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Henry Percy, 3rd Earl of Northumberland

Henry Percy, 3rd Earl of Northumberland
Arms of Percy (modern),[1] as seen on seal of Henry Percy: Or, a lion rampant azure, being a difference of the arms of Brabant[2]
Spouse(s) Eleanor Poynings
Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland
Eleanor Percy
Margaret Percy
Elizabeth Percy
Anne Percy
Noble family Percy
Father Henry Percy, 2nd Earl of Northumberland
Mother Lady Eleanor Neville
Born (1421-07-25)25 July 1421
Leconfield, Yorkshire, England
Died 29 March 1461(1461-03-29) (aged 39)
Towton, Yorkshire, England
Seal of Henry Percy, 3rd Earl of Northumberland (1421–1461). Inscribed: Sigillum Henrici Percy comitis Northumbr (...) + (et) d (omin)i de Cokermouth ("seal of Henry Percy Earl of Northumberland and lord of Cockermouth"). On the escutcheon are shown arms quarterly of 4: 1&4 :Or, a lion rampant azure (Brabant (Percy)); 2&3: Gules, three lucies hauriant argent (Lucy). Crest above: On a chapeau gules turned up ermine a lion statant the tail extended azure (Percy)[3]
Arms of Henry Percy, 3rd Earl of Northumberland impaling Poynings, his wife's family. Detail from the 16th century stained glass Percy Window at Petworth House, Sussex

Henry Percy, 3rd Earl of Northumberland, (25 July 1421 – 29 March 1461) was an English magnate.

The Earldom of Northumberland was one of the greatest fifteenth-century landholdings in northern England; Percy also became Lord Poynings on his marriage. This title would bring him into direct conflict with the Poynings family themselves, and indeed, feuds with neighbouring nobles, both lay and ecclesiastical, would be a key occupancy of his youth.

Percy married Eleanor Poynings, who outlived him; together they had four children. He was a leading Lancastrian during the Wars of the Roses, from which he managed to personally benefit, although his father died early in the war. He was not, however, to live to enjoy these gains, being killed at the Battle of Towton in 1461 on the defeated Lancastrian side.


  • Early life and war with Scotland 1
  • Feud with the Poynings 2
  • Feud with Nevilles 3
  • Wars of the Roses 4
  • Estates, offices and finances 5
  • Family 6
  • Ancestry 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10

Early life and war with Scotland

Percy was the son of Henry Percy, 2nd Earl of Northumberland, and Lady Eleanor Neville, daughter of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, and his second wife, Joan Beaufort.[1]

Percy was knighted in 1426 together with Henry VI.[5] He was appointed Warden of the Eastern March on the Scottish border on 1 April 1440, originally for four years, and subsequent extensions in 1444, and 1445, for the next seven years.[6] This came as well with the custody of Berwick Castle and responsibility for its defence[7] He was to hold this post until March 1461.Sir Robert Ogle, invaded Scotland in a pre-emptive defence of the border, and burnt Dunbar and Dumfries, for which, in revenge, the Scots attacked his father's castles of Alnwick and Warkworth.[8] King Henry made his way north, and whilst at Durham sent Percy – now Lord Poynings – to raid Dumfrieshire; the sortie – "only to return with some 500 cattle" – of around 5,000 men failed, and he was captured whilst caught in a marsh following his father's defeat at the River Sark on 23 October.[9] Sir Robert Ogle was now outlawed and the king used half of his estates to compensate Poynings for the ransom he had expended arranging his release from captivity. Tensions with Scotland remained, to the extent that Poynings, his father, and other nobles were requested to stay and guard the border rather than attend Parliament, for which they were excused.[9] In summer 1451, with an Anglo-Scottish truce pending, Poynings was commissioned to treat with Scottish embassies.[5] In July 1455, he successfully prevented an assault on Berwick by the Scottish King, James II, and was congratulated by the English King as a result.[10]

