Meeting of Kings

June 1520

Chapter 4 : Festivities

On the Friday, the Kings met at the tiltyard, and on the Saturday, their shields were set up, and all comers invited to put themselves forward to tilt, joust or fight on foot. Participants were to enter their names with the two Heralds Clarnecieux and Lancaster.

On the Sunday, Henry dined (in the late morning) with the French ladies. He rode to Ardres, where he was met by Francois' mother, Louise of Savoy, who conducted him to the presence of Queen Claude and the Duchesse d'Alencon. Queen Claude stood to greet Henry who bowed low, he doffed his bonnet, then kissed her and all the other ladies (who may well have included Anne Boleyn).

The meal finished at around 5pm. Henry left, showing his horsemanship by making his horse curvet. In the meantime, Francois had dined with Katharine then danced with her ladies, kissing them all, except for a few who were "too old or ugly". So much for chivalry!

On the Monday, the tournament began, according to strict rules that had been agreed in advance to prevent either injury or misunderstanding. It had been agreed that the Kings would not tilt against each other but the both showed their not inconsiderable prowess, watched by their doting wives from a pavilion with glass windows. Jousts continued all week, except when wind stopped play on the Wednesday. On the Sunday the mutual dining recurred, but Francois arrived early, and with only four attendants went familiarly into Henry's tent, before 8am, surprising him at breakfast.

The Queens watching the jousting

Both sides fell over themselves to be courteous. During Mass, when the custom was for the highest ranking person to kiss the Gospel, Francois declined to go first, and insisted that Henry should take precedence – Henry also declined in a no-doubt tedious bout of "no, no, after you…" The Queens, faced with a similar moment of etiquette panic, spontaneously kissed each other.

At the close of the Mass, a firework, some 32 ft (10m) long, in the shape of a salamander was let off – apparently terrifying the townsfolk of Guisnes. There was a final feast, where the Kings nibbled politely, the ladies conversed, and the other dignitaries ate and drank to their hearts' content in another room.

The only embarrassing moment throughout the whole fortnight was when Henry insisted on a personal wrestling match with Francois and was thrown.


Finally, on Sunday, the 24th of June, the Kings exchanged gifts and said goodbye. Francois to return to Abbeville, and Henry, not to return home, but to go to a further meeting with Charles V at Gravelines, which largely undermined the whole point of the meeting.