Dorothy Percy, Countess of Northumberland

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Dorothy Devereux
Countess of Northumberland
Portrait identified as Dorothy Devereux (on the left) and her elder sister Penelope Devereux, c.1581
Spouse(s) Sir Thomas Perrot
Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland
Penelope Perrot
Dorothy Perrot
Elizabeth Perrot
Dorothy Percy
Lucy Percy
Algernon Percy, 10th Earl of Northumberland
Henry Percy, Lord of Alnwick
Father Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex
Mother Lettice Knollys
Born c.1564
Chartley Castle, Staffordshire, England
Died 3 August 1619 (aged 54-55)

Dorothy Percy, Countess of Northumberland (formerly Perrot, née Devereux; c. 1564 – 3 August 1619) was the younger daughter of Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex by Lettice Knollys, and the wife of Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland.


Dorothy was born in about 1564, the daughter of Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex and Lettice Knollys, a lady-in-waiting of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Her paternal grandparents were Sir Richard Devereux and Dorothy Hastings, after whom she was named. Her maternal grandparents were Sir Francis Knollys and Lady Catherine Carey, the daughter of Mary Boleyn, herself the sister of Queen consort Anne Boleyn. Dorothy had an elder sister Penelope Devereux, who was said to have been the inspiration for Sir Philip Sidney's sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stella. She had three younger brothers, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, Walter Devereux and Francis Devereux.

In September 1576, Dorothy's father died in Dublin, Ireland of dysentery. Two years later, her mother married secondly and in secret, Queen Elizabeth's favourite Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, thus earning the wrath of the queen, who promptly banished her from court. The marriage produced one son Robert, Baron Denbigh who was born in 1581. The boy died at the age of three. In 1589, eleven months after Leicester's death, Dorothy acquired another stepfather, Sir Christopher Blount, who was thirteen years younger than her mother. On 25 February 1601, her brother Robert, 2nd Earl of Essex was beheaded at the Tower of London for treason. Unlike their sister Penelope, Dorothy was not suspected of playing any role in the rebellion. Essex denounced Penelope as a traitor, an act which shocked many, but did not accuse Dorothy.

Marriage and children

In July 1583 at Broxbourne Hertfordshire she married Sir Thomas Perrot of Haroldston. They had a son who predeceased his father without issue, and three daughters:[citation needed]

It was claimed in Sir Robert Naunton's Fragmenta Regalia that Dorothy's father-in-law, Sir John Perrot, was an illegitimate son of Henry VIII by his mistress Mary Berkeley.

The marriage gave great offence to the Queen, whose consent should have been asked, but would almost certainly have been refused. She distrusted Sir John Perrot, who was to die a convicted traitor in the Tower of London, and detested Dorothy's mother Lettice, whom she blamed for arranging the marriage.[4] Thomas was imprisoned for a time and Dorothy banished from Court. In 1587 Essex used his growing influence with the Queen in an attempt to restore his sister to favour, but due to the malicious interference of Sir Walter Raleigh, the result was simply another furious quarrel, ending with Essex and Dorothy leaving the house they were staying in at midnight.[5] Only after Perrot's death did the Queen consent to receive Dorothy at Court again, and she became something of a royal favourite.[6]

Dorothy married secondly, in 1594 (this time with the Queen's full approval), Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, known as "The Wizard Earl", but the marriage was not a success, and they later separated. In 1605, the earl was sent to the Tower of London on suspicion of involvement in the Gunpowder Plot, and he was not freed until after his wife's death.[7]

They had four children:

Through her eldest daughter Dorothy, Countess of Leicester, she was an ancestress of Diana, Princess of Wales.

In fiction

Dorothy is a minor character in the historical novel The Grove of Eagles by Winston Graham. The narrator describes how her second husband, Northumberland, uses their marriage to heal the old quarrel between his wife and his close friend Sir Walter Raleigh (who had ruined an attempt by Dorothy to regain the Queen's favour), with the further aim of arranging a reconciliation between Raleigh and Essex.


  1. Lower, Sir William (c.1570-1615), of St. Winnow, Cornwall and Trefenti (Tra'Venti), Llanfihangel Abercowin, Carmarthenshire, History of Parliament Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  2. Trefenty, Dyfed Archaeological Trust Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  3. Roche 2004.
  4. Alison Weir Elizabeth the Queen Pimlico edition 1999 p.347
  5. Weir pp.386-7
  6. Antonia Fraser The Gunpowder Plot-Terror and Faith in 1605 Weidenfeld and Nicholson 1997 p.39
  7. Fraser p.276


  • Roche, J.J. (2004). "Lower, Sir William (c.1570–1615)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/39195.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Betchemann, Lita-Rose (2005). Court Lady and Country Wife: Two Noble Sisters in Seventeenth-Century England. New York: Collins.
  • Brenan, Gerald (1902). A History of the House of Percy. London: Freemantle.
  • Brennan, Michael and Noel Kinnamon (2003). A Sidney Chronology. London: Palgrave Macmillan.