Lord Richard Percy

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Lord Richard Percy
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Born(1921-02-11)February 11, 1921
Alnwick, United Kingdom
DiedDecember 20, 1989(1989-12-20) (aged 68)
Northumberland, United Kingdom
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
Alma mater
  • Eton College
  • Christ Church
  • Zoologist
  • Naturalist
  • Army officer
Spouse(s)Sarah Jane Elizabeth Norton
  • Algernon Alan Percy
  • Josceline Richard Percy
  • Alan Percy (father)
  • Helen Percy (mother)
FamilyLady Diana Percy (sister)

Lord Richard Percy (1921-1989) was a zoologist, naturalist and army officer.

Early Life

Lord Richard Charles Percy was born on 11 February 1921 at Alnwick Castle, a younger son of the 8th Duke of Northumberland and Lady Helen Gordon Lennox. He was educated at Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford. Lord Richard was a godson of Queen Mary.[1]

As a child in 1924 he was painted with his sister, Lady Diana Percy, by Philip de Laszlo. In 1937 De László requested the loan of the portrait for his large exhibition at Wildenstein’s in London, saying he considered it to be “one of the most outstanding children’s pictures of his.”[2]

Military Career

Having spent only a year at Christ Church, he went to Sandhurst in 1940 and joined the Grenadier Guards in 1941. From June 1944 he served with the regiment’s 1st (Motor) Battalion in the Guards Armoured Division as they advanced through Normandy and on into Germany – for a time acting as Air Liaison Officer at Divisional HQ. He was regarded as an “efficient but unconventional” officer, playing the organ in every village church the Battalion liberated.[3] In 1946 he retired from the regular army with the rank of Major.

In 1947 he joined the Northumberland Hussars (Territorial Army), and was Lieutenant-Colonel commanding 1958-1961. During the Korean War, he kept a Crusader tank in his own garage when the army was unwilling to house it.[4] His last military duty was to organise the presentation of the Guidon to the Northumberland Hussars, the first and only such occasion since the Regiment’s foundation in 1819.[4] The occasion was recorded in watercolour by Lionel Edwards.[5]

He was a Deputy Lieutenant for Northumberland from 1968.


In the early 1950s, Lord Richard Percy and the Hon. M.W.Ridley, travelled around East Africa and published a number of papers in natural history journals.[6] In 1955 they were asked by the Colonial Office to investigate the exploitation of sea birds in the Seychelles (where the eggs yolks of the Sooty Tern were harvested, barrelled and exported in huge quantities for use in the food manufacturing industry).[7] Their work entailed spending four months on an uninhabited island and caught the attention of the author, Ian Fleming, who was at that time also working on a Seychelles project – possibly as a backdrop to a James Bond novel.[8]

For many years Lord Richard was chairman of the National Trust committee which managed the Farne Islands.[9][10] He was also chairman of the Chillingham Wild Cattle Association.

Zoological Work and Lamprey Research

After the war he completed at King’s College, Durham University the Zoology degree he had begun at Oxford in 1939. King’s College became Newcastle University in 1963 and Lord Richard was a lecturer in Zoology there for 35 years – often combining his interest in salmon and trout fishing with his work.[11] There was a ready supply of lampreys for his aquarium in the rivers he fished for salmon.

Percy shunned publicity and resisted promotion in the university,[12] preferring instead to undertake his research from the laboratory, aquarium and photographic darkroom which he kept at his home in Northumberland. A skilled microscopist, his detailed research into the formation of red blood cells, blood circulation and the heart in lampreys was of fundamental importance in tracing the processes which led to the understanding of the evolution of these structures in vertebrates.[11] His work on this subject, much of it undertaken and co-authored with Professor Ian Potter of Murdoch University, Western Australia, was mainly published in The Journal of the Zoological Society of London between 1975 and 1991.[13]


He married Sarah Jane Elizabeth Norton (born 21 October 1937, died 3rd July 1978) on 10 September 1966. They had two children: °Algernon Alan Percy (17 March 1969) °Josceline Richard Percy (2 June 1971) He married secondly, in December 1979, the Hon. Clayre Campbell (who had previously been married to the Hon. Nicholas Ridley, MP). Lord Richard Percy died at his home in Northumberland on 20 December 1989.


  1. "List of godchildren of members of the British Royal Family". Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias.
  2. "Home | Explore the Catalogue Raisonné | The de Laszlo Archive Trust". www.delaszlocatalogueraisonne.com.
  3. The Guards Magazine, Spring 1990
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Guards Magazine, Spring 1990
  5. Henry Tegner: The Story of a Regiment – The Northumberland Hussars (1969)
  6. E.g. In the Journal of the East Africa Natural History Society, 1953
  7. The Exploitation of Sea Birds in the Seychelles, HMSO, London 1958
  8. Andrew Lycett: Ian Fleming (1995)
  9. Newcastle Journal 9 August 1985
  10. Newcastle Evening Chronicle 22 December 1989
  11. 11.0 11.1 The Independent, obituary, 1 February 1990
  12. The Independent, obituary, 1 February 1990
  13. The Zoological Society of London

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