August 1535 – Sir Nicholas Poyntz plays host to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn

Nicholas Poyntz by Hans Holbein the Younger
Nicholas Poyntz by Hans Holbein the Younger

On 23rd August 1535*, King Henry VIII and his second wife, Queen Anne Boleyn, were scheduled to visit Sir Nicholas Poyntz (c.1510 – 1556) at his home, Acton Court, in Iron Acton, South Gloucestershire, as part of their progress to the south-west. This progress was an opportunity for the couple to promote the Reformation and to visit the households of people seen as ‘pro-Reform’.

Poyntz was a favourite of both the king and queen, and had accompanied them on their visit to Calais to meet with King Francis I of France in autumn 1532. His biographer Alasdair Hawkyard writes of how he was “brought up in the reformist zeal shared by so many of his closest relatives” and that “he displayed his contempt for traditional religious observances by incorporating in several of his properties, including Ozleworth, Gloucestershire, stones from smashed crosses from churches.”

In preparation for the royal visit and to impress the king and queen, Poyntz added an entire new wing to Acton Court. It had to be built so quickly that there wasn’t any time for proper foundations. The new lavish wing was furnished with the latest luxury items, such as Venetian glass and Italian maiolica, and Poyntz modelled the rooms on those of Hampton Court Palace and Whitehall Palace. Perhaps it was worth the effort as Hawkyard believes that Poyntz “may have received his knighthood at the culmination of this visit”.

You can read more about this progress and the visits Anne and Henry made to Poyntz and the Walsh family of Little Sodbury Manor in the following articles:

There is a record of the proposed itinerary in Letters and Papers for 1535, in “The King’s gestes the xxvii year of his reign from Windsor to Bristowe”, but this was changed and “Bristowe”, i.e. Bristol, was never visited. Here is what was proposed:

“[The King’s g]estes the xx[vii. year of] his reign, from [Windsor to] Bristowe.—Monday, 5 July, Windsor to Reading, and there Tuesday and Wednesday, St. Thomas Day; three days, 12 miles. Thursday, 8 July, Reading to Ewelme, and there Friday, 2 days, 10 m. (In the margin, [M]yssenden.) Saturday, 10th July, to Abingdon, and there till Monday, 3 days, 8 m. (In the margin, … arringden [p]ark, [W]odstock.) Tuesday, 13 July, to Langley, and there till Friday, 12 m. (In the margin, …. wnell.) Saturday, 17 July, to Sydley, and there till Thursday, 14 m. (In the margin, ….. mbe …. aylles.) Friday, 23 July, Sedley to Tewkesbury, and there till Monday, 7 m. (In the margin, …… gtor the …. ttes place.) Tuesday, 27 July, Tewkesbury to Gloucester, and there till Sunday, 7 m. (In the margin, …… eyerd the …. ttes place.) Monday, 2 Aug., Gloucester to Berkeley Heron, and there till Sunday, 15 m. (In the margin, ….. Pointz.) Monday, 9 Aug., Berkley Heron to Thornbury, and there till Monday, 5 m. (In the margin, [Mr. W]alshes.) Tuesday, 17 Aug., Thornbury to Bristowe, and there till Friday, 10 m. Saturday, 21 Aug., Bristowe to Acton, Mr. Poyntz’s place, and there Sunday, 7 m. Monday, 23 Aug., Acten to Mr. Walshe’s, where he dwelleth, and there till Wednesday, 6 m. Thursday, 26 Aug., from Mr. Walshe’s to Bromham, and there till Wednesday, 12 m. (In the margin, …. stock.) Thursday, 2 Sept., Bromham to Whofall, there till Monday … m. Tuesday, 7 Sept., Whofall to Thrukstone, there till Thursday, 12 m. Friday, 10 Sept., Thruckeston to Pryor’s Horsborne, and there a night, 8 m. Saturday, 11 Sept., Priors Horsborne to Winchester, and there till Wednesday, 10 m. Thursday, 16 Sept., Winchester to Bishop’s Waltham, and there till Tuesday, 7 m. Wednesday, 22 Sept., Waltham to Alsford, 7 m. Thursday, 23 Sept., Alsford to Alton, to dinner, that night to Farnham, and there till Sunday, 14 m. Monday, 27 Sept., Farnham to Esthamstede, and there till Thursday, 12 m. Friday, 1 Oct., from Esthamstede to Windsor, and there during the King’s pleasure, 6 m.”

