned to England as a heavily pregnant fugitive, the earl was not overjoyed to see her.  He wrote to the king suggesting that Dacre or the Earl of Cumberland might like to look after her.  He was probably aware the cost of providing for her would come out of his purse.  He attempted to suggest that the countess was indisposed but that didn’t wash with Henry who ordered Northumberland to bring Margaret south.  One of the reasons was that the earl was not as wealthy as he had once been.  He gambled heavily, spent excessively and seems to have been fined rather a lot by Cardinal Wolsey who seems to have been determined to break the northern powerbase that was the earldom of Northumberland.

 

Henry’s brother William was much more the border baron than his brother.  He fought at the Battle of Flodden in 1513 and was created a knight on the battlefield. Even Lord Dacre wrote highly of William as did Bishop Ogle of Carlisle. It was William who trained the earl’s younger sons in the art of border warfare whilst their eldest brother was sent to London to the household of Cardinal Wolsey for his education and, let’s be honest, as a surety for the fifth earl’s good behaviour.

 

The Fifth earl turns up in national history in 1526 when he was summoned from the north to sort out the affairs of his eldest son.  Henry junior was betrothed to Mary Talbot, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury, but had fallen in love with Anne Boleyn.  The earl was supposed to back up the cardinal who had been ordered to prevent the match.

 

He died on May 19 1527.

The 6th Earl of Northumberland:

The new earl was of age but Wolsey made the earl of Cumberland, Margaret Percy’s husband, executor of the 5th earl’s estate.  The 6th earl was forbidden from attending the funeral of his father and then there was the issue of Mary Talbot – the powerless daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury.  The engagement had been a means of breaking off the relationship between Percy and Anne Boleyn but the match was not finalised.  It had in fact been halted because the young people did not like one another.   Now Percy was required to marry her and to live in the north.  The fifth earl had not been impressed with his heir and it would have to be said that either of his younger brothers was more suited to riding around the countryside killing reivers – poor old Henry simply hadn’t been trained for it and was rather on the sickly side.  It can’t have helped that his father was so far in debt- more than £17,000- that the plate had to be pawned to pay for his funeral.

 

Cardinal Wolsey drew up a budget.  It was not generous. Wolsey also arranged for the estate rents to be collected and began to have a close look at various Percy deeds and entitlements.  Matters came to a head when it was discovered that one of the earl’s retainers, appropriately named Wormme,  was sending Wolsey details of the earl’s accounts. The earl was not amused and the gentleman in question is supposed to have spent considerable time in a less comfortable dungeon in Alnwick Castle upon payment of a £300 bribe by the earl specifically to get his hands on the man.

 

The earl now set about demonstrating that he was more than capable of maintaining order in the north though unfortunately he was less able to maintain order in his own marriage. Mary liked Henry almost as much as he liked her.  The pair separated but were required by Wolsey to resume their married life. It was not a happy marriage in any sense of the word.  Mary became convinced that Henry was trying to kill her – there is no evidence that he was.

 

But time was running out for the Cardinal who had been unable to untie Henry VIII from his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. The king had rather an unpleasant sense of humour. He sent the man whose life had been made a misery to arrest the Cardinal and convey him to London.  Northumberland arrived at Cawood near York on the 4thNovember 1529 where he behaved, it is said with great dignity and compassion for Henry VIII’s former minister.

 

In 1531 the earl was made a knight of the garter. He was not involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace.  He died in 1537 leaving his money to Henry VIII.  He is best remembered as the first love of Anne Boleyn.  He collapsed at her trial and never really recovered.

Having no children his title passed to his younger brother unfortunately Thomas had become caught up in Bigod’s Rebellion (the follow on to the Pilgrimage of grace).  He was hanged drawn and quartered in London in June 1537 before he could become earl.

 

The 7th Earl of Northumberland:

200px-Thomas_Percy_Earl_of_Northumberland_1566The 7th earl was Thomas’s oldest son, also called Tomas – a pleasant change from all those Henrys.  To all intents and purposes his father’s death as a traitor should have debarred him from the earldom but when he came of age in 1549 he was restored to some of his lands and his loyalty to Mary Tudor in 1557 saw him restored to the earldom.  The Percys had never stopped being Catholic. Unfortunately it all went to his head – quite literally- as he took part in the Northern Rising of 1569. I have posted about the 7th earl before.  If you would like to read more click here to open a new page.  He was executed in 1572 in York on Elizabeth’s orders.  His execution warrant can still be seen in Alnwick Castle.

 

The seventh earl’s son died before him and he left a family of daughters so the family had to look back up the family tree for the next earl.  Not only that but Elizabeth I didn’t trust the family so far as she could throw them so refused to allow them to travel to their residences in the north of the country.  During this time Petworth in Sussex became the main Percy residence.

The 8th Earl of Northumberland:

Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland (c.1532-1585) (posthumous) by Sir Anthony Van Dyck (Antwerp 1599 - London 1641)

Oil painting on canvas, Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland (c.1532-1585) by Sir Anthony Van Dyck (Antwerp 1599 – London 1641). A posthumous three-quarter-length portrait, standing, turned slightly to the right, gazing at the spectator, short cropped hair, beard and moustache, wearing full armour, his right hand wearing his gauntlet and holding a baton his left elbow leaning on a ledge and his left bare hand hanging over it. On the ledge is his helmet.

