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"Magnificent", "Marvelous", "Stern stronghold", "Outstanding architectural masterpiece", these are just a few of the first words used to describe Alnwick Castle in every piece of text I looked over while researching to write this article. And no wonder "Harry Potter" was a box office hit, if not for the fascination of the "Castle" I would have walked out long before the end. It was boring! But I was mesmerized by this castle and growing up in L.A., I was sure this "perfect" castle was a set like all the other "perfect places" in the movies. I had no clue what so ever this was a real castle! So, I guess I too would have no other way to begin to describe Alnwick other than using "The vision is simply dazzling" a "Brooding Gothic Fortress", "teeming with dominance and vitality" it’s "foreboding Medieval exterior" reeks of "impressive strength" and it’s "imposing appearance" can only be described as "gloriously majestic."
The Victorians described Alnwick as the "Windsor of the North". Alnwick is the second largest inhabited castle in England. Windsor being first, the Percy family for the last 700 years, still live here holding their titles of, the Earls and Dukes of Northumberland since 1309.
This is the way people feel when they see this castle, nearly 1,000 years later. Alnwick deserves it; its people lived and survived it. It must have been frighting to have lived in such a violent and deadly time, and I cannot think of anywhere else in the world, I would not have wanted to be living more than on the English, Scottish border 1,000 years ago!
It is unclear if Alnwick was occupied before the arrival of the Normans. In the 11th century, William the Conquer gave Alnwick to Gilbert Tyson or de Tesson who was the King’s standard bearer at the Battle of Hastings. Dating from the 11th century there has been some type of timber fortification on this site. It is quite probable it was built by Tyson, but since nothing has been found, this remains uncertain. Since the recording of the Dooms Day book did not extend into Northumberland, there is no written record until about 1134, where a description of the earliest parts of the castle state it as being "very strongly fortified."
During Tyson’s ownership of Alnwick, Robert Mowbray, the first Earl of Northumberland, attacked Malclom Canmore, the King of Scotland killing, him on a ridge north east of Alnwick Castle in 1093 routing his army and mortally wounding Edward his son. Two years later in 1095 Tyson participated in an unsuccessful rebellion led by Mowbray against William Rufus, King of England. Thus losing ownership of Alnwick in 1096 to Yves de Vescy who was also granted the title of Baron of Alnwick.
It was Yves de Vescy who had started building the "fortified" castle, and he is said to have died at least one year before the first written record of construction in 1134. Upon his death Alnwick passed to his only heir his daughter, Beatrix. She married Eustace Fitzjohn who was given the title Baron of Alnwick and received the rights to the castle and its vast possessions. A man of great ability he held a active role in the affairs at state. Supporting the Empress Matilda, who had the rightful claim to the crown, against her cousin King Stephen, he joined forces with King David I, of Scotland. He surrendered Alnwick to King David I in 1138. In that same year following the defeat of both the Northumbrian and Scottish armies at the Battle of the Standard, near Northallerton, there was a reconciliation between Eustace and King Stephen. Eustace regained the rights to Alnwick and was granted further lands in Yorkshire by the King.
During this time Eustace built the circular keep, the series of towers that surrounds the courtyard, the two outer baileys surrounding the towers, and built the thick curtain wall around the perimeter. Much of this 12th century Norman masonry can been seen throughout the present curtain wall which suggests that the area Alnwick covers hasn’t been substantially altered since the Norman times. Eustace Fitzjohn completed the castle’s construction, which was much like the design we see today. He died in 1157 while on an expedition in Wales.
His son, William, succeeded him as Baron of Alnwick in 1157. Since most of his possessions descended to him from his mother he took the her name, de Vescy. Like his father, William continued to be controversial in his loyalties to the King. Alnwick was continually involved in disputes and successfully fought off raids from the Scottish King William the Lion in 1172 and again in 1174. During the besiege of 1174 King William the Lion kept 500 men with him at Alnwick while the rest of his men set off into the countryside where they massacred 300 people who had taken refuge in a church in Warkworth. An English force from Newcastle discovered William the Lion’s campsite outside of Alnwick and under the cover of a thick morning fog took the Scottish King, in a surprise attack, prisoner. A stone close 1/2 mile from the castle marks the site where William the Lion was captured.
William de Vescy died in 1184, and the castle passed to his son Eustace. During King Richard I’s reign the Borders were comparatively quite, and Eustace married William the Lion’s daughter. But on the accession of the unpopular King John to the English throne in 1199, trouble arose with the Scots. William the Lion took advantage of this and laid claim to the English counties of Northumberland and Cumberland. Eustace was commissioned by King John to assure his father-in-law that his claims would be satisfied. William paid homage to John who had still not kept his promise, William demanded restitution and by 1209 both kings had assembled large armies. King John visited Alnwick in 1201 and in 1209. The issue of the counties remained unsettled until after some length a treaty was concluded on August 7th to end hostilities and Alexander, William the Lion’s eldest son, paid homage to King John at Alnwick, but little changed.
