Wednesday, February 24, 2010

{9} Who Was Dame Maud (née Percy) Ryther?

Ryther Coat of Arms
[Azure, three crecents or]

This is an updated version of my 2006 post to SocGenMed. It at least gets some content up on the blog while I'm busy with the Olympics. Don't worry - another Plantagenet post is coming soon.

In the Ryther pedigree in the 1563 Visitation of Yorkshire, Sir Ralph Ryther is given an unidentified first wife, as well as a second wife "Matilda daughter of Henry Percy, Erle of Northumberland". In the Constable pedigree of the same Visitation, "Kateren", daughter of Sir Robert Constable of Flamborough, and his wife Agnes Wentworth, is married to "Sir Raff Ryther", and was indeed his first wife. But in the Percy pedigree of the 1563 Visitation, there is no mention of a Percy/Ryther marriage. The editor of the Visitation comments on the Percy/Ryther marriage: “His second wife was Maud, daughter of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland,--the fourth Earl, I believe…Vincent, in his ‘Baronage’, calls her Katherine, daughter of Sir Thomas Percy and Eleanor Harbottle; but the dates are against him.”

So who was the Percy second wife of Sir Ralph Ryther? There are six possibilities:

1) Katherine, daughter of Sir Thomas Percy and Eleanor Harbottle, and sister of the ill-fated 7th and 8th Earls of Northumberland, as claimed by 17th-century Windsor Herald Augustine Vincent. This identity was continued in Collins’ Peerage, and remains in many modern-era Percy pedigrees, including W. Percy Hedley’s Northumberland Families (1968-70).
2) Maud, legitimate daughter of Henry Algernon Percy, 5th Earl of Northumberland and his wife Catherine Spencer. The 1563 Visitation of Yorkshire gives them a daughter “Lady Mary” who died young, while Henry Lane in his 1910 work Royal Daughters of England and Their Representatives says this daughter was Maud Percy who died young. She may not have died young, but instead married Sir Ralph Ryther.
3) Maud, illegitimate daughter of Henry Algernon Percy, 5th Earl of Northumberland. This could be why she was left off of the 1563 Visitation pedigree.
4) Maud, granddaughter of Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland and his wife Maud Herbert. Not through the 5th Earl, but through one of his younger brothers.
5) Maud, illegitimate daughter of Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. Again, illegitimacy would be the reason why she was left off of the 1563 Percy pedigree.
6) Maud, legitimate daughter of the 4th Earl of Northumberland and his wife Maud Herbert.

A look at the Rythers and their surviving documents eliminates a number of the above possibilities.

Sir Ralph Ryther, lord of Ryther Castle in Yorkshire and associated manors, including Scarcroft, Shadwell, Kirkby upon Wharf, and Hornington in the city of York, as well as the Lincolnshire manors of Alford and Kelcottes, and half of the castle and manor of Harewood in Yorkshire (which the Rythers shared with the Redman family for several generations), was born about 1450, the second son of Sir William Ryther (died 19 July 1475) and Eleanor Fitzwilliam. On the death of his elder brother Sir Robert Ryther in 1491, Ralph inherited the family castle and estates. About that time, he married Catherine, one of the daughters of Sir Robert Constable of Flamborough, and they had two sons, Robert and Thomas, and a daughter Eleanor. Ralph was made a Knight of the Bath on Prince Henry’s creation as Duke of York 1 November 1494, served with the Earl of Surrey in Scotland and was made knight banneret by him in 1497. Both his father and his elder brother had served as sheriff of Yorkshire, and Sir Ralph continued the family influence by serving as sheriff in 1503-04.
Constable of Flamborough
Coat of Arms

His status as a powerful member of the Yorkshire gentry was confirmed by the marriages he arranged for his children. His elder son Robert was contracted to marry Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Gascoigne of Gawthorpe and his wife Alice Frognell. They were children, and the marriage terminated with the death of young Robert Ryther, probably around 1508 or so. Little Elizabeth Gascoigne was then married (by 1510) to Robert Redman (d. 1545), the son and heir of Edward Redman, who shared the lordship of Harewood Castle with Sir Ralph Ryther. The younger son Thomas Ryther then became his father’s heir and a marriage was arranged for him in about 1510 (the marriage settlement was dated 2 April 1510) with Agnes, one of the younger sisters of Henry, 7th Lord Scrope of Bolton. Sir Ralph arranged his daughter Eleanor in marriage to John, the son and heir of Robert Aske of Aughton, and a nephew of the 10th Lord Clifford.

