The Field of the Cloth of Gold was a mega event that took place in June 1520. Here is a brief calendar of events of one of the most extravagant and costly international peace treaty EVER.
May 30 – King Francis arrives at Ardres and King Henry arrives at Calais and sends word of his arrival via Sir Richard Wingfield and makes his excuses for not being on time at Ardres.
June 1 – King Henry sent Cardinal Wolsey to meet King Francis halfway near Ardres. Riding a mule, the French King went down to the gate of Ardres to welcome Wolsey. Our dear Cardinal was in his finest red satin followed by 60 gentlemen, all decked up in red velvet with gold jewellery, and archers on horses, again all in red with nicely embroidered doublets. Wolsey rode a mule too; altogether too many mules in the story! Francis then hosted a dinner for Wolsey.
June 2 – Tents were pitched on both sides.
June 3 – Wife swapping! King Henry feasted with Queen Claude, while King Francis broke bread with Queen Katherine.
June 4 – Not much happened
June 5 – The French and English put up their tents (amounting to about 2000) near the Field that was to be the show of the century.
June 6 – Both Kings finally meet at 1 pm. NOT! Yet another delay … but the treat y was ratified, at least. Princess Mary was to wed the Dauphin!
June 7 –FINALLY, the two meet and their loving reunion went on for two hours. They seem to have spent 45 minutes alone together. How they both got out alive from it is anybody’s guess.
Francis leaves Ardres with his entourage dressed thus,
The King wore a cap of black velvet with feathers of the same colour, and some large jewels in it very well set, which the King estimates at 2,000 ducats. His doublet was embroidered with gold knots, the shirt protruding from the slashes, the tags of which were most beautiful jewels. His breast was bare, and he had sleeves (manegetti). Over the doublet was a cloak of cloth of gold embroidered; at the back of the cloak a certain bit of cloth of gold slashed, looking like a half cape, or well nigh a half mantle, fastened over the left shoulder, which half cape or mantle was costly and ornamented with large jewels. On his legs, he wore white boots (burzachini bianchi).
Gorgeous! The bare breast wouldn’t be a lack of shirt, but a lack of jewels decorating that part of his clothes. But that is nothing compared to our Henry …
The King of England wore a very handsome and costly doublet of cloth of silver, with a girdle and apron (traversa) or “sbarra” from the cincture to the shoulder, of cloth of gold studded with very beautiful jewels, and a black velvet cap with jewels and black feathers; and he rode a very handsome bay courser with a “trapper” embroidered in gold.
Isn’t that just cute? I bet he looked handsome!
Facing each other from two different hills, the French and the English Kings slowly moved forward on horseback, intending to meet each other halfway. Not contented with all the display, Henry and Francis embraced each other THRICE while on horseback, before dismounting. Even this was a race, and our Henry was first! They hugged again, and Henry took Francis’ by his arm and they both went off into the sunset. Or rather the tent intended for their meeting. They even drank from the same cup of wine. That’s love!
On Henry offering to give up his titles of King of France, love fest between Henry and Francis.
Francis: “Mon Frere, now that you are my friend, you are King of France, King of all my possessions, and of me myself; but without friendship I acknowledge no other King of France than myself, and thus, with the aid of our Lord God, do I hope to be able to defend and preserve this kingdom for myself and my successors.”
Henry: “Mon Frere, I swear to our Lord God, although I have been very deeply in love, that I never had so strong a wish and desire to gratify any of my appetites, as that of seeing and embracing you, and I promise God, who has granted me this grace, never to love anybody so much as I love you; and should you ever find me fail in this love, and that I do not love you above everything, and do not perform such office as becomes a true and perfect friend, I am willing to be accounted the most base and sorry prince and gentleman in the world”
What can one say but Awwwww … especially since there would be a war within a couple of years between the two “frères”.
June 8 – Suffolk and others went to Ardres where they were entertained by Francis while the French nobility went to Guisnes and were received royally by Henry.
June 9 – Francis and Henry exchanged their lovely horses and decided to do a bit of jousting, but only for a mere two hours. Another wife swap for dinner!
June 10 – Entertainment starts! The Queens give gifts to the opposite Kings and the Kings make a pact to build a church at common cost on the border. And a palace!
June 11 – Jousts! Englishmen in purple and gold, and Frenchmen in white and gold. There was two wooden houses, one for each king to get armed in. According to the Mantuan Ambassador to France, the women drank themselves silly while the men were jousting. Interesting! A tree was placed in the lists, its trunk decorated with … what else! … gilt, with the leaves made of green damask. It bore the shields of both the Kings (France to the right, England to the left). Above it were the crowns of both Kings, and below it were the shields of the jousting members. The tournament was to last for twelve days.
June 12 – Wolsey gives a banquet to some French noblemen. Bad weather, so no jousting.
June 13 – Bad weather, so jousts were cancelled for the day. Instead, they did some wrestling.
June 14 – Yet more bad weather, but they got tired of cancelling the jousts, so they continued with it. However, it wasn’t any fun and “an infinity of spears were lost”
June 15 – The jousts continued, though the Kings did not take part. The Queens rested at home.
June 16 – Same old jousts!
June 17 – Henry and Mary, Duchess of Suffolk went to dine with the French Queen, while Francis and his sister went to eat with Queen Catherine. There was no jousting but there was a masquerade and dancing. Fun times!
June 18 – More of the same.
June 19 – King Henry invites King Francis and Emperor Charles for a banquet. Serious political talk takes place. Jousts finished! But not to worry; there are other treats in store.
June 20 – Sword fighting!
June 21 – More sword fighting! Queen of France returns to Paris
June 22 – Not much happened
June 23 – Cardinal Wolsey is in his full element. He gives a banquet to many noblemen and displays his wealth. Gold and silver abound again. He also gave a mass and was given the highest rank among the present Cardinals, of which there were a few. And yet more fighting; this time with pikes and long swords.
June 24 – There was a masque, a feast, a final meeting in the lists between the Kings of France and England and then they finally took leave of each other, with much display of emotions, and the event that was the talk of the town was finally over.
Dieu par sa grace permette la paix estre durable. Amen.
Peace did not last long as desired, but the Field of the Cloth of Gold was the standards to which international peace treaties were measured for a long time to come.
Henry VIII: June 1520, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 3
Venice: June 1520, 1-5, Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 3