The remains of Berwick Castle today

Feud with the Poynings

In the late 1440s, the Yorkshire tenants of his father, the Earl of Northumberland, were in almost constant conflict with their neighbours, those of the Archbishop of York, involving armed skirmishes which Percy's brothers led.[11] These events were deemed so severe that in 1448 they led to the only progress north for the King during his reign.[8] The same year, because of a dispute over the inheritance his family received as a result of Henry Percy's marriage, the Earl of Northumberland's retainers had ejected the earl's relative, Robert Poynings, from his Sussex manors. A year later, Henry Percy – now Lord Poynings by right of his wife – took direct part, with his father, in raiding the manor of Newington Bertram in Kent, which was also enfeoffed by Robert. This attack also apparently involved cattle rustling and theft, and Robert later claimed it to be so brutal that he was "deterred from seeking a remedy at law for three years".[12]

Feud with Nevilles

By the early 1450s, relations with a powerful neighbouring family, the Nevilles became increasingly tense, and Poyning's brother Thomas, Lord Egremont, had finally ambushed a Neville force, returning from a wedding, near Sheriff Hutton.[13] with a force of between 1,000[14] and 5,000 men.[15] Although this was a bloodless confrontation, a precedent for the use of force in this particular dispute had already been laid in the previous violence in the region.[16] By October 1453, Poynings was directly involved, with his father, brothers Egremont and Richard, and joined by Lord Clifford, in forcing a battle with John and Richard Neville at Topcliffe.[17] The feud continued into the next year, when Poyning reportedly planned on attending parliament accompanied by a large force of men in February, and three months later both he and the earl were summoned by the king to attend council in attempt to impose a peace;[5] a second letter was "written but not despatched".[18] Neither, along with John Neville or Salisbury, did as requested.[19]

Wars of the Roses

John Quartley's 19th-century depiction of the Battle of Towton

During the Wars of the Roses, Percy followed his father in siding with the Lancastrians against the Yorkists.[20] The Earl himself died at what is generally considered to be the first battle of the wars, at St Alban's on 22 May 1455, and Poynings was elevated as third Earl of Northumberland, without having to pay relief to the Crown, due the fact that his father had died in the King's service. He in his turn "swore to uphold the Lancastrian dynasty".[5] Although a reconciliation of the leading magnates of the realm was attempted in October 1458 in London, he arrived with such a large body of men (thought to be around 1,500)[21] that the city denied him entry. The new earl and his brother Egremont were bound over £4,000 each to keep the peace.[22] When conflict broke out again, he attended the so-called Parliament of Devils in October 1459, which condemned as traitors those Yorkists accused of, among other offences, causing the death of his father four years before.[5] On 30 December 1460, Percy led the central "battle" or section of the victorious Lancastrian army at the Battle of Wakefield,[23] following which, the army marched south, pillaging on the road to London.[24] He fought against Warwick at the second Battle of St. Alban's on 17 February 1461, and he commanded the Lancastrian van at the Battle of Towton on 29 March 1461,[25] however, "his archers were blinded by snowstorms", and he was either slain in close fighting, or died of his wounds soon after.[26] He was buried at St Denys's Church, York. He was posthumously attainted by the first parliament of the victorious Edward IV in November 1461, and his son and namesake was committed to the Tower.[5][27]

Estates, offices and finances

The estates of the Earls of Northumberland had traditionally been in constant use as a source of manpower and wages in defence of the border since the Percy family first gained the office the previous century.[28] The wages assigned to the third Earl were substantial: £2,500 yearly in time of peace, and £5,000 during war, as well as an annual payment for the maintenance of Berwick's upkeep (£66 in peacetime and £120 in wartime). Percy often had to provide from his own resources, however, as "securing payment was not easy" from the Exchequer,[5] (for example, in 1454 he received no payments at all).[29] In July 1452 he gained a twenty-year fee-farm (£80 yearly, from Carlisle), although he subsequently lost it in favour of Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, in July 1454.[5] Throughout the 1450s, the Crown continually made efforts at paying Percy his Warden's wages and fees promptly (paying him full wartime rates for the whole of the year 1456-7, for example),[30] and since he was a loyal Lancastrian he achieved this more often than his counterpart on the west march, Salisbury, who by now had publicly aligned himself with York. The fee farm of Carlisle was returned to Percy in November 1459, following Salisbury's attainder in Coventry. He also benefited from the attainder of York, being granted an annuity of £66 from the latter's forfeited Wakefield Lordship in Yorkshire; he also received £200 from the profits of Penrith.[31]

