540 Poyntz v Coxe

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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Nicholas Poyntz of Tickenham, co. Somerset, esq v William Coxe of Long Ashton, co. Somerset, attorney

May - June 1639

Figure 540a:

The parish church and village of Long Ashton, Somerset where William Coxe was alleged to have insulted Lady Griselle Poyntz in January 1636

Figure 540b:

The monument to Sir Edward Rodney (d.1657), one of the local justices called in to arbitrate the case, in St Leonard's church, Rodney Stoke, Somerset (Photograph: Richard Cust)


Poyntz complained that on 8 January 1636 at his house in Long Ashton, Coxe had insulted Poyntz's mother, Grizelle, Lady Poyntz, calling her 'a base stinking Lady' for having 'taken a false oath', and threatening 'he would have her eares and her nose for it'. Poyntz was granted process in May 1639 at the instigation of Sir Robert Poyntz and a commission headed by Gilbert Jones, Doctor of Law, examined his witnesses on 7 June in the inn of William Huggeson in Failand's Cross, Somerset. Coxe admitted to the words, but claimed he spoke them conditionally: that is that they only applied if, as he had been informed, Lady Poyntz had taken a false oath claiming that she knew of no local gentlemen who could act as commissioners in a case before the Westminster courts, thereby delaying proceedings. He also claimed that Mary Wale had prompted the action by telling the Poyntzes of the words, because they had told her that Coxe had also denied her gentility. Coxe had been an exceptionally assiduous under sheriff in helping John Mallett, esq, collect ship money in Somerset during 1636, which may have helped him secure a reference from Lord Maltravers to Mallett, Sir Edward Rodney, William Capell, esq, and William Longe, esq, in May 1639 to mediate in the dispute. Coxe claimed that when they found in his favour - that the suit had been 'brought to hinder me William Coxe in my proceedings in the courte and Whitehall' -Poyntz contemptuously threw away their letter and refused to meet to resolve the matter. No indication of sentence survives.

Initial proceedings

6/157, Fiat

'In Januarie last past, beinge at the house of William Cox at Asher [Long Ashton], he thus spake against the Ladye Grissell Poyntz, that she was a base stincking lady for takeinge a false oath, that she knewe none in Somersettshire to name for commissioners, and that he would have her eares and her nose.

[Different hand continues:]

Mr Dethick. Last court day I moved my Lord Maltravers for a process in this cause to goe out in the name of Nicholas Poynts, esquire, her sonne; and his lordship directed me to take process in the name of Nicholas and of the Lady. Sir Robert Poyntz and Nicholas were both then with my Lord when he granted process, and Mr Harman was then present.

Duck argued 'I conceave the process must goe in the name of Nicholas' in a cause of scandalous words provocative of a duel.

16 May 1639.

Signed by Arthur Duck.

6/160, Plaintiff's bond

16 May 1639

Bound to appear 'in the Court in the painted Chamber within the Pallace of Westminster'.

Signed by Nich. Poyntz.

Sealed, subscribed and delivered in the presence of John Watson.

6/123, Defendant's bond

30 May 1639

Bound to appear 'in the Court in the painted chamber within the Pallace of Westminster'.

Signed by Wm Cox.

Sealed, subscribed and delivered in the presence of John Watson.

11/37b, Libel

1. Nicholas Poyntz was the natural and lawful son of Sir John Poyntz of Iron Acton, knight, and the family had been descended from knights and had been gentry for up to 300 years.

2. William Cox had insulted Nicholas Poyntz's mother: 'he said the Lady Grizelle Poyntz my mother was a base stinking Lady, and had taken a false oath, and that he would have her eares and her nose for it; and being desired by his wife then standing by not to speake such words of the Lady, he repeated the words againe.'

No date.

Signed by Arthur Duck.

