Thomas PERCY

(7th E. Northumberland)

Born: 1528/34

Died: 22 Aug 1572, York, Yorkshire, England

Notes: Knight of the Garter.

Father: Thomas PERCY (Sir)

Mother: Eleanor HARBOTTLE

Married: Anne SOMERSET (C. Northumberland) 12 Jun 1558


1. Elizabeth PERCY

2. Thomas PERCY (b. 1560 - d. 1560)

3. Lucy PERCY

4. Joan PERCY

5. Mary PERCY

Sir Thomas Percy was the head of one of the oldest and most noble families in England. The de Perci family came to England with the Conqueror in Olde and the family has held sway north of the Humber River ever since.

Henry Algernon Percy, the fifth Earl of Northumberland, maintained at his castles of Leconfield and Wressil a splendour and hospitality scarcely inferior to that of the royal court. He prescribed rules and regulations for the conduct of his household, and has left us a minute description of the princely manner in which a baron of old lived, in the famous "Northumberland Household Book". The original MS is still extant, and has been given to the world in book form by his descendant. From it we learn that his household was arranged on the principle of a royal establishment. His council board consisted of the principal officers of his household, who were all gentlemen by birth and blood. He had 11 domestic chaplains, over whom presided a Doctor or Bachelor of Divinity; and he had a complete establishment of singing men, choristers, &c., for his chapel service. The family at Leconfield consisted of 166 persons, and, on an average, 55 strangers were entertained every day, making a total of 221. The annual consumption of food was 250 quarters of malt, 12 quarters of wheat, 647 sheep, 131 beeves, 25 hogs, 28 calves, and 40 lambs; and 10 tuns and 2 hogsheads of Gascony wine. The whole household assembled every morning in the chapel for Divine service at six o'clock; at seven, the Earl and his lady breakfasted out of a chine of boiled beef or mutton, with a quart of ale and some wine. Dinner was served at ten, supper at four, and at nine in the evening all the gates were closed, and the family retired to rest.

In 1541, the Earl entertained Henry VIII and his new Queen, Catherine Howard, and a gallant train of attendants, at his castle here. His second son, Sir Thomas Percy, was beheaded at Tyburn, 2 Jun, 1537, for his participation in the Pilgrimage of Grace, and subsequently, in consequence of this attainder, part of the estates were conferred upon John Dudley, who was created Duke of Northumberland, and succeeded to the castle and estate of Leconfield, in 1551. On the accession of Queen Mary, Dudley, who had with others conspired against that princess, to place his own daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, upon the throne, was tried and executed for his treason, and the Northumberland honours and estates were restored to Thomas Percy, the seventh Earl.

He was the eldest son of Sir Thomas Percy, brother of the childless Henry Percy, sixth Earl of Northumberland, and Eleanor, daughter of Sir Guiscard Harbottle. Thomas was eight years old when his father was executed. Thomas and his brother Henry were then removed from their mother's keeping and entrusted to Sir Thomas Tempest.

Having been raised in the shadow of his father’s execution, young Thomas decided at an early age to regain the favor and titles lost by his uncle the sixth Earl. In 1549, when Thomas Percy came of age, an Act was passed "for the restitution in blood of Mr. Thomas Percy". Shortly afterwards he was knighted, and, three years later, in Queen Mary's reign, he regained his ancestral honours and lands. Declared governor of Prudhoe Castle he besieged and took Scarborough Castle, which was seized by rebels in 1557. In reward the Earldom of Northumberland together with the Baronies of Percy, Poynings, Lucy, Bryan, and Fitzpane were restored to him. He was installed at Whitehall with great pomp, and soon after was named Warden General of the Marches, in which capacity he fought and defeated the Scots. In 1558 the Earl took for his Countess the Lady Anne Somerset, daughter of the Earl of Worcester, a valiant woman who subsequently suffered much for the Faith. Northumberland found his lady wife in the mists of Wales and, liking what he saw, brought her home for closer scrutiny. Though they were passionately in love with one another.

On Elizabeth's accession the Earl, whose steadfast loyalty to the Catholic Church was known, was kept in the North while the anti-Catholic measures of Elizabeth's first Parliament were passed. Elizabeth continued to show him favour, and in 1563 gave him the Order of the Garter. He had then resigned the wardenship and was living in the South. But the systematic persecution of the Catholics rendered their position most difficult, and in the autumn of 1569 the Catholic gentry in the North, stirred up by rumours of the approaching excommunication of Elizabeth, were planning to liberate Mary, Queen of Scots, and obtain liberty of worship. Earl Thomas with the Earl of Westmoreland wrote to the Pope asking for advice, but before their letter reached Rome circumstances hurried them into rebellion against their better judgment. After a brief success the rising failed, Thomas sought refuge with Hector Graham, a borderlands robber, but Graham betrayed Northumberland to the Regent, and he was captured and, after three years, sold to the English Government and eventually dragged in chains back to England. There is no date as to when the Laird of Ormiston got control over the person of the 7th Earl, but on 25 Dec 1570 the Laird of Ormiston handed him over to the Regent Moray, and on 29 May 1572 he was handed over to England (Complete Peerage Volume IX, page 729).  Both the Pope and the King of Spain tried to buy a stay of execution, but it was not to be. He was conducted to York and beheaded, on 22nd Aug 1572, refusing to save his life by abandoning his religion, and died avowing the Pope's supremacy, and affirming the realm to be in a state of heresy. His head stuck on a large spike on Micklegate Bar as a warning to would be traitors. It remained there for many years until it was eventually rescued by a sympathiser and buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Goodramgate.

He called himself "simple Tom" and his brother "cruel Henry". According to a letter written on the spot by Sir Thomas Gargrave to Lord Burghley, the Earl said: "Symple Tome must dye to sett up crewell Henry".

He was beatified by Leo XIII on 13 May, 1895, and his festival was appointed to be observed in the Dioceses of Hexham and Newcastle on 14 Nov. His daughter Mary founded the Benedictine convent at Brussels from which nearly all the existing houses of Benedictine nuns in England are descended. Anne Somerset, Countess of Northumberland became the subject of legends after the failure of the uprising. She fled first to Scotland (the Debateable Lands) and then went into exile on the Continent, where she eventually died of smallpox (d. 1591).

The Earl and Countess of Northumberland in Nov 1569 had left a number of their toddlers behind in their house in Topcliffe in Yorkshire. The rebellious Earls, moving in from the North had hoped to take Yorkshire very easily and the Earl and Countess of Northumberland had planned to join their children there. But events turned out otherwise and the rebels fled to Scotland.

The children were captured in Topcliffe by their uncle, Henry Percy, the later 8th Earl of Northumberland.

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