Henry Algernon PERCY

(6th E. Northumberland)


Born: ABT 1502

Died: 30 Jun 1537, Hackney, Middlesex, England

Notes: Knight of the Garter.

Father: Henry Algernon PERCY (5º E. Northumberland)

Mother: Catherine SPENCER (C. Northumberland)

Married: Mary TALBOT (C. Northumberland) Jan 1524

Percy,Henry(6ENorthumberland)01.jpg (118619 bytes)

Born about 1502, the eldest son of Henry Algernon Percy, 5th Earl of Northumberland, by Catherine, daughter of Sir Robert Spencer. Through his mother he was a first cousin of William Carey, husband of Mary Boleyn and brother-in-law to Anne Boleyn.

In his youth he was a Page to Cardinal Wolsey. Member of the Council of the North 1522, succeded Thomas Manners, Earl of Rutland, as lord warden of the east marches. Henry, Lord Percy became betrothed to Anne Boleyn, probably in the spring of 1523, when he was page to the Cardinal. On hearing the news, Lord Percy was scolded before his servants by Wolsey, since permission for the marriage had not been sought from his father nor the King, who also had an interest due to the importance of the Northumberland earldom.

Percy's father reportedly scolded him, saying "thou hast always been a proud, presumptuous, and unthrift waster", and he was quickly and unhappily married to Lady Mary Talbot, daughter of George, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury, and his first wife, Anne Hastings, by early 1524 or in 1525, with earlier legal stages. The old earl allowed the couple little in the way of comforts or income. Wolsey attempted to insinuate his own servants into the household as a means of controlling the young Henry.

Warden General of the East and Middle Marches (1527-1537) in which capacity he arrested his old master, Wolsey, at Cawood Castle, North Yorkshire, for high treason on 4th Nov 1530. He sent his prisoner south in the custody of Sir Roger Lascelles, while he remained to make an inventory of the Cardinal's goods. 

On 19 May 1527 he succeeded his father as sixth Earl of Northumberland; he was made steward of the honour of Holderness on 18 Jun. On 2 Dec he became Lord Warden of the East and West Marches.

Northumberland was constantly ill with an ague–a feverish, shivery illness, probably malaria–and was burdened with debt, and yet had to keep up an establishment and engage in fighting on his own account. He was not often allowed to go to court, nor even to his father's funeral. His chief friend was Sir Thomas Arundell.

By 1528, only four years into their marriage, the couple's relationship had broken down irretrievably. Northumberland suspected his wife of spying on him for Norfolk, while her father worried that the young husband was abusing her and might even poison her. Northumberland was outraged at Shrewsbury's suspicions and refused to permit his father-in-law's servants to see or speak to his wife. When the countess's brother-in-law, William, Lord Dacre, asked the Duke of Norfolk to defend her, Northumberland told Norfolk that he, Northumberland, would never see her again as long as he lived. The couple may have separated shortly thereafter, at least temporarily, since Mary delivered a stillborn child at her father's home in Apr 1529. In 1532, Mary accused her husband of a precontract (i.e. betrothal with legal force) with Anne Boleyn. She confided her alleged grievance to her father, who then mentioned the matter to Norfolk. Anne Boleyn, consulted, ordered an inquiry. Northumberland denied the accusation on oath.

In 1536 Shrewsbury noted his daughter had been living with him for two and half years. At about the same time, Northumberland announced that he was bequeathing his entire inheritance to the King since he had no children, and he and his wife were not likely to have a legitimate heir. He was by then also estranged from his brothers, and did not want them to inherit his property. Mary Talbot hated Henry heartily for the rest of his short life, and later sought a divorce.

In the final year of his life he was very depressed by the execution of Queen Anne Boleyn, with whom he had been in love as a youth and obviously still had much affection. He was also a member of the jury that convicted Queen Anne of adultery. Henry Percy fainted at the trial and had to be carried out. There was no love between himself and his wife - indeed there was even a physical debility. He spent his inheritance lavishly, and transferred various estates to friends.

When the Pilgrimage of Grace began. Northumberland's brothers and mother were open sympathisers with the rebels, but the Earl himself remained loyal to the Crown. The rebel leader Robert Aske and his men came to Wressle Castle, where Percy was ill in bed, and asked him to resign his commands of the marches into the hands of his brothers, or at least go over to the rebels. He refused both requests; and when the lawyer William Stapleton went up to see him, he was in despair. Aske sent him to York, to protect him from his followers, who wanted to behead him.

Northumberland's two brothers, Sir Thomas and Sir Ingelram Percy, took an active part in the management of his estates. They were both leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace. Both were arrested. Sir Thomas was attainted and executed in 1537. Sir Ingelram Percy was confined in the Beauchamp Tower, where his name is to be seen cut in the stone. He was soon liberated, went abroad into exile, and died about 1540.

Northumberland made a grant to the King of his estates, on condition that they pass to his nephew Thomas. When, however, his brother, Sir Thomas, was attainted and executed, Northumberland made the grant unconditional in Jun 1537. By this time his mind was fast failing. He moved to Newington Green, where Richard Layton visited him on 29 Jun 1537. Layton found him yellow and distended.

Northumberland died on 30 Jun 1537, and was buried in St Augustin's Church, now the site of St John at Hackney parish church. He was succeded by his nephew, Thomas.

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