16 February, 2020

Henry Percy (1273-1314)

As anyone with an interest in English history will know, there were an awful lot of generations of English noblemen called Henry Percy down the centuries. Here's the first part of a post about the Percys (Percies?), a great noble family who became earls of Northumberland in 1377, in the fourteenth century, beginning with the Henry Percy who besieged Piers Gaveston at Scarborough Castle in May 1312.

This Henry Percy was born on 25 March 1273 at Petworth in Sussex, and was the son of another Henry Percy (well, obviously). Henry was born posthumously, seven months after his father died on 29 August 1272. [1] His mother was Eleanor de Warenne, daughter of John de Warenne, earl of Surrey (b. 1231) and Alice de Lusignan, a half-sister of Henry III. According to the Complete Peerage, Henry Percy (d. 1272) and Eleanor de Warenne married in York on 8 September 1268. [2] Their first son was named John after Eleanor's father the earl of Surrey, and was probably born in 1270; he was said to be eleven years old on 30 November 1281. [3] John Percy was his father's heir in 1272, and was still alive on 16 June 1285, but died childless before 29 July 1293 leaving his younger brother Henry as his heir. [4

John Percy evidently died before he would have turned twenty-one in c. 1291, and there is no inquisition post mortem for him; there is a reference in 1315 to "John de Percy, who died a minor in the late king's [Edward I's] custody." If John ever married I haven't found a reference to it, though Edward I gave his wardship and marriage rights to Queen Eleanor (d. November 1290) in or before late 1281. [5] John's younger brother and heir Henry Percy proved his age and was given their late father's lands on 11 June 1294. [6] The jurors at Henry's proof of age held in Petworth in 1294 were all very aware that his father Henry Percy Senior passed away in Henry III's reign, and that Henry Junior was born after the deaths of both his father and of King Henry (in November 1272); eleven of them stated some version of "he knows it [Henry Percy's date of birth] by the death of King Henry." This is an example of how the death of a king was a major event that was vividly remembered decades later, especially, perhaps, because Henry III's reign was such a long one and there can't have been too many people still alive who remembered the death of the last king, Henry's father John, in 1216.

Henry Percy went on campaign to Scotland with his long-lived maternal grandfather the earl of Surrey in 1295, and took part in Edward I's siege of Caerlaverock Castle with him in 1300. The Roll of Arms of Caerlaverock states "John, the good earl of Warenne...had in his company his nephew [sic], Henri de Percy, who seemed to have made a vow to rout the Scots." [7] Henry's aunt Isabel de Warenne, Surrey's other daughter, had in fact married John Baliol, king of Scotland from 1292 to 1296, and was the mother of Edward Baliol, who a few decades later claimed the throne of Scotland from Robert Bruce's son David II. Henry Percy was also an older first cousin of John de Warenne, born in June 1286 and their grandfather's heir as earl of Surrey on his death in 1304 in his seventies, the earl's only son William de Warenne having been killed jousting in late 1286.

Around 1300, Henry married a woman called Eleanor, whom I've written about here. Most probably, she was the daughter of Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (1267-1302), though this identification is not 100% certain. Richard, earl of Arundel acknowledged a debt of 2,000 marks to Henry Percy on 7 August 1300 - while they were both taking part in the siege of Caerlaverock, as it happens - which presumably was Eleanor's dowry (Richard paid the same amount to Bishop Robert Burnell for his sister Maud's marriage to the bishop's nephew and heir Philip Burnell in 1283), and Henry Percy acknowledged in November 1313 that he had received full payment of all debts from Richard's son and heir Edmund, earl of Arundel. In 1315, Eleanor was called "late the wife of Henry de Percy, executrix of the will of Richard de Arundell, her brother," who presumably was a younger son of Earl Richard. As I've pointed out before, it seems most improbable that an important and high-ranking nobleman such as Henry Percy, who was a grandson of the earl of Surrey and a great-nephew of King Henry III, would have married a woman from a cadet branch of the Fitzalans/Arundels, and Edward II acknowledged Eleanor as "the king's kinswoman" on several occasions, which is in itself evidence of her high rank. [8]