In 1212 Eustace de Vescy was one of the leaders in the Baron’s Revolt against King John. Eustace was forced to flee to Scotland. King John confiscated Alnwick and Eustace’s other possessions and gave orders for Alnwick Castle to be destroyed. It is not known why but the orders were never carried out, and shortly after Eustace and King John reconciled. Eustace was given the castle and all his possessions were returned. In 1215, Eustace once again sided against his King. He joined the confederation of the barons against the King (he was one of the 25 barons appointed to enforce the observance of the Magna Carta) and sided with Alexander, who was now King of Scotland, in his invasion of Northumberland. This time Alnwick was burned by the King’s army. In 1216 another rebellion against the English King lead to the death of Eustace, killed while besieging Barnard Castle.
Eustace was succeeded in 1216 by his son William who was the only de Vescy Baron who reigned for forty years and kept Alnwick Castle in a peaceful state. William died in 1252.
William was succeeded in 1252 by his son John who immediately sparked new troubles when he supported Simon de Montfort in his attempt to overthrow King Henry III. John was captured in the Battle of Evesham in 1265 and was forced to relinquish his property at Alnwick and was deprived of the Barony. When John was released from prison he seized Alnwick by force. Prince Edward an accomplished warrior had no trouble defeating John who was soon reduced to such dire straits he surrendered unconditionally. Incredibly de Vescy was again pardoned by the Monarchy and after paying a fine had his castle and titles restored back to him in 1279. He accompanied Prince Edward on a Crusade to Palestine and fought several campaigns in France where he died in 1288 without a male heir. He was succeeded by his brother William.
During his barony, Alnwick Castle was the a focal point in an on going conflict between England and Scotland which lead to and unsuccessful attack in 1297 by William Wallace. William de Vescy died that same year leaving no legitimate heir. The estate passed into the guardianship of the bishop of Durham. The bishop sold the Castle and Barony of Alnwick on November 19, 1309 to Henry de Percy.
The Percy family was one of the most powerful families in England. "Their history is one of tumult and intrigue, conflict with their monarch as well as the Scots." The 1st Lord Percy was "decended from William de Percy, who had accompanied William the Conqueror in 1066", and who had been granted extensive lands in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and Sussex.
His great-granddaughter married Josceline de Louvain who was the brother of Queen Adela, the second wife of King Henry I. "Josceline was the son of Godfrey, Duke of Lower Lorraine and Count of Brabant and Louvain and descended from Count Giselbert, ruler of the Maasgau province" (modern day Belgium). In 864 A.D. he married a great-granddaughter of Charlemagne.
Henry, 1st Lord Percy of Alnwick (1309-1315):
Henry de Percy distinguished himself in the Scottish wars. For his outstanding service to his King he was rewarded further lands by both Kings Edward I and II. Henry joined the revolt of the Barons against King Edward II and was involved with the capture and execution of the King’s favorite, Piers Gaveston. King Edward II confiscated Henry’s estates, but the King eventually restored his estates back to him. In 1314, Henry was taken prisoner at Bannockburn during Edward II’s invasion of Scotland and was quickly ransomed back afterward. Henry immediately started restoration of Alnwick Castle, improving the stronghold with all the latest technology required for warfare of the Edwardian period. Henry never changed the general form or design of the Castle .
He reconstructed the Keep, "seven semi-circular towers round and irregular-sided court, with the great hall and kitchens on the east side. Most of the towers along the curtain wall were rebuilt. Those portions of this work which still remain are the semi-circular tower on the north-east side of the Keep (which now forms part of the dining room), the draw-well, the Middle Gateway between the outer and second Baileys, the Abbots Tower, Western Garret, Auditor's Tower, Eastern Garret, the lower part of the Record Tower, the Constable’s Tower and Postern Tower, as well as the greater part of the Curtain Walls." In 1315, Henry Percy died at Alnwick, he was succeeded by his son Henry.
Henry, 2nd Lord Percy of Alnwick (1315-1352):
The 2nd Lord Percy spent most of his life involved in the Scottish wars. A member of the Regency he was appointed to govern the kingdom during the minority of King Edward III. In 1326, Henry de Percy was ordered by King Edward III to fortify and provision Alnwick and to guard the north-eastern march. "In 1327 Edward III led a large army into the North to drive back a Scottish incursion, but the Scots evaded him and he was compelled to disband his army." In 1340, Henry fought on the continent in Flanders in the naval Battle of Sluys and in 1342 in the siege of Nantes. In 1347 he fought in France under the Black Prince.
