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François Ier et Henri VIII. Deux princes de la Renaissance (1515-1547)

 | 
Roger Mettam
, 
Charles Giry-Deloison

The field of cloth of gold

Robert J. Knecht

Texte intégral

1It seems highly appropriate on the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII's birth and at a time when England's sea-girt isolation from France has been breached to consider the Field of Cloth of Gold, an event of unique magnificence, which brought the two courts of England and France closer together than they ever had been in the past or ever would be again. Not without good reason did contemporaries acclaim it as the eighth wonder of the world.

  • 1 Copies of La description in BN, Rothschild 2662 and BL, C 33, d 22 (2) and G 1209; of Lordonnance (...)

2The event itself is one of the best documented examples of Renaissance pageantry. It was described in detail by Italian ambassadors in reports to their governments, by contemporary historians, chroniclers and memorialists, such as Edward Hall or Guillaume du Bellay. Two official accounts were published as pamphlets in Paris in 1520: one called La description et ordre du camp, festins et ioustes and the other Lordonnance et ordre du tournoy, ioustes & combat a pied, & a cheval. And there are two paintings by an unidentified artist at Hampton Court: one shows Henry VIII embarking at Dover, the other his arrival at Guînes.1

  • 2 Alfred F. POLLARD, Henry VIII, London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1913, p. 142; John J. SCARISBRICK,(...)

3For all the documentation that is available, the Field of Cloth of Gold remains a controversial diplomatic exercise. Was it, as A. F. Pollard once thought, «perhaps the most portentous deception on record» or was it, as Scarisbrick has suggested, part of a «policy of imbalance» which Wolsey pursued in the hope of imposing peace on Europe, and acquiring «that dominance to which her chancellor unceasingly aspired?2»

  • 3 Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, ed. Percy S. ALLEN et al., Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1906- (...)
  • 4 The Treaty of Noyon (13 August 1516) and the Treaty of London (2 October 1518). See C.A.F., vol. I (...)
  • 5 Robert J. KNECHT, Francis I, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1982, p. 71-77.

4In February 1517 Erasmus wrote a famous letter in which he noted with satisfaction that the rulers of Christendom were reducing their armaments. He looked forward to a Golden Age in which moral virtues, Christian piety, and true learning would come into their own.3 The peace of Christendom depended on three young rulers: Henry VIII of England (aged twenty-six); Francis I of France (aged twenty-three) and Charles of Habsburg of Spain (aged seventeen). Only a blind optimist could have imagined that any lasting peace was possible between them. Being young, inexperienced and keen to show their martial qualities, they were deeply jealous of each other. While paying lip-service to the cause of Christian unity, they were unwilling to abandon any of their inherited rights: Henry had a claim to the French crown; Francis to the crowns of Milan and Naples; and Charles to the duchy of Burgundy. Sooner or later they seemed bound to come into conflict. For the time being however, they sank their differences. Francis and Charles signed a treaty in 1516 and Henry and Francis in 1518.4 It was in this last treaty that the idea of the Field of Cloth of Gold originated: it was suggested that the two kings should meet in the following year. However, the idea had to be shelved because of the election to the Holy Roman Empire in 1519, which exposed the rivalries of the three princes. All three were candidates. Charles, as a Habsburg, was the obvious person to succeed to the Empire, but the German electors were not bound to vote for him. At their invitation, Francis threw his hat in the ring. As for Henry, he pretended to support Charles and Francis, but contrived by means of «provident and circumspect drifts» to advance his own candidature.5

  • 6 L.P., vol. IIΙ, 1, no 416; Johan HUIZINGA, The Waning of the Middle Ages, Harmondsworth, Penguin, (...)
  • 7 L.P., vol. III, 1, no 728.

5In the end Charles was elected, thereby becoming the most powerful ruler in Christendom. One effect of his election was to bring Henry and Francis closer together. In August 1519 they revived the idea of their meeting. Henry rashly promised not to remove his beard until it took place, whereupon Francis declared that he would not shave his until he had met the king of England. The beard vow was one of the oldest vows of chivalry. As Maurice Keen has shown, they «were no empty gesture. They were part of a carefully thought out attempt to give maximum éclat to the launching of a venture seriously intended»6. But they were not always fulfilled. Within a few months of Henry having taken his vow, a Frenchman saw him clean shaven! The matter was taken up at the highest diplomatic level. Louise de Savoie, Francis's formidable mother, asked Sir Thomas Boleyn, the English ambassador, for an explanation. He extricated himself from embarrassment by blaming Henry's queen, Catherine of Aragon: «I told my Lady», he wrote, «that I have hereafore time known when the King's grace hath worn long his beard, that the Queen hath daily made him great instance, and desired him to put it off for her sake». This apparently satisfied Louise, who consoled herself with the thought that the kings' love lay «not in the beards but in the hearts»7.

  • 8 Garrett MATTINGLY, Catherine of Aragon, London, Jonathan Cape, 1944, p. 168-171.
  • 9 Alfred F. POLLARD, Wolsey, London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1929, p. 16, 22, 25, 119-127; id., Hen (...)
  • 10 L.P., vol. ΙII, 1, no 728.
  • 11 Alfred F. POLARD, Wolsey, op. cit., p. 125.
  • 12 Peter GWYN, «Wolsey's Foreign Policy: The conferences at Calais and Bruges reconsidered», HJ, t ΧΧ (...)
  • 13 IP., vol. ΙII, 1, no 633.
  • 14 Edward HALL, The Triumphant Reigne of Kyng Henry the VIII, ed. Charles WHIBLEY, London and Edinbur (...)
  • 15 Edward HALL, op. cit., vol. I, p. 182-187; L.P., vol. III, 1, no 673.

