House of Percy

House of Percy

Armorial of Percy
Country Kingdom of England, United Kingdom
Founded 1067
Founder William de Percy (d.1096), 1st feudal baron of Topcliffe
Current head Ralph Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland
Armorials of Percy ancient: Azure, five fusils conjoined in fesse or[1] These arms are still quartered by the Dukes of Northumberland, but were superseded c. 1300 by the adoption by Henry de Percy, 1st Baron Percy (d.1314) of the arms Or, a lion rampant azure, the source for which is variously given as the "Lion of Brabant",[2] the extinct arms of Redvers, Earls of Devon,[3] or the Lion of Arundel combined with the tinctures of Warenne
Arms of Percy modern: Or, a lion rampant azure, as shown on the seal of Henry de Percy, 1st Baron Percy (d.1314) affixed to the Barons' Letter, 1301 and blazoned with tinctures as his arms in the Caerlaverock Poem Roll of Arms of 1300

The House of Percy (old French Perci) were the most powerful noble family in northern England for much of the Middle Ages, having descended from William de Percy (d.1096), a Norman who crossed over to England after William the Conqueror in early December 1067, was created 1st feudal baron of Topcliffe in Yorkshire,[4] and was rebuilding York Castle in 1070. The name derives from the manor of Percy-en-Auge in Normandy, the home of the family at the time of the Norman Conquest.[5] Members have held the titles of Earl of Northumberland or Duke of Northumberland to this day, in addition to Baron Percy and other titles. The Percy surname twice died out in the male line but was re-adopted by the husband of a Percy heiress and by their descendants. In the 12th century, the original Percy line was represented by Agnes de Percy, whose son by her husband Joscelin of Louvain adopted the surname Percy. Again in the 18th century, the heiress Elizabeth Seymour married Sir Hugh Smithson, who adopted the surname Percy and was created Duke of Northumberland.[6]

Earls of Northumberland

William de Percy, 1st Baron Percy, who came from the village of Percy in Normandy, was in the train of William I. After arriving in England following the Harrying of the North (1069–70), he was bestowed modest estates in Yorkshire by Hugh d'Avranches. However, by the reign of Henry II the family was represented by only an heiress, Agnes de Percy (d.1203) following the death of the third feudal baron. As her dowry contained the manor of Topcliffe in Yorkshire, Adeliza of Louvain, the widowed and remarried second wife of Henry I, arranged the marriage of Agnes with her own young half-brother, Joscelin of Louvain. After their wedding, the nobleman from the Duchy of Brabant in the Holy Roman Empire settled in England. He adopted the surname Percy and his descendants were later created Earls of Northumberland. The Percys' line would go on to play a large role in the history of both England and Scotland. As nearly every Percy was a Warden of the Marches, Scottish affairs were often of more concern than those in England.[7]

In 1309 Henry de Percy, 1st Baron Percy purchased Alnwick Castle from Antony Bek, Bishop of Durham. The castle had been founded in the late 11th century by Ivo de Vesci, a Norman nobleman from Vassy, Calvados in Normandy. However, by the early 14th century, the English line of the De Vesci family had become extinct. The family's property and estates had been put into the guardianship of Bek, who sold them to the Percys. From this time the fortunes of the Percys, though they still held their Yorkshire lands and titles, were linked permanently with Alnwick and its castle.

Henry de Percy, 2nd Baron Percy, who was granted the lands of Patrick IV, Earl of March, in Northumberland, by Edward II in 1316, began to improve the size and defences of the castle. He was appointed to Edward III's Council in 1327 and was given the manor and castle of Skipton. Was granted, by Edward III, the castle and barony of Warkworth in 1328. He was at the siege of Dunbar and the Battle of Halidon Hill and was subsequently appointed constable of Berwick-upon-Tweed. In 1346, Henry commanded the right wing of the English Army which defeated a larger Scottish force at the Battle of Neville's Cross. His son, Henry de Percy, 3rd Baron Percy married Mary of Lancaster, an aunt of John of Gaunt's wife Blanche of Lancaster.[7] In 1377 the next Henry Percy, was created Earl of Northumberland, which title he was given after the coronation of Richard II. Nor was this all, for he was that Northumberland whose doings in the next reign fill so large a part of Shakespeare's Henry IV, and he was the father of the most famous Percy of all, Henry Percy the fifth, better known as "Hotspur." Hotspur never became Earl of Northumberland, being slain at Shrewsbury in the lifetime of his father, whose estates were forfeited under attainder on account of the rebellion of himself and his son against King Henry IV.[7] Henry V restored Hotspur's son, the second Earl, to his family honours, and the Percys were staunch Lancastrians during the Wars of the Roses which followed, the third Earl and three of his brothers losing their lives in the cause.[7]

