PERCY, Thomas (1528-72), of Alnwick, Northumb., Topcliffe, Yorks. and Petworth, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. 10 June 1528, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Percy of Prudhoe, Northumb., and bro. of Henry. m. 12 June 1558, Anne, da. of Henry Somerset, 2nd Earl of Worcester, 1s. d.v.p. 4da. suc. fa. 2 June 1537. Kntd. and cr. Baron Percy 30 Apr. 1557, 1st Earl of Northumberland 1 May 1557; KG nom. 22 Apr. 1563, inst. 23 May 1563, degraded 27 Nov. 1569.2

Offices Held

Keeper, Prudhoe castle Mar. 1556; member, council in north May 1557; steward, liberty of Richmond, Yorks. 26 July 1557, jt. (with Thomas Wharton, 1st Baron Wharton) warden, E. and Middle marches 2 Aug., sole warden 9 Aug. 1557-?Nov. 1559; j.p.q. Northumb. 1558/59-64, Yorks. (all Ridings) 1561-4; commr. musters, Yorks. 1569.3


Thomas Percy’s father was executed in June 1537 and his uncle Henry, 5th Earl of Northumberland, died in the same month, having made over all his lands to the King. Brought up by guardians, who included for a time Sir Thomas Tempest, Percy was restored in blood by an Act of 1549 (2 and 3 Edw. VI, no. 47). With his brother Henry he was in receipt of an annuity of 100 marks out of the lordship and manor of Prudhoe, and he eventually obtained possession of the castle. In January 1552 he received a grant of some former Percy properties in Northumberland.4

Percy’s restoration was to be completed under Mary. His introduction to public life came with his election as senior knight of the shire for Westmorland to the Queen’s third Parliament. Westmorland was not his own shire and he presumably owed his return to his cousin Henry, 2nd Earl of Cumberland, with perhaps the help of his uncle’s former servant Thomas, 1st Baron Wharton. His brother Henry was returned to the same Parliament for Morpeth. Predictably, neither withdrew from it without leave before its dissolution. Percy’s next appearance in Parliament was to be in the Lords, following his creation as Earl of Northumberland on 1 May 1557 and his restoration in the following August to the lost lands; these lay chiefly in Yorkshire, where were the chief residences, Cumberland, Northumberland and Sussex. Shortly after his creation the King and Queen recommended Percy to the 5th Earl of Shrewsbury as marshal of the field in the northern army; at the same time he was appointed to the council in the north and soon afterwards became warden of the east and middle marches. The war with Scotland prevented him from taking his seat in the Lords in the last Parliament of the reign, and early in 1558 he obtained leave of absence from the House.5

Elizabeth confirmed Northumberland in his offices and excused him from attending Parliament in 1559 on their account, but she removed him after allegations of misconduct and of partiality towards Mary Queen of Scots. He refused to receive his successor at Alnwick in 1560 or to act as host there to the proposed meeting between the two Queens two years later. On taking his place in the Lords in 1563 he spoke against measures curbing Catholicism. His receipt of the Garter several months later was intended as a gesture of conciliation, but he remained an outspoken critic of the regime and its church policy. His sympathy towards the Scottish Queen on her arrival in England annoyed the Council and his plan to set her free with Spanish support received papal approval. When a year later he declined a summons to London his arrest was ordered, but he eluded his captors and with the 6th Earl of Westmorland he proclaimed Mary Queen of England. After the failure of their rising he sought refuge in Liddesdale where the Laird of Ormiston delivered him to the Regent Moray. His wife escaped to the Continent, whence she tried unsuccessfully to ransom him. He and the other rebel leaders were attainted by the Parliament of 1571. In May 1572 the Scots surrendered him to Elizabeth and on 22 Aug. he was beheaded at York. For refusing to abandon his faith in return for his life Northumberland was beatified in 1895.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 2. Age and birth given on his portrait dated 1566, Pictures at Petworth (National Trust), 2. CP; DNB; Arch. Ael. (ser. 3), i. 82-83; Northumb. Co. Hist. ix. 266; Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 138.
  • 3. CPR, 1555-7, p. 479; 1557-8, pp. 12, 71, 194; 1558-60, pp. 56, 58; 1560-3, pp. 436-7, 441; 1563-6, pp. 21-22; CSP For. 1558-9, p. 265; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 335; 1601-3, Add. 1547-65, p. 450.
  • 4. G. Brenan, House of Percy, i. 251; SP Hen. VIII, v. 92, 118-19; Merriman, Letters of Thomas Cromwell, ii. 99-100; CJ, i. 8; CPR, 1550-3, pp. 118, 185; APC, iii. 222, 434; v. 206, 248-9.
  • 5. CPR, 1555-7, p. 495; 1557-8, pp. 179-89; Northern Hist. i. 59, 67n; Estate Accts. Earl of Northumberland (Surtees Soc. clxiii), pp. xi seq.; Arch. Ael. (ser. 4), xxxv. 49; Econ. Hist. Rev. (ser. 2), ix. 434-5; HMC Shrewsbury and Talbot, i, ii. passim; M. A. R. Graves, ‘The Tudor House of Lords 1547-58’ (Otago Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1974), ii. 276; The King’s Works, iii. 229.
  • 6. HMC Shrewsbury and Talbot, i, ii passim; CSP For. 1558-9 to 1564-5 passim; CSP Span. 1558-67, pp. 293-4; CSP Dom. 1566-79, pp. 294, 424; 1601-3, Add. 1547-65, p. 567; H. Aveling, Northern Catholics, passim; TRHS n.s. xx. 177-8; Memorials of the Rebellion of 1569, ed. Sharp, 203-4, 212-13; D. Mathews, Catholicism in England, 39-40.