The eighth earl was another Henry Percy and he was the seventh earl’s younger brother.  He had the common sense to remain loyal to Elizabeth I during the Rising of the North. Unfortunately he was implicated in assorted plots to release Mary Queen of Scots.  He was sent to the Tower as a result of being implicated in the Throckmorton Plot and again in 1584 when he was accused of plotting to allow the Duc de Guise to land troops for the purpose of releasing Mary Queen of Scots and returning England to Catholicism.  Off he went to the Tower – for a third time as it happens – he died unexpectedly on 21stJune 1585.

Someone had shot him through the heart.  It was decided that he had committed suicide. Let’s just say that warders and officers in charge of the earl’s well being were changed just beforehand to men who were careless about guns. It rather looks as though Sir Christopher Hatton, the queen’s favourite, may have assisted the “suicide.”

The earldom of Northumberland and the Percy family part 2 of 4

Harry Hotspur AlnwickI had thought three parts to this little series but having written today’s post which is largely about the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries I shall be extending it to four parts.

Generation 10 of Topcliffe/2 of Alnwick:

Henry Percy Junior was only sixteen when his father died in 1314.  Initially John de Felton held his lands in ward but by the time he was twenty Edward II had granted Henry more lands in Northumbria than his father held.  These had been part of Patrick Earl of March’s territory.  Patrick was Scottish and the land offer reflects the way in which northern territories fluctuated between Scotland and England during troubled times.  Henry was no more impressed with Edward II’s choice of male favourite than his father had been nor with the foreign policy and military prowess that saw the Scots raiding deep into Yorkshire.

In no particular order, Percy  conspired against the Despensers and was made governor of both Pickering and Scarborough Castle.  The northern Percy powerhouse was further built upon when he married into the Clifford family and Edward III granted him Warkwarth Castle.  In 1346 he was one of the English commanders at the Battle of Neville’s Cross near Durham against the Scots which must have been a bit irritating given that he had gone to Scotland in 1327 to help negotiate a peace treaty with them.

Generation 3 of Alnwick:

The next generation Henry Percy was at the Battle of Crecy – so should probably be regarded as the Hundred Years War Percy.  His correct title was the 3rdBaron Percy of Alnwick.  His first wife was Mary of Lancaster – the best way of thinking of her is as Blanche of Lancaster’s aunt.  Blanche was the first wife of John of Gaunt who is commemorated in the Book of the Duchess by Chaucer and whose land ensured that Gaunt was the wealthiest man in the country.  Mary was a daughter of Henry III.  With each marriage the Percy family made the wealth and the prestige of the family rose, as did the amount of land that they held and their proximity to the throne.

Generation 4 of Alnwick – 1st Earl of Northumberland:

The Percy family now found itself elevated to the earldom of Northumberland – after all Mary of Lancaster was a Plantagenet princess so it is only reasonable to suppose that her first born son should have a sufficiently impressive title.  The first earl, yet another Henry Percy, was born in 1341. He supported Edward III and then he supported Richard II in his various official capacities on the borders.  It was Richard who created him an earl at his coronation in 1377.  Unfortunately despite being having been married to Margaret Neville, Percy was distinctly un-amused when his power base was eroded by Richard II who created his rival (and nephew-in-law) Ralph Neville the earl of Westmorland.  The First Earl of Northumberland now had a hissy fit because of the creation of the First Earl of Westmorland. He swapped sides. Instead of backing Richard II against his enemies he supported Henry of Bolingbroke, John of Gaunt’s son, against Richard II. Bolingbroke duly became Henry IV and Percy found himself swaggering around with the title Constable of England.

Unfortunately in 1403 the earl swapped sides once more.  He was slightly irritated by the outcome of the Battle of Homildon Hill in 1402.  It was an English-Scots match that the English won.  Percy stood to make rather a lot of cash from ransoming his Scottish prisoners.   Unfortunately Henry IV was feeling the financial pinch and besides which felt that the Percys had too much power in the north.  So he demanded all the hostages and gave Percy a fraction of their value.  The earl was underwhelmed but didn’t immediately voice his irritation.

Having been given the task of subduing the Welsh in 1403, Percy and his son Harry Hotspur now joined with Owain Glyndwr.  Hotspur died at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 but Henry IV couldn’t pin anything on the earl who hadn’t taken part in the battle.  The most that Henry IV could do was remove the office of constable from Percy who didn’t learn the lesson and continued to conspire against Henry IV. In 1405 Percy decided to take a long holiday in Scotland for the sake of his health. He took Hotspur’s son with him. The earl returned to England in 1408 where he managed to get himself killed at the Battle of Bramham Moor near Tadcaster.  This was the final battle in the Percy family rebellion against cousin Henry IV.

 

2nd Earl of Northumberland:

Joan BeaufortHotspur’s son another Henry had spent most of his childhood in Scotland because both his father and grandfather were at loggerheads with the monarch.  Very sensibly after his grandfather was killed the second earl remained safely in Scotland.  It was only when Henry IV died that Henry Percy took the opportunity to be reconciled with the Crown.  He was officially recognised as the 2ndearl in 1413.