6It Catherine had objected to Henry's beard on political as well as aesthetic grounds, it would not have been surprising. For, being the Emperor's aunt, she opposed any rapprochement between her husband and France. In April 1520 «she made such representations and showed such reasons against» the French meeting «as one would not have supposed she would have dared to do or even to imagine»8. English public opinion was, it seems, solidly behind her for obvious reasons: the Emperor, as ruler of the Netherlands, controlled the market for English cloth, and France was still generally regarded as England's traditional enemy. Why, then, did Henry take up the idea of meeting Francis at the risk of offending the Emperor? Perhaps Wolsey was responsible, but his diplomacy remains controversial. According to Pollard, it was determined by the cardinal's ambition to become pope, but, as D. S. Chambers has shown, Wolsey did little to ingratiate himself with the Curia or to build up English representation there. He never went to Rome, and did not seriously become a papal candidate9. Even contemporaries were baffled by Wolsey's policy. The Imperialists believed that he was in the pay of the French or, as they put it, was drinking aurum potabile from the French king's bottle10. He was in receipt of a French pension and Francis had promised to pull strings for him at the next papal conclave. Yet it is difficult to believe that bribery alone determined Wolsey's policy. According to Pollard, he was trying to make Charles and Francis bid against each other for England's friendship before siding with Charles11. Yet nothing suggests that Wolsey was anything but sincere in his desire for an Anglo-French alliance in 1519. He may even have seen it as the essential first step towards that Christian peace which Erasmus hoped might be in the offing. Peter Gwyn, the latest interpreter of Wolsey's foreign policy, accepts that, between the treaty of London and the Calais conference of August 1521, the French alliance was important to Wolsey. «If it was not», he writes, «the expenditure and effort that he lavished on the famous meeting between Henry and Francis in 1520 at the Field of Cloth of Gold are totally inexplicable». However, Gwyn does not believe that Wolsey was totally committed to friendship with France or a consistent champion of peace. Thus, he writes, Wolsey «was quite prepared to stand by the treaty of London, but only so long as a better alternative did not turn up. Keeping his options open was for him always a central article of faith... »12. Be this as it may, Francis apparently trusted Wolsey to the extent of appointing him in February 1520 as his proctor to arrange the interview with Henry13. In the words of Edward Hall: «It was highly estemed and taken for great love that the Frenche kyng had geven so greate power to the kynge of Englandes subject»14. On 12 March Wolsey produced a treaty which laid down the terms of the kings'meeting. Henry, his queen and sister were to cross the Channel by the end of May, and within four days thereafter they were to meet Francis, his queen and mother within the Pale of Calais. The meeting was to be followed by a «feat of arms»15.

7News of the forthcoming Anglo-French summit naturally alarmed Charles V. In March 1520 he was in Spain, preparing to travel to Aachen in Germany for his coronation as King of the Romans. He decided to visit England on the way, if possible before the Anglo-French meeting, his purpose being either to prevent it from taking place at all or to create so much suspicion between England and France as to nullify its prospects. Time, however, was pressing. Charles had less than two weeks to reach England and the wind seemed resolutely set against him as he waited at Corunna for an opportunity to sail to the Netherlands.

  • 16 L.P., vol. ΙII, 1, no 681, 689, 697, 770, 773, 787, 803, 1162.
  • 17 Alfred F. POLLARD, Henry VIII, op. cit., p. 142-143; Peter GWYN, art. cit., p. 760-761.

8Eventually, he asked Henry to wait for him before leaving for France. As Henry did not wish to offend Charles, he asked Francis for a delay on the ground that he needed more time to prepare his journey, but Francis would not oblige. His queen, he explained, was several months pregnant. Any delay would preclude her attendance at the meeting. This objection was genuine enough, but Francis also knew that Charles was trying to sabotage his meeting with Henry. In fact, the English request proved unnecessary. On 20 May the wind in Biscay suddenly changed and the Emperor was able to set sail Within six days he reached Dover. Henry hastened to welcome him. The two monarchs celebrated Whitsun at Canterbury, and talked business. They also reached some kind of agreement, but its precise terms have never come to light. In 1521 the Imperial chancellor referred to an oath of mutual assistance which Charles and Henry had sworn at Canterbury16. Pollard believed that it was at Canterbury that Henry planned to double-cross Francis; but this is unproven. Gwyn argues that it was only in June 1521, well after the Field of Cloth of Gold, that the plot to deceive the French was conceived by an Imperial councillor17. In May 1520 Wolsey was keeping his options open.

  • 18 L.P., vol. ΙII, 1, no 733, 748, 749.

9The Emperor's visit to England did arouse French suspicions. For several weeks Francis wondered whether or not Henry seriously intended to cross the Channel. His confidence was restored when Thomas Benolt, Clarencieux King of Arms, visited Blois in April. Even so, the French did not take kindly to the Emperor's visit to England. Admiral Bonnivet warned Wolsey against the Emperor's tricks. The cardinal replied that Henry could not be reasonably expected to close the door on Charles if he wished to visit his aunt, the English queen. The recriminations continued, but on 12 May Francis was sufficiently reassured to start on his journey to Picardy. Soon afterwards he learnt with evident relief that Henry had left Greenwich and was on his way to Dover18. Actually there was never any question on either side of the summit being called off: ever since February both England and France had been making intensive preparations, which indicated the seriousness of their intentions.

I. Preparations

  • 19 Ibid., vol. III, 1, no 626. The meeting took place in January 1189 between Chaumont and Gisors. Th (...)
  • 20 Martin et Guillaume DU BELLAY, Mémoires, ed. Victor-Louis BOURRILLY et F. VINDRY, Paris, Librairie (...)

