Lady Mary Percy (died 1598), only daughter of the sitter, who married Francis Slingsby of Scriven;
Thence by family descent to Sir Charles Henry Slingsby (1874-1941) of Scriven Park, Yorkshire, by whose trustees sold, Christie's London, 9th May 1947, lot 90 (bt. for £78-15-0);
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's London, 1st July 2004, lot 104 (bt. by the present owner)
The sitter was the son of Sir Thomas Percy and his wife, Eleanor, daughter of Guiscard Harbottal of Beamish, County Durham. He was the grandson of Henry the Magnificent, 4th Earl of Northumberland (1478-1527). His father was attaindered for his part in the Yorkshire rebellion of 1536 and executed at Tyburn. As a consequence the family estates were surrendered to the crown and the title was forfeited. As a fervent Catholic he found great favour with Queen Mary, who made him Governor of Prudhoe Castle. In 1557 he defended Scarborough against Sir Thomas Stafford, and on 30th April 1557 he was knighted and created Baron Percy. The following day the family title was fully restored and he was created Earl of Northumberland in consideration of "his noble descent, constancy, virtue, and value in arms, and other strong qualifications".
On 2nd August 1557 he was appointed joint Lord-Warden-General of the East and Middle Marches towards Scotland, and Captain of Berwick, and a week later Lord-Warden-General of the Middle Marches. The defence of the northern counties was thus almost soley entrusted to him, and he performed his role with great energy. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland, but his Catholic sensibilities found less favour with with the Protestant court, and in 1560 following an unfavourable report into his professional conduct, the Earl resigned his office. Notwithstanding this, he was made Knight of the Garter in April 1563.
In 1568 Mary Queen of Scots was conducted to Carlisle, where she was held in custody. Northumberland visited her and expressed his sympathy for her position. This sympathy eventually developed into a sentiment of full-blown rebellion and the Spanish court, taking notice of this, promised to send troops if insurrection in the northern counties could be begun. Allying himself with Charles Neville, 9th Earl of Westmorland, they resolved to set Mary free and to restore the Catholic Religion. Together they gathered a force of cavalry and infantry, and marched south proclaiming that they would restore the Catholic Faith, and on 20th November they celebrated mass at Ripon Cathedral. The Queen's forces pursued the two earls, and the rebellion came to a surprisingly uneventful end at Hartlepool. Northumberland was captured and taken to Edinburgh, where he was held in custody by the Regent of Scotland, the Earl of Moray. Neither Moray, nor his successor, the Earl of Lennox, surrendered Northumberland to the crown, but he was eventually handed over by the next Regent, the Earl of Mar, for a sum of £2,000. Northumberland was subsequently beheaded at York, his head being fixed upon a spike above Mickelgate Bar. On 13th May 1895 Pope Leo XIII beatified the Earl on account of his dedication to the Catholic Faith. His feast day, 14th November, is celebrated in the diocese of Hexton, in Newcastle.
Northumberland married Anne Somerset, third daughter of Henry, 2nd Earl of Worcester. A version of the present picture, inscribed with the identity of the sitter, hangs at Petworth and a full length portrait of the sitter is in the collection at Alnwick Castle. As the Earl's only son died young, the title and estates of Petworth in Sussex and Alnwick in Northumberland passed to his brother, Lord Henry Percy. This fine portrait descended in the family of the sitter's daughter, Mary, until sold in 1947 by the trustees of Sir Charles Slingsby.
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