He arrived back in England and settled down to a spot of feuding with his Neville relations. The Nevilles, particularly Richard Neville (aka the Kingmaker) and his father the Earl of Salisbury were associated with Richard of York so naturally the Percy family supported Henry VI and the Duke of Somerset.  Ironically the 2ndearl’s mother was Elizabeth Mortimer, the grand-daughter of Lionel of Antwerp, so you would have thought that he would have been more sympathetic to Richard of York who based his claims on his descent from Lionel.  Not only that but his return to the earldom had been smoothed by Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland. She also arranged his marriage to Eleanor Neville – her second daughter with the Earl of Westmorland – making the Earl of Salisbury Percy’s brother-in-law and the Kingmaker his nephew.  Talk about a tangled family web.

 

I’ve blogged about Eleanor Neville and the Battle of Heworth Moor before so there is no need to write about it again. Enough to say that it demonstrates the depths to which the feud had sunk.  And things were about to get worse.  The earl was born in 1393 and died on 22 May 1455 at the First Battle of St Albans.  It was a comprehensive victory for the Yorkists and according to the chronicles of the time an opportunity for Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, to settle some personal scores – the death of the Earl of Northumberland being on his “to do” list.  Obviously it didn’t help the relations between the Percy and Neville families as the Wars of the Roses spiralled towards the bloodiest battle in English history.

 

3rd  Earl of Northumberland:

Another Henry Percy, swearing vengeance for his father’s death was one of the commanders of the army that surrounded Richard of York and the Earl of Salisbury at Wakefield. The deaths of Richard, his son Edmund and the Earl of Salisbury on the 30 December 1460 were part of the  continuing vendetta.

The victors of Wakefield were now joined by Margaret of Anjou’s army.  They marched south and won the Second Battle of St Albans but stopped short of taking London.  Various armies marched back and forth but for the purposes of this post the next time we need to focus is at the Battle of Ferrybridge – 27 March 1461. Northumberland was supposed to stop the Yorkists from crossing the River Aire at Castleford whilst Lord Clifford held Ferrybridge for the Lancastrians. Lets just say that Northumberland arrived at Castleford late allowing Lord Fauconberg and his men to cross the river and come around behind the Lancastrians who retreated to Dintingdale (28th March) where Lord Clifford was killed by an arrow.

On the 29thMarch 1461, blinded by a snowstorm the 3rdEarl commanded the van of the Lancastrian army.  Closing with the enemy he was killed.

Edward IV was now the only king in England and issued an act of attainder against all the Lancastrian nobility who had fought at Towton.  Edward now rewarded the Nevilles who supported the House of York and punished the Percys who supported the house of Lancaster.

 

John Neville, Earl of Northumberland.

John was the Kingmaker’s younger brother. He was created Earl of Northumberland in 1464 after he had spent three years finishing off the Lancastrian threat in the north. Unfortunately for John, the Kingmaker became increasingly dissatisfied with Edward IV who, in return, became increasingly suspicious of his cousin.  In 1470 Edward removed John from post and gave him the tile the Marquis of Montagu and assorted lands to compensate for the loss of the earldom of Northumberland. It did not go down well with the Neville family who did not see any need for the balance of power  in the North to be restored by the return of the Percy family.

 

Edward was forced to flee his realm in October 1470 but returned in 1471.  John had not regained his title to Northumberland despite his brother effectively ruling England with a puppet king in the form of Henry VI on the throne.  Rather than attack Edward when he landed at Ravenspur, Neville simply shadowed the returned Yorkist king.  Ulitmately Neville would died at the Battle of Barnet along with his brother.

4th Earl of Northumberland:

Henry Percy (what a surprise) was imprisoned in the Fleet Prison in the aftermath of Towton (he was about 12 at the time) and from there he was sent to the Tower in 1464. In 1469 after swearing fealty to Edward IV he was released.  He then set about trying to get his estates returned. He petitioned for the reversal of his father’s attainder though this was not granted by Parliament until 1473.

Interestingly his wife was Maud Herbert, the  girl who Henry Tudor should have married had events not unfolded as they did in 1470.  They had eleven children.

Henry Percy went back to doing what the Earls of Northumberland had been doing for a very long time – i.e. ruling vast tracts of land and skirmishing with the Scots. He held many of the important government posts in the north of England which were traditional in his family including from 10 May 1483, as protector, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, confirmed the fourth earl of Northumberland’s appointment as warden-general of the east and middle marches ‘during the space and time of a whole year’, after which it was renewed for five months but perhaps it would appear not as much power from Richard III as he had hoped. Naturally enough he fought at Bosworth where he commanded the right wing of Richard III’s army.  The Percys were naturally Lancastrian by inclination. Percy’s father and grandfather had died for Henry VI. Some historians says that Percy betrayed Richard III by holding his forces back from action.  Percy’s northern levies weren’t committed to the battle.