R.19, fo. 21r, Summary of libel

'Nicholas Poyntz is the reall and lawfull sonne of Sir John Pointz knt, deceased and the Dame Grissell between them begot in lawful matrimony; and that he, his father and his ancestors for above 300 years past is and have been gentlemen and c. And that Cox publiquely before many gentlemen and others (att such a time and place) said that Lady Grizell Poyntz his mother was a base stinking lady and had taken a false oath; and that he would have her eares and her nose for it, in dishonour of his mother and Nich: Poyntz, thereby to provoke him to a duell and c.'


No signature.

Plaintiff's case

11/37a, Letters commissory for the plaintiff

Addressed to commissioners Gilbert Jones, Doctor of Law, James Percivall, esq., Richard Morgan, esq., Israel Pownoll, gent, and also, Joshua Slater, clerk, William Tynte, gent, Joseph Crossman, clerk and Thomas Blount, gent, to meet in a cause of scandalous words provocative of a duel from 6 to 8 June 1639 in the inn of William Huggeson in the town of Failand's Cross, co. Somerset.

Signed by registrar, Humphrey Terrick.

Dated 29 May 1639.

11/37c, Defence interrogatories

1. 'Whether or noe did you ever heare Coxe name the Lady Grissell Points? If yea, in whose house did he name her in what moneth, what day of the moneth, who was present, and upon what occasion'?

2. 'Item, if any witness doth depose any the words in the libell, to aske them what were the precedent words which Coxe spake? Did he not say he had receaved a letter from his sonne from London that intimated to him that the Lady Poines, not nameing the Lady Grissell Points, had taken an oath that she would name noe commissioners names; and by that meanes had staid Coxe's proceedings in his Majestie's Court of Whitehall at Westminster. and did not Coxe say that if she had taken such an oath the same could not be true and was basely done'?

3. Was the witness a relative, dependent, or solicitor for Nicholas Poyntz?

No date.

No signatures.

11/37d, Plaintiff depositions

Taken before commissioners Gilbert Jones, Doctor of Law, James Percivall, esq, Joseph Crossman, clerk, in the inn of William Huggeson in the town of Failand Cross, co. Somerset, on 7 June 1639.

(Witness 1), Robert Hugson of Portbury, co. Somerset, gent, lived there for 3 years and beforehand at Wraxall, co. Somerset for 22 years, born in London, aged about 40

To Poyntz's libel:

1. 'He beleeveth and hath heard it comonly reported that Mr Nicholas Pointz is the legitimate son of Sir John Pointz, knight, and Grissell, and soe have bin and are reputed as aforesaid; and that Sir John Poitnz was a gentleman, and of a genteele bloud of longe time descended.'

2. Around 8 January 1639 he was in William Cox's house when he heard Cox say that the Lady Poyntz was 'a base, stinking, perjured ladie, and that he William Cox would have her eares and her noase cropt off'. William Cox's wife then told him 'hold your peace', but Cox repeated the words. Marie Wale and John Eastman were also present.

3. 'William Cox uttered and spake the words before by him deposed of, to the great disgrace, and in malitious and vilifying way, of Lady Grissell Poyntz, and her children, *he the defendant* being verie angrie and collericke and which words he beleeveth mought [sic] have provoked the plaintiff to a duell'.

Signed by Robert Hogeson and by the above three commissioners.

To Cox's interrogatories:

2. 'William Cox being then talking of one George Bourne fell suddainlie upon those words against Ladie Pointz as he hath deposed of to the second article of the libell in this suite. And the ground of those vilifieinge words was as Wm Cox then said, that the Ladie Poyntz had taken a false oath in sayeing, that she knew no gentlemen in the countrie to name commissioners, whereas Cox said that she did know Mr Smith, and Mr Gorge, esqrs.'

Signed by Robert Hogeson and by the above three commissioners.

(Witness 2), Mary Wale of Wraxall, co. Somerset, gent, lived there for 20 years or thereabouts, born at Almondsbury, co. Gloucester, aged about 34 years

To Poyntz's libel:

2. As witness 1, but with Robert Hudson and John Eastman named as present.

3. 'The words before by her deposed of were spoken by William Cox to the dishonor and disgrace of Ladie Pointz, and that they were provoaking words and mought have produced a duell between the plaintiff and the defendant if they had bin togeather.'

