Henry Percy was born at Alnwick Castle in May 13 64, the eldest son of the Earl of Northumberland. He was knighted in April 13 77 and quickly won a reputation as a skilled military commander. In 1384 he was appointed warden of the East March, responsible for defending the border with Scotland.The following year, he accompanied King Richard the second on his campaign into Scotland. Because of his skill and the speed of his attacks the Scots nicknamed him ‘Haatspore’ (literally ‘more heat’). 1386 saw him in France as part of the Garrison in Calais. He led raids into French territory and was present at the siege of Brest. In August 13 88 he was back in England and present at the battle of Otterburn, where he was captured by the Scots forces and ransomed. In the years that followed, he undertook a number of diplomatic missions travelling as far afield as Cyprus, before returning to France in 1395 as deputy commander to the Duke of Lancaster.
The Percy family sided with Henry Bollingbrooke against King Richard the second and as a result, fell into disfavour. When Henry landed in England in 1399, the Percy’s and their forces joined him. When Henry came to the throne, the Percy family found themselves back in favour. Hotspur continued to act as one of the senior commanders of the Kings Army fighting in Scotland and in North Wales, but over the years, a gradual mistrust was developing between the Percy family and the King.
In 1403, the Percy’s joined with Owen Glendower, the Welsh prince, in rebellion against the King, but the rebel forces were defeated at the Battle of Shrewsbury in July of that year. Hotspur was killed in the battle although the circumstances of his death are unclear. Some sources say that an arrow struck him in the face, whilst his visor was raised. Shakespeare, writing much later, claimed that he was killed in single combat by the King’s son, the Prince of Wales. The other leaders of the rebellion were captured and executed. Hotspur was declared a traitor and his lands were seized by the King. His dead body was beheaded, quartered and then distributed to the corners of the kingdom. Eventually the family were allowed to collect the remains and to bury him in York Minster.