The Field of the Cloth of Gold

The Field of the Cloth of Gold in full swing. (Click for a better look.)

In one of those rare moments that brings together a handful of entries found in Encyclopedia of the ExquisiteHenry VIII of England and Francis I of France met for a month-long gilded romp in 1520, cementing their friendship. In an otherwise deserted area of France, near Calais, a gold-covered temporary palace was built. Pavilions draped in gold cloth went up, giving the place its name, The Field of the Cloth of Gold.

Henry arrived with a retinue that included 100 archers, 50 nobles, all in crimson velvet and gold chains and mounted on magnificent horses. Fifty gentlemen carrying golden maces followed, as did a cross-bearer, four lackeys with gilt batons, and bishops, and other religious figures galore, as well as fifty more archers, in red emblazoned with gold roses.  Francis, shadowed by an equally large entourage, wore a gold cloak covered with jewels and loose hanging pearls, as well as a plumed velvet hat. The two kings hugged in the center of the field, first from horseback, then on the ground, to the roar of drums and trumpets (Encyclopedia‘s Fanfare).

Then the real fun began: 28 days of feasting, music, games, jousting and full-on splendor, including some wonderful horse maneuvers—like those described in Encyclopedia‘s entry on Carousels. There were pyrotechnics—see Encyclopedia’s Fireworks. There were red wine fountains—see Sotelties. Breakfast one morning was 1350 crumpets and 70 jars of jam (enough jam?). A tented city grew at the site, including some 2800 canvas tents, and thousands gathered to witness the sights.