Thornbury Castle

On this day in history, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn arrived at Thornbury Castle as part of their royal progress. Here is an extract from my book, Tudor Places of Great Britain, about the castle:

“Thornbury Castle, a Tudor Castle set on the edge of the Cotswolds, dates back to 1510 when Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, obtained a licence to crenelate his manor of Thornbury. There had been a manor on the site since 930, but it was Buckingham who built the present ‘castle’, which is, in reality, a Tudor country house, with building work beginning in 1511. It was built to the standard medieval quadrangular layout with a large outer courtyard. The entrance front with its central gatehouse and octagonal corner towers is still standing today, as are two of the side ranges with their projections and towers. The surrounding curtain wall is intact on three sides.

Unfortunately, Buckingham never saw his project completed because he was executed for alleged treason against King Henry VIII in 1521. The manor was then seized by the king, who stayed there for ten days with his second wife, Anne Boleyn, as part of their progress to the south-west in August 1535.

The castle is now a luxury hotel and guests can even stay in the “Duke’s Bedchamber”, the very room in which Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn stayed back in 1535.”

A royal progress in the summer months allowed the monarch and his consort to get out of London in a season when disease was rife in the capital, and I expect it was rather smelly too! It also allowed a monarch to show themselves to the common people and to bestow favour on their loyal subject by staying with them (and perhaps bankruptcy too as it was very expensive entertaining royals). But this royal progress was also an opportunity for Henry and Anne to promote the Reformation and visit people who were seen as ‘pro-reform’, people like Sir Nicholas Poyntz of Acton Court and the Walshes of Little Sodbury Manor.

Henry and Anne set off on their progress from Windsor Castle on 8th July 1535 and returned to Windsor on 26th October 1535. There is a record of the proposed itinerary for the progress in Letters and Papers, in “The King’s gestes the xxvii year of his reign from Windsor to Bristowe”, but the itinerary was changed and “Bristowe”, i.e. Bristol, was never visited.

Here is the proposed itinerary:

“[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.”

And here is what actually happened – a big thank you to Natalie Grueninger and Sarah Morris for the work they did on piecing together this itinerary for their book In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn:

  • 8th July – Departure from Windsor Castle, arrive at Reading Abbey to be welcomed by Hugh Faringdon, Abbot of Reading.
  • 12th July – Arrive at Ewelme Manor, Oxfordshire, a crown property.
  • 14th July – Arrive at Abingdon Abbey, Oxfordshire. The abbot at the time was Thomas Rowland.
  • 16th July – Arrive at the Old Palace of Langley, Oxfordshire, a crown property.
Sudeley Castle
  • 21st July – Arrive at Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire, a crown property. The rest of the court was lodged at Winchcombe Abbey.
  • 26th July – Arrive at Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire.
  • 31st July – Entry into Gloucester, stay in Gloucester. Henry and Anne were welcomed to the city by John Falconer, Mayor of Gloucester, his aldermen, sheriffs and burgesses. The royal couple probably stayed in the Abbot’s Lodgings at Gloucester Abbey. William Parker was the abbot then.
  • 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. Henry and Anne probably stayed at the Priory of Stanley St Leonard or one of its properties.
  • 8th August – Arrive at Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire, a crown property.
  • 14th August – Arrive at Thornbury Castle, Gloucestershire.
Acton Court
  • 23rd August – Arrive at Acton Court, Gloucestershire, two days later than originally planned. Acton Court was the home of Sir Nicholas Poyntz, a royal favourite and zealous Reformer. In order to impress his royal visitors, Poyntz had added an entire new wing to his home. The wing had to be built quickly, so that it was finished in time for the visit, and so did not have proper foundations. Poyntz made it luxurious and fit for a king and queen by furnishing it with the latest luxury items, such as Venetian glass and Italian maiolica. He also modelled the rooms on those of the royal properties, Hampton Court Palace and Whitehall Palace.
  • 25th August – Arrive at Little Sodbury Manor, Gloucestershire, home of the Walshe family. Like their nephew, Sir Nicholas Poyntz, Sir John and Lady Anne Walshe were keen Reformers and had even hired Bible translator William Tyndale as a tutor for their children.
  • 27th August – Arrive at Bromham House, Wiltshire, home of the queen’s vice-chamberlain, Sir Edward Baynton, who was also a keen Reformer.
  • 3rd September – Arrive at Wulfhall (Wolfhall, Wolf Hall), Wiltshire, home of Sir John Seymour, father of the future Queen Jane Seymour.
  • 10th September – Arrive at Thruxton, Hampshire, home of Thomas Lisle.
  • 11/12th September – Arrive at Hurstborne Priors, Hampshire, owned by the Priory of St Swithun.
  • 12/13th September – Arrive at Winchester, Hampshire. It is believed that the royal couple stayed at Wolvesey Palace, the bishop’s palace.
  • 19th September – Consecration of Edward Fox, Hugh Latimer and John Hilsey, all reformers, as bishops at Winchester Cathedral.
  • 20th to 26th September – Probable stay at Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire, probably at the bishop’s palace.
  • 26th September – Back to Winchester.
  • Around 30th September – Departure from Winchester, arrive at Southampton, Hampshire. The couple probably stayed at Southampton Castle or the property now known as the Tudor House Museum on Bugle Street. This house was owned by Sir Richard Lyster, a royal favourite.
  • 4th October – Arrive at Portchester Castle, Hampshire. Henry and Anne probably stayed in the King’s Lodgings there.
  • 9th October – Arrive at Church House, Salisbury, Wiltshire, which belonged to John Tuchet, 8th Baron Audley.
  • 10th October – Arrive at the Park and Palace of Clarendon, Wiltshire.
  • 15th October – Arrive at The Vyne, Hampshire, home of William, Lord Sandys, Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household.
  • 19th October – Arrive at Basing House, Hampshire, home of Sir William Paulet, Comptroller of the King’s Household.
  • 21st October – Arrive at Bramshill House, Hampshire. Henry and Anne had been meant to travel from Basing to Elvetham, owned by Sir Edward Seymour, but plans changed and the couple ended up staying at Bramshill House, home of Lord and Lady Daubenay
  • 22nd October – Arrive at Easthampstead, Berkshire, a crown property.
  • 26th October – Depart Easthampstead for Windsor.

