Henry Percy: The Man Who Loved Anne Boleyn


Who Was Henry Percy?

Henry Percy was born circa 1502 to Catherine Spencer and her husband, Henry Percy, 5th Earl of Northumberland in Nottingham, England. At a young age he was sent to be a page in Thomas Wolsey’s household.

Around 1516 Henry Percy was fated (had aprecontract) to wed Mary Talbot, daughter ofGeorge Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury.

In 1519 Henry was knighted.

Betrothal to Anne Boleyn

Sometime after her arrival to court in 1522 Henry Percy fell in love with the young Anne Boleyn. In 1523, while still employed toThomas Wolsey, Henry Percy became betrothed to Anne. When the betrothal was discovered by Wolsey he absolutely forbade it and scolded Percy in front of his household. Im

Henry Percy’s status as heir to the earldom of Northumberland, and Anne as a lady in waiting to Katherine of Aragon, implied the two must obtain permission from both Wolsey and the King of England to wed.Percy’s fatheralsorefused permission for the match — he considered Anne Boleyn a mere knight’s daughter, and not an appropriate fit for his son and heir.

It is speculated that Anne Boleyn had already caught the eye of Henry VIII and was the true reason she was forbidden from marrying Henry Percy.

“At this time Lord Percy, the son and heir of the earl of Northumberland, was aide and secretary to Wolsey, the lord cardinal, and whenever the lord cardinal happened to be at court Lord Percy would pass the time in the queens quarters where he would dally with the ladies-in-waiting. Of these, he was most familiar with mistress Anne Boleyn, to such an extent that a secret love grew up between them and they pledged that, in time, they intended to wed. When knowledge of this reached the kings ears he was greatly distraught. Realizing that he could no longer hide his secret love, he revealed all to the lord cardinal and discussed with him ways of sundering the couples engagement to each other.”

In a nutshell, Thomas Wolsey broke up the love match — this seemed to be the reason why Anne Boleyn held such a strong grudge towardsWolsey. As with anyone kept from their love, Anne would do everything in her power to take revenge on Wolsey…and, in the end, she was successful.

Percy’s Obligation

In early 1524/1525, Percy fulfilled his obligation and precontract by marrying Mary Talbot – surely Mary was aware she was his second choice. The unionbetween Henry Percy and Mary Talbot was not a happyone.

In 1527, Percy inherited the earldom of Northumberland title on the death of his father. In 1528, only four years into their marriage, the couples relationship had broken down irretrievably. Percy hadcomplained about his wife’s malicious acts and lies while her father was concerned Henry was abusing his daughter and might even poison her. It is thought that the couple had separated (possibly only temporarily) because Mary delivered a stillborn child at her father’s estate in 1529.

In 1532, Mary accused Percy of having a precontract with Anne Boleyn – she was seeking an annulment from her miserable marriage. Percy, on oath, denied the accusation. They remained unhappily married.

In May 1536, the month of Anne’s execution, she is said to have confessed a precontract with Henry Percyin the hope of saving her life.

When Anne was convicted of treason Percy collapsed and was carried out of the court. Some speculated it was his poor health and some suspect it was his love for Anne.

Was he there that fateful day his first love was beheaded? I can only imagine him weeping for his lost love.

Henry Percy died in 1537.

Coat of Arms of Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland

Hanson, Marilee. “The relationship between Henry Percy & Anne Boleyn 1523” http://englishhistory.net/tudor/henry-percy-anne-boleyn-relationship/, February 4, 2015



Anne Boleyn Henry VIII History

10 Comments Leave a comment

    • Yes, he was, but I’m willing to bet he was ordered
      to do that as well which probably broke him, the poor soul. He was dead in a year.

  1. Realizing at this time and place Anne would not and could not do anything with out her fathers permission, so?????? It would be a great catch, for Anne, and more power and respect for her father.

  2. I am always confused when writers put down that Mary Talbot was Percy’s “second choice”, it would be more accurate to say that she was not his choice, and that it took a measure of force and coercion to create their union, it is likely that she was aware of that fact.

    • From what I can tell, Henry’s brother Thomas Percy died before becoming the next Earl (since Henry had no children). From there, Thomas’ son, Thomas Percy became the 7th Earl and then his brother, Henry became 8th Earl of Northumberland. Then Henry, the 8th Earl’s son (another Henry) became the 9th Earl. Then Henry the 9th Earl passed it to his son, Algernon Percy, 10th Earl of Northumberland. Then Algeron passed to his son, Josceline Percy, 11th Earl of Northumberland. So it seems it stayed in the family. 🙂

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