Duke of Northumberland lifts the lid on life at Alnwick Castle with new book chronicling the past 1,000 years

The Duke of Northumberland has researched, photographed and written a definitive new book on the Percy family and Alnwick Castle.

Wednesday, 11th March 2020, 4:45 pm
The Duke of Northumberland and the cover of his new book.
The Duke of Northumberland and the cover of his new book.

Lions of the North: The Percys & Alnwick Castle, a thousand years of history tells how and why the colourful Percy family played prominent - often controversial - roles in nearly every military event in British history from the Battle of Hastings to the Wars of the Roses, the English Civil War, the Second World War and beyond.

Politically the Percys held high office, but with mixed fortunes. Many lost their heads or were imprisoned in the Tower.

Lands were lost, but the family managed to revive their fortunes, with many more dramas ensuing.

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Ralph, Duke of Northumberland.

Fascinating too, are the personal stories of people living in Alnwick Castle. For instance, children in the 16th Century would have mutton bones and weak beer for breakfast. When the family were on their travels, they would take furniture, including window panes, along with them.

And Lucy, the sister of the 10th Earl of Northumberland was a colourful figure with numerous lovers; she ended up in the Tower, threatened with torture by Cromwell, and was the inspiration behind Alexandre Dumas’ Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers.

The Duke also gives a glimpse into his own childhood, growing up in Alnwick Castle, roller-skating through the State Rooms, ice-skating on the River Aln and firing water pistols at the priceless furniture – sometimes with dire consequences.

Ralph Percy, the 12th Duke of Northumberland, said: “My grandfather’s book on the history of the family and Alnwick Castle was written nearly 100 years ago and so much has happened since then.

“I felt it was a good time to write an up-to-date, engaging book for everyone. Learning more about these lives – the challenges, triumphs and disasters - through the ages, was absolutely fascinating and I hope I’ve brought some of that enthusiasm to this book.”

In his foreword, historian and TV presenter Dan Snow, writes that ‘the story of Alnwick is the story of England’.

The Duke will give an illustrated talk on Lions of the North at Alnwick Castle on Thursday, April 2, at 7.15pm.