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Sir Henry Percy

Born: 20-Mar-1364
Died: 21-Jul-1403
Location of death: Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England
Cause of death: War

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Military

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Hotspur

Sir Henry Percy, called Hotspur, eldest son of Henry, 1st Earl of Northumberland, was born on the 20th of March 1364. He saw active service when he was fourteen at the siege of Berwick. Six years later he was associated with his father in the wardenship of the eastern march of Scotland, and his zeal in border warfare won the name of Hotspur for him from his opponents. In 1386 he was sent to Calais, and raided French territory, but was shortly afterwards recalled to defend England against a naval attack by France. In popular story and ballad he is known as one of the heroes of Otterburn or Chevy Chase, which is the subject of one of the most stirring recitals of Froissart. In the summer of 1388 the Scots invaded England by way of Carlisle, sending a small body under the earls of Douglas, Mar and Moray to invade Northumberland. The Earl of Northumberland remained at Alnwick, but sent his sons Sir Henry and Sir Ralph against the enemy. In hand-to-hand fighting before the walls of Newcastle, Douglas is said to have won Sir Henry's pennon, which he swore to fix upon the walls of Dalkeith. The Scots then retreated to Otterburn, where Percy, who was bent on recovering his pennon, attacked them on a fine August evening in 1388. Douglas was slain in the battle, though not, as is stated by Walsingham, by Percy's hand: Henry Percy was captured by Sir John Montgomery, and his brother Ralph by Sir John Maxwell. Hotspur was released on the payment of a heavy ransom, to which King Richard II contributed 3000, and in the autumn his term as warden of Carlisle and the West March was extended to five years. In 1399 together with his father he joined Henry of Lancaster. King Henry IV gave the charge of the West March to Northumberland, while Henry Percy received the castles of Bamburgh, Roxburgh and Berwick, and the wardenship of the East March, with a salary of 3000 in peace time and 12,000 in war. During the first year of Henry's reign Hotspur further was appointed justiciar of North Wales and constable of the castles of Chester, Flint, Conway, Denbigh and Carnarvon. Henry also gave him a grant of the island of Anglesey, with the castle of Beaumaris. William and Rees ap Tudor captured Conway Castle on the 1st of April 1401, and Percy in company with the prince of Wales set out to recover the place, Percy providing the funds. In May he reported to the king the pacification of Merioneth and Carnarvon, and before the end of the month Conway was surrendered to him. Meanwhile he wrote demanding arrears of pay, with the threat of resignation if the money were not forthcoming, but the king intimated that the loss of Conway had been due to his negligence, and only sent part of the money. He had the same difficulty in obtaining money for his northern charge that he had experienced in Wales. Anglesey was taken from him, and he was deprived of Roxburgh Castle in favor of his rival, the Earl of Westmorland. The Scots again invaded England in the autumn of 1402, headed by the Earl of Douglas and Murdoch Stewart, son of the Duke of Albany. Northumberland and Hotspur barred their way at Millfield, near Wooler, and the Scots were compelled to fight at Humbledon, or Homildon Hill, on the 14th of September. The English archers were provided with a good target in the masses of the Scottish spearmen, and Hotspur was restrained from charging by his ally, George Dunbar, Earl of March. The Scottish army was almost destroyed, while the English loss is said to have been five men. Disputes with the king arose over the disposal of the Scottish prisoners, Percy insisting on his right to hold Douglas as his personal prisoner, and he was summoned to court to explain. It is related that when he arrived Henry asked for Douglas, and Hotspur demanded in return that his brother-in-law, Edmund Mortimer, should be allowed to ransom himself from Owen Glendower, with whom he was a prisoner. High words followed, in the course of which Henry called Percy a traitor, struck him on the face, and drew his sword on him. Percy is said to have answered this defiance with the words, "Not here, but on the field." This was late in 1402, and in 1403 Hotspur issued a proclamation in Cheshire stating that Richard II was alive, and summoning the inhabitants to his standard. He made common cause with his prisoner Douglas, and marched south to join forces with Glendower, who was now reconciled with Mortimer. He was reinforced by his uncle Thomas, Earl of Worcester, who, although steward to the household of the Prince of Wales, joined his family in rebellion. The mythical Richard II was heard of no more, and Percy made himself the champion of the young Earl of March. When he arrived at the Castle Foregate, Shrewsbury, early on the 21st of July, and demanded provisions, he found the king's forces had arrived before him. He retired in the direction of Whitchurch, and awaited the enemy about 3.5 miles from Shrewsbury. After a long parley, in which a truce of two days was even said to have been agreed on, the Scottish Earl of March, fighting on the royal side, forced on the battle in the afternoon, the royal right being commanded by the Prince of Wales Hotspur was killed, the earls of Douglas and Worcester, Sir Richard Venables of Kinderton, and Sir Richard Vernon were captured, and the rebel army dispersed. Worcester, Venables, and Vernon were executed the next day. Percy's body was buried at Whitchurch, but was disinterred two days later to be exhibited at Shrewsbury. The head was cut off, and fixed on one of the gates of York.

Wife: Lady Elizabeth Mortimer
Son: Henry Percy (b. 3-Feb-1392, d. 22-May-1455)
Daughter: Lady Elizabeth Percy (d. 26-Oct-1437)
Daughter: Matilda Percy

    Knight of the British Empire
    Ransomed 1388
    Order of the Garter 1388

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