Percy, Henry Algernon (1478-1527) (DNB00)

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PERCY, HENRY ALGERNON, fifth Earl of Northumberland (1478–1527), born 13 Jan. 1478, was son of Henry Percy, fourth earl of Northumberland [q. v.], by Maud, daughter of William Herbert, first earl of Pembroke of the second creation [q. v.] Alan Percy [q. v.] was his younger brother. On 28 April 1489 he succeeded his father as fifth Earl of Northumberland. He was well looked after and brought up at the court, while his sisters' marriages were the object of careful negotiation. He was made K.B. 21 Nov. 1481, at the time when Prince Arthur was created Prince of Wales. He attended Henry at the conclusion of the treaty of Etaples in 1492, and took a prominent part in the elaborate ceremony of 1494, when Prince Henry was created K.B. (Letters, &c., of Richard III and Henry VII, i. 390, &c.). In 1495 he was made a knight of the Garter. In 1497 he served in the royal army against the Cornish rebels, and fought at Blackheath; on 14 May 1498 he received livery of his lands, and entered into the management of his various castles and estates. How important his position was can be seen from ‘The Northumberland Household Book,’ which was edited from the manuscript in possession of the Duke of Northumberland by Thomas Percy [q. v.] in 1770. It was begun in 1512. His income was about 2,300l. a year, which probably does not include all that he received by way of gift. But on his various retinues of servants he spent no less than 1,500l. a year, and as the margin had to meet all such expenses as his journeys to the court, and as he was extraordinarily magnificent in taste, he was soon in debt. In 1500 Northumberland was at the meeting of Henry and the Archduke Philip. In 1501 he was appointed constable of Knaresborough, steward of the lordship of Knaresborough, and master forester in the forest there. On 1 April 1502 he was a commissioner of oyer and terminer for London; he was also constantly in the commission of the peace for various counties. Northumberland received the important appointment of warden-general of the east marches towards Scotland on 30 June 1503, and one of his first duties was to escort Margaret to Scotland on her way to join James IV of Scotland, and his splendid dress and numerous servants pleased the princess. An account of this progress was written by Somerset herald and printed in Leland's ‘Collectanea,’ vol. iv.

Northumberland seems to have irritated Henry VII just before the king died. He had disposed of the wardship and marriage of Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir John Hastings. He was fined 10,000l., an amount of money quite as difficult to raise as forty times the sum at the present day; and it is extraordinary that he managed to pay half the money before Henry VIII came to the throne. The new king cancelled the remainder of the debt 21 March 1510. On 4 Feb. 1511–12 he was a trier of petitions from Gascony and beyond the sea.

Northumberland served in the war of 1513 as a grand captain, with a very large retinue. From Calais he went to the siege of Terouenne and in the battle of spurs he commanded the ‘showrers and forridors,’ Northumberland men on light geldings. The next year he was a chief commissioner of array for various counties. As Wolsey rose, the great nobles had one by one to submit to his tyranny. Northumberland was suspected of being too friendly with Buckingham, and so, on a charge of interfering with the king's prerogative about the wards, he was cast into the Fleet in 1516. Possibly he was only put there so that Wolsey might have the credit of getting him out. He was examined in the Star-chamber, and soon set free. Northumberland was friendly with Shrewsbury, and they arranged to go on a pilgrimage this year together. Shrewsbury had been anxious to marry his daughter to a son of Buckingham, but, having disputed about money matters, the parents broke off the match; it was now arranged, most unfortunately as it turned out, that the lady should marry Northumberland's son, the Lord Percy. In June 1517 Northumberland met Queen Margaret of Scotland at York to conduct her on her way home; he undertook the duty with reluctance, doubtless from want of money, and his wife was excused attendance. In 1518 he was one of those who held lands in Calais. Wolsey in 1519, in a letter to the king, expressed suspicions of his loyalty (Letters and Papers Henry VIII, iii. i. l, cf. 1266 and 1293). But he escaped the fate of the Duke of Buckingham [see Stafford, Edward], and went to the Field of the Cloth of Gold, where he was a judge of the lists. The same year he had a grant of the honour of Holderness. He was present at Henry's meeting with the emperor in May 1522, and attested the ratification of the treaty made. He seems to have been offered, but not to have accepted, the wardenship of all the marches towards Scotland in 1523. But he continued active while Surrey was in chief command. In 1523 he made an inroad into Scotland, and was falsely accused by Dacre of going to war with the crosskeys of York, a royal badge, on his banner. On 1 July he received livery of the lands of his kinsman, Sir Edward Poynings [q. v.] In 1524 he was again on the border. In 1525 he had some trouble with the council of the north, of which he had been a member since 1522; but he cleared himself, and took part in the ceremony of the creation of Henry Fitzroy, Henry VIII's natural son, Earl of Nottingham. He died at Wressell on 19 May 1527, and was buried at Beverley, where he had built a splendid shrine. Northumberland died poor, and left a legacy of debt to his son. He was magnificent in his tastes, kept a very large establishment, and was fond of building. Leland praised the devices for the library at Wressell, presumably arranged by him (cf. Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, iii. ii. 3475, iv. ii. 3134, 3379). He encouraged the poet Skelton, who wrote the elegy on his father [see Skelton, Works, ed. Dyce, i. 12, 36, ii. 91, 358). A manuscript formerly in his possession forms Brit. Mus. Reg. Bib. 18 D ii. It consists of poems, chiefly by Lydgate. He married Lady Catherine (d. 1542), daughter of Sir Robert Spencer, by Eleanor, countess of Wiltshire, and by her had three sons—Henry Algernon [q. v.], who became sixth earl, and is separately noticed; Sir Thomas Percy, and Sir Ingelram Percy—and two daughters: Margaret, who married Henry, lord Clifford, first earl of Cumberland, and Maud, who married William, lord Conyers.

[De Fonblanque's Annals of the House of Percy; Introduction to Percy's edition of the Northumberland Household Book; Letters and Papers, Henry VIII; State Papers, Henry VIII, i. 146, iv. 45; Chron. of Calais (Camd. Soc.); Hall's Chronicle, ed. 1809, p. 498; Drake's Eboracum, App. xviii. &c.; Leland's Itinerary, i. 47, 54, vii. 50–1; Percy's Reliques, ed. Wheatley, i. 124; Casley's Cat. of Royal MSS. p. 283; Doyle's Official Baronage, ii. 653; Collins's Peerage, ed. Brydges, ii. 304, &c.]

W. A. J. A.