If Northumberland had been a metaphorical spoke in Richard’s wheel he wasn’t very well rewarded by Henry Tudor who now became Henry VII. Northumberland, along with the earls of Westmoreland and Surrey was taken into custody and kept in prison for several months, being released only under strict conditions of good behaviour.  He was restored to his position as warden but with curtailed powers.  Henry may not have trusted him but Percy knew how to protect England’s northern border. He was also at hand to help defeat the Yorkist forces that gathered during the Lambert Simnel rebellion in 1487.

In 1489 Northumberland was part of the king’s administration gathering £100,000 of tax. This led to the Yorkshire Rebellion.  Northumberland had to deal with the resistance of Yorkshiremen to the tenth of incomes demanded for Henry’s Breton war and for the raising of a force against the Scots.  Things can’t have gone well for the Earl as his own tenants were up in arms.  He was so alarmed that on Saturday, 24 April, he wrote to Sir Robert Plumpton from Seamer, close to Scarborough, ordering him to secretly bring as many armed men as he could to Thirsk by the following Monday. It didn’t do him much good.

On  Wednesday, 28 April, having gathered a force estimated at eight hundred men, he came into conflict with the commons, whose ringleader was one John a Chamber, near Thirsk, at a place variously called Cockledge or Blackmoor Edge, and was killed.  Popular history claims it wasn’t so much the tax collection that irritated the locals as the fact that as good Yorkshire men their loyalty lay with Richard III.

 

A beginners guide to the Earldom of Northumbria and the Percy family (part one of four)

IMG_0241I always associate the Percy family with the earldom of Northumbria in the centuries following 1066 but it isn’t true that the family have held the title throughout the whole period since the conquest.  There was an interlude during the Wars of the Roses when the Neville’s got their paws on the title.  It’s also true to say that they weren’t elevated from earls to dukes in the first instance – John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland stole a march on the family – and let’s face it Dukes were normally required to be of royal blood whereas Dudley was the son of a Tudor administrator.  Before they reached the elevated social heights associated with dukedoms the Percy family spent a long time as barons.

Generation 1 – Baron Percy of Topcliffe:

Setting aside Saxon earls let us start with the Normans. William de Percy arrived with William the Conqueror in 1066. The first written record of his presence in England dates from 1067.  He owed part of his fealty to Hugh of Avranches who gave him land in Yorkshire in the years following 1072 – by which time Hugh had become the 1st earl of Chester.  Hugh was hugely wealthy.  He was one of the men who bankrolled the Conquest.  History sometimes calls him Hugh the Fat although I suspect he preferred the name Hugh Lupus or Hugh the Wolf.  Whilst William de Percy was undoubtedly a Norman there is some evidence to suggest that he held lands in England during the time of Edward the Confessor but may not have done so well under the auspices of Harold.  I read somewhere that the name Algernon which turns up frequently in the Percy pedigree comes from a derivation meaning be-whiskered.  The text suggested that William was unlike many of his Norman contemporaries because he had facial hair which was more associated with Saxons. He turns up in the Whitby Abbey Cartulary and in the Domesday Book holding lands directly from William I.  It was in response to his landholdings in Yorkshire that he was one of the patrons who re-founded Whitby Abbey in the years following the Conquest.  His brother appears to have been its first prior.  And let’s not get carried away with the idea that William was all set to be northern.  He also held lands in Essex and Hampshire.

 

Generations 2, 3 and 4:

William had a son Alan who had a son called William but he died in 1174 (possibly 1175) leaving two daughters.  Adeliza of Louvain, the widowed second wife of Henry I arranged for one of them, Agnes Percy, to marry Joscelin of Louvain who just so happened to be Adeliza’s younger half-brother. Joscelin who was a son of Godfrey, Count of Louvain. He was noble from Brabant.  He took his wife’s name and settled in England at the family’s seat of Topcliffe in Yorkshire.  In return Joscelin gave the Percy family the lion rampant for their crest.  Adeliza also gave her brother Petworth in Sussex.

 

Generation 5:

Joscelin and Agnes had several children.  Richard de Percy was born in 1170 and died in 1244.  He is the fifth Baron Percy of Topcliffe.  He was one of the twenty barons assigned to enforce Magna Carta.  Unfortunately having signed it King John changed his mind so our Percy found himself knee deep in the Barons’ War.  Inevitably John confiscated his lands. As soon as John popped his clogs, having mislaid his crown in The Wash, Richard sought pardon from young Henry III and retrieved all his property. Richard had no children.  The barony should have passed to Richard’s younger brother Henry.  He married into the Bruce family but died before he could inherit the barony of Topclife.

 

Generations 6, 7, 8 and 9 – or should that be 6,7,8 and 1:

William died in 1245. He was the nephew of Magna Carta Richard.  We then have Henry, John and another Henry.  Henry Percy (the last one on the list) was born in 1273 and died in 1314.   Henry, born at Petworth, was a posthumous child which was just as well on account of the Percy family running short of males once again.  He fought during on the Scottish Wars of Independence in the army of Edward I.   Like all his forefathers he fulfilled various local duties and roles associated with the northern wardenry.

And this is where it becomes complicated.  Henry was the 9th Baron Percy of Topcliffe.  He inherited in 1293.  However in 1309 he purchased Alnwick Castle from the Bishop of Durham (Anthony Bek).   The barony of Alnwick was different from the Barony of Topcliffe and Henry was created baron of Alnwick by writ – so he became the first Baron Percy of Alnwick.  From henceforth the head of the Percy family would be referred to by their Alnwick title meaning that the clock was rewound on the numbers – not particularly helpful.

