Select Percy Miscellany
accounts over the years:
- William de Percy
- Prominent Early
Percys of the English Line
- James Percy’s Claim
to the Northumberland Estate
- Dr. Thomas Percy and The Reliques
- Who Was Don Carlos
- Prominent Percys of
the Southern American Line
- The House of Percy:
Honor, Melancholy and
Imagination in a Southern Family
William de Percy
of Whitby Abbey stated
that William de
Percy arrived in England in 1067, one year after the Battle
Percy name derived from
the manor of Percy in Normandy and was probably adopted after his
His most notable feature was his whiskers. The
Normans who came to England were
generally clean-shaven. Not so this
William who was nicknamed aux
gernons (bewhiskered). Later generations of Percys would use the
soubriquet in the form of a first name Algernon.
appeared in the Domesday Book of 1086 as a great landowner, holding no
than 30 knight’s fees. His estates were
mainly in the North Riding of Yorkshire where he had been granted lands
1070’s. He built his castle at Topcliffe.
accompanied Robert Curthose, the Duke of Normandy, on the First Crusade. He died in 1096 within sight of Jerusalem.
His heart was taken back to England and was buried at Whitby Abbey
brother Serlo was its first abbot.
Prominent Early Percys of the English Line
Percy who died in 1096
– he came to England at the time of the Norman Conquest and
was the first feudal baron of Topcliffe
– she perpetuated the Percy line after marrying Joscelin of Louvain
– their son Richard adopting the Percy name and title.
de Percy who
died in 1244
– he was one of the feudal barons who signed the Magna Carta in 1216.
de Percy (1273-1314)
– he was the first feudal baron of Alnwick Castle in
Henry Percy (1365-1403), also called Harry Hotspur
– he helped
Henry IV seize the throne in 1399 but later rebelled against him.
– this rebellion
failed and he was killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury.
the third Earl of Northumberland
– he was a Lancastrian leader in the Wars of the
– he was killed at the Battle of Towton where the Lancastrians were
Thomas Percy (1528-1572), the seventh Earl of Northumberland – Catholic sympathizer, he led the Rising of the North in 1569 and was subsequently executed.
Percy (1564-1632), the ninth Earl of
– he was known as the “Wizard Earl” because of his chemistry and
– a Catholic sympathizer, he was imprisoned in the Tower of
London for seventeen years
(after being accused of complicity in the Gunpowder
Percy (1602-1668), the tenth Earl of Northumberland
– he was a
prominent Parliamentary supporter during the Civil War.
– his son Joceline who died in 1670 was
the last male of direct Percy lineage to inherit the Earldom.
were other Percys, junior members of this
family, who were also prominent – such as Thomas Percy, one of the
in the Gunpowder Plot, and George Percy, an explorer and early governor
James Percy’s Claim to the Northumberland Estate
Percy heard of the death of Jocelyn Percy, the eleventh Earl of
in Turin in May 1670, he was a trunkmaker in Dublin.
Finding out that Jocelyn’s only daughter
Elizabeth would inherit the estate, he rushed to London to challenge
inheritance and press his own case.
He maintained that some of the Percy
children were sent down south to Petworth in hampers at the time of the
in the North in 1569 and that among those children were his father,
Percy, a grandson of Sir Ingelram Percy and the younger brother of
Algernon, the sixth Earl of Northumberland.
The House of Lords
eventually had their say on this case in 1689, concluding that “the
of the said James Percy to the Earldom of Northumberland are
and scandalous” and ordered that his petition be dismissed.
They added to
their judgment this sentence, “That the said James Percy shall be
before the four Courts in Westminster Hall, wearing a paper upon his
which these words shall be written:
FALSE AND IMPUDENT PRETENDER TO THE
EARLDOM OF NORTHUMBERLAND.’
The claimant left three sons, who were respectively merchants in
Dublin, and Norwich, and of whom the second, Anthony, was lord mayor of
in 1689, but the claim upon which he wasted so much energy was not
any member of his family.
Dr. Thomas Percy and The
At Easton Maudit most of the literary work for
which he is now remembered — including the Reliques —
completed. The Reliques
of Ancient English Poetry came out in 1765.
This was based on an old manuscript
collection of poetry, rescued by Percy in Shropshire from the hands of
maid who was about to light the fire with it.
