The Field of the Cloth of Gold was a spectacular, ridiculous display of wealth and grandeur arranged by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey of England. It was held in June 1520 near Calais between King Henry VIII of England and 6000 Englishmen and Francis I of France and his 6000 French attendants. The meeting came about after the Treaty of London in 1518, a non-aggression pact between France, England and the Holy Roman Empire, the main European powers. The Field of the Cloth of Gold meeting was arranged by Cardinal Wolsey to maintain the peace between the powers and to determine who the English would side with in the event the Treaty failed.
The English wanted to be included as a player in European politics with prestige and equality. King Francis I wanted to establish his prowess and to establish the reputation of his grand court. Both were looking to show their Renaissance humanist ideals of universal peace. Because they were both young men with many physical attributes they were also curious about each other and what kind of men they were.
It was a fabulous, magnificent competition of who can outdo the other. Equally balanced activities ensured a balance between the two monarchs. Feasts, jousts, wrestling, dancing and military games were all included. Even each side’s choirs singing at the main mass was a competition. There were spectacular gowns and displays. There were so many tents and clothes made out of an expensive fabric woven with gold thread the event was named for it. The English made a temporary palace made out of timber and rock with extravagantly decorated fountains of wine, tapestries, furniture and Turkish carpets. Equally extravagant tents housed the French. All designed to show the grandeur and splendor of both courts.
Many different sources reported the events. It was the talk of Europe. The provocative French fashions were copied throughout Europe and especially in England. Much of the knowledge of the events for historians has come from the actual English administrative documents. They recorded specific details such as 40,000 gallons of wine and 14,500 gallons of ale used. There are less sources of French details because of loss of documents due to fires and disasters. However, their sources have more personal details.
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