Eleanor therefore seems highly likely to have been a daughter of Earl Richard, and a sister of Earl Edmund, who was born on either 1 May 1284, 21 December 1284, 1 May 1285 or 3 July 1285. [9] Given that Eleanor gave birth in February 1301 or possibly February 1302, she was seemingly older than her brother Edmund (unless she was his twin), as she would have been a painfully young mother if she was born in 1286 or later. This would mean that Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, became a father at sixteen or seventeen, but that's not terribly unlikely given that his much younger first cousin Roger Mortimer, later the first earl of March (b. 1287), was also a very young father. Richard, born 3 February 1267, was only six years older than his son-in-law Henry Percy, born 25 March 1273. [10]

Eleanor gave birth to a son named Henry Percy at Leconfield in Yorkshire, either on 6 February 1301 or on 6 February 1302. It's hard to say for sure, because the jurors at young Henry's proof of age stated that he was born on 6 February in Edward I's twenty-ninth regnal year, which ran from 20 November 1300 to 19 November 1301, thus giving a date of birth of 6 February 1301. However, the proof of age was taken in Leconfield on 26 February 1323 (in Edward II's sixteenth regnal year) and states that Henry "was 21 years of age on 6 February last," which indicates that he was born on 6 February 1302. [11] The jurors thus contradicted themselves. To add to the confusion, Henry the father's (b. 1273) inquisition post mortem in November 1314 states that his son and heir was either "sixteen at the Purification [2 February] next," which would give a date of birth in early February 1299; "aged fifteen at Whitsunday last," which gives May 1299; "aged thirteen and nine months," which gives February 1301; or "aged thirteen and nine months at the feast of the Purification, 7 Edward II." The feast of the Purification in the seventh year of Edward II's reign was 2 February 1314, so this seems to be a rather garbled attempt to state that Henry was thirteen and nine months at the time of the inquisition in November 1314 and hence was born around the Purification in 1301. [12] 

Henry Percy the son was said to be still a minor on 18 and 22 February, 27 April and 28 June 1320, so cannot have been born on 6 February 1299. [13] There's an entry on the Patent Roll dated 9 July 1322 which calls him a "minor in the king's custody" and on 21 July 1322 Edward II talked of his "custody of the lands and heir of Henry de Percy [b. 1273], tenant in chief", which would seem to indicate that Henry was in fact born on 6 February 1302, not 1301, so was still only twenty in 1322. Edward allowed Henry seisin of his lands on 26 December 1321, pointing out that he was still underage, so he was definitely born after 26 December 1300. [14] Anyway, whether Henry Percy was born in 1301 or 1302, his father (b. 1273) was so delighted at the birth of his son that he rode the twelve miles to his manor of Nafferton on the same day to tell his tenants there in person. A woman named Joan Danyel was one of the women assisting Eleanor Percy at little Henry's birth, and he was baptised in the church of All Saints in Leconfield the day after he was born. Young Henry was born either in the lifetime of Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, probably his maternal grandfather, or shortly after Richard died a little before 15 January 1302, at the young age of thirty-four. (Richard would have turned thirty-five on 3 February 1302, and his inquisition post mortem makes it obvious that he didn't die on 9 March 1302, as often stated.) Henry was also born in the lifetime of his great-grandfather John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, who lived until 1304.

The Percy family are strongly associated with the castle of Alnwick (pronounced 'annick') in Northumberland. The castle and manor of Alnwick were given to Henry Percy (b. 1273) by Anthony Bek, bishop of Durham, on 19 November 1309. [15] Bek was remarkably generous: he gave the palace and manor of Eltham in Kent to Edward of Caernarfon in 1305 and gave Somerton Castle in Lincolnshire to him four years later.

