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Percy, Henry, second Lord Percy (1301–1352), soldier and magnate, was born probably in February 1301, the elder son of , and Eleanor Arundel (d. 1328). Percy was given custody of Alnwick Castle and all his father's lands (except those in Yorkshire) in October 1318. Despite his youth Percy attended the meeting of northern magnates held by Thomas, earl of Lancaster, in May 1321. But he stayed loyal to Edward II. He did homage and received livery of his inheritance on 26 December 1321. He married Idonea (d. 1365), daughter of .

Early service and lands in Scotland, 1322–1332

He was summoned for service against the Scots under the command of Andrew Harclay, earl of Carlisle, on 26 March 1322, in which year he was also knighted. The following September he was serving in Northumberland under David Strathbogie, earl of Atholl, being enjoined to give sufficient attention to the defence of Alnwick Castle. He was involved in relations with Scotland for the remainder of Edward II's reign; he was, for example, one of the English hostages for the safety of the earl of Moray in April 1323, and one of the commissioners appointed to keep the truce with the Scots in July 1325.

Percy supported Queen Isabella against the Despensers when she returned to England in October 1326. The change of regime, faced as it was with a raid into Northumberland a few weeks after the coronation of Edward III, led to an especially active involvement in relations with the Scots. On 14 February 1327 the king's council entrusted Percy with the general defence of the north of England. In return for a fee of 1000 marks (£666 13s. 4d.) he was to serve until the following Whitsunday with a force that included 100 men-at-arms and as many of his own men as he chose. This was joined two days later with the custody of the marches of Scotland for the same period. On 23 April 1327 he became one of the ambassadors appointed to negotiate with the Scots. On 5 September 1327 there followed an appointment as chief warden of the marches until the following Christmas, and on 9 October 1327 he was one of the two envoys appointed to negotiate a final peace with Scotland.

During his stay in Scotland Percy displayed a concern that was to dominate his career for the next six years—his territorial claims and the opportunities for further gains there. On 28 July 1326 King Robert confirmed to Percy the Scottish lands that had belonged to his father ‘by hereditary right or in any just and legitimate manner whatsoever’ (Nicholson, 57). The lands in question were the barony of Urr in Galloway and Red Castle in Angus. Percy was one of a number of ‘disinherited’ who had lost lands held, or claimed, in Scotland. There can be no doubt that he had used his role in the negotiations with the Scottish king to advance his personal interests. His claim was, in fact, legally dubious, since on 3 June 1331 he paid the rightful heir the sum of 200 marks for the surrender of his claims. This, however, suggests that at least for a short time he enjoyed his Scottish inheritance.

Support for Edward Balliol and further rewards, 1333–1334

A new turn in England's relations with Scotland occurred with the invasion of Edward Balliol, who was seeking to regain the Scottish throne lost by his father and assisted by some leading disinherited. At first Percy's own conduct was cautious. But, as soon as Edward III abandoned his policy of non-intervention, he became a leading supporter of Balliol. On 9 May 1333 he undertook to serve Balliol within Scotland for life, saving his allegiance to the king of England, with a contingent of either 100 men-at-arms or 30 knights. In return Balliol promised him lands in Scotland worth 2000 marks a year. In less than three months Percy had virtually gained his promised reward. The first instalment on 29 July 1333 occurred shortly after the surrender of Berwick—the peel of Lochmaben and the valleys of Annandale and Moffatdale. Another grant of 5 September 1333 gave him a collection of forfeited holdings in the Cause of Stirling to the value of £629 16s. 8d. On 20 September 1334 the Vale of Lochmaben grant was increased to 1000 marks a year, bringing the total of Percy's reward to just below the promised amount.

The importance of Percy's services, especially during the siege of Berwick, may have led Balliol to ignore the claims of another of the disinherited—Edward de Bohun, a younger son of Humphrey (VII) de Bohun, earl of Hereford, who had received Lochmaben and Annandale from Edward I in 1306. What made possible a settlement of the dispute that flared up between Bohun and Percy was the fact that these lands were within the area of southern Scotland ceded to Edward III in perpetuity by Balliol. On 20 September 1334 Percy surrendered his lands to the English crown. In return he and his heirs received from Edward III a grant worth 1000 marks a year—the castle, constabulary, and forest of Jedburgh, an annuity of 500 marks a year from the customs of Berwick, and the custody of the castle there.

