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Old 12-12-2009, 07:43 AM   #1
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Post The powerful british percy family


The current Duke of Northumberland Ralph Percy is the uncrowned King of Northumberland. He lives in an impregnable, grey austere medieval fortress, Alnwick Castle, which was built in 1100 and has been the home of his ancestors since 1309; his estate covers 98,000 acres with 3500 separate tenancies and is one of the best run in the country.

His Graces immediate ancestors include the Duke of Sutherland, the Duke of Hamilton and the Duke of Buccleuch. His great grandfather was Duke of Richmond and his great great grandfather was Duke of Argyle. But more than all of this, Ralph Percy is the head of the Percys a family that can trace its ancestry back to Normandy and Northern France well before the events of 1066 took place. The Percy's gave us amongst others Hotspur, immortalised by Shakespeare and the Blessed Thomas Percy, beheaded by Elizabeth I and the infamous Thomas Percy who was so inextricably linked to the infamous 'GUN POWDER PLOT'.

Who were the Percy's?

Contrary to what has been previously written and published about the origins of the Percy's, they were not a Norman family descended from Mainfred, the Danish cheiftain who settled in Normandy before 886 as has been described.
What is true, is that the family's chief seat was at a place called Perci in Normandy and according to custom they took their name from their property. The history of this great family prior to this is reflected in what is now known of their heraldry which all points toward their existence before they came to Normandy to near the town of Lille in Flanders.

The first member of the Percy family to come to England was Alan de Percy well before 1066. The next to arrive was William de Percy a son of Alan (1030 - 1096), and an intimate friend of William the Conquerer; he came in 1066 or 1067 and was known as 'Algersnons' due to his wearing whiskers. This William de Percy or 'Algersnons' established himself in the North of England immediately, and by the time Domesday Book was compiled, he was listed as being Lord of over 100 manors. His descendants bore the title Baron Percy.

It is an illustrious pedigree, second to none. Only one thing is wrong the current Duke of Northumberland and recipient of the family's ancient titles is not a Percy at all. His name should be Smithson.

In the early 17th century the 10th Earl of Northumberland Algernon Percy played a prominate part in the restoration of the Monarchy. He married twice; first to a daughter of the Cecil family, in spite of his father’s deep disapproval, who said that 'the blood of a Percy would not mix with the blood of a Cecil if you poured it on a dish'. That may have well been the case, but the trouble was it appeared that there was very little Percy blood left, and something had to be done. The marriage produced five daughters, and the wife died. His second wife was a daughter of the Howards and this marriage produced one son the 11th Earl who had in turn one son who died in infancy. With that child the Percy's apparently came to an end as no effort was made to locate any other living cadet branches of the family to find any direct male descendants of William with the whiskers. All that was left it seemed was one Daughter the Lady Elizabeth Percy, who became the loneliest and richest heiress in the country when her father died while in Italy in 1670 at the age of twenty five. As a mere infant of four years she was to carry the heavy burden and responsibilities of the family's vast estates. The Earldom of Northumberland and the Barony of Percy were now it seems wrongly deemed to be extinct, and it looked like the ancient family of Percy would die with her. She was the most eligible heiress in England, and as a result the poor girl was married three times before her sixteenth birthday.

To understand how the modern duke of Northumberland can tell himself a Percy when the Percy line apparently became extinct in 1670, one must examine with intrigue the complicated series of accidents, designs and machinations involving the descendants of Lady Elizabeth Percy. Elizabeth nicknamed 'carrots' due to her red hair was pestered by suitors. Charles II wanted her as a wife for one of his ******* sons, but this time he was unlucky. At the age of twelve, she was made to marry the Earl of Ogle, who died six months later. Her second husband was Thomas Thynne of Longleat, who was murdered by hired assassins in Pall Mall at the behest of another jealous suitor, count Koningsmark. Twice a widow at the age of sixteen, she finally married in 1682 that preposterous "Proud" Duke of Somerset. It is not even possible to say that she lived happily ever after, since life, as the Duchess of Somerset, the consort of a mad over bearing tyrant, cannot have been pleasant. She died in 1722, and all her Percy estates against the direct wishes of her ancestors somehow became vested in the dukedom of Somerset. Immediately their son Algernon Seymour was created Baron Percy to protect the families’ inheritance.