Henry was not keen on Edward II. He ultimately rebelled over the issue of Piers Gaveston. He also declined to fight at the Battle of Bannockburn.  He died at home in his bed at Alnwick pictured at the start of this post.

And I think that is more than enough for today.

Cardinal Wolsey and the king’s women

wolseyCardinal Wolsey suffers from being the image of the Catholic Church prior to Henry VIII’s break with Rome and consequentially a figure for anticlerical comment.  He was also not careful about being nice to folk on the way up the greasy pole of ambition forgetting that he might well meet them on the way back down.  There were plenty of members of the nobility who were more than happy to bring him down to earth with a bump most notably the duke of Norfolk.  Today’s post, however, is about Cardinal Wolsey’s role in Henry VIII’s somewhat tangled love life.

Portrait_of_Anne_StaffordWolsey appears in a legal capacity in relation to Anne Stafford, the wife of Lord Hastings.  Anne was the daughter of the duke of Buckingham.  Her older sister Elizabeth was the wife of the earl of Sussex.  Both sisters served Catherine of Aragon.  A scandal broke during May 1510. We know of it thanks to the gleeful writings of Spanish Ambassador Luis Caroz.  What appears to have happened is that Henry, now that Catherine was pregnant, looked elsewhere for diversion.  He looked in the direction of his cousin Anne Stafford.  She was eight years older than him, married for the second time but childless (she went on to have eight children with Lord Hastings).  Somehow or other Elizabeth got to hear about the dodgy goings on and spoke with her brother who in turn summoned Lord Hastings.  Sir William Compton, one of the king’s friends, was caught in Anne’s private chamber.  There was a lively discussion with the duke of Buckingham announcing that his sister wasn’t for the likes of Compton or for Tudors either (he probably came to regret that particular phrase).  The upshot of it was that Hastings took his wife away from court to a nunnery where neither Compton or Henry could dally with the lady in question.  Henry VIII was deeply unhappy and banished Elizabeth and her husband from court for being a pair of tattletales which meant that the scandal came to the attention of Catherine of Aragon resulting in a very unpleasant argument between the royal couple.

Three years later Henry gave Anne a very expensive New Year’s gift well beyond what protocol or courtesy dictated giving rise to speculation that the couple resumed their relationship.  Double click on Anne Stafford’s image to open a new page and an earlier post from the History Jar on the subject.

Where does Wolsey fit into this?  Well in 1527 he had Sir William Compton charged with adultery with Anne.  Compton swore an oath that he hadn’t been up to any such thing but his will written in 1522 suggests otherwise as not only did he ask for prayers to be said for Anne but he left money for her use as well.

 

Let us move to the next mistress – Bessie Blount (b 1499 ish).  It is speculated that Henry’s affair with Bessie began sometime after 1513 during one of Catherine of Aragon’s periods of ill health but no one is certain of this.  There is a letter in existence from Charles Brandon (Mary Tudor’s second husband) to the king giving his very best wishes via the king to Bessie Blount and to Elizabeth Carew (who may well have been yet another royal mistress).  The letter gives rise to speculation that Brandon may have had a fling with Bessie prior to Henry showing interest, equally it might all have been part of the ritual of courtly love and have meant nothing at all or, equally, Brandon knowing the king’s interest in the ladies doing a spot of creeping. What we can be certain of is that in 1518 Catherine of Aragon miscarried a girl and that a month later Bessie Blount produced a bouncing baby boy.

Evidence suggests that Wolsey was given the task of arranging for Bessie to have somewhere suitable for her laying-in at the Priory of St Lawrence near Chelmsford or Jericho as it was known.  The evidence is based on the fact that Wolsey was absent from London for much of June 1519 which coincides with Henry Fitzroy’s birth.  Thomas Wolsey also became the child’s godfather. Fitzroy remained under the care of the cardinal until he fell from favour in 1529 when he moved under the auspices of the Howard family.

Queen Anne BoleynThe next mistress in our story proved to be Wolsey’s downfall.  Popular history has it that it was Wolsey who split the young lovers Henry Percy and Anne Boleyn from one another in 1523. Percy was the heir of the earl of Northumberland and was part of Wolsey’s household whilst Anne was nothing but a ‘foolish girl.’  George Cavendish, Wosley’s biographer, notes that the leading aristocratic families were happy to have sons in Wolsey’s household.  He was at the heart of power after all.  Cavendish says that Henry had already taken a shine to Anne Boleyn and wished to put a spoke in Percy’s plans to marry the girl. Wolsey sent Percy home with a flea in his ear to marry the girl his family had already selected for him; Mary Talbot, daughter of the earl of Shrewsbury.  In 1532 Mary Talbot claimed that Henry Percy had been pre-contracted to Anne Boleyn and thus her marriage was null and void.  Given that Henry was in hot pursuit of Anne Boleyn at that time it wasn’t the most politically astute thing to have been saying. Even though Henry no longer looked to Rome a dispensation from the Archbishop of Canterbury exists thawing that all impediments to marriage between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn were removed  including the unknown ones!

