June 29 – The death of Henry Percy, Anne Boleyn’s former sweetheart

Jun29,2022 #Henry Percy

On this day in Tudor history, 29th June 1537, Henry Algernon Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland, died at around the age of thirty-five.

It was just over a year after he’d collapsed at the trial of his former sweetheart, Queen Anne Boleyn,

But who was Henry Percy and what happened between him and Anne?

Find out more about Northumberland in this video or transcript below…


On this day in Tudor history, 29th June 1537, Henry Algernon Percy died at around the age of thirty-five. He was buried at Hackney Parish Church, and his will appointed the king as supervisor and Edward Fox, Bishop of Hereford, and Thomas Cromwell as executors.

Henry Percy was born in around 1502 and was the eldest son of Henry Algernon Percy, 5th Earl of Northumberland, and his wife, Katherine Spencer. He was brought up in Cardinal Wolsey’s household and it was while he was there that he fell in love with Anne Boleyn following her return to the English court in late 1521. Anne was serving Queen Catherine of Aragon as one of her ladies and George Cavendish, Wolsey’s gentleman-usher, recorded that when the cardinal and his servants were at court, Percy “would then resort for his pastime unto the queen’s chamber, and there would fall in dalliance among the queen’s ladies, being at the last more conversant with Mistress Anne Boleyn than with any other.” It was then “that there grew such a secret love between them that, at length, they were ensured together, intending to marry.”

Unfortunately for the two lovebirds, they were supposed to be marrying other people. Percy’s father had already planned Percy’s marriage to Mary Talbot, daughter of George Talbot, fourth Earl of Shrewsbury, and Anne was meant to be marrying James Butler, son of Piers Butler of Ireland. Cavendish also states that King Henry VIII was “much offended” at news of the couple’s romance because of his own “secret affection” for Anne. As a consequence, Wolsey and Percy’s father put a stop to the relationship. Percy married Mary Talbot in 1524, but the marriage was far from happy. In 1532, Mary accused her husband of being pre-contracted to Anne Boleyn and Percy was examined by the Dyke of Norfolk and the Archbishops of York and Canterbury. He swore on the blessed sacrament in front of the duke, the archbishops and the king’s canon lawyers that there was no truth to his wife’s story. Percy ended up having to deny the precontract’s existence again in 1536 when Thomas Cromwell was looking for a way to get the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn annulled.

Percy served Henry VIII as warden of the east and middle marches, and was one of the peers appointed to judge George and Anne Boleyn at their trial on 15th May 1536. Percy collapsed after Anne’s death sentence was pronounced, and his illness prevented him from taking an active role in the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion of late 1536, which may have been fortunate, since his brothers, Thomas and Ingram, were arrested for their involvement, and Thomas was executed. Ingram died in prison in the Tower of London.

Antiquary John Weever, in his book Ancient Funerall Monument, mentions the tomb of Henry Percy at Hackney and records that it had the following inscription: “Here lieth interred, Henry lord Percy, earl of Northumberland, knight of the most honourable order of the Garter, who died in this town the last of June 1537, the 29th of HEN VIII.”

Also on this day in Tudor history, 29th June 1509, just four days after she had enjoyed the coronation celebrations of her grandson King Henry VIII and his queen consort, Catherine of Aragon, sixty-six-year-old Lady Margaret Beaufort died.

Margaret Beaufort was the matriarch of the Tudor dynasty and was an amazing woman, in many ways, yet she is surrounded by myth and it seems fashionable to see her as a religious zealot.

But who was this influential Tudor lady? What did she do? Find out in my video at https://youtu.be/RGbjeIrxtKc

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One thought on “June 29 – The death of Henry Percy, Anne Boleyn’s former sweetheart”
  1. Some things are just not meant to be, hence the oft told tale about those two doomed lovers, Anne Boleyn and Lord Henry Percy, V1 Earl of Northumberland, they met when she was in service to Queen Katherine of Aragon, having newly arrived from the continent, and Percy in the household of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, they were both young still teenagers in fact he could have been a year or two younger, Percy was heir to the kingdom of Northumberland one of the oldest and noblest houses in England he was a direct descendant of that most famous Percy of all, Henry Hotspur and Lady Anne as she was often addressed was a mere knights daughter, Cavendish we have to thank for the tragic state of affairs that followed, like all young people Percy would mingle with the ladies at court and he certainly had a preference for the stylish and glamorous Anne, they must have met in secret and Anne like all girls would have shared her confidences to the others, soon many at court knew that the young lovers planned to marry and according to George Cavendish, he summoned the young lad and in front of his household very harshly told him he was to end this affair with this foolish girl, the humiliation he subjected this young man to deserves our sympathy and Percy is said to have wept, Wolsey also told him Anne was not good enough for him which made him argue that she was Howard on her mother’s side, so certainly good enough to mate with a Percy, Wolsey then sent for his father and the old Earl in a sweat arrived and proceeded to also have a go at him, calling him proud presumptuous and a waster, poor Percy! He could also have threatened to disinherit him and he reminded him he had been betrothed from birth to marry the Earl of Shrewsbury’s daughter, Cavendish tells us that he thought the king himself admired Anne from afar and told Wolsey to break the couple up, and the Shrewsbury marriage was just an excuse, Anne herself was to become betrothed to her Irish cousin James Butler, and marriages of the nobility were affairs of the monarch, so maybe Henry V111 was just irked because Percy was going against the pre contract with Mary Talbot or did he want Anne for himself as Cavendish suggests? Either way, Percys father certainly did not think Anne was good enough for his son and soon after Anne was banished from court and went home to Hever, little did she know how often she would make the same journey in order to evade the amorous advances of the king, what we know of Percy he was not happy with his wife, both of them hated each other and at one time she left him and went to live with her father, she also told her brother in law she suspected Percy of trying to poison her, Percy on the other hand believed she was spying on him for his enemy the Duke of Norfolk, theirs certainly was a very volatile relationship yet she did become pregnant and later sadly, gave birth to a still born son, no other children followed and Percy died young at the age of just thirty five a year after his old love went to the scaffold, Anne as history tells us was not successful in her marriage and her unprecedent execution is famous, she was about thirty six when she died, as for Percy he had been suffering from a fever according to the sources, Wikipedia states he could have had malaria, he grew increasingly weak and at the trial of Anne Boleyn he was duty bound as one of the peers of the realm to sit in judgment of her, but maybe old feelings mingled with sheer exhaustion and he collapsed through the ordeal, he died heavily in debt and his younger brother inherited his title, but he too died without heirs so his younger brother became the eighth Earl, if Henry Percy and Anne Boleyn had been allowed to marry no doubt they would have been happy, they could have had children, maybe with a different partner Anne would not have lost her babies, but she would have been widowed young and history would have been so very different, the fates had ordained different paths for these one time star struck lovers.

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