Henry continued the castle’s restoration begun by his father. He used the money paid for the ransom of the Scottish prisoners captured at Neville’s Cross to build the two octagonal towers on both sides of the entrance to the Keep. They date to about 1350. In 1352, Henry Percy died at Alnwick; his son Henry succeeded him.
Henry, 3rd Lord Percy of Alnwick (1352-1368):
Henry fought in the French wars. In 1346 he fought at the Battle of Crecy and at Neville’s Cross. Commissioned to arrange the terms for the release of Scotland’s King David, one of the prisoners captured at Neville’s Cross, to return to his dominions. In 1354 he signed the treaty releasing King David of Scotland. In 1356, Henry invaded Scotland with King Edward III (this raid became famous as the "Burnt Candelmas"). King Edward burned several Scottish towns including Edinburgh, devastating the country in which he crossed. Because of a shortage of supplies he was forced to retreat "which had disastrous consequences." The Scots intent on revenge followed the retreating army and in "turn devastated Northumberland." Devastating raids on the Northumberland countryside by the Scottish continued for years. Henry was continuously involved in warfare, both on the Borders and in France. In 1368, Henry Percy died, and his son, Henry, succeeded him.
Henry, 4th Lord Percy and 1st Earl of Northumberland (1368-1409):
Only 26 years old when he succeeded his father, he had already fought in the French wars in 1359 and 1363. He fought at Calais with King Edward III and commanded an army at Poitou both during 1368. He fell sick in 1369 and returned to England. He served his King for a period until 1376 following the signing of a truce. "In 1377, he was Commander-in-Chief of the forces sent to garrison French towns in English occupation. In 1377 he led an army of 10,000 men into Scotland to revenge the burning of Roxburgh by the Scots and ravaged the lands of the Earl of March." In a bloody siege he captured Berwick Castle in 1378 with a large army. Berwick’s garrison of 48 men held out for eight days. The garrison was captured and was "put to the sword." This is where "Hotspur" the Earl’s 12 year old son "greatly distinguished himself and earned his nickname."
Henry was an able and a remarkably resourceful man as he showed during the intermittent but continous hostilities with Scotland. "In 1388 the famous Battle of Otterburn took place. Hotspur, whilst engaged in personal combat in front of Newcastle, had been unhorsed and his pennon had been captured. The Scottish army thereupon retired up Redesdale, pursued by Hotspur and his brother Ralph, with an army of 600 knights and squires and 8,000 infantry. Hotspur insisted on making a night attack, the most hazardous of all military operations, without giving his men any rest after a march of 32 miles and in consequence was totally defeated and taken prisoner. He was ransomed soon afterwards."
In 1399, Henry and his son were summoned to appear before King Richard II, they were suspects for plotting treason against him. Henry refused and was proclaimed a traitor by the King. He and other powerful Barons rebelled disposed of King Richard II and had King Henry IV placed on the throne. Warfare on the border continued until the Scots were defeated under Douglas at Homildon Hill in 1402. "Differences with the King concerning the ransom of prisoners taken in this battle and claims for certain payments due from the King to Northumberland and his son led, in 1403, to the famous Rising of the Percys. This was immortalized by Shakespeare in Henry IV, which ended with the Battle of Shrewsbury on July 21st, where Hotspur was killed." After the death of his son, Hotspur, Henry surrendered to the King at York. Although he was pardoned he was a prisoner for some time. Rumors of the King’s death had spread, Henry, his northern retainers in force, tried to hold Alnwick and his other castles from the King’s forces. With the threat to use cannons against them Henry surrendered.
"In 1404 Northumberland was liberated and in the following year, he again raised the standard of rebellion, this time he was to be joined by the Archbishop of York who was, however, defeated before the Earl could join him. Northumberland fled to Berwick and the King advanced northward with a large army to reduce his strongholds. Prudhoe and Warkworth both fell but Alnwick refused to surrender. The King passed on to Berwick, which yielded at the first shot from a large calibre gun, and on his return Alnwick surrendered to him."
Henry found refuge in Scotland and continued to conspire with Owen Glendower against the King. Henry died in 1409, while in his last effort, he led his own forces along with a few Scots into Yorkshire. "This forlorn hope met with a crushing defeat at Bramham Moor, where the Earl was killed." Henry was succeeded by Hotspur’s son, his grandson Henry.
Henry , 2nd Earl of Northumberland (1414-1455):
Henry was 17 years old when his grandfather died. When Henry was 12 he and James (youngest son of the Scottish King) were sailing to France where they were to be educated, when their ship was captured by English privateers. They were taken prisoner and sent to Windsor Castle. Here Henry and the Prince of Wales became close childhood friends.
