Thomas Percy




Blessed Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland, 1st Baron Percy, led the Rising of the North and was executed for treason. He was later beatified by the Catholic Church.

Percy was the eldest son of Sir Thomas Percy and Eleanor, daughter of Sir Guiscard Harbottal. He was the nephew of Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland, with whom Anne Boleyn had a romantic liaison with before marrying Henry VIII. When Thomas was eight years old his father, Sir Thomas Percy, was executed at Tyburn (2nd of  June 1537) for having taken a leading part in the Pilgrimage of Grace, and he also is considered a martyr. Thomas and his brother Henry were then removed from their mother’s keeping and entrusted to Sir Thomas Tempest.

In 1549 an Act was passed “for the restitution in blood of Mr. Thomas Percy“. Shortly afterwards he was knighted, and, three years later, in Queen Mary I‘s reign, he regained his ancestral honours and lands. He was returned as Member of Parliament for Westmorland in the Parliament called in November 1554.  He was declared governor of Prudhoe Castle and he besieged and took Scarborough Castle, which was seized by rebels in 1557. In reward he was granted the title of Earl of Northumberland and the Baronies of PercyPoynings, Lucy, Bryan, and Fitzpane were restored to him. He was installed at Whitehall with great pomp and ceremony, and soon became Warden General of the Marches, in which capacity he fought and defeated the Scots.

On Queen Elizabeth I‘s accession the earl, whose loyalty to the Catholic Church was known, was kept in the north while the anti-Catholic measures of Elizabeth’s first Parliament were passed. Elizabeth continued to show him favour, and in 1563 gave him the Order of the Garter. The systematic persecution of the Catholics rendered the position most difficult, and in autumn of 1569 the Catholic gentry of the North, stirred up by rumours of the approaching excommunication of Elizabeth by the Pope, were planning to liberate Mary (Queen of Scots) and obtain liberty of worship. Earl Thomas, with the Earl of Westmorland, wrote to the pope asking for advice, but before their letter reached Rome circumstances hurried them into action against their better judgment and the rebellion began.

In 1558 Thomas had married Anne Somerset, daughter of Henry Somerset, 2nd Earl of Worcester and he had five children:

The last time, until 2018, that Mass was said in Durham Cathedral was during the Rising of the North.  After the rebellion failed, Thomas fled to Scotland and was captured by the Earl of Morton (a leading Scottish noble). After three years, he was sold to the English Government for £2,000, taken to York and on 22nd of August 1572 was beheaded after refusing an offer to save his life by renouncing Catholicism. His headless body was buried at the now demolished St. Crux church in York.

Thomas was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on the 13th May 1895 and his feast day was appointed to be observed in the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle annually on the 14th November.  A Chapel at Langley Castle (completed in 1914) has stained glass windows featuring Blessed Thomas Percy who was a descendent of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, who originally owned Langley Castle.