Natalie Grueninger and Sarah Morris have a detailed section on this royal progress in their book In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn, which looks at the properties visited and which helped me to do the itinerary you see below, which takes account of the delayed departure and changes made to the proposed itinerary.

Here is what the royal couple actually did:

  • 8th July – Departure from Windsor Castle, arrive at Reading Abbey.
  • 12th July – Arrive at Ewelme Manor, Oxfordshire.
  • 14th July – Arrive at Abingdon Abbey, Oxfordshire.
  • 16th July – Arrive at the Old Palace of Langley, Oxfordshire.
  • 21st July – Arrive at Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire.
  • 26th July – Arrive at Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire.
  • 31st July – Entry into Gloucester, stay in Gloucester.
  • 2nd August – Arrive at Painswick, Gloucestershire.
  • 3rd August – Hunting around Coberly and Miserden, Gloucestershire.
  • 7th August – Departure from Gloucester Abbey. Stay the night at Leonard Stanley, Gloucestershire.
  • 8th August – Arrive at Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire.
  • 14th August – Arrive at Thornbury Castle, Gloucestershire.
  • 21st August* – Arrive at Acton Court, Gloucestershire.
  • 23rd August* – Arrive at Little Sodbury Manor, Gloucestershire.
  • 27th August – Arrive at Bromham House, Wiltshire.
  • 3rd September – Arrive at Wulfhall, Wiltshire.
  • 10th September – Arrive at Thruxton, Hampshire.
  • 11/12th September – Arrive at Hurstborne Priors, Hampshire.
  • 12/13th September – Arrive at Winchester, Hampshire.
  • 19th September – Consecration of Edward Fox, Hugh Latimer and John Hilsey, all reformers, as bishops at Winchester Cathedral. It is believed that the royal couple stayed at Wolvesey Palace, the bishop’s palace.
  • 20th to 26th September – Probable stay at Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire.
  • 26th September – Back to Winchester.
  • Around 30th September – Departure from Winchester, arrive at Southampton, Hampshire.
  • 4th October – Arrive at Portchester Castle, Hampshire.
  • 9th October – Arrive at Church House, Salisbury, Wiltshire.
  • 10th October – Arrive at Clarendon, Wiltshire.
  • 15th October – Arrive at The Vyne, Hampshire.
  • 19th October – Arrive at Basing House, Hampshire.
  • 21st October – Arrive at Bramshill House, Hampshire.
  • 22nd October – Arrive at Easthampstead, Berkshire.
  • 26th October – Depart Easthampstead for Windsor.

Notes and Sources

*Although Letters and Papers gives 21st August as the scheduled date for the royal couple’s visit to Acton Court, which is why I’ve written about it as happening on that date before, Natalie Grueninger and Sarah Morris state that the progress was delayed slightly so the royal couple stayed there on 23rd and 24th August, and Little Sodbury Manor on 25th August.

  • Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 8, January-July 1535, 989.
  • Morris, Sarah and Grueninger, Natalie (2013) In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn, Amberley, p. 176-270.
  • Hawkyard, Alasdair. “Poyntz, Sir Robert (b. late 1440s, d. 1520).” (includes Sir Nicholas Poyntz) in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed., edited by David Cannadine, September 2015. (accessed August 19, 2016).