Signed by Marie Wale and by the above three commissioners.

To Cox's interrogatories:

2. Negative, 'saving what she hath deposed to the second article of the libel annexed to these letters of commission.'

3. She was sister to the wife of Nicholas Poyntz.

Signed by Mary Wale and by the above three commissioners.

11/37e, Notary public's certificate

Certificate in Latin signed by William Lane, notary public that the above examinations had been completed and were now being returned.

No date.

Notary's mark.

Defendant's case

16/1n, Defence [damaged]

1. [Damaged] The witnesses presented and examined for Poyntz were his relatives and capital enemies of Coxe.

2. 'Mary Wale one of the pretended witnesses was the first and only suggester and instructer of Nicholas Poyntz and Lady Grizell Poyntz, mother to Nicholas; that the pretended words libellate were spoken by me William Coxe, and... [damaged] Wale did not suggest and tell of the pretended speaking of the words freely and truly but being first falsely and unjustly provoked... [damaged] Lady or Nicholas or some other in their or one of their behalfs and in very truth Mary Wale was divers times... [damaged] Lady Poyntz and Nicholas Poyntz both or one of them in the month of January in the libel and after the pretended time of such speak... [damaged] words and in February, March and April next following, but did not nor could she suggest unto them or either of them or any other person the speak... [damaged] words by me, until at one time a little before the beginning of his pretended suite Lady Poynts told Mary Wale... [damaged] William Coxe had not long before said that she Mary Wale was no gentlewoman, nor borne of parents that were of... [damaged] effect. Whereupon, Mary being much incensed there at did falsely and untruely suggest and tell to the Lady or to Nicholas Poyntz... [damaged] other in their behalf of my pretended speaking of the Lady the words in the libel: vizt., that I should say that the lady was a base... [damaged] had taken a false oath or to that effect. And the premises or so much in effect Mary Wale hath often or at least once confessed... [damaged] acknowledged and withal hath said and professed that she never intended so to have suggested and said until Lady Poyntz told her that... [damaged] Coxe had said that she, Mary, was no gentlewoman.'

3. 'I, William Coxe, did at my owne dwelling house at Long Ashton in the county... [damaged] that Lady Grizel Poyntz was a base stinking lady and had taken a false oath or to that effect... [damaged] yet the words or the like were then and there spoken by me not purely simply and absolutely, but conditionally and not otherwise, vizt. I having received... [damaged] from Francis Coxe my son being at London which intimated to me that Lady Poyntz had taken an oath that she could name no... [damaged] in a cause of great consequence depending in the high Court of Whitehall at Westminster between me and Lady Poyntz... [damaged] words as I did then and there speak conditionally, vizt. If the said Lady had taken such an oath and not otherwise.'

4. 'I, William Coxe, have lived in my dwelling place at Long Ashton and neere thereabout these twenty yeares and upwards, have been for all the time by my neighbours and such as conversed with me well known to be a sober and temperate man noe waies given to speaking ill of others and for such a one I am and have been for all the time commonly reputed and taken.'

5. 'It pleased the right honourable the lord Maltravers, lieutenant to the right honourable the Earle Marshall at or about the beginning and first entrance of this cause in this honourable court by his letters dated the 29 May last past to refer the hearing, examination and ending (if it might be of the merits of this cause) to certain gentleman of worth, vizt. Sir Edward Rodney, knt, John Mallett, esq, William Capell, esq, and William Longe esq, and to certifie unto his honor what and howe they found by examination of the cause and difference to stand. The gentlemen or some of them, viz. William Capell and William Longe, by their certificate in writing dated the [space left for insertion of date] last have certified all and singular the contents in the 2, 3 and 4 posicons of these my exceptions in most or some of them to be true. And further they have certified that they do probably conceive that this suite is brought to hinder me William Coxe in my proceedings in the courte and Whitehall. And also further they have certified of the proud and insolent carriage of Nicholas Poyntz towards them the referees in this business; and that they upon the receipt of the letter of reference writing to him a friendly letter and appointing thereby a convenient time and place for executing the same, he Nicholas threw away the letter in contempt and said it nothing concerned him, and did neither come to the referees at the time and place appointed nor send to them.'

