26 August 2023

Blessed Thomas Percy

 Today, in those Northern Catholic English dioceses which experienced the Northern Rising of November 1569, is the festival of Blessed Thomas Percy, nobleman and English magnate beheaded in York on August 22, 1572, after the Tudorette's hatchet men had suppressed the Rising. Fr Thomas Plumtree, of Corpus Christi College in this University, chaplain to the insurgents, had been executed in Durham in January of 1570.

Both of these were among the English Martyrs whose portraits, with emblems of Martyrdom, were painted in the church of the Venerable English College in Rome in 1583. This provided a legal basis for Leo XIII to beatify them equipollently per modum cultus.

Interestingly, the Masses Proper to England and Wales provide Bl Thomas with the same Mass (mutatis mutandis) as Bl Adrian Fortescue: Venditum iustum. I wonder if anybody has evidence as to for which of the pair of them this very elegant Mass was first composed ... was it produced in Birmingham or Hexham?

There is a sweet little window of Bl Thomas in the former, sweet little Regency, Catholic Church in Alnwick, under the shadows of Alnwick Castle (the church was sold off, of course; the Catholics bought instead a former Anglican church; dereliction has also visited the adjacent convent).

Sadly, the Percys, Earls of Northumberland, did not persist in recusancy. 

But foreign tourists to this land can visit their Castle at Alnwick  ... crammed full of wonders. The Percy Family continues from generation to generation, deserving as ever of our respect because of its incredible uninterrupted antiquity ...

... or, rather, it doesn't. The Percys failed in the male line in the mid-eighteenth century. An heiress was scooped up by a Yorkshireman called Smithson, who changed his name to Percy, and his Arms accordingly. An ancient Earldom was not good enough; the government eventually created a "Dukedom of Northumberland" for him.

There is an anecdote that Smithson ("Percy") asked George III for the Garter, observing that he was the first Percy who had not been given it. 'Farmer George' is reported to have commented that he was the first Smithson to have asked for it.

American visitors to these shores should not be taken in by our grand old English aristocracy. Nearly all these families are parvenu and, in any case, a fair number of them are people people of poor taste and shallow culture.

And their "castles" (Windsor; Arundel; Alnwick ...) nearly always turn out to be largely Victorian.

Whenever these folk are short of cash, they either (a) marry an American heiress; or (b) sell off yet more heirlooms (often to America); or (c) both. 

But I bet Blessed Thomas, Martyr, faithfully prays for us all.


Atticus said...

If you'll indulge a link to the Manchester Gurnard, there's more recent evidence of the duke's, um, fiscal efficiency here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/aug/01/homes-proposal-an-effort-to-line-duke-of-northumberlands-pockets

William Tighe said...

For expansion of the statements in the three paragraphs preceding the last in this posting, see these two books by Madeleine Beard:

Acres and Heirlooms: The Survival of Britain's Historic Estates, Routledge, 1989; ISBN: 9780415032643

and especially Faith and Fortune, Gracewing, 1997; ISBN: 0852443927

El Codo said...

I recall John Barkley of the castle telling me in the back of a taxi that there were only three pre medieval families in England of whom of course his was one.

El Codo said...

Sorry…Berkeley of the castle…