When his name became famous he was made
domestic chaplain to the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland and was
the belief that he belonged to the illustrious house of Percy. This may have held some truth as recent
research has shown evidence that suggests that he was directly
Henry Percy, the second Earl of Northumberland.
his patron’s influence he became dean of Carlisle in 1778 and Bishop of
in Ireland in 1782. His wife died before
him in 1806. The good bishop, blind but
otherwise in sound health, lived until 1811. Both
were buried in the transept which Percy
added to Dromore Cathedral, ‘The Percy Aisle.‘
Who Was Don Carlos
Percy’s early life is sketchy. He
was Irish Catholic and was born in Ireland around the year 1740. But we do not know where or who his parents
were. According to legend, the first
Percy of his family was possibly “the disinherited son of the mighty
Northumberland.” Percy in fact claimed
this link but could not or chose not to prove it.
first surfaced in 1762 when
he was serving with the British army in Kilkenny in Ireland. He appears to have been married to a lady
named Margaret and to have had a son named Robert.
Then at some point he absconded to America, abandoning this
claimed that he was a plantation owner in North Carolina.
And some reports have him at St. Eustatius in
the Dutch West Indies. What is known is
that he arrived at Pensacola in British West Florida around 1775. This was a place where few questions would
have been asked about him or about his past.
As a veteran of the British army, he was entitled to a land
grant. This he secured and he became one
of the early
Natchez settlers in what is now Mississippi.
There in 1780, at the age of forty, he married for a second
sixteen year old Susannah Collins.
1783 the British agreed to leave West
Florida and Spain gained control of the whole region.
Charles Percy adapted quickly to the new
regime. He cultivated the friendship of
the Spanish Governor and received the honorary title of Don Carlos. With Spanish support and subsidies, he
embarked on the growing of indigo, the dye most favored in the making
century cloth. He quickly made his
the end of his life was not happy. He
became depressed and, in 1794, he drowned
himself in a local creek, which has since been named Percy’s Creek.
Prominent Percys of the
Southern American Line
Charles“Don Carlos” Percy (1740-1794), the founder of the Percy
– Thomas G. Percy (1786-1841), a wealthy cotton planter and settler in Alabama
— William A. Percy (1835-1888), a distinguished colonel in the
Confederate army (his sister was Sarah Dorsey nee Percy, a noted southern writer)
— Leroy Percy (1860-1929), the US Senator for Mississippi
—- William Alexander Percy (1885-1942), a lawyer and writer
— William Armstrong Percy (1863-1912)
—- William Armstrong Percy II (1906-1971)
—– William Armstrong Percy III (born 1933), historian and gay rights activist
— Walker Percy (1864-1917), a lawyer and state legislator who took his own life
—- Leroy Pratt Percy (1888-1929), who also took his own life
—– Walker Percy (1916-1990), a novelist.
In addition Charles H. Percy (1919-2011), the US Senator for Illinois was also a direct descendant of Charles “Don Carlos” Percy.
The House of
Percy: Honor, Melancholy and Imagination in a Southern Family
of wealth, literary accomplishment, political leadership, depression,
sometimes suicide established a fascinating legacy that lies behind
Percy’s acclaimed prose and profound insight into the human condition. In his book The House
of Percy, Bertram Wyatt-Brown interpreted the life of this
family, drawing out the twin themes of an inherited inclination to
and an abiding sense of honor.
Percy family roots in Mississippi and
Louisiana went back to “Don Carlos” Percy, an 18th century
soldier of fortune who amassed a large estate but fell victim to mental
disorder and suicide. Wyatt-Brown traced
the Percys through the slaveholding heyday of antebellum Natchez, the
of the Civil War (which produced the heroic Colonel William Alexander
the “Gray Eagle”), and a return to prominence in the Mississippi
Delta after Reconstruction.
addition, the author recovered the tragic lives
and literary achievements of several Percy-related women, including
Dorsey, a popular post-Civil War novelist who horrified her relatives
befriending Jefferson Davis, a married man, and bequeathing to him her
plantation home and her remaining fortune.
there was Senator LeRoy Percy,
whose climactic re-election loss in 1911 to a racist demagogue deeply
family pride, but inspired his bold defiance to the Ku Klux Klan in the
1920’s. There was also the poignant
story of the poet and war hero Will Percy, the Senator’s son.
weight of this family narrative found
expression in Will Percy’s memoirs, Lanterns
on the Levee and in the works of Walker Percy, who was
reared in his
cousin Will’s Greenville home after the suicidal death of Walker’s
his mother’s drowning. The novels of Walker Percy – The Moviegoer, Lancelot, The Second Coming,
and The Thanatos Syndrome to name a few – left a
mark on 20th century Southern fiction.
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