The Prince was eventually crowned King Henry V, he restored back to his close friend, Henry Percy, all of his honors and estates in 1414. When King Henry V invaded France his trust in his close friend was so great he made Henry General Warden of the Marches, a post which he held throughout Henry V’s reign and the early years of King Henry VI. Like his forefathers before him Henry fought against the Scots throughout his lifetime.
"About 1424 the town of Alnwick was burnt by the Scots." In 1436, Henry leading his force up the Breamish river towards Scotland was defeated by Douglas at Piperden. Henry’s cousin Sir Richard Percy was killed. "This fight is interesting as it probably forms the source of the legendary Battle of Chevy Chase. Northumberland retired to Alnwick where he rallied his forces and marched to the relief of Roxburgh, which was holding out gallantly against the Scots. Under the walls of that town he defeated and dispersed the Scottish army. This Scottish expedition became known an the ‘Dirtin Raid’."
In 1448, Henry to revenge the burning of the town of Alnwick, burnt Dumfries in Scotland. Henry returned to Scotland again with a large army which ended in defeat at the river Sark in Annandale. His son saved Henry’s life here, but his son (Henry) was captured by the Scots. In 1452 the Wars of the Roses began. Henry took the Lancastrian side, and was killed in the first battle in this long struggle for supremacy, at St. Albans in 1455. Henry was succeeded by his son Henry.
Henry, 3rd Earl of Northumberland (1455-1461):
In 1455 Henry continued the battling life of his father. He spent his whole life fighting the Scots or the Yorkists. In 1456 Henry took part in a disastrous raid along with Earl Douglas, into Berwickshire. In 1460, Henry fought in the "Battle of Northampton where the Lancastrians were defeated and the King, Henry VI, was taken prisoner." Northern forces supported Queen Margaret and in 1461 the Queen’s victories at Wakefield and St. Alban were followed by her defeat at Mortimer’s Cross. That year Edward IV proclaimed himself King.
"On March 28th the great Battle of Towton, the bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil, resulted in the decisive defeat of the Lancastrians. The Earl of Northumberland commanded the vanguard which, harassed by a blinding snowstorm and the enemy’s arrows, received orders from him to charge, whereupon a fierce hand-to-hand conflict ensued. This ended in the complete rout of the attacking force. The Earl was among the 38,000 who are said to have fallen on that ‘evil Palm Sunday’."
Upon Henry’s death his estates were confiscated. "The earldom bestowed on Lord Montagu, brother of Warwick the King-maker. In July 1461 Alnwick Castle capitulated to Lord Hastings. The extreme north of England now became the principal seat of war, as Henry had taken refuge in Scotland and the Lancastrians relied on the help of the Scots."
In 1462, entering Northumberland from Scotland, Queen Margaret laid siege to Alnwick. Defended by Sir Ralph Grey of Wilton, Alnwick surrendered through treachery or the need for provisions. Queen Margaret placed garrisons here as well as at Bramburgh, Dunstanburgh and Warkworth. These garrisons were made up of Englishmen, Scots and Frenchmen sent to her aid by the King of France. In December 1462, King Edward’s forces led by the Earl of Warwick besieged these castles. A Scottish army of 20,000 men came to the aid of Alnwick, "but on nearing one another both armies, equally anxious to avoid an encounter, withdrew. The garrison at Alnwick decided to accompany the retiring Scots and abandoned the Castle to Warwick, who took possession in 1463. In May however, the commander of the Yorkist garrison treacherously surrendered it to Henry VI."
In 1464, Queen Margaret along with northern leaders, including Sir Ralph Percy, the late Earl’s brother invaded Northumberland, which ended in defeat where Sir Ralph Percy was killed at Hedgeley Moor on April 25, 1464. The complete defeat of the Lancastrians followed at Hexham, and Alnwick Castle once again surrendered to Warwick on June 23.
"A few years of peace now ensued, but the increasing power and treasonable designs of Warwick and his faction rendered Edward IV uneasy and, as a counterpoise to the Warwick influence in the north, he decided to restore the young son of the 3rd Earl of Northumberland to his father’s honors and estates." Imprisoned in the Tower Henry was freed and his estates were restored to him in 1469. Henry’s "formal restoration to the earldom took place in 1473."
Henry, 4th Earl of Northumberland (1469-1489):
Henry succeeded this father who died in the Battle of Towton in 1461. After being imprisoned, the King issued Henry a full pardon and restoration of the earldom and his estates. Henry became the 4th Earl of Northumberland in 1469. In 1471, Henry fought for King Edward IV at the Battle of Barnet, "where Warwick the King-maker and his brother Montagu were both killed. His influence and popularity in the North appeared to have been greater even than that of his predecessors. In 1471 and 1473 he presided over important conferences with the Scots at Alnwick to regulate Border affairs and to restore some order." In 1482, Henry led a large army into Scotland to avenge Scottish depredations successfully "forcing Scotland to accept highly unfavourable terms." In 1489, Henry was murdered by "the Mob" for helping to raise an unpopular tax. His son Henry succeeded him.