10Summit meetings, to be successful, must always be well prepared. In February 1520 a Frenchman warned against repeating the meeting between Philip Augustus and Henry II from which no good had ensued19. Everyone hoped that if the Field of Cloth of Gold were well prepared, it would lead to other meetings, Wolsey stressed the need to satisfy all parties by avoiding suspicion, jealousy or excessive expenditure. In the end, of course, an enormous amount of money was spent by the kings and their nobles. In the words of du Bellay: «plusieurs y portèrent leurs moulins, leur forests et leurs prez sur leurs espaules»20.

  • 21 L.P., vol. ΙII, 1, no 643; Martin et Guillaume du BELLAY, op. cit., p. 100.

11One of the first matters to be decided was where the kings should first meet Henry originally suggested Calais; Francis favoured a more open space. Eventually, Wolsey decided that the meeting would take place half way between the English town of Guînes and the French town of Ardres. Francis generously agreed that it should be on English soil Two commissioners - the earl of Worcester for England and Marshal Châtillon for France - were asked to find a suitable spot. They picked a small valley - the Val Doré or Golden valley - and made it more symmetrical by building two artificial mounds on either side. Some people have argued that the Field of Cloth of Gold owed its name to the Val Doré, but du Bellay says that it was called after the magnificent clothes worn by the lords and their servants21.

  • 22 Edward HALL, op. cit., vol. I, p. 196.

12Acoording to the treaty there were to be no tents or pavilions at the meeting place, but the English put up a tent for the convenience of the two kings. Richard Gibson, Serjeant of the Tents, also marked the exact spot where they were to meet with four green and white flags, which Châtillon allegedly removed «in rigorous and cruell maner»22

  • 23 L.P., vol. ΙII, 1, no 702; Joycelyne G. RUSSELL, The Field of Cloth of Gold; men and manners in 15 (...)

13Another problem facing the organizers of the meeting was security. An open place was chosen because of the dangers of cooping up about 6,000 people of two nations in one small town, particularly at the height of summer, when they could be expected to drink heavily. Even in the open, it was felt necessary to limit the number of people attending. Under the treaty, the kings drew up lists of their attendants, servants and horses23.

  • 24 L.P., vol. III, 1, no 698,806.
  • 25 Ibid., vol. III, 1, no 841.

14The fair sex was expected to play a prominent part. Sir Richard Wingfield reported, on 26 March, that a great search was being made at the French court for the fairest women. He hoped that Catherine of Aragon would «bring such in her band that the visage of England, which hath always had the prize» should not lose. Francis was willing to interpret the regulations flexibly in respect of the ladies. He told the English ambassador that he hoped Henry would not object if he brought along any suitable lady. Wingfield assured him that he had never seen Henry «encumbered or find fault with an over great press of ladies»24. Francis, however, was strict about other people. On 26 May he issued a proclamation banishing all vagabonds from the site of the meeting under pain of death. No one could attend without a ticket25.

  • 26 Edward HALL, op. cit., vol. I, p. 186-187.

15In spite of these precautions a kind of Anglo-French police force was felt to be necessary, Wolsey's treaty provided for the appointment of two gentlemen with an equal number of men from each side «for the kepyng and suretie of the waies and watches». They were to send out «explorators and spies» who were to report each morning and evening. As a further precaution, it was decided that no troops should come within two days march of the site except for the garrisons of Boulogne and Calais26.

16Accommodation was probably the biggest headache for the organizers of the Field of Cloth of Gold. The town of Ardres had been badly damaged in the war of 1512 and Guînes castle was ruinous. From the start it was decided that many people would have to sleep in tents. Both kings, however, wanted accommodation of a more solid kind.

  • 27 Ibid., vol. I, p. 189-193; Sydney ANGLO, «Le Camp du Drap d'Or et les entrevues d'Henri VIII et de (...)
  • 28 Mémoires du maréchal de Florange dit le Jeune Adventureux, ed. Robert GOUBAUX and Paul-André LEMOI (...)
  • 29 Edward HALL, op. cit., vol. I, p. 190-191.

17Henry erected a large temporary palace just outside Guines castle27. In plan, it was a traditional English country house with a central courtyard, gatehouse and angle-towers. But the elevation was unusual: the towers were of brick, as were the walls, but only as far as the first floor. Above this level they were of wood, painted to look like brick, and pierced by tall windows with wooden mullions. The large expanse of windows delighted contemporaries. Florange wrote that «la moictié de la maison estoit touttes de verrière, et vous asseure qu'ilz y faisoit bien cler», and the Mantuan ambassador reported that the building offered «una claritade come se fusse al discoperto»28. Above the windows ran a cornice, a frieze with classical motifs and a row of wooden battlements. Hall tells us that in the windows were «images resemblynge men of warre redy to caste greate stones» and that the gate was encompassed by «images of auncient Prynces, as Hercules, Alexander and other». The palace had a pitched roof of oil cloth painted grey to simulate slate; the chimney pots were of stone. Just outside the building, on either side of the gateway, stood two monuments: a pillar with a statue of Cupid, and a fountain surmounted by a statue of Bacchus from which flowed red and white wine29.

  • 30 C.S.P. Ven., vol. IIΙ, no 81,83,88; L.P., vol. III, 1, no 870.

18Contemporary descriptions of Henry's palace are so full of contradictions that it is difficult to form a clear idea of the internal arrangements. The ground floor was taken up by the offices, kitchens and cellars. The first floor, which was reached by means of a staircase, contained a very large hall as well as smaller halls and private apartments. The ceilings were draped with silk; the walls covered with Arras tapestries, and the floor strewn with rushes. The palace also contained a chapel with a rich altar and a beautiful organ, overlooked by two closets. Some of Henry's entourage slept in this temporary palace: Mary Tudor, for instance, whose bed hangings were still embroidered with the porcupine of her first husband, Louis XII; also Wolsey. But Henry slept in Guînes castle which he reached by means of a covered way of foliage. An eye-witness described it as «difficile comme le Château de Dedalus ou le jardin de Morgue la Fée du temps des Chevaliers errans»30.