The fourth Earl was involved in the political manoeuvrings of the last Yorkist kings Edward IV and Richard III. Either through indecision or treachery, he did not respond in a timely manner at the Battle of Bosworth Field, and thus helped cause his ally Richard III's defeat at the hands of Henry Tudor (who became Henry VII). In 1489, he was pulled from his horse and murdered by some of his tenants.

The fifth Earl displayed magnificence in his tastes, and being one of the richest magnates of his day, kept a very large household establishment.

Henry Percy, the sixth Earl of Northumberland, loved Anne Boleyn, and was her accepted suitor before Henry VIII married her. He married later to the daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury, but as he died without a son, his nephew, Thomas Percy became the seventh Earl.[7]

Thereafter, a succession of plots and counterplots—the Rising of the North, the plots to liberate Mary Queen of Scots, and the Gunpowder Plot – each claimed a Percy among their adherents. On this account the eighth and ninth Earls spent many years in the Tower, but the tenth Earl, Algernon, fought for King Charles in the Civil War, the male line of the Percy-Louvain house ending with Josceline, the eleventh Earl. The heiress to the vast Percy estates married the Duke of Somerset; and her granddaughter married a Yorkshire knight, Sir Hugh Smithson, who in 1766 was created the first Duke of Northumberland and Earl Percy, and it is their descendants who now represent the famous old house.[7] One of Sir Hugh's illegitimate sons, James Smithson, left behind a bequest to found the Smithsonian Institution.

The current duke lives at Alnwick Castle and Syon House, just outside London. Parts of the Harry Potter movies were shot at Alnwick, and there is a scene in The Madness of King George (when Pitt walks backward from the king down a long corridor) filmed at Syon.

Dukes of Northumberland

The title was created for the third time in 1766 for Hugh Percy, 2nd Earl of Northumberland, the former Sir Hugh Smithson, 4th Baronet (1714–1786), who had assumed by Act of Parliament in 1750 for himself and his descendants the surname Percy, due to his having married in 1740 the daughter of Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset (1684–1750), whose mother Lady Elizabeth Percy (1667–1722), was the last of the senior blood line of the ancient House of Percy, being the only surviving child of Joceline Percy, 11th Earl of Northumberland (1644–1670). In 1749 King George II created Algernon who had inherited the Dukedom of Somerset in 1748 Earl of Northumberland and by courtesy title (for eldest male heir) Baron Warkworth, of Warkworth Castle in the County of Northumberland with special remainder to his son-in-law Sir Hugh Smithson, 4th Baronet.[8][9]

The above steps formed a deliberate move to allow ancient names and titles of the Percys to be revived in the male-heir exhausted senior branch of the Dukedom of Somerset which at that time was about to see its largest removal, to another noble but very cadet branch (a fourth cousin) on Algernon's death; Algernon was also created Earl of Egremont at the same time with a different remainder – see this article for further information).[10]

In 1784 the 1st Duke was also granted the substantive title Lord Lovaine, Baron of Alnwick in the County of Northumberland, in the Peerage of Great Britain, with remainder to his second son Lord Algernon Percy,[11] who succeeded and who was created Earl of Beverley in 1790 and thus it too became a courtesy title.[12]