Henry, 5th Earl of Northumberland (1489-1527):
Henry was 11 years old when he succeeded his father. Known as the "Magnificent" for the "splendor of his establishment and love of display." In 1503, Henry escorted Queen Margaret (Henry VII's daughter and Henry VIII’s sister) to Berwick upon her marriage to James IV. She stayed two days and killed a buck with her bow in Herny’s deer park Cawledge Park.
In 1513, Henry fought for King Henry VIII in France at the siege of Therouenne and Tournay and at the Battle of the Spurs. Scottish hostilities arose again and Alnwick was the nucellus of the English forces. An army 26,000 men led by the Earl of Surrey joined by his son Thomas and his reinforcements left from Alnwick Castle to fight the Scottish King and won the Battle of Flodden on September 9, 1513, although Henry was in France, his brothers, William and Lionel fought in the battle. "In 1520 he was one of the ten earls appointed to wait on Francis I, the King of France, on the Field of the Cloth of Gold."
Henry was a true Renaissance nobleman. "Extremely cultured for his time and, unlike his predecessors, preferred the life of the Court to that of Border warfare." Henry was offered the appointment to Warden of the Marches, which he declined, probably due to the expenses required by that office, and because of his personal extravagance, he probably was unable to meet the appointment’s costs.
"In 1523 Surrey was Lord Warden and Alnwick again formed the place of assembly for a large army. The Earl joined Surrey at Alnwick with a force of 876 men but, as the Scottish army which threatened invasion did not advance, the English forces were disbanded."
Henry died in 1527 and was succeeded by his brother Henry.
Henry, 6th Earl of Northumberland (1527-1537):
"Known as ‘The Unthrifty’, was dogged by misfortune all his life." At a young age Henry had fallen in love with Anne Boleyn, and "was forced to renounce her by Henry VIII." Ordered by King Henry VIII, Henry arrested Cardinal Wolsey in 1530. This meeting "is faithfully recorded in Shakespeare’s ‘Henry VIII’."
Henry had been appointed a Commission member to Anne Boleyn’s trial. "A typical instance of Henry VIII’s brutality." Henry was able to avoid this painful duty by claiming he was ill.
In 1536 King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries which led to the Catholic uprising known as the "Pilgrimage of Grace", in which Henry’s brothers were the leaders and were executed for treason. His brother Sir Ingelram’s name can still be seen written in the wall of Beauchamp Tower. Henry died without an heir and due to his brother’s treason their heirs could not succeed him. "He left his estates to the crown, hoping thereby to placate the King and to induce him eventually to restore them to his brother’s family."
"He died in 1537 in dire poverty, encumbered with debt and stricken with grief at the ruin of his family." The castle was occupied by successive Wardens of the Marches, and continued "its historic role as the principal center and base for the defence of the Eastern Marches and for expeditions into Scotland by the eastern route."
Henry was succeeded in 1557 by his nephew Thomas. Twenty years after Henry’s death, Queen Mary granted Thomas the Earldom and estates of Northumberland. "Thomas Percy, the son of Thomas who had perished at Tyburn."
Thomas, 7th Earl of Northumberland (1557-1572):
Thomas succeeded his Uncle Henry Percy. He was appointed Warden of the East and Middle Marches by Queen Mary and appointed General Warden by Queen Elizabeth I. Because he kept his Catholic faith Queen Elizabeth I became suspicious of him, due to her treatment of him he decided to resign as Lord Warden in 1560. In 1561 the office was appointed to Lord Grey of Wilton who expected to move into Alnwick. To prevent this Thomas completely stripped his estate of all his furnishings. Apparently this worked according to a survey in 1567, "shows that it was provided with everything required for his own residence at that date."
Thomas was involved in a plot to place Mary Queen of Scots on the throne. In 1568 he was betrayed by the Earl of Moray. Thomas was held prisoner in Scotland until 1572. Queen Elizabeth I payed a large sum of money for Thomas’ release, and she had him taken to York where he was beheaded on August 22, 1572.
Thomas made considerable restorations to Alnwick Castle. It was in a desperate state of repair. Thomas was succeeded by his brother Henry in 1572.
Henry, 8th Earl of Northumberland (1572-1585):
Henry had the reputation as an "able soldier, diplomat and administrator in Border warfare." A Protestant he sided against his brother Thomas. He was charged by his peers for being ruthless, crafty and unscrupulous. He was suspected to have ties to the Chruch of Rome and served two terms in the Tower of London.