  • 31 L.P., vol. IIΙ, 1, no 700, 750, 825.

19The temporary palace was built under the supervision of three commissioners: Nicholas Vaux, William Sandys and Edward Belknap. On 26 March they asked Wolsey to send from England, Vertue, the king's master-mason and 150 bricklayers; also 250 carpenters, 100 joiners, 60 sawyers and 40 plasterers. About the same time, they sent William Lilgrave to Flanders to fetch timber, board and glass. Work proceeded very quickly: on 18 April the commissioners asked for more money to «make and garnish» the roses, described as «large and stately». By then, the building was nearing completion. It proved very expensive. Henry complained that there were too many buildings, but the commissioners explained they had worked strictly according to the «platt» they had been given. They ascribed the high cost to the fact that the work had to be done in haste and the materials brought from afar31.

  • 32 BN, Fr. 10383; Joycelyne G. RUSSELL, op. cit., p. 23-30.

20What did Francis do to compete with the English palace? He began by ordering a large number of tents and pavilions. These were made by an army of workmen and women at Tours, the whole operation being supervised by Galiot de Genouillac, grand maître de l'artillerie, one of the heroes of Marignano. The tents were made of stout canvas, but covered with rich materials, such as cloth of gold and silver and various heraldic devices. Such enrichments were purchased far and wide: one official travelled seven times to Florence to buy fleur-de-lis of cloth of gold. Timber for the masts was taken from forests in Auvergne and Forez. Once made, the tents had to be transported from Tours to Ardres by 104 carters and 466 horses. At Ardres itself, 200 pioneers prepared the ground. Eventually, between 300 and 400 tents, richly emblasoned with the arms of their owners, sprang up in a meadow outside the town32.

  • 33 C.S.P. Ven., vol. III, no 60, 80.

21The finest tent and the largest was the king's. It was 120 feet high and supported by two masts lashed together. The covering was of gold brocade with three broad stripes of blue velvet «powdered» with gold fleur-de-lis. At the top was a life-size statue of St Michael holding a dart in one hand and a shield in the other. It had been carved out of walnut by Germain Arnoult and painted blue and gold by Jean Bourdichon, the king's painter. The tent's ropes, striped in the king's colours, were thick enough to serve as the cables of a ship of 300 tons or more. Near this great tent were three others, equally rich, for the king's use as a chapel or secret chamber, wardrobe and council chamber respectively. Fifteen smaller pavilions stood near this central group33.

  • 34 Edward HALL, op. cit., vol. I, p. 193-194. The design of the rotunda has been ascribed to Domenico (...)
  • 35 The English ambassadors were: Charles Somerset earl of Worcester; Nicholas West, bishop of Ely; Th (...)

22Francis also put up a rotunda on brick foundations with walls of board thirty inches high painted to resemble brick. Almost certainly this was the «hous of solas & sporte, of large and mightie compas» described by Hall. If so, it was supported by a tall mast and the roof was «all blewe, set with starres of gold foyle, and the Orbes of the heavens... curiosly wrought in maner like the sky, or firmamen, and a cresant.. covered with frettes and knottes made of Ive busshes, and boxe braunches, and other thynges that longest would be grene for pleasure»34. This banqueting house, which was not finished in time and was apparently not used, reminded Florange of the arrangements for the banquet given to English ambassadors in 1518 within the courtyard of the Bastille35.

  • 36 Mémoires du maréchal de Florange, op. cit.,vol. I, p. 264; Sydney ANGLO, op. cit., p. 141 and «Le (...)
  • 37 Joycelyne G. RUSSELL, op. cit., p. 31.

23The queen of France, the king's mother and the great nobles had their own tents and pavilions. With their cloth of gold, devices and golden apples that glinted in the sunlight they were by all accounts a wonderful sight One observer thought they surpassed in beauty the pyramids of Egypt and the angelic visages of the «Heroydes princesses». Yet it was Henry's palace that took the palm. An Italian commented that Leonardo da Vinci could not have done better; another compared it to palaces described in Bojardo's Orlando innamorato or Ariosto's Orlando furioso36. Tents, particularly richly decorated ones, were also vulnerable to the weather. Only four days after the start of the meeting, they had to be taken down because of wind and rain. The mast of the king's great tent was also broken in a gale. Presumably matters were put right once the weather improved. Francis, however, did not depend entirely on his tent He had taken over four houses in Ardres and had also commandeered part of the abbey of Andres37.

  • 38 Edward HALL, op. cit., vol. I, p. 184-185.
  • 39 Ibid., vol. I, p. 200-201; Sydney ANGLO, op. cit., p. 150-151; Joycelyne G. RUSSELL, op. cit., p. (...)

24The Field of Cloth of Gold consisted of two meetings: first, the meeting of the kings; secondly, the «feat of arms» or tournament Wolsey's treaty stated that, since the two kings were «lyke in force corporall, beautie and gyfte of nature, ryght experte and havyng knowlege in the arte militant, right chevalrous in armes, and in the flower and vygor of youth», it was fitting that they should «do some fayre feate of armes, aswel on fote as on horsebacke, against all commers... »38 This too required careful preparation. First, it was proclaimed by English and French heralds in England, France and the Netherlands; secondly, a convenient site had to be found between Guînes and Ardres. After much discussion a site on English soil was chosen. Thirdly, it had to be «appareled, diched, fortified & kept» by an equal number of men from both sides. Wolsey submitted a plan, which was modified to meet French objections. This caused many delays, and challengers began to arrive before the lists were ready. Once completed, the field had two stands for the spectators and small wooden houses in which the kings put on their armour. An important feature was the Tree of Honour. This was an artificial tree, like an elm, around which were entwined a hawthorn for England and a raspberry bush for France. The tree stood on a square mound with a railing and on it were hung three shields, representing the three successive parts of the challenge: the tilt, tournament in the open field and armed combat at the barriers39.

