Lions of the North 1000 years of British drama, politics, wars and wizardry

Thursday 12/03/2020
Lions of the North  1000 years of British drama, politics, wars and wizardry

Lions of the North is the definitive book on the Percy family and Alnwick Castle, as well as an account of British history and a fascinating glimpse into real people’s lives over the last thousand years.

Carefully researched, photographed and written by the 12th Duke of Northumberland himself, Ralph Percy, this wonderful tale has over 200 beautiful illustrations and many personal photographs and is an engaging, informative read for anyone interested in Northumberland and history. It’s also written from a unique and personal perspective which bring the pages to life.

In his foreword, Historian and TV presenter Dan Snow says: “Military stronghold, seat of noble power, architectural icon, film set and visitor attraction, Alnwick’s journey mirrors our collective journey. The story of Alnwick is the story of England.”

Ralph Percy, Duke of Northumberland will give an illustrated talk on Lions of the North at Alnwick Castle on Thursday 2 April at 7.15pm (gates open at 6.45pm). After the talk, the audience will have an exclusive opportunity to see some of the original items featured in the book - not usually on public display - in a new exhibition for 2020. These include the 1512 “Household” book of Alnwick Castle, a contemporary map of the opening battle of the American War of Independence, and many more amazing artefacts.  

Tickets for this event and more information is available on the Alnwick Castle website: https://www.alnwickcastle.com/events/lions-of-the-north-book-talk-and-exhibition-viewing - at £11.50. If you would like to pre-order a signed copy of the book to collect on the night, the books cost from £15.00 to £25.00 (paperback or hardback).

Regretfully, copies of Lions of the North can only be ordered via the Castle website to collect at the event and not as a general purchase. However, the book is also available from good booksellers and from Amazon. It is published by Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers Ltd.

“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. The famous Harry Hotspur (Henry Percy) was one of the principal political figures of the late 14th century but rebelled against the king and was killed at The Battle of Shrewsbury. Lands were lost and, as the Duke says, the family was reduced to “a few heads and limbs rotting on spikes in York”.  Undaunted, they managed to revive their fortunes, with many more dramas ensuing – as you will read.  

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 us 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.

Lions of the North is a truly fascinating and engaging portrait of an amazing British dynasty who have survived against the odds.

Ralph Percy says: “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.”

Historian Dan Snow says: “Some places are portals to the past. Places where history has been forged again and again. Places which continue to shape us and our society. Alnwick Castle, one of the world’s most spectacular fortresses…is one of those places…

To book tickets for the Lions of the North talk and order signed copies of the book, please go to https://www.alnwickcastle.com/events/lions-of-the-north-book-talk-and-exhibition-viewing.

Alnwick Castle opens to the public for 2020 on 27 March 2020. For more information please visit www.alnwickcastle.com

Published: Thursday 12/03/2020

By Visit Northumberland

Places in this article

Alnwick Castle Exterior
Alnwick Castle
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Alnwick Castle is the one of the largest inhabited castles in England; it has been home to the Duke of Northumberland’s family, the Percys, for over 700 years.

Combining magnificent medieval architecture with spectacular Italianate State Rooms, Alnwick Castle is one of the UK’s most significant heritage destinations. In recent years, it has taken starring roles in a number of film and television productions, most famously featuring as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter films and as Brancaster Castle in ITV’s Downton Abbey. 

 

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