"In 1584 he was arrested on false charges of complicity with Mary Queen of Scots and sent to the Tower for the third time. In the following year he was found in his cell shot through the heart. The Government tried to prove that he had died by his own hand, but there were circumstances pointing to murder. The Earl was succeeded by his son Henry."
Henry, 9th Earl of Northumberland (1585-1632):
Henry was 21 years old when he succeeded his father in 1585. He appointed this cousin Thomas to be Constable of Alnwick in 1594. Thomas and his family lived in the castle, where the tenants had made numerous complaints to Henry about Thomas’ unjust, harsh and dishonest conduct. Henry still trusted his cousin this proved disastrous for Henry. After he was discovered as a prime conspirator in the Gunpowder Plot, Thomas fled but was hunted down and shot in 1605. Henry also suspected was imprisoned in the Tower for 17 years. No proof ever was found against him, and he was finally released only after the payment of a large fine.
Henry was known as the "Wizard Earl". He was devoted student of the study of chemistry and astronomy. Considered a man of great ability and learning, his pride and temper made him many enemies. Henry was succeeded by Algernon, his son in 1632.
"The Earls of Northumberland had ceased to reside in Northumberland and the influence of the family in the north waned until its revival in the 18th century."
Algernon, 10th Earl of Northumberland (1632-1668):
Algernon was 30 years at his succession of his father. Algernon was Lord High Admiral of England in 1637. He sided with Parliament against the King in 1641. "He vigorously opposed the execution of the King, refused to take any part in the public affairs under the Commonwealth, and was one of the leaders in the movement to restore Charles II to the throne."
In 1668 Algernon died and his son Josceline succeeded him.
Joseline, 11th Earl of Northumberland (1668-1670):
Josceline only survived his father two years. He was traveling and was in Turin when he died in 1670. He left a daughter, Elizabeth, who succeeded her father to the Barony. "The Earldom became extinct."
Elizabeth, Baroness Percy, Duchess of Somerset (1670-1722):
Elizabeth was 4 years old when she succeeded her father. A child bride she married Lord Ogle, who died soon after the marriage. She then was married to Thomas Thynne of Longleat, "a man of the worst character, from whom she fled to Holland, shortly after the marriage." Thomas was murdered by Count Konigsmark a Swede, in 1681. Elizabeth married Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset, in 1682. Elizabeth was Mistress of the Robes to Queen Anne. Charles was a part of the 1688 Revolution which resulted in the accession of the Hanoverian dynasty in 1714. Duchess Elizabeth died in 1722, the Duke in 1748. Algernon the 7th Duke of Somerset succeeded his father.
Alnwick by this time had "fallen into considerable decay." Some repairs were done in 1677 and continued as the Baronial officials’ residence. "In 1691 part of it was a school."
Algernon, 7th Duke of Somerset (1722-1750):
Algernon "had a distinguished career in the Army under Marlborough." He survived his father for only two years after his succession. He succeeded to the Barony of Percy upon his mother’s death in 1722. He was made Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland. Algernon frequently stayed at Alnwick during George II’s reign. He was the first Percy to live at Alnwick in over 100 years. Algernon’s daughter, Elizabeth, heir to the Barony and other Northumberland estates, married Sir Hugh Smithson, a Yorkshire Baronet. "The title of Earl of Northumberland had been conferred upon the 7th Duke of Somerset, with remainder to his son-in-law, Sir Hugh Smithson and his heirs. Accordingly, on the death of the Duke, Sir Hugh became Earl of Northumberland and, through his wife, owner of the Northumberland estates. He took the surname of Percy."
Hugh, 1st Duke of Northumberland (1750-1786):
Hugh succeeded his father-in-law in 1750. He reorganized his estates administration, brought the farming methods up to date, with management and equipment. He planted acres of trees. "In a few years, by his business capacity, energy and enterprise, effected a vast transformation in the appearance of the country around Alnwick."
Hugh was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1763. He was trusted by King George III to conduct "delicate political negotiations".
"For these and other services, and on account of his great territorial influence, he was created Duke of Northumberland in 1766."
"Prior to this he had carried out a long-cherished scheme of restoring Alnwick Castle and fitting it out as a residence for his family. The precise date when this was commenced in uncertain, probably 1755, but the work was finished in 1766. The architect employed was the celebrated Robert Adam, who adopted the style generally known as ‘Gingerbread’ or ‘Strawberry Hill’ Gothic." The restoration included elaborate wall and ceiling stucco, beautiful furniture much of which is still in use in the castle, and "the finest feature of this restoration" which is "undoubtedly the splendid fan-shaped staircase."
"The Duchess died in 1776 and the Duke in 1786. He was succeeded by his son Hugh."
