Ancestral arms of Percy
|Country||Kingdom of England, United Kingdom|
|Founder||William de Percy (d.1096), 1st feudal baron of Topcliffe|
|Current head||Ralph Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland|
The House of Percy (old French Perci) is an English noble family. They were one of the most powerful noble families in Northern England for much of the Middle Ages, known for their long rivalry with another powerful northern English family, the House of Neville.
The House of Percy 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, 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. 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.
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 (died 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.
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. A descendant of Ivo de Vesci, John de Vesci, succeeded to his father's titles and estates upon his father's death in Gascony in 1253. These included the barony of Alnwick and a large property in Northumberland and considerable estates in Yorkshire, including Malton. Due to being under age, King Henry III of England conferred the wardship of John's estates to a foreign kinsmen, which caused great offence to the de Vesci family. 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. 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.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.
The fourth Earl was involved in the political manoeuvrings of the last Yorkist kings Edward IV and Richard III. Through either 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 Mary Talbot, the daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury, but as he died without a son, his nephew Thomas Percy became the seventh Earl.
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 against 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.
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 Josceline 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.
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.
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, who succeeded and who was created Earl of Beverley in 1790 and thus it too became a courtesy title.
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. 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. 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. 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. Northumberland Estates manages 100,000 acres (400 km2): directly managing 4,000 acres (16 km2) of forestry and 20,000 acres (81 km2) of farmland, with approximately 100 tenant farmers managing the remaining bulk of the land.
Several other members of the Percy family have also gained distinction. 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.
The seat of the Dukes of Northumberland is Alnwick Castle, which is located in Alnwick, Northumberland. The family's London residence is Syon House in Brentford, which replaced, as their London residence, the demolished Northumberland House in the Strand.Warkworth and Prudhoe castles were the residences of the Earls of Northumberland in the Middle Ages, and ownership was retained by the later Dukes. Both are now in the custody of English Heritage. Albury Park is a former residence which has been converted into apartments, while the surrounding estate is still directly owned by the Duke. 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 in the Percy genealogy include:
Prominent members of the family include:
|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
|Alan de Perci|
2nd feudal baron of Topcliffe
(d. circa 1130/5)
|William II de Perci|
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|
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
|Margaret Neville||Henry Percy|
11th feudal baron of Topcliffe
4th Baron Percy of Alnwick
1st Earl of Northumberland, 1377 forfeit 1405
heiress of Egremont
1st Earl of Worcester
(1343 - 1403)
|Henry Percy (Hotspur)|
(1364 - 1403)
|Thomas Percy||Ralph Percy||Alan Percy||Mary Percy|
(c. 1390 - 1437)
2nd Earl of Northumberland, 1416
3rd Earl of Northumberland
(1421 - 1461 )
1st Baron Egremont
(1422 - 1460)
(1423 Aft. 1475 )
|George Percy |
(1424 - 1474 )
( 1425 - 1464)
|Richard Percy||William Percy|
Bishop of Carlisle
(1428 - 1462)
(1430 - 1482)
married Lord Edmund d'Aganet, 8th Baron of Blyth
|Anne Percy |
(1436 - 1522)
married Thomas Hungerford of Rowden
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
(c. 1480 - 1560)
|Joscelin Percy||Richard Pearce|
6th Earl of Northumberland
betrothed to Anne Boleyn
(c. 1504 - 1537)
Pilgrimage of Grace revolt
7th Earl of Northumberland
(forfeit 1571; restored 1572)
led the Rising of the North
8th Earl of Northumberland
convicted in the Gunpowder Plot
(c. 1560 - 1605)
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
10th Earl of Northumberland
Lord High Admiral of England,
later a Parliamentarian in the English Civil War
Baron Percy of Alnwick
royalist in the English Civil War
11th Earl of Northumberland
no male heirs,
becomes the last male of
direct Percy lineage to inherit
|Henry Percy |
only son and heir apparent
suo jure Baroness Percy
(1667 - 1722)
|Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset|
|Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset|
(1684 - 1750)
created Earl of Northumberland, with remainder to his son-in-law
|George Seymour |
(1725 - 1744)
suo jure 2nd Baroness Percy
(1730 - 1776)
|Sir Hugh Percy né Smithson |
2nd Earl of Northumberland by special remainder, 1750, and
1st Duke of Northumberland by creation 1766
(1714 - 1786)
This summary genealogical tree shows how the current house of Percy is related:
Paternal arms of Henry de Percy, 1st Baron Percy (1273-1314): Azure, five fusils in fess or,("Percy ancient") which he abandoned in favour of right: Or, a lion rampant azure ("Percy modern"/Brabant) Both arms were quartered by the Percy Earls of Northumberland and remain quartered by the present Duke of Northumberland
Arms of Smithson of Stanwick, Yorkshire (ancient): Argent, a chevron engrailed sable between three oak leaves erect slipped vert
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