  • 40 L.P., vol. III, 1, no 807; Sydney ANGLO, op. cit., p. 152.

25Preparations for the tournament and feat of arms included the gathering of a large number of horses and weapons. Horses were required not only as mounts but also as gifts for exchange by the monarchs. The account book of Sir Edward Guildford informs us that from 9 April several English agents rode into Flanders and «Almayn» «makyng provisyon agaynst the tryumphe at Guysnes». Vast quantities of armour and weapons were also obtained, including hundreds of two-handed and heavy swords. Francis was not keen on such weapons. He told Wingfield that the tourney on horseback would be better fought with a «more nymble sworde». An armoury was set up at Calais, the Greenwich steel-works were dismantled and transported to Guînes and four forges set up in the town40. Complicated regulations were drawn up for the tournament to prevent the same people running too many courses and to limit accidents: sharp steel was forbidden, as was closing in on an adversary.

  • 41 L.P., vol. III, 1, no 747.

26How were all the people at the meeting fed? Sir John Peachy, who had been asked to provide victuals and horses, sent a depressing report from Calais on 18 April: the butchers in the town had beef and mutton only for three weeks and fuel only for one week. Presumably, the French came to the rescue. Marshal Châtillon assured Worcester that there would be no shortage of supplies: he had ordered wine, meat and fodder to be provided at Merguyson, where Henry's subjects would be able to buy whatever they wanted41. Apparently, there was an abundance of food and drink at the Field of Cloth of Gold and reasonably priced: there were about 3,000 butts in the cellars of the English palace alone.

II. The meeting

  • 42 C.S.P. Ven., vol. ΙII, no 57.
  • 43 Ibid., vol. III, no 58, 59, 73; L.P., vol. III, 1, no 869; Edward HALL, op. cit., p. 194; Joycelyn (...)

27Henry VIII arrived in Calais on 31 May. Under the treaty, he should have reached Guînes that day, but, as he explained to Francis, the ladies of his suite were tired and unwell after their Channel crossing; they needed a rest. Francis did not insist on strict observance of the treaty, but warned Henry to be at the meeting place on the appointed day42. So the English court rested four days at Calais. During this interval, Wolsey called on Francis at Ardres accompanied by a hundred gentlemen clad in crimson velvet, some wearing heavy gold chains, others carrying maces. The cardinal rode a mule with harnessing of fine gold and trappings of crimson velvet Along the route he was met by high-ranking French courtiers while the guns of neighbouring castles fired salvoes in his honour43.

  • 44 L.P., vol. III, 1, no 861,874; C.A.F., vol. I, no 1193.
  • 45 C.S.P. Ven., vol. III, no 68, 73; Marino SANUTO, I Diarii di Marino Sanuto (MCCCCXCV1MDXXXIII), Ve (...)

28One would like to know what the king and the cardinal discussed at Ardres. There were persistent rumours that Wolsey offered to mediate between Francis and Charles. The Emperor was only sixty miles away and Wolsey may have suggested that he should be invited to the meeting. A treaty was signed on 6 June which bolstered up the marriage agreement of 1518 and reiterated the total French obligation of one million gold crowns and the undertaking to pay it off in biannual instalments44. Clearly, some last minute difficulties had to be resolved, for on 7 June, after the English court had moved to Guines, the meeting was almost called off. It would appear that, contrary to the terms of the treaty, the French had hidden 3,000 to 4,000 troops near the meeting place. Henry threatened to leave, whereupon Francis withdrew the troops45.

  • 46 C. S.P. Ven., vol. IIΙ, no 50, 60, 67, 68, 71, 72, 73; Edward HALL, op. cit., vol. I, p. 196-200; L (...)

29At five p.m. a signal was fired by one of the guns of Guînes to which a gun at Ardres replied. This was to tell each king that the other was mounting his horse. Two enormous processions, which had been waiting at Guines and Ardres, began to move towards the Val Doré. Many descriptions exist of this splendid scene. The French were apparently more elegantly dressed than the English; they also had more horses; but the English wore heavy gold chains which were much admired. The French procession included Swiss troops whose tall plumes seemed to brush the sky. Their fifes and drums made a deafening noise that carried for miles around. Eventually, the two processions arrived at the Val Doré and formed up on the artificial mounds on either side of the valley. There was a moments silence, then a fanfare of trumpets, sackbuts, clarions, etc. After another pregnant silence, the two kings detached themselves from their companies and slowly descended into the valley. Suddenly, they spurred their horses as if about to engage in combat, but they embraced instead and, after dismounting with agility, embraced again. Then, arm in arm, they retired to the tent that had been prepared for them, where they were joined by Wolsey and Bonnivet Dorset and Bourbon, each holding the naked sword of his state, guarded the entrance. Meanwhile, the English company remained on its hill, but the French, showing less discipline, began to break ranks. After about an hour, the kings came out of the tent and introduced some of their nobles to each other. It was a bright, warm afternoon and everyone was thirsty, so large cups filled with excellent wine were produced as well as spice cakes. As darkness fell the two kings reluctantly parted46.

  • 47 Martin et Guillaume DU BELLAY, op. cit., p. 119.
  • 48 Joycelyne G. RUSSELL, op. cit., p. 119.