Algernon married and produced a son and daughter. The son was Lord Beauchamp, heir to the dukedom of Somerset and eventual heir to the Percy property; Alnwick Castle, would, in the normal course, pass down with the dukedom of Somerset. The daughter was Elizabeth Seymour, who in 1740 made a marriage of significance.

Elizabeth Seymour's husband was a Yorkshire squire, Sir Hugh Smithson, Bart. She was thereupon known as Lady Betty Smithson, and for her next four years there was no reason to imagine that their status would change as he was no heir to any title. Then in 1744 Lady Betty's brother Lord Beauchamp suddenly died, an event, which threw all the related families into disarray. It meant the eventual end of that line of Seymours, and it made Lady Betty sole heiress to some of the Seymour estates, and to all the Percy estates of her grandmother. It also made Sir Hugh Smithson a very important man indeed.

The fate of the Seymour's, the Percy's and the Smithson's was settled in a kaleidoscope of events between 1748 and 1750. First, the Proud Duke of Somerset died, and was succeeded as 7th Duke by his son Algernon, Lady Betty's father. In 1749, the 7th Duke of Somerset was wrongly made 1st Earl of Northumberland of a new creation. He had no legitimate male heirs, so a most unusual stipulation was included in the patent of creation, according to which the title and Percy estates (including Alnwick Castle) should pass at his death to his son in law Smithson, and subsequently to Smithsons heirs by the body of Lady Betty. In 1750 the 7th Duke of Somerset died. The Dukedom passed to a very distant kinsman (ancestor to the present Duke of Somerset), and the new earldom of Northumberland passed to Sir Hugh Smithson, who promptly assumed the name and arms of Percy by an act of Parliament.

Almost a century had passed since the last Percy Earl of Northumberland had died, well beyond the memory of those alive in 1750. Smithson had married not a Percy, but a Seymour, great grand daughter of the apparently lone male survivor of the last Percy Earl. That he should now become a Percy was altogether an amazing piece of fantastic invention.

The Smithsons were themselves a modest but ancient Yorkshire family. In Domesday Book there is listed a certain Malgrun de Smethton, from whom there is clear descent through to Sir Hugh. But this was little compared to the majesty of Alnwick Castle and the riches that came from the ownership of several thousand acres. Unfortunately the signs are that Smithsons sudden elevation to the highest ranks went straight to his head.

To be Earl of Northumberland was not enough for his vanity, although it had satisfied generations of the real Percys. He was proposed as Lord chamberlain, but the Marquis of Hertford was appointed instead. Northumberland demanded some sort of advancement by way of compensation, and when a Marquessate was suggested, he insisted that he have a Dukedom. The King, George III somehow agreed! So Sir Hugh Smithson became the 1st Duke of Northumberland and Earl Percy in 1766, and Viscount Lovaine of Alnwick in 1784. He is the direct ancestor of the present Duke.

The only inconvenience, which might upset matters, would be the sudden appearance of a genuine Percy heir. They were not wanting but one claimant James Percy, had pressed his rights for twenty years immediately after the death of Josceline the last Earl of Northumberland in 1670. He was a trunk maker and wanted to be an earl so he petitioned the House of Lords.