It is not known when Sir Ralph’s first wife Katherine Constable died, but it was likely in the first decade of the 16th century, for on 7 October 1510, Sir Ralph enfeoffed Sir William Percy and others with his two Lincolnshire manors, for the use of “Dame Matilde” his wife, for her life. With his second wife, Sir Ralph had a son, Henry Ryther, born in late 1511 (said to be nearly age 16 in October 1527), and a daughter Elizabeth Ryther, who was also under age when Sir Ralph wrote his will on 26 March 1520. He died at Sheffield on 2 April 1520, and was buried in the All Hallows church in Ryther. His will was proven on 15 April, and his IPM was taken on 14 May. His second wife survived him, and his heir was his (now) elder son Thomas Ryther, husband of Agnes Scrope.

It is not surprising that Sir Ralph looked to the Percy family for a young bride after the death of his first wife, for Sir William Gascoigne (d. 1552), the father of his elder son Robert’s young wife Elizabeth, was a first cousin of the 5th Earl of Northumberland, and Agnes Scrope (d. 1525), the young wife of his next son Thomas, was another first cousin of the 5th Earl. That his Percy second wife was a full generation (likely close to 40 years) younger than him was also not surprising for the early Tudor era, nor was it surprising that the Percy family would want to closely ally itself with Ryther, who was of importance and influence in Yorkshire.

Percy Coat of Arms
[Or, a lion rampant azure]
With the Ryther chronology laid out, several of the above possibilities for the identity of Sir Ralph’s Percy wife can be eliminated.

1) Katherine, daughter of Sir Thomas Percy and Eleanor Harbottle. That Sir Ralph’s second wife was named Maud/Matilda, not Katherine, is proven by the will of her stepson Thomas Ryther, Esquire, of Ryther Castle, dated 1 July 1527, who refers to her as “Dame Matilde”, and the will of her own son Henry Ryther, Esquire, of Ryther Castle, dated 23 January 1543, who refers to her as “dame Mawde my mother”. It is chronologically impossible for Sir Thomas Percy, born about 1505, and Eleanor Harbottle, born about 1513, to have been the parents of Sir Ralph Ryther’s second wife, who was married in 1510 and a mother in 1511. Whether or not they even had a daughter named Katherine is unclear, but if so, she was certainly not married to any Ryther. The only children of Sir Thomas Percy (d. 2 June 1537) and Eleanor Harbottle (d. 1567) that can be confirmed in contemporary records are their sons Thomas (born 10 June 1528, eventual 7th Earl of Northumberland), Henry (born about 1532, eventual 8th Earl of Northumberland), and daughter Mary (born about 1531, said to be buried 7 February 1598, age 66, married Francis Slingsby of Scriven, Yorkshire), who are mentioned in the wills of their grandmother Katherine (Spencer), Countess of Northumberland (dated 14 October 1542) and their stepfather Sir Richard Holland of Denton, Lancashire (dated 27 March 1548). The Harris pedigree in the 1558 Visitation of Essex gives the wife of “Arthur Harris of Prickwell in Sussex” as “Joane”, daughter of Sir Thomas Percy and Eleanor Harbottle, but only the three children Thomas, Henry and Mary are given to the couple in the Percy pedigree in the 1563 Visitation of Yorkshire. The Herald Vincent also assigns them the daughter Joan wife of Arthur Harris in addition to Mary and to Katherine wife of Ralph Ryther. It would appear from 16th-century evidence however that Mary was the only surviving daughter of Sir Thomas Percy and Eleanor Harbottle who went on to marry.
5th Earl of Northumberland &
Katherine Spencer escutcheon

at Petworth House, Sussex

2) Maud, legitimate daughter of Henry Algernon Percy, 5th Earl of Northumberland and his wife Katherine Spencer. The 5th Earl was born 14 January 1478, and Katherine Spencer was born 1477. The account in Complete Peerage [CP] of the 5th Earl says only that they were married “before 1502”. It is very likely the marriage took place several years earlier, perhaps arranged as early as 1489. His father the 4th Earl was murdered in April that year, and the 11-year-old 5th Earl became a ward of the crown and made a Knight of the Bath at the creation of Arthur as Prince of Wales in November. Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, mother of the King, actively arranged marriages for her extended family and the mother of Katherine Spencer was a Beaufort cousin. Lady Anne Clifford, writing an account of her family in the late 17th-century, refers to Lady Margaret Percy, the second wife of the 1st Earl of Cumberland, as “first child and only daughter” of the 5th Earl and Catherine Spencer, and goes on to say, “She was born 10 or 11 years before any of her brothers, & lived so long only child to her father & mother, so as they resolved to give her a good portion in lands.” Indeed her parents gave her on her marriage, contracted on 2 February 1513, the Percy lordships in Craven (with an income of about ƒ120 a year) for life. Thomas Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland, was born about 1502, placing his sister Margaret’s birthdate, per Lady Anne Clifford’s account, as 1491/2, which is too early, given the birthdates of her parents. Margaret Percy, Countess of Cumberland, was likely born about 1495/6, with her parents cohabiting about 1494, possibly around November when the 5th Earl participated in the creation of Prince Henry as Duke of York. Given the chronology, plus the fact that Maud Percy brought to her marriage to Sir Ralph Ryther in 1510 nothing near to what Margaret Percy brought to her marriage to Henry Clifford in 1513, plus the fact that Katherine, Countess of Northumberland (who outlived all of her children) in her 1542 will mentions grandchildren from her three children who left issue and makes no mention of Henry Ryther, who was still alive at the time, Sir Ralph Ryther’s second wife Maud could not have been the daughter of the 5th Earl and Catherine Spencer. If they did have a daughter Mary/Maud, as given in the Percy pedigree in the 1563 Visitation, contemporary evidence shows she indeed died young, with Countess Margaret being their eldest and only surviving daughter.