We cannot know whether Anne and Henry Percy really did love one another or the extent to which their relationship had developed.  We have circumstantial evidence in terms of Henry Percy weeping when Anne Boleyn was condemned and also the evidence of Cavendish as well as assorted hostile ambassadors.   To find out more about George Cavendish and his version of events double click on the image of Anne Boleyn to open a new page and an earlier post.

What we do know for certain is that Wolsey was unable to unravel Henry’s marriage from Catherine of Aragon and that this was what led to his fall from favour in 1529 even though Henry is said to have declared he couldn’t afford to lose the cardinal and sent him a ring as a token of his affections when Thomas became ill.  Come to think of it Wolsey didn’t get on very well with Catherine of Aragon either.  She regarded him as pro-french and thus anti-spanish as well as being the man who ensured that she was sidelined in politics by making himself indispensable to the king.

George Cavendish – eyewitness account of Anne Boleyn’s romance and wrath

00cavenish.jpgGeorge Cavendish was born in Suffolk in about 1497 and yes, he was related to the Cavendish family who became the Dukes of Devonshire and Newcastle. His brother, William, was the Cavendish who married Bess of Hardwick. And if you want further proof that everyone was related to everyone else in Tudor times then bear in mind that George’s wife was Sir Thomas More’s niece.

 

I’m looking at George today because he wrote about Anne Boleyn’s relationship with Henry Percy. Both he, William and Percy were part of Cardinal Wolsey’s household, so you could say that Cavendish had a ringside seat as events unfolded. Cavendish stayed with Wolsey until his death, in disgrace, in 1530. It was he who served Wolsey his last meal of baked pears in Leicester. He then had an uncomfortable conversation with Henry VIII about Wolsey’s last words – uncomfortable in more ways than one as Harry kept Cavendish on his knees for more than an hour.

 

George retired to Suffolk following Wolsey’s death despite being offered a job as one of Henry’s ushers. He went home to his wife and family from whom even Wolsey conceded he’d been separated for too long on account of loyal service.  He took the opportunity to write a biography of the Cardinal having made notes of events and anecdotes down the years of his service to Henry’s right hand man so it is not surprising that the ‘gorgeous young lady’ who turned Wolsey’s power on its head should feature between the pages. Cavendish claims that Anne was motivated by hatred for Wolsey and a desire for revenge when the prelate scuppered her plans to marry Henry Percy in 1522 on the orders of Henry VIII.

 

Cavendish writes of the romance;

Lord Percy would then resort for his pastime into the Queen’s maidens, being at the last more conversant with Mistress Anne Boleyn than with any other; so that there grew such a secret love between them that at length they were insured together, intending to marry.

 

Cavendish went on to describe the couple being separated and clearly believed that Henry had his eye on Anne from an early time but more modern writers think that Wolsey didn’t think that Anne Boleyn was a suitable match for the earl of Northumberland. Percy’s marriage needed to be about land, power and money not love. It can’t have helped that Anne was packed off home in disgrace and that Percy rarely came to court after that nor was his marriage to the Earl of Shrewsbury’s daughter a very happy one. Cavendish also reports that Wolsey believed that it was Anne who turned Henry against him. He called her a ‘night crow.’

 

Clearly it would have not been wise to make any criticisms of Henry VIII during the monarch’s life time so Cavendish only made his writing available during the reign of Queen Mary. The text wasn’t published until 1641 but it is thought that Shakespeare had access to the manuscript.

Cavendish’s biography of Wolsey is still in print and is also available on the Internet at https://archive.org/stream/TheLifeAndDeathOfCardinalWosley/cavendish_george_1500_1561_life_and_death_of_cardinal_wolsey#page/n3/mode/2up.  Click on the link to open up a new page to find out about the ‘honest poor man’s son’ who became a cardinal, the day that Thomas Cromwell shed tears, the duke of Norfolk threatening to rend Wolsey with his teeth and the prophecy of the dun cow.

george cavendish.jpg

An illustration from Cavendish’s manuscript showing part of the cardinal;’s procession.

 

 

Henry Percy, Fourth Earl of Northumberland

museumbossThis particular Earl of Northumberland is an unusual one in that he was the only one of his family to appear on the Yorkist side of the battle listings during the Wars of the Roses which of course means that a bit of back story is required for his actions to make sense.

Essentially the two great northern families were the Percys and the Nevilles (think Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick a.k.a. the Kingmaker). Had Henry VI been a little bit more effective it is possible that the two families wouldn’t have reached such a state of animosity that when Henry VI broke down in 1453 that the two sides came to blows.  A force of more than seven hundred Percys and their retainers, led by Lord Egremont (the Earl of Northumberland’s second son), attacked a wedding party of Nevilles on Heworth Moor near York.  Quite clearly this did not bode well for wide political implications as it was almost inevitable that if the Percys were favoured by Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou that the Nevilles would look to the other side for support.

The Nevilles affiliated themselves with the Richard of York. The Earl of Salisbury (the Kingmaker’s father) also called Richard Neville was Richard of York’s uncle.  His sister, Cicely Neville a.k.a. ‘The Rose of Raby’ was married to Richard of York.

