23 August 1535 – A royal visit to Acton Court


On this day in history, 23rd August 1535*, royal favourite and keen reformer Sir Nicholas Poyntz welcomed King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, to his home Acton Court in Iron Acton, South Gloucestershire, as part of the couple’s royal progress.

Sir Nicholas Poyntz was born around 1510 and was the eldest son of naval commander Sir Anthony Poyntz and his first wife, Elizabeth Huddesfield, and grandson of Sir Robert Poyntz, vice-chamberlain and chancellor to Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife. The Poyntz family were an old Gloucestershire family, dating back over 200 years in the county. In 1527, Poyntz married Joan Berkeley, daughter of Thomas Berkeley, 5th Baron Berkeley. Poyntz was a favourite of both Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. In the autumn of 1532, he accompanied the king and Anne, who had recently been made Marquis of Pembroke and who was not yet married to the king, to Calais. The aim of this trip was to meet with Francis I of France and to get his support for their marriage.

Although Poyntz’s wife came from a staunchly Catholic family, Poynt was a zealous Reformer. His Oxford Dictionay of National Biography 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.”

Acton Court had been in the Poyntz family since 1364. Sir Nicholas Poyntz added an entirely new east wing to the property, in preparation for the king and queen’s visit. It was built in just nine months and was a rush job; it didn’t even have proper foundations. As I said in my article a few days ago, Poyntz modelled the rooms on Hampton Court Palace and Whitehall Palace and furnished them with the latest in luxury items. He was all out to impress and it is said that his reward for his hospitality was a knighthood during the royal couple’s stay.

Notes and Sources

* The proposed itinerary in 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, but Natalie Grueninger and Sarah Morris state that the progress was delayed slightly so the royal couple stayed there on 23rd and 24th August.

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3 thoughts on “23 August 1535 – A royal visit to Acton Court”
  1. This was a triumphant and joyful time for Henry and Anne, who were reported as being ‘merry’ on a number of occasions during their summer progress. No-one could have predicted, least of all Anne, that nine months later Henry would be a widower. But at this time, with no ill omens of the future, the royal couple made a splendid progress in the south of England and two months after their visit to Acton Court, Anne conceived. She would have hoped for a son to silence those who opposed her marriage, to validate Henry’s decision to break with Rome.

    I tend to think that Anne was probably about 28 at this time, was still beautiful, was still charismatic and was still fertile. The couple’s ‘merriness’ would have increased when they learned that Anne was expecting another child, hopefully a son to succeed his father as king. Tragically, as we all know, it was not to be. Three months later, Anne miscarried and the king fell in love, or at least lust, with Jane Seymour. Ironically, the royal couple had stayed at the Seymour family home, Wolf Hall, during their summer progress. Perhaps it was there that Henry’s eye fell on Jane, but he was still committed to Anne and had no thoughts – at that stage – of putting her aside.

  2. I have to agree with Conor, this has been described as one of Anne’s finest hours, her triumphant progress and she certainly conceived her son on this grand working holiday. Acton Court being owned by a zealous reformist must have been a welcome place to do some business. Several monastic houses had played host which in itself is not unusual as they often had grand visitors, but on this progress they were getting a sharp eye over them. This was a very expensive make over from Acton Court and it has been restored in recent years.

    Although it is a coincidence that Henry visited Wolf Hall he was familiar and had connections to the Seymour family, especially Sir John with whom he shared a military experience in 1513 and the elder brother, Edward was already familiar at court. The family had fallen out of favour due to an unproven scandal between Sir John and another female family member, which has a dodgy source behind it. Henry would have been familiar with Jane Seymour as she served Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, but was at home on this visit. The story is Henry dropped into Wolfe Hall and Jane was there and he became enchanted and she became the lady he now worshipped. Anne is never mentioned on this traditional visit, but we know she was definitely there at this visit. So did Henry just catch a glimpse, a look and find himself attracted to Jane and then follow up later on a private, unrecorded visit? Did he find her aloof and mysterious and attractive by her grace and quiet presence and find time to have her speak with him or did he wait until he was back at court and Jane returned? We don’t really know and it does seem a bit far fetched that Henry had any liaison with Jane at this time, other than a formal delightful presentation. It is more likely he spoke to Jane on her return to court and then via her family but not with the view of anything more than a fling. No real liaison seems to have begun until after Anne was unfortunate to lose her baby son. After Henry sent Jane a letter and a purse of gold and returned both saying to present her with money when she had made a good match (hint hint) he became inflamed with desire and admired her modesty as he had with Anne. Political movement leaned Henry towards Jane and her family for a new wife by Spring 1536. At this point, it doesn’t make much sense that Henry would be anything but taken with Jane, in the normal manner of husbands and it is not logical that he would have started anything in her family home with Anne and the court present. Anne became pregnant on this progress which suggests that she was regularly sleeping with the King, plus it was a very busy time. Henry was visiting supporters and potential allies and old families to persuade them to feel the new monarchy. He would not undermine his wife’s Queenship at such a vital time by taking into his bed a rival and starting a long term relationship while promoting Anne’s Queenship, role in reform, separation from Rome and who he still hoped would give him a healthy son.

    This was indeed a time during which Henry and Anne appear to have celebrated. They had also come from London immediately after the brutal executions of Thomas More and John Fisher who had opposed their marriage the loudest. In fact they had delayed the journey until after this as this was symbolic of their future success. There is some evidence that tensions had run high before the progress between Henry and Anne, but they had soon put all that behind them. It was a time to be with friends and supporters from old and new families and to be triumphant. It was very sad and ironic that nine months later all this would be for nothing.

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