Further Reading

Notes and Sources

  • Ridgway, Claire (2015) Tudor Places of Great Britain, MadeGlobal Publishing.
  • 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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14 thoughts on “Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s 1535 royal progress”
  1. To entertain Henry the VIII – Anne Boleyn his second wife and his Court was an expensive honour – also one could get in the ” King’s bad graces and get beheaded!”

  2. The detail in this summer progress made by King Henry and his second queen is fascinating and it’s well worth a read, this progress was to get Henrys people on his side, sway them to his mode of thinking regarding the reform and a chance for Henry to show off to his ordinary subjects as well, as well as giving them a chance to see their queen, from Windsor and it’s lovely gardens all the way to Glocestershire and it’s little stone dwellings, stopping at Sudeley on the way and the majestic Thornbury castle, people must have run out of their humble dwellings as well as the more affluent and stared at the magnificence of the Royal carriages and the beautiful horses and the sumptuously clad courtiers, and there was the glittering auguste figure of their King Henry V111 and seated next to him looking regal and confident was Anne Boleyn, sitting astride her horse and maybe wearing a jaunty little hat with a feather in, the kind of hat perhaps she wore to her trial and which her statue wears on the stairwell at Blickling, gazing at her what did they think her own subjects, they had heard tales of how this young woman had so enchanted their King he had defied Rome and most of his clergy to marry her, she had changed England forever and with it the very centre of their beliefs they had grown up with, some called her a witch and worse so what did they see when she sat before them, did they see what Henry saw when he looked at her, a slight looking woman with large dark eyes and a long narrow face, the beauty of her hair would have been hidden and they would not know that this delicate creature hid a resolve as strong as steel and possessed remarkable courage and a sharp quick brain, she was completely different in looks to their beloved ex Queen Katherine who had been smiling and gracious and much shorter with pale skin strawberry blond hair and rather plump, whatever they thought they owed her their obscience and when the court arrived at their destination they were greeted warmly by their much put upon hosts, I can just see the red faced spit boys turning the suckling pigs around in the great kitchens, with the kitchen maids plucking the pheasants and pigeons and preparing the roasted peacock, the finest clarets would be bought out from the cellars and the desserts would be preparing an assortment of crystallised fruits and jellies and march pane, banquets were a sumptuous affair with many courses and went on for hours, then they left and went to their next host, as it says in the article no matter if the host went bankrupt, it was an honour to have the king and queen and court at their house, in a sense it was a pr stunt, Henry was selling himself and his new religion, he was the head of his new church and was not answerable to the Pope just God, and he understood Henry his most faithful subject perfectly! I wonder how the weather was that year in 1535, knowing how unpredictable our summers are I would not be at all surprised that they had to suffer the odd shower.