So far so good. The Earls of Northumberland then proceeded to drop like flies and of course they all rejoiced in the name Henry thus making remembering them easy or difficult depending on what you’re trying to remember. The Second Earl of Northumberland didn’t make it beyond the first official battle of the Wars of the Roses.  He was killed at the First Battle of St Albans on 22 May 1455.  He was succeeded by his eldest son Henry Percy (just to confuse matters he’s also known as Lord Poynings on account of gaining the title when he married his wife) who became the Third Earl of Northumberland. The third earl was definitely Lancastrian.  The feud was in full swing now as the noble families of England merrily took turns slaughtering on another. He died in his turn on 29 March 1461 at the Battle of Towton.  This battle was won by Richard of York’s son Edward who was now Edward IV of England, his father having fallen victim to a sharp weapon at the Battle of Wakefield the previous year.

The death of earl number three finally brings us to our Henry Percy.  He did not automatically become the Earl of Northumberland. His father’s earldom was forfeited at the Battle of Towton by the victorious Yorkists who naturally declared everyone fighting on the wrong side of the battle field traitors and promptly confiscated anything of value as well as lopping off a few heads.  In that sense Henry Percy was lucky.  He was imprisoned in the Fleet Prison and from there he was sent to the Tower in 1464.  During this time John Neville, the Kingmaker’s brother  was created Earl of Northumberland – I don’t even want to imagine how that went down with the locals.

In 1469 after swearing fealty to Edward IV  Henry Percy was released.  He then set about trying to get his estates returned. He petitioned for the reversal of his father’s attainder though this was not granted by Parliament until 1473.  For various reasons including his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV began to find his Neville cousins rather wearing and ultimately Henry Percy gained Edward IV’s support.  John Neville found himself kicked out of his newly acquired earldom whilst Henry Percy regained the family title.  Ta dah! Henry Percy, Fourth Earl of Northumberland and Ta dah! John Neville, Marquess of Montagu.

Unsurprisingly John Neville wasn’t best pleased and promptly changed sides along with his brother the Earl of Warwick who was displeased with having been made to look a fool whilst negotiating for Edward IV’s marriage to a french princess only to discover that he’d married Elizabeth Woodville. After that the Nevilles found that dominating court became rather tricky with the best perks going to a huge extended Woodville clan.  Both brothers were killed at the Battle of Barnet in 1471

Henry Percy went back to doing what the Earls of Northumberland had been doing for a very long time – i.e. ruling vast tracts of land and skirmishing with the Scots. He held many of the important government posts in the north of England which were traditional in his family including from 10 May 1483, as protector, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, confirmed the fourth earl of Northumberland’s appointment as warden-general of the east and middle marches ‘during the space and time of a whole year’, after which it was renewed for five months but perhaps it would appear not as much power from Richard III as he had hoped. Naturally enough  he fought at Bosworth where he commanded the right wing of Richard III’s army.

And now for the twist.  The Percys were naturally Lancastrian by inclination. Percy’s father and grandfather had died for Henry VI. Some historians says that Percy betrayed Richard III by holding his forces back from action.  Percy’s northern levies weren’t committed to the battle.

If Northumberland had been a metaphorical spoke in Richard’s wheel he wasn’t very well rewarded by Henry Tudor who now became Henry VII. Northumberland, along with the earls of Westmoreland and Surrey was taken into custody and kept in prison for several months, being released only under strict conditions of good behaviour.  He was restored to his position as warden but with curtailed powers.  Henry may not have trusted him but Percy knew how to protect England’s northern border. He was also at hand to help defeat the Yorkist forces that gathered during the Lambert Simnel rebellion in 1487.

In 1489 Northumberland was part of the king’s administration gathering £100,000 of tax. This led to the Yorkshire Rebellion.  Northumberland had to deal with the resistance of Yorkshiremen to the tenth of incomes demanded for Henry’s Breton war and for the raising of a force against the Scots.  Things can’t have gone well for the Earl  as his own tenants were up in arms.  He was so alarmed that on Saturday, 24 April, he wrote to Sir Robert Plumpton from Seamer, close to Scarborough, ordering him to secretly bring as many armed men as he could to Thirsk by the following Monday. It didn’t do him much good.

On  Wednesday, 28 April, having gathered a force estimated at eight hundred men, he came into conflict with the commons, whose ringleader was one John a Chamber, near Thirsk, at a place variously called Cockledge or Blackmoor Edge, and was killed.

It was at first reported that he had gone out unarmed to parley with the rebels. It rapidly became clear that another reason for the earl’s death was that the good men of Thirsk who had been loyal to Richard III held the earl partly responsible for their king’s death.  The rebellion was  ultimately suppressed by the Earl of Surrey (the son of the Duke of Norfolk and yet another noble who’d been on the wrong side at Bosworth).  Surrey  took on Northumberland’s lands whilst the newest Henry Percy  was a minor.

More complicated family trees – and a link to the Plantagenets.

IMG_3953John Clifford, the Tenth Lord, maintained the reputation for jousting that his father had bequeathed to him. Like his father he met with the Douglas family in tournament at Carlisle and like his father he was established as a favourite at court.  He was present at the coronation of Henry V and following the victory at Agincourt at the coronation of Katherine of Valois.