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2 thoughts on “August 1535 – Sir Nicholas Poyntz plays host to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn”
  1. It just goes to show that there were many people who were fed up with the old religion and were keen to embrace the new, it could be it was the whole concept of the elaborate rituals of the Catholic Church that made people long for a more simplified form of worship, as well as the ceremony where the Catholics said they ate the body and the blood of Christ, as Anne Askew said the baker made the bread and Jane Grey repeated some years later, this of course was only meant as a symbol but it just goes to show that many people were eager to embrace reform, Anne of course became a sort of figurehead for crushing the old religion in England as she was responsible for the break with Rome which split the country apart, to her enemies who didn’t like change she was evil personified yet to her supporters she was a kind of hero.

  2. This progress has been promoted by historians as Anne and Henry’s funest hour, as a great triumph and that Anne was probably pregnant with her son at the end of it seems to indicate that they were close on this fact finding mission. Please note that this progress is not only long and the usual pleasure visits, but had a definitive purpose, to sound out abuses and the core beliefs of the traditional heartlands of the south and midlands, plus to promote the King’s new monarchy and reforms. By visiting favourites and supporters they can safely leave to enforce those ideas locally and you get a positive feeling at the same time. The progress included visits to some of the most important abbeys, the progress would set Henry’s local reformation into action. People who were still complacent were in for a few surprises.

    Two years ago I went to Gloucester Cathedral and could not help but think oooh Henry and Anne stood here at the entrance. The progress also shows Anne Boleyn had some influence in the reformation, a side to her often ignored, with the consecration of important figures in the reformation like Hugh Latimer and other Bishops that Anne Boleyn would have thought would help her later. The progress must have been well planned, imagine if you got caught in bad weather or a traffic jam. Planning had to be meticulous, a break in the chain would have been a disaster. Edward I once ended up at a local abbey as his train got stuck in a storm, without much of his stuff and as they could not make a new arrangement for guest quarters for his wife, they were caught by the monks in the same bed. The King had been asked to stay in accommodation for men only, so the wife or the King had to go. As Edward refused to be without his beloved Eleanor, the royal couple left in the middle of the night. King John ended up in one place with the baggage at the intended destination. John of Gaunt ended up at one castle, his wife at another due to the roads being poor and conjested. His second wife went south to get more attention as she went into premature Labour with her third child. So it was essential to plan well.

    Please note that the King and Queen also went for four days to Wulfhall, yes that one, the Seymour home. Sir John Seymour was an old comrade and the brothers, Edward and Thomas known at court, the brothers favoured reform, even if Sir John Seymour was more traditional, but the family had fallen out of grace due to rumours concerning the marriage and his daughter in law, probably unfounded but beefed up in the drama Wolf Hall. The Seymours also had a famous sister, Jane, the future Queen and mother of Edward vi. Henry was aware of Jane as she had served Catherine of Aragon, but had not been interested in her, but now, according to legend and drama, when Jane Seymour was presented to Henry he was smitten. The information about Jane Seymour is sketchy. Now it is quite probable that Henry saw Jane at this point, with the rest of the family she would have played a part in the hosting the King and Queen; it is also probable that he was taken with her, but could they have met secretly and privately at this time?

    Drama has Henry Viii and a few friends turn up at Wulfhall but in reality Henry came with Anne Boleyn and his entire court, so a romantic liaison with Henry was not possible. Or was it? Katherine Howard managed late night meetings in Pontefract and York so why should Henry not arrange to meet with Jane in the garden say, in the company of her brother or trusted lady? Anne Boleyn was not Katherine Howard, she was probably more likely to be in her husband’s apartments, as she kept a tight check on Henry and the size of Wulfhall may have meant that Henry and Anne had to share the same rooms. In any case, it is hardly likely that a lady so conscious of her virtue would be meeting the King at night when he had barely known her, especially while the wife was present. Jane Seymour could merely have attracted Henry with her gracious quiet manner, her pleasant ways, the way she greeted him, but it is not likely that any meetings took place. When Jane came to count soon afterwards Henry recalled his visit and became attracted to Jane over the next few months, moving on this emotion by the time Anne tragically lost the son that she conceived on this progress.

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