Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Wizard Earl Born on April 27, 1564

Henry Percy, the 9th Earl of Northumberland AKA "The Wizard Earl" was born on April 27, 1564. His father was also named Henry Percy, but he was the 8th Earl of Northumberland, receiving that title when his brother, the Wizard Earl's uncle, Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumbland was executed in 1572 for his leadership of the Northern Rebellion. The Wizard Earl's father died in the Tower of London, imprisoned there under suspicion of treason. His grandfather had also run afoul of the Tudor monarch of his era, as Sir Thomas Percy was executed by Henry VIII in 1537 for his involvement in the Pilgrimage of Grace. I think we can see a pattern of trouble in this family's relationship to the Tudors--and it held true for the Wizard Earl during the reign of James I of England.

According to this website:

Henry Percy, the 9th or ‘Wizard’ Earl of Northumberland led an extraordinary life of a true Renaissance nobleman, despite his deafness and 15 years as a prisoner. He was a great scholar, became the patron of the English astronomer Thomas Harriot, the first man to map the surface of the moon before Galileo and earned his nickname ‘Wizard’ by experimenting in alchemy. He was a friend of Sir Walter Raleigh and their interest in the New World led them to consume great quantities of tobacco and potatoes. But it was on 4 November 1605, that the Earl’s fortunes declined literally overnight! A distant cousin, Thomas Percy, who was a staunch Roman Catholic, dined with the Earl at Syon before joining Guy Fawkes and his accomplices the next day, in the attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. As one of the principal ‘gunpowder plotters’, Thomas was shot trying to make his escape. Although innocent of the charges brought against him, the Earl was implicated through his association with Thomas and the fateful meeting at Syon. He was confined in the Tower of London for the next 15 years on the orders of King James I.

The 9th Earl was known as the Wizard Earl because of his great interest in science--even in alchemy--and his development of a great library. He was eventually released from the Tower and he died on November 5, 1632. Believe it--or not!

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