PERCY, Allan (1577-1611), of Tower Hill, London

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

bap. 2 July 1577, 6th s. of Henry Percy†, 8th earl of Northumberland and Catherine, da. and coh. of John Neville, 4th Lord Latimer.1 educ. Eton 1591-3; Gloucester Hall, Oxf. 1594; M. Temple 1597; travelled abroad (Low Countries, France, Italy), c.1599-1602; academy, Angers, France 1601.2 m. 1608, Mary (d. 17 Oct. 1671), da. and h. of Sir John Fitz of Fitzford, Tavistock, Devon, s.p.3 cr. KB 6 Jan. 1605.4 d. 11 Nov. 1611.5

Offices Held

Lt. of gent. pens. 1603-6.6


Percy is to be distinguished from his cousin and namesake, the Beverley resident and elder brother of the Gunpowder plotter, Thomas Percy. The MP’s father, the 8th earl of Northumberland, committed suicide in the Tower in 1585 without providing for his younger children, but their mother (d.1596) arranged annuities for them from her own estates. Percy inherited a rent charge of 100 marks a year charged on the manor of Bolton, Cumberland, but his eldest brother Henry, the 9th earl, intending to sell the estate, bought out his interest for a generous annuity of £200, which included the profits of the Tynemouth lighthouse.7 Percy spent the final years of Elizabeth’s reign abroad, seeking the finest masters of horsemanship in Angers and Florence, and thus avoided joining two of his brothers in Essex’s rising in 1601. After the queen’s death, the earl, a prominent member of the early Jacobean Court, was made captain of the gentleman pensioners, and secured Percy’s appointment as his lieutenant.8

The Percy family held substantial estates in the East Riding, centred on the manor of Leckington, only three miles north of Beverley, where the earl’s steward, Edward Fraunceys*, had been returned in 1597 and 1601. Fraunceys transferred to Haslemere, Surrey in 1604, allowing the earl to bring his brother in for Beverley. Early in the first session he was among those named to confer with the Lords about a petition to the king for permission to debate composition for wardship (added 26 Mar. 1604), which Northumberland had previously described to James as ‘the burden that the gentility repines at chiefly’. He was subsequently appointed to a further joint conference, at which James revealed his initial plans for the Union with Scotland (14 April). As a cousin of the redoubtable Lady Hatton, Percy was also named to the committee to consider the estate bill for the heir to her estates, Sir Christopher Hatton* (29 June).9

In January 1605 Percy was created a knight of the Bath on the occasion of Prince Charles’s installation as duke of York, while in the following August his brother obtained him the wardship of a nine-year-old Devonshire heiress, who was later to become his wife. His prospects were destroyed with the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot in November, which was swiftly followed by Northumberland’s arrest. Not surprisingly, he left no mark on the records of the session his cousin had aspired to blow up, although he clearly kept an eye on its proceedings, advising his friend Dudley Carleton* of the call of the House scheduled for 9 Apr. 1606.10 A month after the prorogation, he was imprisoned in the Tower and interrogated about his role in allowing Thomas Percy to join the gentleman pensioners without first taking the Oath of Supremacy. He insisted ‘that he had sworn him [Thomas Percy] before two witnesses’, a claim perhaps intended to take some of the blame away from his brother, but this lie was quickly disproved. He was discharged from arrest three weeks later, receiving a somewhat cryptic dismissal from lord chancellor Ellesmere (Thomas Egerton†):

Sir Allan Percy, in what manner and how you have been used, and upon what occasion, yourself is best acquainted withal. Your being called at this present is to give you full liberty to go where it shall please you, only the Court excepted, from which place you are to abstain till you shall know the king’s further pleasure.

He was, of course, sacked from the band of pensioners, being replaced by Theophilus Howard*, Lord Walden.11

Surprisingly, Percy seems to have been present in the Commons at the start of the next parliamentary session, when he was named to attend the joint conference at which the Union commissioners reported on their negotiations with their Scottish counterparts (25 Nov. 1606). He defended his interests tenaciously over the next few years, securing custody of his ward in the face of her mother’s objections by marrying her as soon as she came of age, and securing compensation when deprived of the profits of the Tynemouth lighthouse in 1608; in the following year he shared in a grant of Lincolnshire lands with his uncle the 1st earl of Exeter (Thomas Cecil†).12 When he returned to the Commons in 1610, two of his committee nominations reflected his newly acquired west country interests, one for a private bill promoted by one of his wife’s kinsmen, John Arundell of Trerice, Cornwall (27 Apr.), the other the Exeter corporation’s bill for their weir on the River Exe (19 May). Another committee to which he was named concerned the bill to naturalize ambassadors’ children (27 Apr.), in which Carleton was particularly interested.13

Percy’s marriage was never consummated: having been taken with a fit of the palsy while out hunting, Northumberland’s servant (Sir) John Hippisley*, bearing a report of fresh charges against the earl, found him dead in his bed on 11 Nov. 1611. He was buried the next day in his grandmother’s vault at Hackney.14 His young widow, having inherited an estate of £1,000 per annum and an ungovernable disposition, eloped with the eldest son of Lord Darcy of Chiche, but she is chiefly remembered for a later, disastrous marriage to Sir Richard Grenville*. Hippisley eventually secured administration of Percy’s modest estate in 1613.15

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Simon Healy


  • 1. Add. 5699, f. 96; Collins, Peerage, ii. 327; SP14/23/33.
  • 2. Eton Coll. Reg. comp. W. Sterry, 264; Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.; Life and Letters of Sir Henry Wotton ed. L. Pearsall Smith, i. 43n; A. Joubert, ‘Les Gentilshommes Étrangers ... à L’Academie D’Equitation D’Angers’, Revue d’Anjou, xxvi, 9; HMC Hatfield, ix. 68.
  • 3. G.H. Radford, ‘Lady Howard of Fitzford’, Trans. Devon Assoc. xxii. 76, 106.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. i. 157.
  • 5. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 314-18.
  • 6. E407/1/36; CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 537.
  • 7. C142/248/22; M. Nicholls, ‘Pursuit of Financial Security by the Younger Brothers of Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland’, HR, lxv. 302, 306.
  • 8. HMC Hatfield, ix. 68; xvii. 495; Life and Letters of Sir Henry Wotton, i. 43n; M. Nicholls, ‘Sir Charles Percy’, Recusant Hist. xviii. 240-1, 249; E407/1/36.
  • 9. CJ, i. 154b, 172a, 249a; Corresp. of James VI ed. J. Bruce (Cam. Soc. o.s. lxxviii), 59.
  • 10. Radford, xxii. 74-6; Nicholls, ‘Financial Security’, 307; Nicholls, ‘Sir Charles Percy’, 239, 248; Chamberlain letters, i. 228.
  • 11. SP14/20/4, 14/22/53, 14/23/33; HMC Hatfield, xviii. 191, 193; M. Nicholls, ‘The ‘Wizard Earl’ in Star Chamber’, HJ, xxx. 185, 189; CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 537; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1580-1625, p. 508.
  • 12. CJ, i. 324b; Nicholls, ‘Financial Security’, 307-9; C66/1795/13.
  • 13. CJ, i. 421b, 422a, 429b.
  • 14. Chamberlain Letters, i. 314-18; Winwood Memorials ed. E. Sawyer, iii. 287; W. Robinson, Hackney, ii. 65.
  • 15. Radford, xxii. 76; ci. 152; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 101; Nicholls, ‘Financial Security’, 309.