Anne Somerset, Countess of Northumberland
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Anne Somerset, Countess of Northumberland

Lady Anne Somerset
Countess of Northumberland
Died17 October 1596
Noble familyPercy
Spouse(s)Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland
Elizabeth Percy
Thomas Percy
Lucy Percy
Joan Percy
Mary Percy
FatherHenry Somerset, 2nd Earl of Worcester
MotherElizabeth Browne

Anne Percy, Countess of Northumberland (née Somerset; 1536 - 17 October 1596) was an English noblewoman and one of the instigators of the Northern Rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I of England. To avoid punishment for her prominent role in the failed insurrection, Anne, along with her infant daughter, was forced into exile in Flanders, where she spent the rest of her life involving herself in Catholic plots and maintaining contact with the other English Catholic exiles. In Liège while living on a pension from King Philip II of Spain, she wrote Discours des troubles du Comte du Northumberland. Her husband Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland, who had led the rebellion, was executed for treason. Three of her daughters were left behind in England and raised by their paternal uncle, Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland.


Lady Anne was born in 1538, the daughter of Henry Somerset, 2nd Earl of Worcester and Elizabeth Browne, daughter of Sir Anthony Browne and Lucy Neville. She had four brothers and three sisters. Anne's mother had been a lady-in-waiting to the queen consort Anne Boleyn and one of the main informants against her; she was also rumoured to have been a mistress of King Henry VIII.

Anne was a devout Roman Catholic.

Marriage and issue

On 22 June 1558, she married Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland, one of the most powerful nobles in Northern England, and like Anne, he practised the Catholic religion. He was the nephew of Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland, the former suitor of Anne Boleyn.

Together they had five children:[1]

Northern Rebellion

In the autumn of 1569, together with Jane Howard, Countess of Westmoreland, Anne planned and instigated the uprising carried out by the disgruntled Catholic gentry of Northern England against Queen Elizabeth I, which became known as the Northern Rebellion.[2] (See main article: Northern Rebellion)

Anne's husband was reluctant to lead the rebellion, whose aim was to depose Queen Elizabeth and replace her with the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots, whom Catholics regarded as England's legitimate queen; however, he was soon persuaded after his servants informed him that his enemies were surrounding him. He and Anne fled to Branspeth, the home of the Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmorland, who was also persuaded to take up arms against Queen Elizabeth. It was at Branspeth where the rebellion began, headed by the two earls.

Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, who headed a detachment of royal troops sent by the Queen to quell the rising, reported that Anne, who was pregnant at the time, had been "stouter than her husband", and rode "up and down with the army".[3]


The Northern Rebellion failed due to its poor planning and lack of proper organization.[4] After the insurrection was put down by Baron Hunsdon's troops, Anne and Percy fled to Scotland where they sought refuge with Hector Graham of Harlaw, a Border outlaw. In January 1570 she stayed at Ferniehirst Castle.[5] In June 1570, Anne gave birth to her daughter, Mary in Old Aberdeen. When Graham betrayed her husband to James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, she and her baby escaped to the Continent, arriving in Bruges on 31 August 1570, where she sought aid from Pope Pius V and King Philip II of Spain to raise money for her husband's ransom; the Pope gave her four thousand crowns and King Philip sent her six thousands marks.[6] It was to no avail. Anne would spend the rest of her life as an exile in Flanders, while in 1572, Earl Morton sold her husband to Queen Elizabeth who had him publicly executed at York for treason.

In Liège while living on a pension provided by King Philip, she wrote and circulated Discours des troubles du Comte du Northumberland.[3] She spent the next decade travelling from place to place in Flanders, maintaining contact with the other English Catholic exiles. In 1573, English agents described Anne as "one of the principal practitioners at Mechlin".[7] In 1576, she was briefly expelled from the territory to placate Queen Elizabeth, but returned shortly afterwards. At one stage she endeavoured to arrange a marriage between Don John of Austria and the captive Mary, Queen of Scots.[8] She left her three oldest daughters behind in England when she escaped after the failed Northern Rebellion. They were raised at Petworth by her late husband's brother, Henry Percy who had succeeded as the 8th Earl of Northumberland. He was married to Katherine Neville, the eldest daughter of her half-sister, Lucy. Her youngest daughter, Mary who had accompanied her to the Continent, became the abbess of the Benedictine convent in Brussels which she had herself founded.


In September 1591, Charles Paget, an exile in Antwerp, informed the Percy's that Anne had died and requested that they send her daughter Joan to Flanders to fetch her belongings. This had been only a ruse designed to enable Anne to see her daughter.[3] In point of fact, Anne died of smallpox five years later on 17 October 1596 at a convent in Namur.



  1. ^
  2. ^ Kathy Lynn Emerson, A Who's Who of Tudor Women
  3. ^ a b c Emerson
  4. ^ Antonia Fraser, Mary, Queen of Scots, p.485
  5. ^ Thomas Wright, Queen Elizabeth and her Times, vol. 1 (London, 1838), p. 351.
  6. ^ Luminarium: Encyclopedia Project, sourced from Dictionary of National Biography
  7. ^ Luminarium, sourced from the Dictionary of National Biography
  8. ^ Luminarium, sourced from Dictionary of National Biography

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