Notice February 22nd being 222 a third of Nimrod 666 Saturn God. Does that remind you of those 36 barrels of powder? Remember 36 is the # for 'air' which comes to 666. Explosions blow up in the air! Notice all this all down in once again Michael Holman's, Westminster! We should note the 22 of the Isis pregnancy and birth of Horus. According to the King James I AV1611 numeric code 22 is also the number of Light, remind you of someone? February 22nd 2005 landed on the day of Mars being the God of War. Whats more interesting is the ties of this event with the Roman festival of Caristia. It's also the Roman Festival of Feralia tied to death and of course its God, Jupiter. -Craig

Descendants' Handshake Launches
Gunpowder Plot Season

By David Prudames Published: 22 February 2005 News

The Marquess of Salisbury (left),
Peter Knyvett (centre) and the
Duke of Northumberland, descendants of
men associated with the plot, met for a
ceremonial reconciliation in Westminster
Hall. © 24 Hour Museum.

Almost 400 years ago their ancestors met close to this spot in infamous
circumstances that would permeate British culture in a way few historic events
have. However, when the Duke of Northumberland, Marquess of Salisbury and Peter Knyvett came together in Westminster Hall on February 22 it was all smiles and handshakes.

The three men were at the Houses of Parliament to launch Gunpowder Plot 400, a
series of events, exhibitions and activities organised to mark the 400th
anniversary of the notorious plot to blow up the seat of government and with it
King James I.

As we all know, on the night of November 4 1605, just hours before the state
opening of parliament, an inspection below the House of Lords revealed one Guy
Fawkes and 36 barrels of gunpowder.

Every year on November 5 Fawkes’ capture and subsequent execution, along with
that of his fellow conspirators, is marked with bonfires and fireworks displays.
However, 2005 brings with it cause for some extra celebration.

"I hope the commemorations will go off with a splendid bang," joked the Marquess
of Salisbury a descendant of Robert Cecil, James I’s chief minister, and a man
who probably wouldn’t be here were it not for the conspirators’ failure 400
years ago.

Gunpowder Plot 400 has been organised by a partnership of institutions
associated with the infamous conspiracy. Parliamentary Copyright. House of Lords

The commemorations will take place later this year and are being organised by a
partnership of institutions inextricably linked to the plot. These include the
Houses of Parliament themselves, the Tower of London, National Archives and even the former homes of conspirators.

For one of those whose link to the infamous plot is literally in the blood, the
anniversary provides a chance to try and understand the scale of the
conspirators’ plans.

"When you think of the enormity of it, here was a group of conspirators who not
only wanted to get rid of the King and probably the Prince of Wales – that’s the
whole of the hereditary line of England – but also the basis of democracy and
half of Whitehall with it," Peter Knyvett, whose ancestor discovered Fawkes
under the House of Lords, told the 24 Hour Museum, "for sheer audacity it’s

Speaking at the launch, David Prior from the Parliamentary Archives at the House
of Lords Record Office described the way the plot is "still engraved on the
public consciousness".

By organising such a wide range of events and providing information on the
locations linked to the plot, he continued, the programme presents "a new way of
engaging with history and also with parliament itself. It touches on a number of
issues and themes that are crucial to the understanding of our past."

Central to the programme will be an exhibition at Westminster Hall between July
20 and November 18 2005, less than 100 yards from where Guy Fawkes was
discovered 400 years ago and close to the spot where some of the conspirators
were executed.

Through images, original documents, artefacts and works of art the exhibition
will tell the story of the plot, from the reasons behind it to the moment it was
foiled and what happened after.

Just down river at the Tower of London, as well as a series of supporting events
such as a Jacobean-style fireworks display, a specially created display,
Gunpowder Treason is scheduled to open on July 2.

The Tower of London will play host to a series of events as well as a year-long
exhibition exploring the history of the plot and issues surrounding it. ©
Historic Royal Palaces/ newsteam.co.uk.

Running for a year the exhibition will use audio-visuals to tell the story of
the Tower’s involvement in the arrest, imprisonment, torture and death of Guy
Fawkes and fellow conspirators.

