PERCY, Josceline (1644-70)

PERCY, Josceline (1644–70)

styled 1644-68 Ld. Percy; suc. fa. 13 Oct. 1668 as 5th earl of NORTHUMBERLAND

Never sat.

b. 4 July 1644, o. s. of Algernon Percy, 4th earl of Northumberland, and 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Theophilus Howard, 2nd earl of Suffolk. educ. privately (Dr John Mapletoft), 1658-c.1665.1 m. 23 Dec. 1662, Elizabeth (d.1690), da. of Thomas Wriothesley, 4th earl of Southampton, 1s. d.v.p. 2da. (1 d.v.p.). d. 21 May 1670; will 26 Aug. 1669, pr. 2 Nov. 1670, confirmed by sentence 9 Dec. 1670.2

Col., militia Westminster 1660;3 ld. lt. Northumb. and city of Newcastle 1660-68 (jt.), 1668-d. (sole), Suss. 1668-d.; capt., Tynemouth Castle 1660-8 (jt.), 1668-d. (sole); custos rot., Hants 1667-d., Suss. 1668-d.; kpr of game, Syon and East Bedford [Bedfont], Mdx. 1670-d.4

Associated with: Petworth House, Suss.; Syon House, Mdx. and Northumberland House, Westminster.

Likeness: Alexander Browne (after Sir Peter Lely), mezzotint, NPG.

As the only son of one of the leading, and oldest, noble families in England, a good deal of attention and expectation was directed towards the young Lord Percy.5 So much hope was invested in him at the time of the Restoration that he was made, at the age of 16, a colonel of the Westminster militia and, jointly with his father, lord lieutenant of Northumberland and captain of Tynemouth Castle. He was also offered a deputy lieutenancy in his father’s other county of Sussex.6 It was initially intended that he should marry Audrey, one of the daughters of Thomas Wriothesley, 4th earl of Southampton, but after she died in late October 1660, negotiations turned to another of Southampton’s many daughters. At the end of 1662 Percy married the youngest one, Elizabeth.

Parliament was under a long adjournment when Lord Percy inherited the earldom of Northumberland in October 1668, and it did not meet again until October 1669. By that time the new earl of Northumberland was in France, travelling there with his family and ‘a very great train’.7 Back in England Northumberland, in absentia, soon faced a challenge to his position in the peerage by the claims made by Benjamin Fitzwalter, 17th Baron Fitzwalter, that he had precedency over all other barons in the House by the antiquity of his title. On 7 Mar. 1670 Charles Howard, 2nd earl of Berkshire, informed the committee for privileges considering the matter that, on behalf of Northumberland, as Baron Percy, and a number of other peers with ancient baronies, he wished to contest Fitzwalter’s claim before the House. The matter was still not settled by the time Parliament recessed in April, after which it would have hardly mattered to Northumberland.8 For, while his wife remained behind in Paris, the earl had travelled to Italy where at the end of May 1670 he died, aged 26, at Turin ‘of fever caused by travelling in the great heat’. His body, accompanied by his ‘disconsolate lady’, was slowly brought back to England where it was buried at Petworth on 14 July.9 He had been abroad during both the parliamentary sessions in which he could have sat in the House and had never formally taken his seat there.

An inventory of his personal goods in his principal residences – Northumberland House, Syon House and Petworth House – made at the time of his death estimated that his possessions were worth £41,987.10 Nor was he poor in landed income. At the time he wrote his will in August 1669, before setting off for his continental travels, he had a young son Henry, and he entrusted his father’s old friends and agents – Edward Montagu, 2nd earl of Manchester, William Pierrepont, Robert Scawen, John Clarke and Orlando Gee– to act as trustees of his estates. He provided for annuities for his heir that would total £28,500 over 21 years, and for Henry’s two daughters, and any more daughters born to him in the future, £5,700 each over 17 years. Any younger sons that might still be born to him were to have at their majorities £10,000 each.

His heir Henry Percy, styled Lord Percy, died only a few months after these arrangements were made and within only a few short months after Northumberland’s own death his only surviving child was his daughter Elizabeth, then about three years old. The earldom of Northumberland became extinct at Northumberland’s death without a male heir, but Elizabeth remained suo jure Baroness Percy.


  • 1 E.B. de Fonblanque, Annals of the House of Percy, ii. 478-80; Oxford DNB, (John Mapletoft).
  • 2 TNA, PROB 11/334; PROB 11/333.
  • 3 Alnwick mss vol. xviii. H. Champion to H. Potter, 17 Apr. 1660.
  • 4 CSP Dom. 1670, p. 36.
  • 5 Fonblanque, ii. 477-8.
  • 6 Alnwick mss vol. xviii. H. Champion to H. Potter, 17 Apr. 1660; Add. 33084, f. 83.
  • 7 Add. 36916, f. 142; CSP Dom. 1668-9, p. 498; HMC Le Fleming, 67.
  • 8 PA, HL/PO/CO/1/2, p. 65.
  • 9 CSP Dom. 1670, pp. 179, 196, 264, 293, 311, 329.
  • 10 HMC 3rd Rep. 109-10.