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Northumberland, Henry Percy, 9th earl of

Northumberland, Henry Percy, 9th earl of (1564–1632). Northumberland inherited the title at the age of 21 in 1585 when his father, confined to the Tower, was found shot. He was given the Garter in 1593 and performed some military services. But his opportunity came with the death of Queen Elizabeth. He had corresponded with James I, urging him to make concessions to the catholics, accompanied him on the journey south, and was made captain of the gentlemen pensioners. But Cecil was a secret enemy and Northumberland did not find court life much to his taste. In November 1605 he was arrested on suspicion of complicity in the Gunpowder plot. Thomas Percy, one of the conspirators, was a distant cousin, had been employed by Northumberland as constable of Alnwick castle, and had been made a gentleman pensioner. He had dined at Sion House with Northumberland the night Guy Fawkes was arrested. Northumberland protested his innocence, claiming that he was known to live a retired life, building and gardening. Nevertheless, he was kept in the Tower until 1621. A fellow-prisoner for much of the time was Sir Walter Ralegh. The earl played chess, entertained well, had a good library, a laboratory, and patronized scholars. His scientific interests earned him a nickname, ‘the wizard earl’. He was a difficult man and when his release was granted after sixteen years was reluctant to leave the Tower. He spent most of his remaining eleven years at Petworth.

J. A. Cannon

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