Artefacts on show will include the receipt noting the delivery to the Tower of
the 36 barrels of gunpowder, while displays will explore what might have
happened if the plotters had succeeded and the incident’s continuing relevance

Other displays will include paintings and engravings at the National Portrait
Gallery and Guy Fawkes’ signed confession at the National Archives.

The participating institutions in full:
City of Westminster Archives
Coughton Court, Warwickshire
Hatfield House, Hertfordshire
Houses of Parliament
Museum of London
National Portrait Gallery
Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey
Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-Upon-Avon
Shakespeare's Globe
Syon House
Tower of London
The National Archives.

Referenced venues

Shakespeare's Globe
21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London, SE1 9DT, England
Royal Gunpowder Mills
Beaulieu Drive, Waltham Abbey, Essex, EN9 1JY, England
The Tower of London
London, EC3N 4AB, England
Parliamentary Archives, London
Houses of Parliament, London, SW1A 0PW, England
City of Westminster Archives Centre
10 St Ann's Street, London, SW1P 2DE, England
Syon House and Park
Syon Park, Brentford, Middlesex, TW8 8JF, England
Coughton Court
Throckmorton Estates, Coughton Court, Alcester, Warwickshire, B49 5JA, England
The National Archives
Kew, Surrey, TW9 4DU, England
Museum of London
London Wall, London, EC2Y 5HN, England
National Portrait Gallery
St Martin's Place, London, WC2H 0HE, England

"Stonyhurst College is not the headquarters of the United Kingdom Corp Jesuit Order. The powerbase of the United Kingdom Corp is 114 Mount Street in Roman controlled Westminster. Jesuit Breakspear Papal Bloodline controlled Michael Holman SJ the Provincial oversees British Intelligence, the financial system, the Queen the lot from Westminster the true power over Britain.

It is the Jesuit Breakspear family along with Edward Fitzalan-Howard &
Ralph George Algernon Percy behind the destruction of British Society using their ground soldiers known as Common Purpose.
Common Purpose are working towards re-engineering Britain's society and destroying all national sovereignty. Why? So they can easily intregrate the once United Kingdom Corporation with the European Union Corporation with ease. A European Union also controlled by the Papacy! A European Union with an offical religion being Roman Catholism! A European Union started by the Common Market starting in Rome. Exactly where treasonous Knight of Malta, Tony Blair signed the E.U Constitution along with treasonous Jack Straw in front of the giant Saturnalian black statue of the Pope. The signing over of the United Kingdom Corp and these shores back to the Papacy under the overt control of the Temporal Power of the Pope. A Temporal Power which is World Government and Roman control over every aspect of our lives." - Craig



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Old 12-12-2009, 08:34 AM   #2
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Heretic’s Foundation XIV: Mr. Shakespeare’s Gunpowder Plot

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Heretic’s Foundation


By John Hudson
Special to the Clyde Fitch Report

On Nov. 5, Manhattan Theater Source will stage a very English celebration in Washington Square Park. As a fundraiser for the MacDougal Street space, the venue will present Remember, Remember the Fifth of November, a festival of cabaret and theater recalling the Gunpowder Plot Conspiracy of 1605 to blow up the houses of Parliament. Tickets for the fundraiser are $100, $50 and $25; festivities include laying a gunpowder trail through the park (presumably not using real gunpowder), music, visual art, film, food, wine — and a performance of Nat Cassidy’s play The Reckoning of Kit and Little Boots, which I look forward to even if it isn’t a gunpowder-plot play. Yet such things do exist.

Perversely, the man who was to have set the explosives, Guy Fawkes, has become an icon of the American right-wing: a proponent of “blowing up” government. In 2007, supporters of Ron Paul, the GOP presidential candidate and libertarian, played on the tale of Fawkes to create a website, ThisNovember5th.com, that enabled Paul to raise more than $4 million in one day. Because popular memory has romanticized Guy Fawkes, some of the other folks associated with the plot have been forgotten. Although they appeared in literature of the period, they are rarely noticed today.