Nor was this all that Percy gained from the Scottish wars of the early years of Edward III. At the king's accession he had entered into an indenture of war to serve for life with a company of men-at-arms in return for an annual fee of 500 marks. On 1 March 1328 the crown assigned to Percy, in return for the surrender of this fee, the rights to the reversion of the estates of the Clavering family in Northumberland, which included the castle and barony of Warkworth. When such indentures of war were declared illegal in parliament in 1331, the indenture was surrendered by Percy; but the king, with the assent of parliament, then regranted the estates to Percy. The last Clavering died in 1332; and the reversion of all his holdings in Northumberland to Percy was completed with Clavering's widow's death in 1345.

Victory and consolidation on the northern marches, 1334–1352

By the summer of 1334 rebellion had shattered Balliol's hold on his kingdom. For the next three years Edward was engaged in efforts in his support. His immediate response, made on 3 August 1334, was to appoint Percy and Ralph Neville chief wardens of the marches and of the king's lands in Scotland. In January 1335 Percy defeated a Scottish raid in Redesdale, and in July of the same year he played a leading role in a grand two-pronged offensive, being the leading English commander in a force that Balliol led from Berwick. He accompanied Edward III on expeditions into Scotland in 1336 and 1337. From then on, during years in which the Scottish conflict was absorbed into the wider one with France, Percy, whether or not holding a formal appointment, played an integral role in the defence of the north of England. His importance in this respect achieved recognition on 28 April 1340, when he was appointed one of the councillors who were to advise the young Prince Edward during Edward III's absence overseas.

Percy's main achievement in the years that followed was the part he played in the defence of the north against the grand invasion launched by David II in 1346. When the English king and his eldest son left for the campaign in France that was to culminate in their victory at Crécy, Percy was made one of the custodians of the kingdom. He was one of the leaders of the army collected to repel the Scots and led the first division in the victory at Nevilles Cross on 17 October 1346. According to the Lanercost chronicle he was too ill to take part in the invasion of Scotland that followed.

The capture of the Scottish king and the death or capture of leading Scottish magnates at Nevilles Cross created opportunities similar to those of 1333–4. On 26 January 1347 Percy entered into an indenture with Lionel of Antwerp, earl of Ulster, Edward III's second son, who was guardian of England during his father's absence in France, to serve in Scotland for a year with a contingent of 100 men-at-arms and 100 mounted archers. The invading army was under the command of Edward Balliol who led one contingent from Carlisle, Percy leading the other from Berwick. But, presumably because of the pressure of the siege of Calais on English resources, the expedition was not strong enough to effect the reconquest that was necessary if Balliol was to regain his throne. It did, however, regain English holdings in southern Scotland, thus strengthening Percy's control of his Jedburgh estate.

In the history of the Percy family and that of England the second Percy baron of Alnwick deserves at least an equal place with his father, the first baron. His father had begun the family's involvement in the Scottish wars and given it the leading position in Northumberland. The son did much more than consolidate his father's gains by acquiring the Warkworth estates close to Alnwick. The total failure of Balliol to keep his Scottish throne may have meant that Percy lost for ever the lands that he had been granted in the area of Stirling. But the dispute with Bohun over his other gains at Balliol's hands turned out to his territorial advantage. Added to his holdings in Northumberland, his compensation from the English crown locked him firmly into the defence of England against the Scots and into English ambitions in the northern kingdom, thus giving his heirs very great territorial power that made them an essential part of the English crown's policies towards Scotland.

Death and children

Percy died at Warkworth Castle on 26 February 1352. His testament, dated 13 September 1349 (a date that suggests fear of death from plague), enjoined interment at Sawley Abbey; but he was buried at Alnwick Abbey. One of his bequests reveals that while pursuing his territorial ambitions in Scotland and military activity in the north of England he had contemplated going on crusade to the Holy Land. He left the sum of 1000 marks (in Florentine florins), which he had collected for this purpose, to his heir, with the wish that the latter go in his place.