As a reward for his role in the Lancastrian victory at Ludford Bridge, he was made Chief Forester north of the River Trent and the Constable of Scarborough Castle on 22 December 1459 for life. He was nominated to a wide-ranging commission of oyer and terminer (from the old French, literally a commission "to hear and determine")[32] on 30 May 1460, his new rank was a tactic to deal with the treasons and insurrections in Northumberland. On 3 July, he was granted Yorkshire, Derbyshire, and Cambridgeshire, all belonging to Salisbury, on a twelve-year lease.[33] After the Yorkists captured Henry VI at the Battle of Northampton in 1460, they accused Percy of having looted York's northern estates during his exile in Ireland. This charge was likely to have had some truth in it, as it was his continued pillaging of those estates, with the Lords Clifford and Dacre, that led to York marching north to Wakefield in December 1460. These incomes, however collected, would have been vital to the Earl both personally and militarily as his northern estates especially had been a victim of feudal decline for most of the first half of the fifteenth century: even on the forfeit of the earldom to the Crown in 1461, his arrears have been calculated as still standing at approximately £12,000.[5]


At the arrangement of his father and Cardinal Beaufort in 1434,[5] he married on or before 25 June 1435, Eleanor Poynings (c.1422 – 11 February 1484), de jure suo jure Lady Poynings, daughter and heiress of Sir Richard Poynings of Poynings in Sussex, by his second wife, Eleanor Berkeley, daughter of Sir John Berkeley of Beverston Castle in Gloucestershire. She was heir general in 1446 to her grandfather, Robert Poynings, 4th Baron Poynings,[34] to the Lordship of Poynings, with lands across the south of England.[5] He was summoned to Parliament from 14 December 1446 to 26 May 1455, by writs directed Henrico de Percy, chivaler, domino de Ponynges. His wife was a legatee in the 1455 will of her mother, Eleanor, Countess of Arundel (widow of the thirteenth Earl of Arundel). They had one son and three daughters:[34]

  • Elizabeth Percy (1460–1512), who married Henry Scrope, 6th Baron Scrope of Bolton.[34]



  1. ^ Percy's maternal uncles included Richard III of England were all first cousins.[4]
  1. ^ The ancient arms of Percy were: Azure, five fusils in fess or, both versions still quartered by the Percy Duke of Northumberland today
  2. ^ Burke's Landed Gentry, 1937, p.1792
  3. ^ Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.849
  4. ^ Pollard 2007, pp. viii–ix.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Griffiths 2008.
  6. ^ Griffiths 1981, pp. 404–5.
  7. ^ Storey 1957, pp. 600, 604 note 2.
  8. ^ a b Griffiths 1981, p. 409.
  9. ^ a b Griffiths 1981, p. 410.
  10. ^ Griffiths 1981, pp. 770, n. 203.
  11. ^ Wilcock 2004, p. 56.
  12. ^ Jeffs 1961, pp. 155–6.
  13. ^ Griffiths 1968, p. 597.
  14. ^ Gillingham, J., The Wars of the Roses, London (repr.) 1983, p. 76
  15. ^ Storey 1999, p. 130.
  16. ^ Sadler, J. & Speirs, S., Battle of Hexham in its Place, Hexham 2007, p. 74
  17. ^ Griffiths 1968, p. 605.
  18. ^ Nicolas 1837, p. 179.
  19. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 737.
  20. ^ Pollard, A.J., Warwick the Kingmaker: Politics, Power and Fame, London 2007, p. 108
  21. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 805.
  22. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 806.
  23. ^ Haigh 1996, p. 41.
  24. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 882.
  25. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 874.
  26. ^ Weiss 1976, p. 504.
  27. ^ Ellis 2006.
  28. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 845 n. 244.
  29. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 764, n. 114.
  30. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 840 n. 162.
  31. ^ Booth, P., Landed society in Cumberland and Westmorland, c. 1440 – 1485- the politics of the Wars of the Roses, Unpub. PhD Thesis. University of Leicester 1997
  32. ^ "Oyer And Terminer | Definition of oyer and terminer by Merriam-Webster". Retrieved 14 September 2015. 
  33. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. p. 851 n. 330.
  34. ^ a b c Richardson III 2011, p. 345.
  35. ^ Richardson III 2011, pp. 345–7.
  36. ^ Emerson 2012, p. 347.
  37. ^ Richardson I 2011, p. 246.
  38. ^ Lee 1891, Volume 28, p. 257
  39. ^ Tate, George, The History of the Borough, Castle, and Barony of Alnwick, Vol.1, (Henry Hunter Blair, 1866), 121.