30The Field of Cloth of Gold lasted from 7 June till 24 June. As du Bellay tells us, the kings decided to pass their time «en déduit et choses de plaisir», leaving negotiations to their councillors who were to report each day on their work47. Space does not allow a description of each day's events; only the more important ones can be singled out here. On 9 June the «feat of arms» began. The kings came to the tournament field with their retinues of «nobles and young valiants». Francis rode «Dappled Duke» a magnificent horse from the Mantuan stud, which was so much admired by Henry that Francis let him have it in exchange for his Neapolitan courser48. The hanging of the royal shields on the Tree of Honour presented a problem of precedence. In the end, they were placed side by side at the same height.

  • 49 C. S.P. Ven., vol. III, no 50,81.

31The 10 June, being a Sunday, there was no contest Instead there was banqueting: Henry went to Ardres to dine with the French queen and Francis dined with Catherine of Aragon at Guines. Both banquets were followed by dancing. On 11 June the tournament began. This offered the ladies of both courts an opportunity to show themselves in all their finery. The two queens were carried to the jousting field in Utters covered with cloth of gold and other rich fabrics. Their companions followed on palfreys and in waggons. An Italian observer thought the English ladies neither handsome nor graceful. He was shocked by their behaviour during the tournament One took a flask of wine and, putting it to her Ups, drank freely and passed it round to her companions who drained it dry. Not content with this, they drank from large cups which circulated among them more than twenty times49.

  • 50 Sydney ANGLO, op. cit., p. 153-154.
  • 51 Mémoires du maréchal de Florange, op. cit., vol. I, p. 272; Jules MICHELET, Réforme, vol. X of l'H (...)

32The tilting was of variable quality. One eye-witness tells us that the kings bore themselves valiantly, especially the king of France «who shivered spears like reeds and never missed a stroke»; another writes that few spears were shivered and no notable strokes given, except one which splintered Henry's spear! The two kings did not compete against each other; they had their own teams and fought against two others, one English, the other French. The most noteworthy feature of the jousting was the lavishness of the costumes and devices worn by the combatants50 Bad weather frequently interrupted the jousts. To pass the time, the kings watched a wrestling match between Bretons and Englishmen. Florange describes how one day Henry grabbed Francis by the arm, saying: «Brother let us wrestle». Francis, however, was too quick for him. Crooking Henry's leg, he laid him flat on his back. Henry got up flushed and angry. Fortunately, someone announced that dinner was served thereby averting a diplomatic incident. Michelet believed that this marked the breakdown of Anglo-French relations, but the story is almost certainly apocryphal, as only Florange tells it51.

  • 52 Edward HALL, op. cit., vol. I, p. 208; Mémoires du maréchal de Florange, op. cit., vol. I, p. 268- (...)

33So far all the events at the Field of Cloth of Gold had been regulated by a strict etiquette. Francis apparently found this tiresome. Early on 17 June he paid Henry a surprise visit at Guînes castle. «My brother», he declared, «here am I your prisoner». Such a gesture of trust impressed the English mightily. Not to be outdone, Henry turned up at Ardres two days later just as Francis was getting out of bed. This put everyone in a good mood52.

  • 53 Edward HALL, op. cit, vol. I, p. 208-209; C.S.P. Ven., vol. ΙII, no 50, 90, 91; L.P., vol. III, 1, (...)

34No Tudor summit would have been complete without masques and mummeries. One took place on 17 June, when Henry appeared in a curious Milanese outfit accompanied by six German drummers, eight Eastlanders with red hats and yellow plumes and ten people in long gowns of the kind worn by English doctors, with mottoes embroidered on them53.

  • 54 The Anglica Historia of Polydore Vergil A.D. 1485-1537, ed. Denys HAY, London, Royal Historical So (...)

35The English and the French doubtless learnt a great deal about each other's manners at the Field of Cloth of Gold. Some provocative fashions worn by the French ladies made a lasting impact on the English court. «From many most wanton creatures in the company of the French ladies», writes Polydore Vergil, «the English ladies adopted a new garb which, on my oath, was singularly unfit for the chaste; even to-day there are some who dress in this way, abandoning for the most part the far more modest costume of their forebears»54.

  • 55 P. KAST, «Remarques sur la musique et les musiciens de la chapelle de François Ier au camp du Drap (...)
  • 56 C.S.P. Ven., vol. IIΙ, n° 50; Jacobus SYLVIUS, Francisci Francorum Regis et Henrici Anglorum Collo (...)

36On 23 June, an altar was set up on the tournament field and Wolsey sang mass attended by mitred bishops with as much pomp as if he had been pope. Music was provided by the two royal chapels; they sang alternate parts of the mass, each being accompanied by an organist55. During the service «a great artificial salamander or dragon, four fathoms long and full of fire appeared in the air from Ardres. Many were frightened, thinking it a comet or some monster as they could see nothing to which it was attached. It passed right over the chapel to Guînes as fast as a footman can go and as high as a bolt shot from a cross bow». Was it a firework, which the French pyrotechnicians had let off prematurely, or a kite pulled by a wire, as Sylvius indicates in a recently discovered poem?56

  • 57 C.S.P. Ven., vol. III, no 50,93,95.

37Once the mass was over, Richard Pace, standing on a stage, proclaimed a plenary indulgence and conferred the pope's blessing on the two kings. This was followed by an al fresco meal and by a display of foot combat with pikes and swords. Next day, the two queens bestowed rings as prizes for the joust on each other's husband. Then came the sad farewells. At a kind of press conference, Louise de Savoie told foreign ambassadors that the kings had parted with tears in their eyes, intending to build at their joint expense a palace in the Val Doré where they might meet again each year, and also a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Friendship57. Needless to say, neither palace nor chapel was ever built Henry and Francis remained on good terms for about a year. The Field of Cloth of Gold did not, it seems, exacerbate their rivalry, as is still commonly supposed.

