ELIZABETH I (1533-1603), Queen of England and Ireland. Document signed (at upper margin, 'Elizabeth R'), letters patent under the signet addressed to Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, Havering, 20 July 1572, THE WARRANT FOR THE EXECUTION OF THOMAS PERCY, 7TH EARL OF NORTHUMBERLAND, the text in brown ink in a secretary hand, in English on vellum, 27 lines on one membrane, approx 280 x 390mm, docketed by recipient on verso, papered impression of the signet seal to lower margin (minor browning and cracking to seal). Provenance: blind stamped crest over letter 'D' to upper right margin; collection of Charles T. Jeffery of Merrion, Pennsylvania; and by descent.
THE DEATH OF A MARTYR
'Wheras Thomas Earl of Northumb[er]land ... for his great and notable Rebellions and Treasons by him and others done and perpetrated against o[u]r parson Realmes and Dignitie, Was and is attainted by authoritie of the said Parliament of high treason ... We therfore not only mynding the surety and preservation of our parson and Realmes, and the quietnes of the same, But also to give example of Terror, Dread, & feare for other heerafter to offend or attempt in the lyke offences and Treasons ... ar myndid to have the said Earle to be safely conveyed to our Citie of Yorke, and there to be executed ... Foreseeing alwayes that no other execution of deathe be executid to the said Thom[a]s Erle of Northumberland, but onely to cause his head to be smitten off from his body, and sett up in the accustumid place w[ith]in our said Citie of York. And for the residue of the Executions of deathe due in that case by the order of our lawes, we do remitt & discharge'.
Elizabeth directs Bacon to prepare the commissions for the Sheriff of York for the execution, for Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, governor of Berwick where Northumberland was imprisoned, to hand him over to the warden of the Middle Marches, Sir John Forster, and for the latter to convey him to York, the commissions also to command the assistance of all officers and subjects of the northern counties in the matter.
The magnate and rebel Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland (1528-1572), had by the time he reached the age of thirty reclaimed the majority of the great Percy titles and inheritance which had been lost through alienation and confiscation during the later years of Henry VIII, but his regional power and obstinate recusancy (he was described as a 'rank papist' by Sir Ralph Sadler) made him an object of suspicion for the Elizabethan court, and indeed he became increasingly involved in intrigues against the Crown during the 1560s, culminating in his petition, jointly with Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmorland, to Pope Pius V to excommunicate Elizabeth as a preface to their open rebellion in November 1569. The rebellion itself was a damp squib, and by 20 December Northumberland had crossed the border and thrown himself on the mercy of the Scots, who after some negotiation sold him to England on 6 June 1572. As the present warrant recites, Northumberland was at first held at Berwick in the custody of the warden of the east marches and governor of the city, Lord Hunsdon. He was executed by beheading at York on 22 August, having been spared, as the warrant specifies, the full punishment of hanging, drawing and quartering. Northumberland's profession of his Catholic faith on the scaffold led to his being cited as a Catholic martyr in the decades following his death, and indeed he was beatified on these grounds in 1895.