PERCY, Henry (c.1604-1659), of Syon House, Isleworth, Mdx.; later of Whitehall and Alnwick Castle, Northumb.
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Family and Education
b. c.1604, 4th but 2nd surv. s. of of Henry Percy, 9th earl of Northumberland, and Dorothy, da. of Walter Devereux, 1st earl of Essex, wid. of Sir Thomas Perrot† of Haroldston, Pemb.; bro. of Algernon, Lord Percy*.1 educ. privately (William Nicholson) c.1613, Isleworth (Thomas Willis) by 1617; Christ Church, Oxf. 1624.2 unm. cr. Bar. Percy of Alnwick 28 June 1643. d. 26 Mar. 1659.3
Member, Virg. Co. by 1622.4
Gov. Guernsey 1649-50.10
Percy’s early life was overshadowed by the incarceration, after the Gunpowder Plot, of his father, the 9th earl of Northumberland, who was not released from the Tower until 1621.11 Percy shared some lessons with his elder brother, Algernon, his tutors including William Nicholson, later bishop of Gloucester, before being entrusted alone to the care of another distinguished schoolmaster near the family’s Middlesex residence. He was eventually to be provided for out of his mother’s Welsh estates, but in 1622 he obtained ‘four shares of land in Virginia’ from his cousin (Sir) Henry Rich*. His comparatively late appearance at Oxford, when he was probably about 20, may be attributable to the poor health from which he and his brother were to suffer all their lives.12
Percy was chosen to represent Marlborough in 1628 after Sir Francis Seymour plumped for Wiltshire in the third Caroline Parliament. The following year a correspondent of Dudley Carleton*, Viscount Dorchester, attributed the election to Percy’s brother-in-law, the 2nd earl of Leicester (Sir Robert Sidney*), ‘presuming he would have run the same way as they did that hated the duke’ [Buckingham]. Percy dined with Leicester in March 1628, but it is likely that the 2nd earl of Hertford (William Seymour*), the dominant patron in Marlborough, required little prompting to nominate Percy, who was first cousin to Hertford’s wife.13 His only committee appointments were to consider a petition against the Cornish deputy lieutenants (9 May) and to attend the king on 22 June 1628 ‘to know how long we shall sit’. He made no recorded speeches, but a letter he wrote in September to his brother-in-law, James Hay, 1st earl of Carlisle, reporting Buckingham’s assassination, shows that he was indeed among those that hated the duke.14 He left no trace on the records of the 1629 session.
Percy travelled abroad after the Parliament, in the words of his father ‘as a younger son, and not in pomp’. He was visiting Paris in January 1631, but returned to England soon after to seek office.15 However, he was disappointed of his hopes of a military career in Ireland, or diplomatic employment, becoming ‘a diligent courtier’, one of the Protestant and anti-Spanish circle about the queen, which included several other members of his family, notably his sister the countess of Carlisle. The 2nd Viscount Conway (Sir Edward Conway II*) judged it unlikely that he would ‘make any great profit by the Court, because he begins the Pater Noster with "Give us this day our daily bread"’, but he secured the mastership of the Horse in the Prince of Wales’ Household in 1639.16
Percy was returned at both elections in 1640 on his brother’s interest, sitting for Portsmouth in the Short Parliament and for Northumberland in the Long, but was expelled from the latter after his involvement in the first Army Plot. He escaped overseas, but returned to fight in the Civil War, when he commanded the king’s artillery and received a peerage. An inveterate intriguer, widely distrusted and, according to Clarendon, ‘generally unloved, as a proud and supercilious person’, he was eventually dismissed from the king’s service. He was arrested for corresponding with the parliamentarians in January 1645, but was soon released, although obliged to go into exile again. Remaining active in the royalist cause, he was appointed lord chamberlain by Charles II in 1653. He died, unmarried, in Paris six years later, having apparently burnt his papers.17
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Alan Davidson
- 1. Collins, Peerage, ii. 342-3.
- 2. HMC 6th Rep. 230-1; Al. Ox.
- 3. CP, x. 472; Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 52.
- 4. Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, ii. 122.
- 5. Sidney Letters ed. A. Collins, ii. 620; Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion ed. W.D. Macray, v. 338.
- 6. CCSP, ii. 265.
- 7. Pprs. of Captain Henry Stevens ed. M. Toynbee (Oxon. Rec. Soc. xlii), 38; P.R. Newman, Roy. Officers in Eng. and Wales, 293.
- 8. CSP Dom. 1640-1, pp. 36-7; 1641-3, p. 56.
- 9. Roy. Ordnance Pprs. ed. I. Roy (Oxon. Rec. Soc. xliii), 20-1; Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6, p. 40.
- 10. CCSP, ii. 30, 45.
- 11. Oxford DNB sub Percy, Henry, 9th earl of Northumberland.
- 12. CCAM, 829; Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, ii. 122; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, ii. 168.
- 13. Procs. 1628, vi. 123; Cent. Kent. Stud. U1475/A28/1, unfol.
- 14. CD 1628, iii. 336; iv. 404; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 291.
- 15. CSP Dom. 1629-31, pp. 82, 480.
- 16. HMC Cowper, i. 428; Strafforde Letters, i. 138-9, 210, 242, 363; R.M. Smuts, ‘Puritan Followers of Henrietta Maria in the 1630s’ EHR, xciii. 27.
- 17. Clarendon, i. 351; iii. 393; Oxford DNB; CCSP, iv. 180.