No date.

Signed by Thomas Eden.


Nicholas Poyntz does not appear in the Visitations of Somerset: F. T. Colby (ed.), The Visitation of the County of Somerset in the year 1623 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 11, 1876); G. D. Squibb (ed.), The Visitation of Somerset and the City of Bristol, 1672 (Publications of the Harleian Society, new series, 11, 1992).

William Coxe of Long Ashton, co. Somerset, gent, was mentioned in the visitation of 1672. He married Margaret, daughter of Rice Davyes of Tickenham, co. Somerset.

He acted as under sheriff to John Mallett, esq, sheriff of Somerset in 1636 and took a prominent role in the successful collection of ship money in that year. T. G. Barnes describes him as loyal, hard working and assiduous. Cox claimed in May 1638 that collection of arrears had now become almost impossible because the rumours of the judges' opinions in Hampden's case had done so much to strengthen opposition.

G. D. Squibb (ed.), The Visitation of Somerset and the City of Bristol, 1672 (Publications of the Harleian Society, new series, 11, 1992), p. 12; T. G. Barnes, Somerset 1625-1640 (Harvard, Mass., 1961), pp. 227, 235; CSP Dom. 1637-8 , p. 418.


  • Initial proceedings
    • Fiat: 6/157 (16 May 1639)
    • Plaintiff's bond: 6/160 (16 May 1639)
    • Defendant's bond: 6/123 (30 May 1639)
    • Libel: 11/37b (no date)
    • Summary of libel: R.19, fo. 21r (no date)
  • Plaintiff's case
    • Letters commissory for the plaintiff: 11/37a (29 May 1639)
    • Defence interrogatories: 11/37c (no date)
    • Plaintiff depositions: 11/37d (7 Jun 1639)
    • Notary public's certificate: 11/37e (no date)
  • Defendant's case
    • Defence: 16/1n (no date)

People mentioned in the case

  • Blount, Thomas, gent
  • Bourne, George
  • Capell, William, esq
  • Coxe, Margaret (also Cox)
  • Coxe, William, attorney (also Cox)
  • Crossman, Joseph, clerk
  • Davyes, Margaret
  • Davyes, Rice
  • Dethick, Gilbert, registrar
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Eastman, John
  • Eden, Thomas, lawyer
  • Gorge, Mr, esq
  • Hampden, John, esq
  • Harman, Mr
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Huggeson, William, innkeeper
  • Hugson, Robert, gent (also Hogeson, Hudson)
  • Jones, Gilbert, lawyer
  • Lane, William, notary public
  • Longe, William, esq
  • Mallett, John, esq
  • Morgan, Richard, esq
  • Percivall, James, esq
  • Pownoll, Israel, gent
  • Poyntz, Grizelle, lady (also Pointz, Poynts)
  • Poyntz, John, knight (also Pointz, Poynts)
  • Poyntz, Nicholas, esq (also Pointz, Poynts)
  • Poyntz, Robert, knight (also Pointz, Poynts)
  • Rodney, Edward, esq
  • Slater, Joshua, clerk
  • Smith, Mr, esq
  • Terrick, Humphrey, registrar
  • Tynte, William, gent
  • Wale, Mary, gent
  • Watson, John

Places mentioned in the case

  • Gloucestershire
    • Almondsbury
  • Middlesex
    • Westminster
    • Whitehall
  • Somerset
    • Failand Cross
    • Iron Acton
    • Long Ashton
    • Portbury
    • Tickenham
    • Wraxall

Topics of the case

  • allegation of perjury
  • arbitration
  • denial of gentility
  • judicial maiming
  • provocative of a duel
  • ship money
  • taxation
  • under sheriff