The Duke was succeeded in the dukedom and associated titles by his eldest son, Hugh, the 2nd Duke, a Lieutenant-General in the British Army. The 2nd Duke was in his turn succeeded by his eldest son, Hugh, the 3rd Duke, who in 1812, five years before he succeeded in the dukedom, had been summoned to the House of Lords through a writ of acceleration in his father's junior title of Baron Percy.[13] The 3rd Duke later held office as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland from 1829 to 1830. He was childless and was succeeded by his younger brother, Algernon, 1st Baron Prudhoe, the 4th Duke, who in 1814 had been created Baron Prudhoe, of Prudhoe Castle in the County of Northumberland, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom.[14] The 4th Duke was an Admiral in the Royal Navy and notably served as First Lord of the Admiralty in 1852. He was also childless and on his death in 1865 the barony of Prudhoe became extinct while the barony of Percy (which could be passed on through the female line) was inherited by his great-nephew, John Stewart-Murray, 7th Duke of Atholl. The Admiral was succeeded in the dukedom and remaining titles by his first cousin, George, the 2nd Earl of Beverley, eldest son of the second son of the 1st Duke. The barony of Lovaine and earldom of Beverley have since been merged in the dukedom as courtesy titles.

The 5th Duke was succeeded by his eldest son, Algernon, the 6th Duke, who notably served as Lord Privy Seal between 1879 and 1880 under Lord Beaconsfield. The 6th Duke's eldest son, Henry, the 7th Duke, was summoned to the House of lords through a writ of acceleration in his father's junior title of Lord Lovaine in 1887.[15] The 7th Duke's eldest son, Henry Percy, Earl Percy, predeceased him. He was succeeded by his fourth but eldest surviving son, Alan, the 8th Duke, whose eldest son, Henry, the 9th Duke, was killed during the retreat to Dunkirk during the Second World War. Henry was succeeded by his younger brother, Hugh, the 10th Duke. In 1957, on the death of his fourth cousin once removed, James Stewart-Murray, 9th Duke of Atholl, Hugh succeeded as 9th Baron Percy, the title thus re-merging with the Dukedom. As of 2012 the titles are held by his second son, Ralph, the 12th Duke, who succeeded on the death of his elder brother in 1995.

Several other members of the Percy family have also gained distinction. James Smithson, illegitimate son of the first Duke, was a chemist and mineralogist and the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution. Charlotte Percy, Duchess of Northumberland, wife of the third Duke, was governess of the future Queen Victoria. Lord Josceline Percy, second son of the fifth Duke, was a politician. Lord Henry Percy, third son of the fifth Duke, was a soldier. Lord Algernon Percy, second son of the sixth Duke, was a politician. Lord Eustace Percy, seventh son of the seventh Duke, was a politician who was raised to the peerage as Baron Percy of Newcastle in 1953. Jane Percy, Duchess of Northumberland, wife of the twelfth Duke, is Lord-Lieutenant of Northumberland since 2009. See also Earl of Beverley for younger sons of the first Earl of Beverley.

Family residences

The seat of the Dukes of Northumberland is Alnwick Castle, which is located in Alnwick, Northumberland.[16] The family's London residence is Syon House in Brentford, which replaced, as their London residence, the demolished Northumberland House in the Strand.[17] The traditional burial place of the Dukes is the Northumberland Vault in Westminster Abbey in London, the Percys thus being the last family to maintain such a privilege. Their family vault is however nearly full, and a new private graveyard has been created in Hulne Park near Alnwick.

Recurring names

Recurring names in the Percy genealogy include:

Prominent members

Prominent members of the family include:

Family Tree

William de Perci aux Gernons
("with whiskers", later became a common name in the family, "Algernon")
arrived in England from Normandy 1067 from Percy-en-Auge in Normandy
1st feudal baron of Topcliffe, North Yorkshire
(d. 1096/9)
Alan de Perci
2nd feudal baron of Topcliffe
(d. circa 1130/5)

William II de Perci
(d. 1174/5)
3rd feudal baron of Topcliffe
Godfrey I, Count of Louvain
Ida of Chiny
Agnes de Perci
Joscelin of Louvain
4th feudal baron of Topcliffe

Adeliza of Louvain
2. King Henry I of England 1.
Matilda of Scotland
Dukes of Brabant
Henry de Perci
Richard de Perci
(d. 1244)
5th feudal baron of Topcliffe

Empress Matilda
William Adelin
House of Hesse
William III de Perci
6th feudal baron of Topcliffe

King Henry II "FitzEmpress" of England
Henry de Perci
7th feudal baron of Topcliffe
Henri de Perci

8th feudal baron of Topcliffe
1st Baron Percy of Alnwick by writ.