The Cliffords were definitely  on the up. It helped that their experiences on the Scottish borders made them warriors.  John maintained his role in the north and added to the family homes by extending Appleby Castle – the gatehouse which stands today was commission by him.  John aside from his parochial responsibities in the north and job as MP for Henry IV and Henry V’s parliaments also managed to find time  to gain a reputation for thrashing the french during the Hundred Years War.

 

Edward III’s mother was Isabella of France (the one married to Edward II and known in history as the ‘she wolf’’). Upon the death of her brothers she was the last remaining member of the family so logically the French throne should have passed to her son King Edward III of England. Certainly that was what had been promised. However, the French were not keen on the English and also had a salic law in place which prohibited women from claiming the throne so handed the crown straight to a male cousin causing the English to become very irritated indeed and spend slightly more than a hundred years trying to prove their point with varying amounts of success.

 

Edward III carried his claim into war against France and it continued intermittently thereafter through the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV , Henry V and Henry VI. In its early years when the English were successful it was an opportunity for knights to make a fortune in loot and ransoms. It was also an opportunity to gain influence and power. Yerborough records of John Clifford:

 

Henry V retained him in his service for one year for the war with France. The contract was to this effect, that the said John, Lord Clifford, with fifty men-at-arms well accoutred, whereof three to be knights, the rest esquires, and one hundred and fifty archers, whereof two parts to serve on horseback, the third on foot, should serve the king from the day he should be ready to set sail for France, taking for himself 4s.for every knight, for every esquire is., for every archer 6d. a day.

P29 Yerborough, Some Notes on Our Family History

 

John was by Henry V’s side at Agincourt and at the Siege of Harfleur, then the inevitable happened. He got himself killed. He was thirty-three years old in 1422 when he was killed at the Siege of Meaux.  Again according to Yerborough and the Chronicle of Kirkstall he “was buried at Bolton Abbey apud canonicos de Boulton.’ Elizabeth his wife outlived him and married, secondly, Ralph, Earl of Westmorland.”  The moral of the story being that if you were sufficiently important someone would pickle you and send you home to your grieving wife who would promptly marry someone just as important as you even if you were a knight of the garter.

 

Marrying someone important was rapidly becoming a family pass time for the Cliffords.  Elizabeth Clifford started out as Elizabeth Percy. She was the daughter of Shakespeare’s Earl of Northumberland – Harry Hotspur- meaning that not only was she a scion of the most powerful border family in the country but she was also a Plantagenet. Her grandfather had been Edward Mortimer, Earl of March and her grandmother Philippa was the only child of Lionel Duke of Clarence, the second son of King Edward III.

Ties to the Plantagenets were even deeper and even more complicated than the Elizabeth Percy link. John’s sister Matilda (or Maud depending on the text) married Richard, Duke of Cambridge. Richard’s first wife Ann had been a Mortimer (a daughter of the fourth Earl of March– so definitely some kind of cousin of Elizabeth Percy) but Ann had died in childbirth leaving children and brothers who would find their Plantagenet bloodline and claim to the throne increasingly problematic.

 

Richard and Maud had one daughter Alice – about whom I’m currently quite upset as I thought I knew the House of York family tree rather well on the grounds that knowing who was related to whom becomes very important if you study the Wars of the Roses and now there’s someone new for me to worry about. Maud, on the other hand, was not in the least bit worried by the looks of it. She outlived Richard who managed to get himself executed in 1415 in the aftermath of the Southampton Plot.

 

The Southampton Plot had been designed to depose Henry V and replace him with Edward Mortimer – Richard’s young brother-in-law by his first wife Ann Mortimer. Edward Mortimer had a very good claim to the throne being descended from the second son of Edward III. Henry V didn’t take very kindly to Richard and his friends pointing out that Henry’s dad (Henry IV) had stolen the throne from his cousin (Richard II).  Aside from the fact that usurping thrones is generally not very nice, Henry IV and V were descended from John of Gaunt who was the third son of Edward III. Neither of them really should have been king at all – the descendants of the second son having a better claim than the descendants of the third son.  Henry demonstrated that family trees are all very well but actually being a medieval king was largely about having a large sword, an even larger army and a reputation for winning.  Had Henry V lived to see his son grow to adulthood Richard of Cambridge may well have ended up as a footnote in history as it was Henry V failed to do the one other thing that a medieval king needed to do – provide the kingdom with a strong adult male to succeed him.

 

Maud spent a lot of time at Conisborough Castle after Richard’s death and became a founder an patron of Roche Abbey.  She must have seen the various members of the Plantagenet family and their associated noble scions taking sides after Henry V’s death as to who should wield power in England – the House of York to which the Cliffords were allied through marriage or the House of Lancaster. Her will, dated 1446 (just nine years before the First Battle of St Albans), makes no mention of her troublesome step-children who would feature heavily in the Wars of the Roses.

 

Just to complicate matters that little bit further Matilda/Maud had already been married once to John Neville, the Sixth Baron Latimer. The divorce documents still remain – “casusa frigiditatis ujusdem Johannis Nevill  Now there’s a story to be told in those few words!  Who needs soap operas when the Plantagenets and the Cliffords are in town?