Episode 1: Before the Dethroning of Richard II
Hotspur’s real name was Henry Percy who tried leading a rebellion against King Henry IV. He was born 20 May 1364. The name Hotspur was given to him by Scottish enemies (because he was constantly willing to fight). He rose through the ranks and became a military commander. He was born as the eldest son of 1st Earl of Northumberland and he had been fighting for England ever since he was 14. His family, the Percys were responsible for the protection of North England against Scottish invaders so they patrolled the border between England and Scotland. Percy’s military and diplomatic service brought him substantial marks of royal favour in the form of grants and appointments, but despite this, the Percy family decided to support Henry Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV, in his rebellion against Richard II.
Episode 2: Post-dethroning of Richard II
There had been an extensive civil and military responsibility in north Wales, where he was under increasing pressure as a result of the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr. He Made Earl of Douglas and other scots his prisoner. Hotspur had a good reputation with his youthful good looks and absolute fearlessness which caught the popular fancy. Under the new king, Percy had extensive civil and military responsibility in both the east march towards Scotland and in north Wales, where he was appointed High Sheriff of Flintshire in 1399. In north Wales, he was under increasing pressure as a result of the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr.
Episode 3: Rebellion against Henry IV
King Henry IV rewarded the Percys for helping him but his family still wanted more and thought it was a nice idea to overthrow him this time. This is mostly because he took the Scottish prisoners they captured in battle from them so they thought he was ungrateful.
In spite of the favour that Henry IV showed the Percys in many respects, they became increasingly discontented with him. Among their grievances were:
- The king’s failure to pay the wages due to them for defending the Scottish border
- The king’s favour towards Dunbar
- The king’s demand that the Percys hand over their Scottish prisoners
- The king’s failure to put an end to Owain Glyndŵr’s rebellion through a negotiated settlement
- The king’s increasing promotion of his son’s (Prince Henry) military authority in Wales
- The king’s failure to pay the ransom for Henry Percy’s brother-in-law, Sir Edmund Mortimer, whom the Welsh had captured in June 1402.
So Hotspur and the rest of the Percies joined forces with the Scottish, the Glendowers and the Welsh to overthrow the king. The rebellion took place in the summer of 1403 as Hotspur tried to overthrow King Henry IV but failed and got killed in the process. Then he died. Henry put his body up for display and had him remembered as a traitor to his people.
The circumstances of Percy’s death differ in accounts. The chronicler Thomas Walsingham stated, in his Historia Anglicana that “while he led his men in the fight rashly penetrating the enemy host, was unexpectedly cut down, by whose hand is not known”. Another account states that Percy was struck in the face by an arrow when he opened his vizor for a better view. The legend that he was killed by the Prince of Wales seems to have been given currency by William Shakespeare, writing at the end of the following century.
Henry Percy as the eldest son of Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, and Margaret Neville, daughter of Ralph de Neville. He was knighted by King Edward III in April 1377, together with the future Kings Richard II and Henry IV. In 1380, he was in Ireland with the Earl of March, and in 1383, he travelled in Prussia. He was appointed warden of the east march either on 30 July 1384 or in May 1385, and in 1385 accompanied Richard II on an expedition into Scotland. “As a tribute to his speed in advance and readiness to attack” on the Scottish borders, the Scots bestowed on him the name ‘Haatspore’.
On Henry’s return from exile in June 1399, Percy and his father joined his forces at Doncaster and marched south with them. After King Richard’s deposition, Percy and his father were ‘lavishly rewarded’ with lands and offices.