3) Maud, illegitimate daughter of Henry Algernon Percy, 5th Earl of Northumberland. Though it would seem natural for the 5th Earl to name a natural-born daughter after his own mother, chronology is too tight for the earl, born January 1478, to father a daughter who was herself a mother in 1511. Also if Sir Ralph Ryther was marrying the illegitimate daughter of the 5th Earl, it would make more sense for him to have made the Earl himself one of the feoffees in 1510 overseeing her interests, rather than the Earl’s younger brother Sir William Percy.

4) Maud, granddaughter of Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland and his wife Maud Herbert. Could the fact that it was Sir William Percy, second son of the 4th Earl, who was chosen by Sir Ralph Ryther in 1510 as a feoffee overseeing Maud’s interests, indicate that Sir William was Maud’s father? Again, chronology is just too tight for Sir William Percy, Alan Percy (who embarked on a clerical career) or Joscelin Percy (d. 1532), the younger sons of the 4th Earl, who all had to have been born between 1479 and 1484, to have fathered a daughter, legitimate or otherwise, who was herself a mother in 1511.

5) Maud, illegitimate daughter of Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. The 4th Earl was born about 1449 and could have fathered bastard children at any point from his reaching puberty in the late 1460s to his 1489 murder. Maud’s marriage to Sir Ralph Ryther in 1510 and the birth of their son Henry the following year would indicate a birth for Maud in the 1480s, though she could have been born, from a biological standpoint, as early as 1473 or so. Since the Ryther pedigree in the 1563 Visitation mentions only her father the Earl, and there is no mention of her in the Percy pedigree in the same Visitation, illegitimacy cannot be ruled out. However if the case, it is curious that the 4th Earl would give a bastard daughter the same first name as that of his wife.
4th Earl of Northumberland blazon of arms
[Percy/Lucy quartering Poynings]

6) Maud, legitimate daughter of Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland and his wife Maud Herbert. At first glance, this possibility seems easily ruled out. CP states the 4th Earl and Maud were married “about 1476”, but they were actually married by Michaelmas (October) 1472 (see Michael Hicks, “Dynastic Change and Northern Society: The Career of the Fourth Earl of Northumberland, 1470-89” in Northern History, xiv (1978), pp. 83-84). Per the Percy pedigree in the Visitation of the North circa 1480-1500, their children were: “Henricus Percy, Anna, Elizabeth Percy obijt iuuencula, and Aleonora.” Per the will of the 4th Earl, dated 27 July 1485 as he was mustering to fight for Richard III at Bosworth, his children were sons Henry, William, Alan and Jocelin, and daughters Eleanor and Anne. No daughter Maud. Eleanor (named for paternal grandmother Eleanor, Countess of Northumberland), the eldest surviving daughter (and no doubt born before her brother Henry the 5th Earl), was bequested 3,000 marks as her marriage portion by her father, and was contracted in marriage in 1490, the year following her father’s murder, to Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham. Anne Percy (named for maternal grandmother Anne, Countess of Pembroke), bequested 2,000 marks as a marriage portion by her father, did not marry William, son and heir of the Earl of Arundel, until February 1511, when she was well over age 25 and possibly (if older than her brother the 5th Earl) over age 30. Why there was such a delay in her marrying is not clear.

