AskDefine | Define hotspur

Dictionary Definition



1 English soldier killed in a rebellion against Henry IV (1364-1403) [syn: Percy, Sir Henry Percy, Harry Hotspur]
2 a rash or impetuous person

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Somebody who is rash, impetuous or impulsive.


Extensive Definition

Harry was born at Alnwick (or Spofforth castle in North Yorkshire) and early acquired a great reputation as a warrior, fighting against the Scots and the French. He fought against the Scottish forces of James Douglas, 2nd Earl of Douglas at the midnight Battle of Otterburn in August, 1388 and was captured, but later ransomed. He went to Calais in 1391 and served as Governor of Bordeaux from 1393 to 1395.
After his return from Valois Dynasty France, Harry joined with his father and helped depose King Richard II in favour of Henry of Bolingbroke, who later became King Henry IV.

Rebellion and death

Later with his paternal uncle Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester, he led a rebellion against Henry IV in 1403, forming an alliance with the Welsh rebel, Owain Glyndŵr. Before they could join forces, Hotspur was defeated and killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury when he raised his visor to get some air (as he was wearing plate armour which restricted air circulation) and was immediately hit in the mouth with an arrow and killed instantly.
Henry IV, upon being brought the body after the battle, was said to have wept and ordered the body buried. Hotspur was buried in Whitchurch, Shropshire, but was later exhumed, by order of the same king, when rumours circulated that he was still alive. His body was first displayed in Shrewsbury, impaled on a spear, but was later cut up into four quarters and sent around all of England. His head was stuck on a pole at York's gates.

Marriage and children

He married Lady Elizabeth Mortimer, daughter of Edmund Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March and Philippa. Philippa was daughter of Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence and Elizabeth de Burgh, 4th Countess of Ulster. Lionel was son of Edward III of England and his consort Philippa of Hainault. Harry and Elizabeth had three children:

Hotspur in literature

Harry's squire, John Harding, wrote a history of England which is largely a story of the greatness of the Percy family. This history is one of the sources for Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1, which was sub-titled the Life and Death of Henry surnamed Hotspur. In the play, he is portrayed as being of the same age as his main rival, Prince Hal (Henry V of England), when in fact Hotspur was considerably older, Prince Henry being a teenager of 16 at the time.


  • Alnwick Castle; Home of the Duke of Northumberland.

Further reading

  • Rose, Alexander: Kings in the North - The House of Percy in British History. Phoenix/Orion Books Ltd, 2002, ISBN 1-84212-485-4 (722 pages paperback)
  • Nigel Tranter, The Stewart Trilogy, Dunton Green, Sevenoaks, Kent : Coronet Books, 1986. ISBN 0-340-39115-4. Lords of Misrule, 1388-1396. A Folly of Princes, 1396-1402. The Captive Crown, 1402-1411.
hotspur in German: Henry Percy
hotspur in Polish: Harry Hotspur
hotspur in Finnish: Harry Hotspur
hotspur in Swedish: Harry Hotspur
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