Percy, Thomas, Bl.

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Seventh Earl of Northumberland, martyr; b. 1528; beheaded at York, England, Aug. 22, 1572. Thomas and his younger brother, sons of Sir Thomas Percy and Eleanor Harbottal, were brought up by Sir Thomas Tempest of Tong Hall, Yorkshire, after the execution of their father at Tyburn (1537) for his part in the pilgrimage of grace of 1536. The brothers were restored in blood by the crown in 1549. Thomas's loyal adherence to the Catholic faith brought him favorable notice from Queen Mary, who made him governor of Prudhoe Castle. Knighted and created Baron Percy, he was, in consideration of "his noble descent, constancy, and virtue, and value in arms," made earl of Northumberland (1557). Shortly afterward he was nominated a member of the Council of the North and high marshal of the army in the north and was appointed captain of Berwick, lord-warden-general of the East and Middle Marches toward Scotland.

On the accession of Elizabeth I, however, the earl resigned his office. Despite Lord Burghley's suspicions, Percy was made a knight of the Garter in 1563. At Mary Queen of Scots' flight into England, Northumberland insisted the custody of Mary should by right be his as the chief magnate of the north. When admitted to an interview with Mary at Carlisle, he expressed sympathy with her misfortunes. This angered the London government, and the Earl was ordered to withdraw from Carlisle and Mary was placed under the guardianship of Sir Francis Knollys.

Resentful at this treatment, desirous of religious freedom and for liberty for Mary Stuart, Percy joined the northern rebellion (1569). At the imprisonment of the Duke of Norfolk in the Tower, Northumberland and the Earl of Westmorland were summoned to court at London. Knowing this meant imprisonment and probable death, the Earl of Westmorland agreed with the fiery desires of the gentry for a rising. Northumberland accidentally stumbled into this nascent rising as he sought safer refuge from the queen's agents in his Yorkshire house and was finally convinced to throw in his lot with the rebels. It was another Pilgrimage of Grace. Under the banner of the five wounds of Christ crucified, the forces, led by Northumberland, took Durham, where Mass was said in the cathedral for the last time, Nov. 14, 1569. Four days later they were at Ripon. But the earls were no generals, nor had they any plans. By December 16, the royal forces were upon them, forcing the earls to flee to Scotland. Percy led a hunted life there, while his wife Anne, daughter of Henry Somerset, second earl of Worcester, did her best to raise ransom for him from her own exile in Antwerp, but without success. He was finally handed over to Elizabeth in August 1572 by the regent of Scotland, the earl of Mar, for £ 2000. He was taken to York and offered his life if he took the oath of supremacy and abandoned Catholicism. He refused and was beheaded. His last words were a renewed declaration of his faith as a Catholic and in family: "I am a Percy in life and in death." Pope Leo XIII beatified him in 1886.

Feast: Aug. 26 (Dioceses of Hexham, Leeds, and Middlesborough).

See Also: england, scotland, and wales, martyrs of.

Bibliography: p. hughes, The Reformation in England (New York 1963). c. read, Mr. Secretary Cecil and Queen Elizabeth (New York 1955). c. sharp, ed., Memorials of the Rebellion of 1569 (London 1841). e. b. de fonblanque, Annals of the House of Percy, 2 v. (London 1887) v.2. j. h. pollen, English Catholics in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth (New York 1920). Calendar of State Papers, Domestic (156970), ed. m. a. e. green, 7 v. (London 185672).

[j. d. hanlon]