Hugh, 2nd Duke of Northumberland (1786-1817):
Hugh served as a Army General in the Seven Years’ War and in the American War of Independence. From his tenantry Hugh raised a regiment of 1,500 men after threats of an invasion by Napoleon during the great French War. The men "formed into three corps of riflemen, cavalry and artillery. The Constable’s Tower was used as an armory and forge for this force, whose arms were afterwards stored there. The greater part of these were removed to the entrance hall of the Castle by the 7th Duke."
Hugh died in 1817. His son Hugh succeeded him.
Hugh, 3rd Duke of Northumberland (1817-1847):
"Was summoned to the House of Lords as Baron Percy in 1812. He represented King George IV as Special Ambassador at the Coronation of Charles X of France in 1825, and was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1829 and 1830. He died in 1847 without children and was succeeded by his brother, Algernon, Lord Prudhoe."
Algernon, 4th Duke of Northumberland (1847-1865):
Algernon fought in the Navy during the French Wars from 1804 to 1815. He "rose to the rank of Commander, and retired with the rank of Admiral. He travelled extensively and was a liberal patron of the arts and sciences, especially archaeology. He was the First Lord of the Admiralty in Lord Derby’s Ministry in 1852."
"He set about the restoration of Alnwick Castle. He considered that the Castle would be rendered much more imposing by the addition to the Keep of a central feature in the shape of a high tower dominating the others, the want of which had been noted by Sir Walter Scott when he visited Alnwick Castle."
Algernon died before the restoration was completed. In 1865, "he was succeeded by his first cousin, George, 2nd Earl of Beverley."
George, 5th Duke of Northumberland (1865-1867):
George was 87 years old when he succeeded his cousin. "He was M.P. for Beeralston 1799-1830, and Lord of the Treasury 1804-06. He was succeeded by his son."
Algernon, 6th Duke of Northumberland (1867-1899):
"Had served in the Army and as Member of Parliament, 1831-32 and 1852-65. He was Civil Lord of the Admiralty 1858, Vice-President of the Board of Trade 1859, and Lord Privy-Seal 1878-80. He completed the restoration work which still remained to be done."
"About 1885, the Record Tower in the Inner Bailey, restored in the eighteenth century, was found to be in danger of falling down. It was again restored in a manner for more in keeping with the fourteenth century, although it entailed the destruction of a fine Adam ceiling in the principal apartment of the tower. The base of this tower, which is of the fourteenth century, remains intact. The 6th Duke was succeeded by his son."
Henry, 7th Duke of Northumberland (1899-1918):
"Treasurer of the Household 1874-5, M.P. 1868-85, was summoned to the Lords as Baron Louvain in 1887."
"Early in the twentieth century he excavated the moat under the Barbican and replaced the paved roadway by a wooden bridge more in keeping with the original character of the building, providing two openings covered with iron gratings at the sides, so as to show the moat. He also built a small tower in the Outer Bailey, between the Auditor’s Tower and the Clock Tower, as a Muniment Room and added a single-storey building on the east side of the stable yards as an office for the Clerk of the Works. He also made certain additions to the north side of the stable yard, in order to provide two garages or coach-houses on either side of the archway."
Alan Ian, 8th Duke of Northumberland (1918-1930):
"Succeeded his father in 1918. He served as a Captain in the Grenadier Guards during the South African War in 1901 and 1902, obtaining the Queen’s Medal and four clasps. In 1906 he was in the Sudan Campaign, taking part in the operations in Southern Kordofan and gaining the Egyptian medal with clasp."
"During the Great War he served with the Grenadier Guards, and was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. He played a leading part in political controversies of the 1920’s, and was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland."
Henry George Alan, 9th Duke of Northumberland (1930-1940):
"Succeeded the 8th Duke in 1930. He was killed at the age of 27 at Pecq in Flanders, serving with the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards during the retreat to Dunkirk."
"During the war, part of the Castle was occupied by the Newcastle Church High School for Girls. From 1945-1975 this part was leased as a teachers’ training college. Since 1981, students from St. Cloud State University, Minnesota, have annually occupied part of the Castle as part of the University’s International Studies Programme."
"The Duke was succeeded by his brother."
Hugh, 10th Duke of Northumberland (1940-1988):
"Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland from 1956 to 1984. He was Chancellor of the University of Newcastle from 1964 to 1988 and Chairman of the Medical Research Council from 1969 to 1977. He served with the Northumberland Hussars during the Second World War. The Duke was twice President of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, in 1956 and 1962 and was chairman of the Agricultural Research Council from 1958-68. In 1968-69 he chaired the Committee of Enquiry on Foot and Mouth Disease. He was Lord Steward of H.M. Household from 1973 to 1988. The Duke was Master of the Percy Foxhounds from 1940 to 1988."
"In 1946 the Duke married Lady Elizabeth Montagu Douglas Scott, elder daughter of the 8th Duke of Buccleuch, thus uniting the Percys and the Douglases who had, for so long, been hereditary enemies. The Duke was succeeded by his eldest son, Earl Percy."
