Percy, Elizabeth (1371–1417)

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Percy, Elizabeth (1371–1417)

English noblewoman. Name variations: Elizabeth Mortimer. Born on February 12, 1371, in Usk, Gwent, Wales; died in April 1417 at Trotton, West Sussex, England; buried in Trotton; daughter of Edmund Mortimer (1352–1381), 3rd earl of March, and Philippa Mortimer (1355–1382); sister of Edmund Mortimer (1376–1438); married Henry Percy (1364–1403), also known as Harry Percy or Hotspur (son of the 1st earl of Northumberland); married Thomas, 1st baron Camoys; children: (first marriage) Henry Percy (1392–1455), 2nd earl of Northumberland (r. 1415–1455); Elizabeth Percy (d. 1437).

A noblewoman and rebel, Elizabeth Percy was immortalized by William Shakespeare as "Kate Percy" in Henry IV. Little historical information has survived about the real Elizabeth. Born into an aristocratic English family, she was the daughter of Edmund Mortimer, earl of March, and Philippa Mortimer , and the great-granddaughter of King Edward III. She thus claimed royal descent on her mother's side and was of Welsh descent on her father's side. Her parents arranged a marriage for her with Sir Henry Percy, the eldest son of the earl of Northumberland. Henry Percy, called Harry "Hotspur" because of his boldness in battle, was an important military leader who aided Henry Bolingbroke's (Henry IV) successful rebellion against King Richard II in 1399.

But by 1402, Harry had turned against his former ally. With Elizabeth's support, Harry led a massive rebellion against Henry IV which almost toppled him. This rebellion sought to put Elizabeth's brother Edmund Mortimer on the throne as the rightful heir to England. In 1403, Harry was killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury; his death effectively ended the organized opposition to Henry IV's rule. Trying to recover his authority, Henry IV sought to imprison or kill the remaining leaders of the rebels. One of those whom Henry punished was Hotspur's widow Elizabeth, who was arrested shortly after the Battle of Shrewsbury as a traitor to the king. She was eventually released, although she and her two children were stripped of all rights to Hotspur's properties. But Elizabeth, a resilient woman, remained loyal to Hotspur's memory, and managed to have his remains buried in the tomb of the Northumberland family in York Minster. She did remarry, however, probably compelled by need to provide for her own and her children's future. Her second husband was a minor noble, Thomas Lord Camoys, who had served in her first husband's army. Thomas was eventually reconciled to the crown, and was in the English army under Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt in 1413. Lady Elizabeth died four years later at age 46 and is buried next to her second husband in the Church of Saint George in Trotton, West Sussex.


Bevan, Brian. Henry IV. NY: St. Martin's Press, 1994.

Laura York , Riverside, California