7 June 1520 – Henry VIII, Francis I and the Field of Cloth of Gold

Field of Cloth of GoldThe 7th June 1520, was the first day of the historic meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I of France between the English stronghold of Guînes and the French town of Ardres, on a piece of land referred to as the Field of Cloth of Gold. It was to last until 24th June.

Henry VIII and his queen, Catherine of Aragon, were accompanied by over five thousand people, and although the meeting was supposed to solidify the Treaty of London between the two countries, it was also an opportunity for the two kings to show off to each other.

Here are some details about the Field of Cloth of Gold:

  • The English court was housed in “exotic pavilions”.
  • The King’s chamber was a palace made out of wood and canvas.
  • Courtiers were dressed in “velvet, satin and cloth of gold”.
  • Rich furnishings were used for the state apartments.
  • 6,000 men were employed in building the English quarters.
  • There were two wine fountains flowing with red wine.
  • There was plenty of entertainment – jousts, fights, singing from the French and English choirs, banquets, wrestling and archery displays.
  • The tents of the English court featured cloth decorated with gold, fringing of the Tudor livery colours, fleurs-de-lis designs on some of the roofs, some with candelabra and friezes bearing the Royal mottoes and others with Tudor roses and “King’s beasts”, e.g. lions, greyhounds, dragons etc., on tent poles.

Trivia: Henry VIII challenged Francis I to a wrestling match but unfortunately the English king lost.

The Royal Armouries have produced an excellent video about the combat armour made for Henry VIII specifically for the Field of Cloth of Gold:

Notes and Sources

  • Loades David. Henry VIII, p113

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3 thoughts on “7 June 1520 – Henry VIII, Francis I and the Field of Cloth of Gold”
  1. The Field of the Cloth of Gold is one of my favourite events of Henry’s reign. For me it marks a high point in the marriage of Katherine of Aragon and Henry VIII and was a stroke of genius thought up by Wolsey. Had the agreements made there been kept to who knows peace in Europe may have been something that was finally achieved. The splendour was magnificent and yes it cost a lot; but it was meant to impress. The English crown was trying to gain its former prestige in the eyes of its rivals in France and Spain and this was seen as being a wonderful way to do this without going to war. Besides Henry VIII had gained a lot of money from his father and was determined to spend it. The price of peace can never be too high: better to spend the money on this than on war. In the end the idea was merely that; a great idea; the will to have peace was not as great as the human desire for war; the desire for Henry to regain the crown of France and the Emperor to drive France out of Italy. That does not mean that the dream should not have been put into action at this conference and show of magnificance; had it been successful it would have been a remarkable and historical achievement.

  2. I believe Berkeley Castle has a piece of the Field of Cloth of Gold – I recall gasping out loud in our bookstore when I read that; it was in a contemporary magazine article. It made me want to pack my bag and travel there to see it!

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