On this day in Tudor history, the night of 20th/21st June 1585, Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland, died at the Tower of London.
Northumberland was found dead in bed with a gunshot wound and on 23rd June an inquest in the Star Chamber ruled that he had committed suicide. However, it was rumoured by Catholics that he had been murdered by Sir Christopher Hatton on the orders of Elizabeth I's government. They claimed that he had been shot in the chest three times, which was not consistent with suicide.
Northumberland had been imprisoned in the Tower in January 1584 for his Catholic beliefs and his involvement in plots to do with Mary, Queen of Scots. He was laid to rest in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower.
Here are some more facts about him:
- Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland, was born at Newburn Manor, Northumberland, in around 1532 and was the younger son of Sir Thomas Percy and his wife, Eleanor Harbottle.
- His father, Thomas, was executed in 1537 for his part in the Pilgrimage of Grace Rebellion.
- Henry and his older brother, Thomas, were restored in blood in 1549 and Thomas was restored to the earldom of Northumberland in 1557.
- Henry was knighted in 1557 and made deputy warden of the east and middle marches. In the same year, he purchased Norham Castle.
- In December 1558, Henry was appointed to the queen's council in the north and distinguished himself as a soldier in the 1560 Scottish campaign. Elizabeth I rewarded him by making him governor of Tynemouth Castle.
- In 1560, he was also appointed as commissioner to negotiate with the French, and in 1561, he was chosen to collect the oaths of the northern clergy to the queen's supremacy.
- Sometime before 1562, he married Katherine Neville, daughter of John Neville, fourth Baron Latimer. Katherine was his cousin. They went on to have ten children (8 sons and 2 daughters), including Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland.
- Between 1562 and 1563, Henry acted as sheriff of Northumberland, and in 1568 he was chosen to enforce the Acts of Uniformity and Supremacy in York.
- During the Rising of the North in 1569, which involved his brother, Thomas, Henry remained loyal to Elizabeth I. His brother was executed in 1572 and Henry inherited his title.
- In November 1571, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London after being implicated in the Ridolfi Plot against the queen. He threw himself on the queen's mercy and when he was tried for treason, he was fined and put under house arrest at his home at Petworth in Sussex rather than being executed. He never paid the fine and was freed in July 1573. He took his seat in the House of Lords in 1576.
- Despite his imprisonment, as his biographer, Carole Levin, notes, he "continued to dabble in treasonous plots surrounding Mary [Queen of Scots]", having links with Charles Paget, who was involved in the Throckmorton Plot. He was placed under house arrest again in December 1583 and then imprisoned in the Tower in January 1584.
- On the night of 20th/21st June 1584, Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland, was found dead with his pistol in his hand. He had died from a gunshot wound to the heart. In an inquest on 23rd June, the Star Chamber found that he had committed suicide. However, a Catholic Latin pamphlet, Crudelitatis Calvinianae Exempla duo recentissima ex Anglia, published in Cologne claimed that he had been shot in the chest three times and that he was assassinated.
- Throughout his life, there was controversy over Henry Percy's faith with some believing that he was Protestant and others claiming that he was Catholic.
- He was buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London.
Also on this day in Tudor history...
Image: Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland (c.1532-1585) by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, a posthumous three-quarter length portrait.
- Levin, C. Percy, Henry, eighth earl of Northumberland (c. 1532–1585), magnate and conspirator. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
- PERCY, Henry (c.1532-85), of Alnwick, Northumb., The History of Parliament Online, http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/percy-henry-1532-85