With his wife, Idonea, he had six sons—, his heir, Richard, Roger, Robert, Thomas [see below], and William—and four daughters—Margaret, who married first Robert Umfraville, son and heir of Gilbert, earl of Angus, and second [see under ], Isabel, who married William, son and heir of Sir Gilbert Aton, Matilda, who married John, Lord Neville of Raby, and Eleanor, who married John, Lord Fitzwalter.

Thomas Percy (c.1332–1369), bishop of Norwich, was the fifth son of Henry Percy, second Lord Percy. A series of preferments followed rapidly on studies at Oxford, beginning with the canonry and prebend of Chester-le-Street in the diocese of Durham in June 1351. In his nineteenth year he received a papal dispensation to hold a benefice with cure, notwithstanding the canonry and prebend he already held, this being at the request of the queen, the queen mother, and the earls of Lancaster and Arundel, as well as of his father. On 4 February 1355 he was made bishop of Norwich by papal provision. He owed this remarkable appointment to his brother's brother-in-law, Henry, duke of Lancaster, who was present at the papal court in Avignon as the leading English envoy in negotiations there with an embassy from France. Duke Henry seized the opportunity created by the death of his fellow envoy William Bateman, bishop of Norwich, to petition the pope for his relative's promotion, though he was still in his twenty-third year. Thomas Percy received the temporalities on 14 April 1355 and was consecrated bishop on 3 January 1356. He died on 8 August 1369 (the date suggests that he fell victim to plague in that year).

Despite his privileged background and youth there is nothing to suggest that Thomas Percy was not a competent and conscientious diocesan by the standards of his time. His surviving register (consisting of formal administrative documents) contains no indications to the contrary, and he was benefactor to the fabric of his cathedral. His testament, apart from bequests to close relatives, is notable for the concern it displays for the poor and for the welfare of quite menial members of his household. He did not hold any secular offices, though the explanation may lie in his youth and early death. The available records reveal that he was a trier of petitions in all save one of the parliaments of the years 1363–9. On 1 February 1362 he was present at Westminster at Edward III's confirmation of his treaty with the king of Castile. The main interest of Bishop Percy's career must be seen in its testimony to the position and influence achieved by his father and grandfather, especially in the light of his appointment to a bishopric that lay totally outside the area of Percy power and influence.

J. M. W. Bean

Sources  

Chancery records · RotS, vol. 1 · CDS, vol. 3 · W. Stubbs, ed., Chronicles of the reigns of Edward I and Edward II, 2 vols., Rolls Series, 76 (1882–3) · J. Stevenson, ed., Chronicon de Lanercost, 1201–1346, Bannatyne Club, 65 (1839) · Scalacronica, by Sir Thomas Gray of Heton, knight: a chronical of England and Scotland from AD MLXVI to AD MCCCLXII, ed. J. Stevenson, Maitland Club, 40 (1836) · [M. T. Martin], ed., The Percy chartulary, SurtS, 117 (1911) · W. Dickson, ed., ‘Chronica monasterii de Alnewyke’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 3 (1844), 33–45 · J. R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster, 1307–1322: a study in the reign of Edward II (1970) · R. Nicholson, Edward III and the Scots: the formative years of a military career, 1327–1335 (1965) · J. M. W. Bean, ‘The Percies and their estates in Scotland’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th ser., 35 (1957), 91–9 · J. M. W. Bean, The estates of the Percy family, 1416–1537 (1958), introduction · E. B. De Fonblanque, Annals of the house of Percy, from the conquest to the opening of the nineteenth century, 2 vols. (privately printed, London, 1887) · [J. Raine], ed., Testamenta Eboracensia, 1, SurtS, 4 (1836) · Emden, Oxf., 3.1462 · register of Thomas Percy, Norfolk RO, DN/Reg 2 book 5 · GEC, Peerage, new edn, 10.459–62

Archives  

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland · Syon House, Brentford, London |  Norfolk RO, register, DN/Reg 2 book 5 [Thomas Percy]


Wealth at death  

see will, Raine, ed., Testamenta, 57–61