Early in Edward II's reign, Henry Percy the father seems to have been a close ally of the king and Piers Gaveston; on 16 June 1308, he, with Edward's cousin John of Brittany, earl of Richmond, Hugh Despenser the Elder, and William Melton, future archbishop of York (who were certainly all very close to the king), witnessed Piers' appointment as lieutenant of Ireland. [16] However, Henry must have grown discontented with Edward's excessive favouritism towards the earl of Cornwall, and besieged Piers inside Scarborough Castle in May 1312 with his cousin John de Warenne the younger, earl of Surrey (Henry's great-grandson Henry Percy, first earl of Northumberland, would be born in Scarborough Castle in 1341, as a matter of interest). Henry was appointed custodian of Scarborough Castle in October 1311, though Edward II replaced him with William Latimer in early 1312; Henry refused to hand the castle over to Latimer, and on 20 February 1312 Edward ordered Henry to come to him and explain himself. The king also removed Henry as custodian of Bamburgh Castle, and gave it back to Isabella Beaumont, Lady Vescy, on 28 January 1312; Henry had held the position for only six weeks. [17]

In the aftermath of Piers Gaveston's death, Henry Percy was one of the chief noblemen, with Robert Clifford and the earls of Lancaster, Hereford and Warwick, often named as being given a safe-conduct to meet the king or to take part in the endless negotiations which tried to reconcile the men to Edward. Edward had seized Henry's lands and goods on 28 July 1312, but restored them on 18 December that year. He had also ordered Henry's arrest on 31 July on the grounds that Henry had stood as a guarantor to ensure Piers' safety, but that Piers had been killed while Henry was still liable for his welfare. [18]

Henry Percy died shortly before 10 October 1314 at the age of forty-one, leaving his son Henry, who was either twelve or thirteen, as his heir. His wife Eleanor also outlived him, and received her dower on 6 November 1314. [19] Weirdly, there's a reference to "Eustachia, daughter and heiress of Henry de Percy, tenant in chief, a minor in the king's custody" on 26 February 1321, when Edward II gave her marriage to the chief justice Geoffrey Scrope. [20] I think the name Henry here must be a clerical error for Peter, as there's a reference to Eustachia, daughter and heir of Peter Percy and wife of Walter Heslarton, aged "22 and more", in November 1334. [21]

Plenty more on the fourteenth-century Henry Percys coming soon!


1) Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1291-1300, no. 214.
2) Complete Peerage, vol. 10, p. 456.
3) CIPM 1272-91, no. 434.
4) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1281-92, p. 175; Calendar of Close Rolls 1288-96, p. 295.
5) CIPM 1272-91, no. 434CPR 1281-92, pp. 175, 468; CCR 1313-18, p. 148.
6) CIPM 1291-1300, no. 214; CCR 1288-96, pp. 350, 388.
7) Thomas Wright, ed., The Roll of Arms of Caerlaverock (1864), p. 6.
8) Calendar of Close Rolls 1296-1302, p. 404; CCR 1313-18, pp. 79, 223; CPR 1313-17, p. 638; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1319-27, p. 16.
9) CIPM 1300-07, no. 90.
10) CIPM 1216-72, no. 812.
11) CIPM 1317-27, no. 435.
12) CIPM 1307-17, no. 536.
13) CFR 1319-27, pp. 17, 21; CCR 1318-23, pp. 178, 201.
14) CPR 1321-24, pp. 174, 181, 411, 633.
15) CPR 1307-13, pp. 197, 205.
16) CPR 1307-13, p. 83.
17) CPR 1307-13, pp. 391, 413, 427, 429-31, 441; CFR 1307-19, pp. 121, 127.
18) CFR 1307-19, pp. 141, 156; CPR 1307-13, p. 486.
19) CFR 1307-19, p. 214; CIPM 1307-17, no. 536; CCR 1313-18, p. 125.
20) CPR 1317-21, p. 568.
21) CIPM 1327-36, no. 622.

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