Henry de Percy
9th feudal baron of Topcliffe
2nd Baron Percy of Alnwick
Henry de Percy
10th feudal baron of Topcliffe
3rd Baron Percy of Alnwick
Mary of Lancaster
Thomas Percy
bishop of Norwich
(d. 1369)
Margaret Neville
Henry Percy
11th feudal baron of Topcliffe
4th Baron Percy of Alnwick
1st Earl of Northumberland, 1377 forfeit 1405
Maud Lucy
heiress of Egremont
Thomas Percy
1st Earl of Worcester
(1343 – 1403)

Henry Percy (Hotspur)
(1364 – 1403)
Thomas Percy
Ralph Percy
Alan Percy
Mary Percy
(c. 1390 – 1437)
Henry Percy
2nd Earl of Northumberland, 1416
3rd Earl of Northumberland
(1421 - 1461 )
Thomas Percy
1st Baron Egremont
(1422 – 1460)
(1423 Aft. 1475 )
George Percy
(1424 - 1474 )
Ralph Percy
( 1425 - 1464)
Richard Percy
William Percy
Bishop of Carlise
(1428 – 1462)
Joan Percy
(1430 - 1482)
married Lord Edmund d'Aganet, 8th Baron of Blyth
Anne Percy
(1436 - 1522)
married Thomas Hungerford of Rowden </small?
Henry Percy
4th Earl of Northumberland
(1449–1489) (restored 1470)
Sir Ralph Percy
Peter Percy
Sir Henry Percy
George Percy
John Percy
Henry Algernon Percy
5th Earl of Northumberland
Alan Percy
(c. 1480 – 1560)
Joscelin Percy
Henry Percy
6th Earl of Northumberland
, betrothed to Anne Boleyn
Thomas Percy
(c. 1504 – 1537)
participated the Pilgrimage of Grace revolt
Edward Percy
Thomas Percy
7th Earl of Northumberland
(forfeit 1571; restored 1572)
led the Rising of the North
Henry Percy
8th Earl of Northumberland
Thomas Percy
convicted in the Gunpowder Plot
(c. 1560 – 1605)
Henry Percy
9th Earl of Northumberland
"the Wizard Earl"
Thomas Percy
William Percy
Sir Charles Percy
Richard Percy
Sir Joscelin Percy
Sir Alan Percy
Sir George Percy
explorer, author, gov. of Virginia
Algernon Percy
10th Earl of Northumberland
Lord High Admiral of England,
later a Parliamentarian in the English Civil War
Henry Percy
Baron Percy of Alnwick
royalist in the English Civil War
Joceline Percy
11th Earl of Northumberland
no male heirs, becomes the last male of direct Percy lineage to inherit the Earldom
Henry Percy
Lord Percy
only son and heir apparent
Elizabeth Percy
suo jure Baroness Percy
(1667 – 1722)
Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset
Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset
Baron Percy
(1684 – 1750)
created Earl of Northumberland, with remainder to his son-in-law
George Seymour
Viscount Beauchamp
(1725 – 1744)
Elizabeth Percy
suo jure 2nd Baroness Percy
(1730 - 1776)
Sir Hugh Percy né Smithson
4th Baronet Smithson
2nd Earl of Northumberland by right of his wife,1750, and
1st Duke of Northumberland by creation 1766
(1714 – 1786)

This summary genealogical tree shows how the current house of Percy is related:

Hugh Percy,
1st Duke of Northumberland

Hugh Percy,
2nd Duke of Northumberland

Algernon Percy,
1st Earl of Beverley

Hugh Percy,
3rd Duke of Northumberland

Algernon Percy,
4th Duke of Northumberland

George Percy,
5th Duke of Northumberland

Algernon Percy,
6th Duke of Northumberland

Henry Percy,
7th Duke of Northumberland

Alan Percy,
8th Duke of Northumberland

Henry Percy,
9th Duke of Northumberland

Hugh Percy,
10th Duke of Northumberland

Henry Percy,
11th Duke of Northumberland

Ralph Percy,
12th Duke of Northumberland

b. 1956

Coats of Arms

see Category:Percy arms

Paternal arms of Henry de Percy, 1st Baron Percy (1273–1314): Azure, five fusils in fess or,[19]("Percy ancient") which he abandoned in favour of right: Or, a lion rampant azure ("Percy modern"/Brabant)[20] Both arms were quartered by the Percy Earls of Northumberland and remain quartered by the present Duke of Northumberland

Building work by the Percy family

Canting arms of Lucy of Cockermouth Castle: Gules, three lucies hauriant argent

Following the death of his grandson Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset in 1750, the former Percy estates were split between the Smithson ("Percy", Duke of Northumberland) and Wyndham (Earl of Egremont) families

See also


  1. Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.849
  2. Burke's General Armory, 1884 & Landed Gentry
  3. Smith-Ellis, W., Antiquities of Heraldry, Vol. 1, pp.204-5, who suggests that a Roll of Arms c.1308-14 temp. Edward II lists the arms of Redvers as abatue or extinct and states in the same roll that they were borne by Sir Henry de Percy, whose father was heir of his 2nd brother Ingelram, who married Adeline, daughter and heiress of William de Fors by Isabel, daughter and heiress of Baldwin de Rivers, Earl of Devon. The Courtenays were also heirs of Isabel de Fors, and also quarter the Redvers lion
  4. 1 2 3 Sanders, I.J., English Baronies, Oxford, 1960, p.148
  5. Rose, Alexander (2003). Kings in the North. The House of Percy in British History. London: Phoenix. pp. 26–7. ISBN 1-84212-485-4. Retrieved 2011-05-21.
  6. Rose, Alexander (2003). Kings in the North. The House of Percy in British History. London: Phoenix. pp. 86–9. ISBN 1-84212-485-4. Retrieved 2011-05-21.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Northumberland Yesterday and To-day by Jean F. Terry, 1913, from Project Gutenberg
  8. The London Gazette: no. 8887. p. 2. 23 September 1749.
  9. Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.1037
  10. Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.851
  11. The London Gazette: no. 12514. p. 2. 27 January 1784.
  12. The London Gazette: no. 13249. p. 646. 26 October 1790.
  13. The London Gazette: no. 16583. p. 497. 14 March 1812.
  14. The London Gazette: no. 17164. p. 1596. 17 August 1816.
  15. The London Gazette: no. 25723. p. 4001. 22 July 1887.
  16. Alnwick Castle website
  17. Syon House website
  18. 1 2 3 4 Sanders
  19. Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.849, Duke of Northumberland
  20. Howard de Walden, Lord, Some Feudal Lords and their Seals 1301, published 1904, p.43
  21. Collins' Baronetage of England; The old arms can be seen carved in wood impaling the arms of Fairfax (A lion rampant) on the staircase of Moulton Hall, Richmond, York, made following the 1653 marriage of George Smithson. See image in: Smithson, George R., Genealogical notes memoirs of the Smithson family, London, 1906, plate between pp.24&25
  22. Collins, Arthur, The English Baronetage, vol.3, part 1; Victoria County History, Stanwick St John
  23. Further reading: The Smithson Monuments at Stanwick, North Yorkshire by Bulter, L., published in Journal of the Church Monument Society Volume XV, 2000. 6pp, 4 b/w pls
  24. Sanders, I.J., English Baronies, Oxford, 1960, p.148, Topcliffe, Yorkshire
  25. Sanders, I.J., English Baronies, Oxford, 1960, p.103, Alnwick, Northumberland
  26. Daniel Lysons and Samuel Lysons, 'Cockermouth', in Magna Britannia: Volume 4, Cumberland (London, 1816), pp. 40-45
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