Henry Alan Walter Richard, 11th Duke of Northumberland (1988-1995):
"Was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. The Duke was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was succeeded by his younger brother Lord Ralph Percy."
Ralph Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland:
"Succeeded to the title in October 1995. He was born in 1956 and educated at Eton and Christ Chruch, Oxford. In 1979 he married Jane Richard, whose family lives in the Borders. They have four children. The Duke trained as a land surveyor and was in practice in the south of England before returning to Northumberland in 1986. He has been managing the family’s estates since 1992."
In 1755, the 1st Duke of Northumberland hired Robert Adam to remodel Alnwick which had been abandoned for nearly 100 years. The Gothic exterior is Adam’s influence. 100 years later, the 4th Duke hired Anthony Salvin to complete Alnwick’s restoration. Many of the alterations made by Adam were removed in order to restore the original medieval appearance. "The castle retains its initial plan, which consisted of a low mound, a circular keep, two baileys, and multi-towered, irregular curtain wall. A narrow roadway from the town center leads to the castle’s entrance, which today is located to the right of the barbican as you face the castle." The Percy shield with its rampant lion and family motto is carved above in the archway.
The barbican guards the main gate. It’s function is to deter any intrusion from an enemy. The barbican is separated from the main gatehouse by a ditch which still exists, and is spanned by a drawbridge. Before entering the gatehouse, you must pass through two heavy doors, and a portcullis. "This massive structure dates to 1440." It would have been extremely effective in guarding the castle’s main entrance during a siege. After the barbican and main gatehouse is the outer bailey surrounding an inner bailey which surrounds the keep which has been fully restored back to the castle’s original design.
Surrounding the Castle there are several tall "augular" (and one rectangular) Towers built into the outer curtain wall. The Auditor’s Tower still has it’s original 14th century stonework. The Clock Tower dates to the 18th century. Between the two towers there are administrative and residential buildings. The Abbot’s tower also dates to the 14th century and was the living quarters for the Abbot of Alnwick Abbey. Today it is the regimental museum of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. The Falconer’s Tower is rectangular in shape. This massive wall with it’s towers surround an inner bailey, with an equally massive (and impressive) curtain wall and Towers.
Several sections of the inner bailey’s curtain wall along with the Eastern Garret Tower, Hotspur’s Seat Guard Tower, the Constable’s Tower, the Postern Tower (which were all built by the 1st Lord Percy) and the "angular" Record Tower (which has both 14th and late 19th century masonry) date to the 1300’s, the Warder’s Tower, c.19th century (practically brand new!). The Constable and Postern Towers both are exactly like they were 700 years ago. They have needed only minimal attention and remain today in outstanding (original!) condition. The Constable’s Tower was the home of the Castle Constable. This Tower was used as an armory and equipped with arrowslits and thick battlements for defence. The Postern Tower was the "last escape" containg an escape hatch.
There is a Middle Gateway between the inner and outer baileys with a wooden bridge leading to the keep’s entrance, an archway between two large Towers. "Built in 1350, the huge octagonal towers warn the visitor to be wary of any malicious intent. Four stories tall and defended with a portcullis (only the groves remain) and wooden doors (dating to the 17th century), the gateway is splendidly aborned with carved shields."
"It only hints at the grandeur waiting ahead. An interesting ‘bottle dungeon’, barley lit with arrowslits, sits just inside the archway."
"Viewed from the exterior, the battlemented, polygonal keep is a breathaking spectacle, sitting proudly atop the low earthen mound. Masonry from virtually all building periods at the site are visible in the walling of the keep, including the Norman Era. However, the bulk of the structure dates to the 19th century restoration effort. Clearly, the most imposing, curious and entertaining feature of the keep is the presence of the life-sized stone soldiers steadfastly discouraging any attempts at takeover. These figures are visible from quite a distance and are so realistic that, even today, we must pause to remind ourselves that they are merely wonderful stone carivngs. But, their presence atop the battlements would have certainly given the enemy the distinct impression that a formibable garrison inhabited the castle."
The interiors of the castle are classical Italian designs. "The medieval great hall was retained as the principal dining room. In the Prudhoe tower, a luxurious library housing some 16,000 volumes of work occupies the whole of one floor. In fact, the entire castle is a showpiece of Victorian extravagance - from its fine art collections and gilded furniture, to its lavish mosaic floor and stucco ceilings." Attention to detail can be "seen in the decorative archways, shields and stone-carved figures that adorn the walls, gateways and battlements."
Information obtained from: Northumberland.gov.uk, Alnwick Castle web site, The Heritage Trail, Tour Uk, Britain Express, Castles of Britian, Castlegate.net and various other articles.