Meeting of Kings

June 1520

Chapter 1: What was it and why did it happen?

The Field of Cloth of Gold was the name given by contemporaries to a diplomatic visit by Henry VIII of England to Francois I of France in June 1520. The splendour and extravagance of the event was such that it attracted widespread comment across Europe. (The dates for individual events are not consistent in the records, so those given below have been selected, based on Letters & Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII).

In 1518 a milestone treaty, the Treaty of London, was agreed by some twenty-five different states in Europe. This was truly a landmark, as it bound all the signatories to a non-aggression pact.

As well as the Treaty of London to which they were both signatories, there was also the bilateral treaty of October 1518, between France and England, whereby Henry VIII's daughter was to marry Francois I's son and heir, the Dauphin Francis and Tournai (won by the English in 1513) was to be returned on payment of a large sum.

It was been agreed that this game-changing treaty between two of Europe's most bitter enemies should be underpinned by a personal meeting where the two monarchs could swear brotherly love and eternal peace and show themselves as equals.

If the Kings of France and England were to eschew hostilities on the battlefield, each would need to demonstrate his strength, prowess and chivalry in the realm of pageants, jousts and courtly displays. It was therefore agreed that the Kings should meet at a great tournament, rivalling the distant, idyllic days of Camelot.