Described by John Taylor in 1626 as “a pretty Market-towne, where the Earle of Northumberland hath a goodly house, and […]s an honourable and bounteous housekeeper. It hath these two Tavernes, Anthony Goodman, and John Hall”
Petworth House was home in the 16th and 17th centuries to four Earls of Northumberland. The 8th Earl Henry Percy was the first Percy in some decades to live at Petworth, having been sent their by Elizabeth after she discovered his supposed involvement in the Ridolfi plot. He was later imprisoned after his involvement in yet another Catholic plot, and apparently committed suicide by shooting himself in the heart. The 9th Earl, often called “the wizard Earl” owing to his interest in alchemy, was once a favoured courtier of Elizabeth. His tangential involvement in the gunpowder plot (by way of a reprobate cousin) lead to his imprisionment in the tower for 17 years, after which he retired to Petworth. His son Algernon Percy, the 10th Earl, inherited Petworth from his father along with the Earldom. The 10th Earl put a lot of effort into restoring the family’s reputation and status both politically and socially, but is generally remembered as a military man and as a leading proponent of the parliamentarian cause. His son Josceline died without male issue only two years after inheriting Petworth from his father, leaving it to his daughter Elizabeth, who married Charles Seymour, the Duke of Somerset. Somerset entirely remodelled the house in the late 17th century into the building we see today.
The 9th Earl, painted by Nicholas Hilliard in miniature