Indeed, there are at least a half-dozen gunpowder plays. A play attributed to Shakespeare, The Fifth of November or The Gunpowder Plot, however, is unfortunately a forgery by George Ambrose Rhodes from the 1830s, as discussed in Mark Valentine’s article Shakespeare’s Last Purported Play. Genuine plays contemporary to Shakespeare that allude to the Gunpowder Plot include Macbeth, John Marston’s Sophonisba, Thomas Dekker’s The Whore of Babylon and Barnabe Barnes’s The Devil’s Charter. Only very recently has it been recognized that the category also includes Robert Burton’s Latin play Philosophaster, a comedy written in 1606 featuring a pseudo-scholar character that is one of the few stage Jesuits of the period. The character’s name is Polupragmaticus, meaning “being a busybody” who claims to be bilingual, ambidexterous, omniscient and, in fact, a Jesuit. It’s not much of a pretense since he also declares himself “a grammarian, a rhetorician, a geometrician, a painter, a wrestling coach, augur, rope walker, physician, magician. I know it all. Or if you prefer, I am a Jesuit. That sums it up.”

To make Polupragmaticus’ identity indisputable, his servant is called Aequivocus, a clear allusion to the Jesuit doctrine of equivocation, which allowed one to lie under oath. The rationale for equivocation was spelled out in the manuscript Treatise of Equivocation, written by a Jesuit named Henry Garnet. Garnet was the confessor to two of the Gunpowder plotters. His manuscript was also found in their possession, which led to Garnet being tried for treason and hung, drawn and quartered. Appreciating that, in the early 1600s, it wasn’t Guy Fawkes but Garnet who attracted literary attention in connection with the Gunpowder plot, gives new focus to Macbeth. Why? Because the idea of “double meaning” — or equivocation — is central to the Scottish play. The standard definition of “Equivocale” in Florio’s Dictionary is “of diverse significance, of double meaning.” In Cotgrave’s Dictionary, Equivoque is defined as “a double or divers sense of one word.”

Structurally, in Macbeth’s witches’ scenes for example, it’s clear the knocking and the references to “double double” are paralleled by the knocking and references to equivocation during the Porter’s scene. Thus, the witches’ chant “double, double toil and trouble” (IV.i.9) is paralleled by the Porter’s line “here’s an equivocator…come in equivocator” (II.iii.9-11). In the Porter’s scene, the footnotes in the standard Arden edition explain that the characters the Porter admits to hellmouth are the equivocator (Garnet himself), his alias (Mr. Farmer), and the Tailor — who was associated with the image of Garnet’s face that supposedly appeared miraculously on a bundle of straw following his execution. The three apparitions in the witches’ scene — namely the head, the bloody child and the child holding a tree — appear derived from the imagery of Garnet’s portrait on that miraculous straw. In other words, the apparitions summoned by the witches suggest the 11th century Macbeth is in league with Garnet’s 17th century Jesuits.

This is remarkable enough, but the multiple time tracks in Macbeth are even more complex. The “Temple” Macbeth destroys (II.iii. 67), accompanied by the extraordinary appearance of a dagger hanging in the air (II.i.33), strange noises, the earth that did shake (II.iii.59) and threats of dire combustion all correspond to another time-track: the destruction of Jerusalem in the 1st century. In Josephus’ The Jewish War, we are told that a star resembling a sword hung over the city (6,5,289), that Jerusalem’s citizens “felt a quaking and heard a great noise” (6,5,299) before the temple was burnt. In other words, the destruction of the “Temple” (as Duncan) is an allegory for that other Temple destroyed by Titus Caesar. By presenting these parallel time tracks, Macbeth offers us two different paradigms for interpreting the title character; it invites us to consider how they may be reconciled. And there is a way to do it.