Per CP, Maud Herbert, wife of the 4th Earl, died before July 1485, when her husband made his will, preparing to go into battle, which occurred the following month at Bosworth. So it would appear there is no room for another daughter Maud, wife of Sir Ralph Ryther.  But CP is incorrect in its statement about Maud Herbert’s death. A full reading of the 4th Earl’s will shows that she was alive when he wrote it. He goes into great detail about his funeral arrangements, and prayers for the soul of himself and his parents, without any indication that his wife had died. And later he clearly states, “Also I will that William Rilston [an executor and one of his most trusted retainers] have fourtie markes yerlie during his lyve, t’abide wt my wyff and wt myne heir.” So, how did CP get confused? Because a codicil to the will, added by the 4th Earl “at Newburgh, ye xxiiij day of Fev’yer, wt my hand” adds the following, “Also I wol ther be mortest as moch land to Beverlay, wher my wife lyes, and I entend shal lye…” So at some point after Bosworth, Countess Maud died. The 4th Earl was imprisoned after the battle but released by December 1485, so the February 24th codicil could have been written in 1486/87/88 or 89. Countess Maud was a young woman in the late 1480s, in her early 30s at the most – could her death have been in childbirth? A daughter Maud, born in 1486/88, would be of the perfect age for marriage in October 1510.

After the 4th Earl’s children were orphaned in April 1489, the two eldest, Eleanor and Henry, in their preteens, were taken in by the Court and soon married, probably under the watchful eyes of the King’s mother and her good friend their maternal aunt Anne (Herbert), Lady Powis. Anne, the next daughter, probably close in age, may have been taken into the Court as well. But the younger sons, all under age 10, would have been given to the care of their father’s executors, as per the instructions in his will, until they reached the age of 18. And little Maud would have been a mere infant, perhaps sent to the household of one of her paternal aunts, Dame Margaret Gascoigne or Elizabeth, Lady Scrope of Bolton? Each of which ladies would see a granddaughter and daughter, respectively, married to a son of Sir Ralph Ryther before October 1510. And it would be perfectly natural for the brother who would oversee Maud’s interests in her marriage to Sir Ralph, to not be her eldest brother the 5th Earl, raised far away from her at Court, but her next eldest brother Sir William, himself approaching age 30 in 1510, who was her oldest sibling while they were raised in the North.
All Saints Church, Ryther
It is not clear when Dame Maud Ryther died. She was alive when her stepson Thomas Ryther made his will in 1527 and dead by the time her son Henry Ryther made his will in 1543. Perhaps she is mentioned in the wills of Eleanor, Duchess of Buckingham (1528), Joscelin Percy (1532), or Anne, Countess of Arundel (1552), and her identification as their sister can be confirmed.

At this point, her identification as a daughter of the 4th Earl of Northumberland seems very solid on chronological and other evidence (she named her son ‘Henry’), and the possibility of her being a daughter by his wife Maud Herbert seems promising as well.

Maud Percy’s daughter Elizabeth Ryther married, at some point after 1527, William Acclom of Moreby Hall, Yorkshire, and died before her brother Henry, who died without issue 5 January 1544, when his nephew William Acclom (d. 1567) was found to be one of his co-heirs, and the latter carried the line of his grandmother Maud Percy further forward, with hundreds of descendants living today.

Cheers,                  -----Brad


  1. 40% detective + 30% lawyer + 10% genius + 10% luck + 10% lots and lots of reading and notes = 100% genealogist

    You make persuasive arguments. Thanks for reminding us that we need to think logically and systematically about genealogy. A great saying is "unsubstantiated genealogy is mythology" but even sometimes the sources are a bit on the dodgy side!

  2. Thanks, Kate. One of my goals with this blog is to bring the genealogy to life a little more by adding history & biography. There's more to say about the Rythers, but it'll have to wait until I get my notes on the family out of storage.

  3. Hi Brad,

    As usual, a very strong, well reasoned stance. when are you going to write a book? I'm still wiating for the book version of Blacklow Hill. Pleas tell me it's in progress.

  4. The Olympics really came to a happy end for Canada with the gold medal in ice hockey. But did you need to make it so exciting, lol?

    The German silver medal in the 50 km cross country skiing was a nice addidion as well. I mentioned before that I have a particular fondness for that sport. I never did the 50 or even then 30, though.

  5. AJ, thanks! My goal is to have Blacklow Hill written out by the end of this year.

    Gabriele, was that a nail-biting hockey game, or what? The Olympics were incredible - Vancouver is in such a hangover mode right now. The party is over. I can't imagine cross country skiing 5 miles, let alone 30 or 50!

  6. Brad the ice hockey game was so amazing - fancy the USA scoring an equaliser in the last 24 seconds! I was barracking for Canada to win the game (I am sure the fabulous Michael Buble's head EXPLODED!) I remember Sydney felt so bereft once the Olympics were over. We loved it so much! Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and the vibe in the city was great. Right back to work for you now!