  • Bean, J. M. W. (2004). "Percy, Henry, first earl of Northumberland (1341–1408)".  
  • Ellis, Steven G. (May 2006) [2004]. "Percy, Henry, fourth earl of Northumberland (c.1449–1489)". (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)  
  • Emerson, Kate (2012). At the King's Pleasure. Simon and Schuster. p. 347. 
  • Griffiths, R.A (October 1968). "Local Rivalries and National Politics- The Percies, the Nevilles, and the Duke of Exeter, 1452–55". Speculum 43 (4): 597, 605.  
  • Griffiths, R. A. (1981). The Reign of Henry VI. Berkeley. 
  • Griffiths, R. A. (May 2010) [2004]. "Percy, Henry, second earl of Northumberland (1394–1455)".  
  • Griffiths, R. A. (January 2008) [2004]. "Percy, Henry, third earl of Northumberland (1421–1461)". (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)  
  • Haigh, P.A. (1996). The Battle of Wakefield. Stroud. 
  • Jeffs, R. (1961). "The Poynings–Percy Dispute: An Example Of The Interplay Of Open Strife And Legal Action In The Fifteenth Century". BIHR 34: 155–156.  
  • Ormrod, W. M. (January 2008) [2004]. "Lionel, duke of Clarence (1338–1368)". (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)  
  •  Lee, Sidney (1891). "Hungerford, Thomas". In  
  • Nicolas, H., ed. (1837). Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council VI. London. 
  • Pollard, A.J. (2007). Warwick the Kingmaker: Politics, Power and Fame. London. 
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families I (2nd ed.). p. 246.  
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Everingham, Kimball G., ed. Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families III (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City.  
  • Storey, R.L. (October 1957). "The Wardens of the Marches of England towards Scotland, 1377–1489". The English Historical Review 72 (285): . 
  • Storey, R.L. (1999). The End of the House of Lancaster (repr. ed.). Stroud. 
  • Tuck, Anthony (2004). "Neville, Ralph, first earl of Westmorland (c.1364–1425)". (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)  
  • Walker, Simon (January 2008a) [2004]. "Katherine , duchess of Lancaster (1350?–1403)". (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)  
  • Walker, Simon (May 2008b) [2004]. "John, duke of Aquitaine and duke of Lancaster, styled king of Castile and León (1340–1399)". (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)  
  • Weiss, M. (June 1976). "A Power in the North The Percies in the Fifteenth Century". The Historical Journal 19 (2): 504. 
  • Wilcock, R. (1 March 2004). "Local Disorder in the Honour of Knaresborough, c. 1438–1461 and The National Context". Northern History 41 (1): 56. 

Further reading

  • Bean, J.M.W., The Estates of the Percy Family, 1416–1537 (Oxford Historical Series), London 1958
  •  Hunt, William (1895). "Percy, Henry (1394-1455)". In — a section of the last page of the 2nd earl's biography.  
  • Rose, Alexander (2002). Kings in the North – The House of Percy in British History. Phoenix/Orion Books.  
Preceded by
Henry Percy
Earl of Northumberland
Succeeded by
John Neville
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