In the same way Antony and Cleopatra anticipated many filmic conventions — like very short takes — Shakespeare’s multiple, interrelated time tracks in Macbeth bear similarities to modern TV-storytelling conventions. These serve to change our understanding of the play significantly. Ironically, the shift of audiences away from theater to TV shows like Lost may be the very thing that teaches audiences the narrative conventions that may allow them to appreciate the real meaning of Shakespeare.

John Hudson is a strategic consultant who specializes in new industry models and has helped create several telecoms and Internet companies. He has recently been consulting to a leading think tank on the future of the theater industry and is pioneering an innovative Shakespeare theory, as dramaturge to the Dark Lady Players. This fall he will be Artist in Residence at Eastern Connecticut State University. He has degrees in Theater and Shakespeare, in Management, and in Social Science.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 21st, 2009 at 1:07 pm and is filed under Heretic’s Foundation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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Old 12-12-2009, 09:28 AM   #3
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Post Re: The powerful british percy family

The Gunpowder Plot, 1605 - Roman Catholic Jesuit Conspiracy.

In 1605, young men planned to blow up
the Houses of Parliament. Among them was
Guy Fawkes, Britain's most notorious traitor
The Gunpowder Plot, Pt. 1 - Roman Catholic Jesuit Conspiracy

The Gunpowder Plot, Pt. 2 - Roman Catholic Jesuit Conspiracy

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Old 12-12-2009, 09:40 AM   #4
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Post Re: The powerful british percy family

Information people should know about the Jesuit Order and it's involvement in one of the most notorious terrorist conspiracy plots ever devised.
The Jesuit Gunpowder Plot Pt 1


The Jesuit Gunpowder Plot Pt 2


The Jesuit Gunpowder Plot Pt 3


The Jesuit Gunpowder Plot Pt 4

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Old 12-12-2009, 09:49 AM   #5
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Percy power

Alexander Rose's Kings in the North allows Jonathan Sumption to trace the fluctuating fortunes of a titular dynasty

The Guardian, Saturday 30 November 2002

Kings in the North: The House of Percy in British History
by Alexander Rose
578pp, Weidenfeld,

Marcel Proust, we are told, was never more pleased than when he came upon the name of the Duke of Northumberland. Perennially fascinated by the boom of ancient titles, the novelist was delighted by its echo of high lineage and its sheer sonority. As the equally elegant and superior English writer who tells us this observed, the title had a "sort of thunderous quality".

For most of its history, it has been borne by the Percy family, who became earls of Northumberland in the 14th century and dukes in the 18th. The Percys were companions of the Conqueror, prominent participants in English civil wars from the 12th century to the 16th, captains in the 100 years war, alternately heroes and villains in the history plays of Shakespeare, accessories to the gunpowder plot, political fixers under George III, generals in the American war of independence and admirals in the Napoleonic wars, ministers of Queen Victoria, and Tory wirepullers in the 1920s. Over the past eight centuries, two earls and one duke have been killed in battle, most recently in 1940; one has been lynched by a mob; one beheaded for treason, one shot by government assassins, five incarcerated in the Tower for more or less prolonged periods, and one beatified by the Church of Rome. It is a striking record of public service or disservice, depending on your point of view. The Percys are still the owners of Alnwick Castle and Syon House, and are among the largest landowners in Britain.

Most great landed fortunes in English history have been acquired by a mixture of luck, patience, royal service and skilful marriage broking. The Percys had all of these, but the real foundation of their fortunes was the continual war on the borders of England and Scotland in the 14th and 15th centuries. The best-known incidents of these long and wearisome wars were the occasional set-piece campaigns fought by the armies of the kings, punctuated by great battles from Dunbar (1296) to Flodden (1513). But their real character was seen between these glamorous events, in the grubby ebb and flow of day-to-day violence across the border: hit-and-run raids against towns, castles and churches, mass cattle and horse-rustling expeditions, crop-burning campaigns and crude protection rackets.