  3. Buckingham was making his home into a large palatial grand mansion and decorating it with elaborate images which some historians say was part of his downfall as Henry saw it and fancied the place. Of course he got his wish thanks to the Duke’s trial and education. I should put trial in ” s but well he did have one and was doomed. The evidence was based on a spy and the jealously of his making an enemy of Wolsey who fed the King’s suspicious nature. It was a rare high profile execution from the first two decades but one which stands out as the removal of a high profile rival. You don’t over elaborate your house with heraldic images unless you say: This is for you, Sire.

    Anyway, moving on and the visit of Henry and Anne on this progress was on a different scale of importance. This was a progress with big political spin. They were about making people who they can win over on the idea of New Monarchy, were out looking at monastic buildings, out building support and out letting the royal presence be felt. This was one of the most carefully planned and political programmes of the reign and it’s importance cannot be understated. It was a pro reformation and a get on board the reforms progress and an inspection of many local powerful Abbeys.

  4. Yes the rich and powerful always had enemies and the higher your status, the more magnificent your home would be, Wolsley set about making Hampton Court larger and it was a truly splendid building, it was a sign of his power and the King soon coveted it and to appease him, Wolsley gave it to him but it done him no good, he was arrested for high treason so it would have gone to Henry anyway, even now I think Hampton Court stands out amongst the other Tudor buildings for pure majesty and presence alone, I wish Nonsuch Palace had not fallen into decay as that was said to be truly magnificent and Henry had chosen to build it to rival King Francis chateau at Loire I think? But it’s splendour has long turned to dust but at least we have Hampton Court with all her tales of glory and the not very nice ones of bloodshed, it’s stately halls are said to be haunted by Jane Seymour, Catherine Howard and Anne Boleyn, and Sybil Penn, Edward 1V’s nurse, as well as countless others, long may she stand regal and proud, a relic from a cruel colourful and chivalrous age and somewhere anyone can visit and enjoy.

    1. Nonsuch is now laid out in the gardens of an eighteenth century manor, with a map and plaque for each part but some digs went on during the 1950s. Much of it ended up in the Museum of London. It had imperial statues, Italian decorative murals, mystery creatures, golden domes and was fantastical. It was given to Barbara Villiers by Charles ii when he dumped her and she had it taken down. Queen Elizabeth I was fond of Nonsuch, the Palace Beyond Compare.

      A huge statue of Henry Viii and Prince Edward stood near the entrance.

      Several regal palatial houses rose during Tudor, Stuart and by industrial people and bankers in the 19th century. With elaborate ceilings, plaster work, places like Laner Marney Tower, Oxburgh, Grimsthorpe and Blenheim have stunned visitors for generations. These paled in comparison to Whitehall, Greenwich and Hampton Court, but a jealous monarch could soon desire one for themselves.

      It has been trending for a few days but the ongoing excavations at Greenwich have uncovered the rooms were Henry Viii, Elizabeth and Mary were born and their kitchen and underground heating. We can finally see what they and Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour saw

        1. Hi Christine, I have left a couple of links below. I hope they work. The Chapel was uncovered a few years ago I believe. Interesting stuff.

  5. I arrived for a stay at Thornbury on Monday. I hadn’t realised the date was so significant . Very exciting. It is a beautiful castle and still retains plenty of atmosphere.
    Thank you for posting the places and dates of the Royal Progress its fascinating.

      1. I had a lovely time thank you. Its still easy to picture Henry and Anne walking in the gardens. Thankfully they haven’t over commercialised the hotel

  6. I was looking at letters of Henry VIII 1535 in relation to the dissolution of monasteries and saw that the reason for Henry diverting from his intention of going to Guildford during his Progress and deciding to stay with Sir William Paulet at his house Basing was given in a letter dated 16th October 1535.
    Paulet sent the letter to Cromwell and it states,’ The King for the death of (at) Shalford, three quarters of a mile from Guildford, and of four persons at Farnham, has changed his giests and will be at my poor house of Basing on Tuesday and Wednesday, and on Thursday night at Mr. Seymour’s place at Elvetham; at Hertfordbridge on Friday; Saturday and Sunday at Easthampstede, and Monday to Windsor.
    Basing, Saturday.

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