Thomas Percy was the 7th Earl of Northumberland (1528–72). Born of a noble lineage, his uncle, the 6th earl of Northumberland, died in June 1537 at the age of 35. It’s said that the 6th earl of Northumberland had died of grief at the execution of Anne Boleyn. Thomas’ father, Sir Thomas Percy, was executed in the same month for his role in the Pilgrimage of Grace.
In 1549, Thomas Percy was restored in blood, and in 1557, after helping Mary to suppress an uprising in the North, he was made earl of Northumberland.
After receiving the title of earl, Percy was made warden of the east in 1558 and given the Garter in 1563.
In 1569, after climbing to great heights, Percy’s downfall began. He joined forces with the earl of Westmorland in the rising of the northern earls, which captured Durham and celebrated mass in the cathedral. The uprising wouldn’t last long however, and when it collapsed, Percy fled to Scotland.
After arriving in Scotland, Percy was betrayed, and handed back over to the crown. He was dragged to York in chains, where he refused to abandon his religion and on 22nd Aug 1572, he was beheaded for treason in front of All Saints Church.
His head was stuck on a spike on Micklegate Bar, and served as a warning to anybody else who had plans to become a traitor.
His head remained on the spike at Micklegate Bar for years, until it was rescued and buried in the churchyard at Holy Trinity Church in Goodramgate. Although his head was buried at Holy Trinity, the rest of his body was buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard of St Crux after his execution.
The ghost of Thomas Percy is often seen in York, as a headless body stumbling around the graves at Holy Trinity. As the 7th earl of Northumberland wanders around the graveyard in search for his head, its also said that the ghost of nun haunts the same graveyard in Goodramgate.
York is said to be the most haunted city in England, and the ghost of Thomas Percy is just one of many ghosts that have reportedly been seen around York.