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The Headless Earl
Holy Trinity Goodramgate, York


Thomas Percy, the 7th Earl of Northumberland, was one of the most powerful men in 16th century England. As a staunch catholic, he continually opposed the reign of the protestant queen, Elizabeth I, from his strongholds in the North. He was involved in a long series of unsuccessful intrigues, battles and sieges designed to overthrow the lady, before finally having to flee to Scotland.

Betrayed and captured, Northumberland was eventually dragged in chains back to York to be executed for treason. Both the Pope and the King of Spain tried to buy a stay of execution, but it was not to be. Thomas was beheaded on 22nd August 1572 and his head stuck on a large spike on Micklegate Bar as a warning to would be traitors. It remained there for many years until it was eventually rescued by a sympathiser and buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Goodramgate. To this day, the headless form of the Earl staggers between the graves, of a night, searching for his capital loss.

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