  • 58 Robert J. KNECHT, op. cit., p. 105-106.
  • 59 Peter GWYN, art. cit., p. 758.
  • 60 Ibid., p. 765-766; Joycelyne G. RUSSELL, «The search for universal peace: the conferences at Calai (...)
  • 61 L.P., vol.III, 1, no 2290, 2292.

38Sooner or later, however, the three monarchs had to come to terms with reality. No lasting peace between them was possible. Charles V needed to go to Italy to be crowned Emperor by the pope; Francis was anxious to prevent him doing so, because he was afraid that Charles might reconquer the duchy of Milan. Francis attempted to distract him by causing trouble in Luxemburg and Navarre58. This policy soon precipitated a major war between France and the Empire. Under the terms of the treaty of London, England was bound to oppose the aggressor. For as long as possible, Wolsey tried to avoid war. As he explained to Henry, «in thys contraversy betwext thes two princes yt shalbe a me[rvelous great prayse] and honor to your grace so by your hye wysdo[m and authority] to passe betwen and stey them bothe, that ye be nat by ther [contention and variance brought] onto the wer»59. The cardinal played for time at the Calais conference, and even at Bruges, where he met the Emperor and signed an alliance60. Under this treaty, Henry was to declare war on France if the existing hostilities did not end by the following November. Once the deadline had passed, England could no longer play honest broker. On 29 May 1522 Clarencieux king-of-arms appeared before Francis and his courtiers in the archbishop's palace at Lyons and declared war in Henry's name61. The eternal friendship that had been celebrated so spectacularly at the Field of Cloth of Gold had proved as short-lived as most international friendships are, alas, ever likely to be.

Notes

1 Copies of La description in BN, Rothschild 2662 and BL, C 33, d 22 (2) and G 1209; of Lordonnance in BN, Rés. 4° Lb 35 and BL, C 33, d 22 (1); Sydney ANGLO «The Hampton Court Painting of the Field of Cloth of Gold Considered as a Historical Document», AJ, t XLVI, 1966, p. 287-307.

2 Alfred F. POLLARD, Henry VIII, London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1913, p. 142; John J. SCARISBRICK, Henry VIII, London, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1968, p. 81.

3 Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, ed. Percy S. ALLEN et al., Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1906-1958,12 vol., vol. Π, no 541. Letter to Wolfgang Fabricius Capito.

4 The Treaty of Noyon (13 August 1516) and the Treaty of London (2 October 1518). See C.A.F., vol. I, no 503, p. 85 and no 883, p. 154.

5 Robert J. KNECHT, Francis I, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1982, p. 71-77.

6 L.P., vol. IIΙ, 1, no 416; Johan HUIZINGA, The Waning of the Middle Ages, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1985, p. 88-93; Maurice H. KEEN, Chivalry, London and New Haven, Yale University Press, 1984, p. 215.

7 L.P., vol. III, 1, no 728.

8 Garrett MATTINGLY, Catherine of Aragon, London, Jonathan Cape, 1944, p. 168-171.

9 Alfred F. POLLARD, Wolsey, London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1929, p. 16, 22, 25, 119-127; id., Henry VIII, op. at., p. 152; David S. CHAMBERS, «Cardinal Wolsey and the papal tiara», BIHR, t XXXVIII, 1965, p. 20-30.

10 L.P., vol. ΙII, 1, no 728.

11 Alfred F. POLARD, Wolsey, op. cit., p. 125.

12 Peter GWYN, «Wolsey's Foreign Policy: The conferences at Calais and Bruges reconsidered», HJ, t ΧΧΙII, 1980, p. 757, 760.

13 IP., vol. ΙII, 1, no 633.

14 Edward HALL, The Triumphant Reigne of Kyng Henry the VIII, ed. Charles WHIBLEY, London and Edinburgh, T.C. and E.C. Jack, 1904,2 vol., vol. I, p. 195; L.P., vol. ΙII, 1, no 633.

15 Edward HALL, op. cit., vol. I, p. 182-187; L.P., vol. III, 1, no 673.

16 L.P., vol. ΙII, 1, no 681, 689, 697, 770, 773, 787, 803, 1162.

17 Alfred F. POLLARD, Henry VIII, op. cit., p. 142-143; Peter GWYN, art. cit., p. 760-761.

18 L.P., vol. ΙII, 1, no 733, 748, 749.

19 Ibid., vol. III, 1, no 626. The meeting took place in January 1189 between Chaumont and Gisors. The two kings agreed upon a status quo but a few weeks later Philip Augustus took Buzançais by surprise.

20 Martin et Guillaume DU BELLAY, Mémoires, ed. Victor-Louis BOURRILLY et F. VINDRY, Paris, Librairie Renouard (SHF), 1908-1919,4 vol., vol. I, p. 101-102.

21 L.P., vol. ΙII, 1, no 643; Martin et Guillaume du BELLAY, op. cit., p. 100.

22 Edward HALL, op. cit., vol. I, p. 196.

23 L.P., vol. ΙII, 1, no 702; Joycelyne G. RUSSELL, The Field of Cloth of Gold; men and manners in 1520, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969, p. 48-49.

24 L.P., vol. III, 1, no 698,806.

25 Ibid., vol. III, 1, no 841.

26 Edward HALL, op. cit., vol. I, p. 186-187.

27 Ibid., vol. I, p. 189-193; Sydney ANGLO, «Le Camp du Drap d'Or et les entrevues d'Henri VIII et de Charles Quint», in Fêtes et cérémonies au temps de Charles Quint, ed. Jean JACQUOT, Paris, Éditions du CNES, 1960, p. 116-118; Sydney ANGLO, Spectacle, pageantry and early Tudor policy, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1969, p. 141-143; Joycelyne G. RUSSELL, op. cit., p. 31-42.