The main reason why this continued for so long was that for most of the period the English were also fighting a major war against France. They were therefore never able to devote enough resources to the conquest of Scotland for long enough to achieve their ends. Instead, their policy was to leave the northern counties of England to organise their own defence against the Scots with only minimal assistance from the exchequer at Westminster.

This policy had two main consequences. One was to transform the regions within 100 miles on either side of the border into a world of their own, a bleak wasteland thinly populated by men whose lives were wholly devoted to subsistence farming and organised banditry. The other was to create vast, semi-independent lordships controlled by the royal wardens of the march, local potentates acting for all practical purposes as viceroys with exclusive power to raise revenue and recruit manpower for the defence of the border.

Before the Scottish wars, the Percys were an ambitious but not particularly remarkable Yorkshire family with subsidiary estates in Sussex. Henry Percy III (d 1315) was "sober in peace and cruel in bataill" according to tradition. He was the first member of his line to play a leading role in the politics of the border. He acquired, and intermittently enjoyed, extensive estates in lowland Scotland confiscated from the Scots. Then, in 1309, in a rather shady deal with the guardian of its under-aged owner, Percy bought the barony of Alnwick in Northumberland for cash. He became the greatest landowner in the north after the king and the princes of the royal house, and the owner of one of its most powerful fortresses. His son, Henry Percy IV, added to the family holdings by acquiring Warkworth castle.

However, the major source of the family's power was the ap-pointment of successive Percys as wardens of the east March of Scotland. This office, on which they retained their grip for most of the next two centuries, gave them command over the loyalties of the border tribes, practical control over the royal border fortresses in the valley of the Tweed, all the revenues of royal lands in north-eastern England, the right to recruit a private army generally standing at about 2,000-3,000 men, first claim on the booty and ransoms of war, and a stipend, which together with the revenues at their disposal must have exceeded their expenses in most years.

It was a highly satisfactory deal. But it inevitably led to trouble when the traditionally robust structures of English government broke down in the reign of Richard II in the late 14th century, and again under Henry VI in the middle of the 15th. In the civil wars of the late middle ages, the great Percy power bloc in the north-east was among the most powerful pieces on the board. The foolish first earl and his impetuous son Hotspur played a decisive part in bringing down Richard II in 1399 and came close to destroying Henry IV in 1403.

As soon as the Scottish menace faded in the 16th century, the Percys lost their power. The Tudors no longer needed a viceroy in the north. The sixth earl was ruined by Henry VIII, the seventh executed by Elizabeth, the eighth murdered in the Tower and the ninth abandoned politics for chemistry and astronomy. His successors abandoned the north altogether, and went to live on their Sussex and London estates. The modern fortunes of the family are due to Sir Hugh Smithson, who married the last Percy heiress in the 18th century, adopted her name, and re-established the family as a great northern dynasty.

This is a well-researched, jauntily written, but rather odd book, which carries the Percy story up to the middle of the 16th century. Alexander Rose's problem is that, important as they were, the Percys were not doing interesting things all the time, and there are long periods when we cannot know what they were doing, interesting or not. Biographical materials are sparse, especially for the earlier generations, and Rose is too honest a historian to fill the gaps with myth, verse or speculation. He has therefore written a history not just of the Percy family but of England and Scotland as well.

The technique is to interrupt the narrative from time to time to point out the role that the Percys did or did not play in the events being described. Thus an interesting account of this or that war, embassy or political crisis is quite often followed by a statement that the Percys had nothing to do with it; or that they were present but that nothing is known of their personal contribution. The result is a clutter of facts only marginally relevant to the subject.

Does it matter? Probably not. This is admittedly a fat book, with a thin book inside struggling to get out. But that may be inevitable in a work of family history written for a wider audience. It should certainly not deter people from reading it. What Rose has to say about the political and social history of England is interesting, well-informed, and perceptive. The north is often neglected in general histories. A Percy's eye view of the subject at least has the advantage of telling a familiar story from an unconventional angle.

· Jonathan Sumption's three-volume history of the 100 years war is published by Faber.

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