28 Mémoires du maréchal de Florange dit le Jeune Adventureux, ed. Robert GOUBAUX and Paul-André LEMOISNE, Paris, Librairie Renouard (SHP), 1913-1924, 2 vol., vol. I, p. 264; Sydney ANGLO, «Le Camp du Drap d'Or... », art. cit., p. 117.

29 Edward HALL, op. cit., vol. I, p. 190-191.

30 C.S.P. Ven., vol. IIΙ, no 81,83,88; L.P., vol. III, 1, no 870.

31 L.P., vol. IIΙ, 1, no 700, 750, 825.

32 BN, Fr. 10383; Joycelyne G. RUSSELL, op. cit., p. 23-30.

33 C.S.P. Ven., vol. III, no 60, 80.

34 Edward HALL, op. cit., vol. I, p. 193-194. The design of the rotunda has been ascribed to Domenico da Cortona. See J. GUILLAUME, «Léonard de Vinci, Dominique de Cortone et l'escalier du modèle en bois de Chambord», GBA, t. I, 1968, p. 108, note 22.

35 The English ambassadors were: Charles Somerset earl of Worcester; Nicholas West, bishop of Ely; Thomas Docwra, prior of St John of Jerusalem and Nicholas Vaux, captain of Guines. Mémoires du maréchal de Florange, op. cit., vol. I, p. 263. See Anne-Marie LECOQ, «Une fête italienne à la Bastille en 1518», in «Il se rendit en Italie »: études offertes à André Chastel, Rome and Paris, Edizioni dell'Elefante and Flammarion, 1988, p. 149-168, and Stephen BAMFORTH and Jean DUPÈBE, «The Silva of Bernardino Rincio (1518)», RS, t VIII, 1994, p. 256-315.

36 Mémoires du maréchal de Florange, op. cit.,vol. I, p. 264; Sydney ANGLO, op. cit., p. 141 and «Le Camp du Drap d'Or... », art. cit., p. 118.

37 Joycelyne G. RUSSELL, op. cit., p. 31.

38 Edward HALL, op. cit., vol. I, p. 184-185.

39 Ibid., vol. I, p. 200-201; Sydney ANGLO, op. cit., p. 150-151; Joycelyne G. RUSSELL, op. cit., p. 112-114.

40 L.P., vol. III, 1, no 807; Sydney ANGLO, op. cit., p. 152.

41 L.P., vol. III, 1, no 747.

42 C.S.P. Ven., vol. ΙII, no 57.

43 Ibid., vol. III, no 58, 59, 73; L.P., vol. III, 1, no 869; Edward HALL, op. cit., p. 194; Joycelyne G. RUSSELL, op. cit., p. 86-87.

44 L.P., vol. III, 1, no 861,874; C.A.F., vol. I, no 1193.

45 C.S.P. Ven., vol. III, no 68, 73; Marino SANUTO, I Diarii di Marino Sanuto (MCCCCXCV1MDXXXIII), Venice, 1879-1903,58 vol., vol. XXIX, col. 28.

46 C. S.P. Ven., vol. IIΙ, no 50, 60, 67, 68, 71, 72, 73; Edward HALL, op. cit., vol. I, p. 196-200; L.P., vol. IIΙ, 1, no 869, 870; Marino SANUTO, op. cit., vol. XXIX, col. 19; Joycelyne G. RUSSELL, op. cit., p. 95-104; Sydney ANGLO, op. cit., p. 145-149.

47 Martin et Guillaume DU BELLAY, op. cit., p. 119.

48 Joycelyne G. RUSSELL, op. cit., p. 119.

49 C. S.P. Ven., vol. III, no 50,81.

50 Sydney ANGLO, op. cit., p. 153-154.

51 Mémoires du maréchal de Florange, op. cit., vol. I, p. 272; Jules MICHELET, Réforme, vol. X of l'Histoire de France, Paris, Calman-Lévy, n.d., p. 77, 78, 90.

52 Edward HALL, op. cit., vol. I, p. 208; Mémoires du maréchal de Florange, op. cit., vol. I, p. 268-270. C.S.P. Ven., vol. III, no 50,77,78,90.

53 Edward HALL, op. cit, vol. I, p. 208-209; C.S.P. Ven., vol. ΙII, no 50, 90, 91; L.P., vol. III, 1, p. 1554.

54 The Anglica Historia of Polydore Vergil A.D. 1485-1537, ed. Denys HAY, London, Royal Historical Society, (Camden Series, vol. LXXIV), 1950, p. 269.

55 P. KAST, «Remarques sur la musique et les musiciens de la chapelle de François Ier au camp du Drap d'Or», in Jean JACQUOT, op. cit., p. 135-146.

56 C.S.P. Ven., vol. IIΙ, n° 50; Jacobus SYLVIUS, Francisci Francorum Regis et Henrici Anglorum Colloquium, ed. and trans. Stephen BAMFORTH and Jean DUPÈBE, RS, t V, 1991, p. 28-32, 94-97; Sydney ANGLO, op. cit., p. 126.

57 C.S.P. Ven., vol. III, no 50,93,95.

58 Robert J. KNECHT, op. cit., p. 105-106.

59 Peter GWYN, art. cit., p. 758.

60 Ibid., p. 765-766; Joycelyne G. RUSSELL, «The search for universal peace: the conferences at Calais and Bruges in 1521», BIHR, t XLIV, 1971, p. 162-193 and id., «An English peace initiative: the conferences at Calais and Bruges in 1521», in Peacemaking in the Renaissance, London, Duckworth, 1986, p. 99-132.

61 L.P., vol.III, 1, no 2290, 2292.

Auteur

University of Birmingham

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