An Essay by Henry Tudor 2008.

The Field of the Cloth of Gold
A traitor’s tale.

By Henry Tudor

For seventeen days the peacocks did strut
Francis and Henry both challenging much
But behind the scenes a plot was being cut.

The alliance must not succeed, and France not a friend
England and Spain their alliance to defend
Make sure this new friendship comes to an end.

But who could it be with traitorous way?
To manipulate these two Kings, so powerful a sway
Power comes in from behind the throne, today.

Henry’s Queen, Katherine serene, always seen
A noble woman who seems so keen
But behind her smile, an agenda mean.

With Nephew Charles a plan was hatched
The two Kings must not become matched
Or peace with Spain so suddenly snatched.

Two Kings competing to grow a great beard
Katherine laughing as it was absurd
Not listening dear Katherine, not even heard.

“Meet with my nephew, he will always be true”
“But why my dear wife, the French are true too!”
“No Henry, please listen they’ll only betray you.”

Wolsey’s power grows by the hour
With French friends in our midst, so sour
He plants seeds, we must destroy before flower.

They say we are leaving our friend
For an old enemy to blend
An omen to send.

With father as King of Spain
Nephew will soon regain
To unite with France so insane.

A great traitor seldom seen
So loyal and has always been
This scheming English Queen.

A well trodden path.
A short essay by Henry Tudor

It is a well trodden path the route to Guines and Ardres to view The Field of the Cloth of Gold which is as expected, just a field. However take away the view of just History and add into this over cooked mixture, the view of King Henry VIII and the whole picture emerges as clear as day light. I am not claiming to be a reincarnation of the King, but what I do bring to the venture is 4 years of acting the man, and finding how the man thought by way of his antics. Henry would be pleased with my report.

The trip across the Channel was uninspiring, the mill pond sea and the greasy breakfast in the over priced tourist deck did nothing to get me in the mood, even the book I had bought the previous day turned out to be trash and the second chapter never got opened before it lay in the bin on the French campsite. So not a good start then. The research had been some months ago and was lodged in my brain as a basic back up to the many questions I seem to get these days about the event in 1520. I must say at this point to being rather put off by Historical books about the Field, no mention about why it took place, why there, what the two Kings were up to and especially who else was there. The actual field never gets a mention and the castles and distances seem to be mere useless information not worth a mention. There I’ve had my gripe, and so my trip at my own cost was to clear my mind and get the real story which would then stand up to intellectual scrutiny in the many debates I am invited to.

I have many pictures of my trip, the beauty of a digital camera is quantity and not quality, so the quality can be chosen after and the rest dumped. I did not know what was going to happen and so took two cameras and one historian expert who happens also to be a close friend. Guines the resting base of King Henry VIII was pretty and a working town with its school runs and farming backdrop, the tourist information notice in the window read, 10.00 to 12.00 and 2.00 to 4.00 pm, although it was closed at 11.00am. They actually opened it at 2.00pm after we have searched out the bosses in the offices of the town clerk, and even then the assistant failed to help us one jot.

But the trip down the road 11 miles to Ardres was a different Kettle of fish, they welcomed us in and told us everything we wanted to know, they directed us to historical places not even shown in their excellent brochure and we achieved the information which addresses this report, no thanks to Guines.

It was a revelation, we found the entrance to the old castle catacombs, the view down to the plains where the field was location in Balinghem, and then we struck gold. We found out there were two significant events in our History taking place not just one.
Yes of course the main one was The Field of the Cloth of Gold, though named for differing reasons than shiny cloth; the other significant event was much more subtle.

It was here in 1520 in the Castle at Ardres that King Henry VIII first clapped eyes on Anne Boleyn, the very first encounter! It was here she played in an amusing production alongside her sister Mary Boleyn and their mistress, the dowager Queen of France now the Duchess of Suffolk, Mary Tudor, who was Henry’s younger sister. It was here alongside Henry, his friend and constant companion the Duke of Suffolk Charles Brandon brought wife Mary Tudor back into public life again, and it was here that King Francis I, started his affair with Mary Boleyn causing much in the way of caution in the heart of the poor Ann Boleyn. Put two and two together, what were theses two womanising Kings talking about privately? Sure easy isn’t it? Yes, I think it went much like this as a jealousy ploy on both parties.
Francis to Henry: “Mary Boleyn, my latest conquest, good eh!” Nudge Nudge.
Henry to Francis: “What about her sister then?”
Francis to Henry: “No chance there my friend, even I cannot crack that nut, she stays with my Queen Claude and out of my way, cold as ice that one.”
Henry to Francis: “Bet I can get her!”
Mmmmm, now that answers another question in my head. Why with a King who can have anything and anybody by power of his office, does Henry take his time to woo a girl who obviously does not want to be wooed by him. To show Francis he can. This to me answers the obvious question of why it took 6 years to get Anne Boleyn and why Henry kept trying, not to be shown up to another King. It was prophetic that poor Anne played the part of Perseverance in the play. It was whilst in France that Mary Tudor took a strong lethal dislike to Anne Boleyn, as she did not enter the courtly way and even seemed to frown upon the antics of the women in the court of Francis I. Remember the future with Brandon and Mary having defied Henry by marrying in 1517, an event which created the Brandon/Grey line and poor old Lady Jane Grey!

Back to the Field. The plains were already called Gold because of their worth from Roman days as Salt deposits, when salt was literally worth its weight in Gold. So not cloth of gold, but cloth on gold with the hundreds of tents.

The actual first meeting of the two Kings was at the gateway and a marble monument stands there today, the centre of the event was at Balinghem a flat half mile away, so simple deductions would see the actual event to be one mile diameter or square.

There is a small hill in Balinghem, it being the only hill for about 5 miles all around, so the central tent would have been there to lift the two kings high above the crowd. Now study the two pictures, our Field picture show a large rotund Henry on his own in the tent, whilst the French version shows Henry and Francis wrestling.

The wrestling one is correct as Henry was only 29 at the time and this figure of the large Henry was another 10 years away. So it was doctored in true Tudor fashion, sort of Hunchback tactics to airbrush out Francis possibly due to being a failed King languishing in a Madrid prison in Henry’s latter days.

More evidence of Henry’s physical manner is seen on the French picture, look at his right leg. It is his mounting leg for getting upon his horses, you can tell by the straps and bruises caused by the jointed armour damaging the skin. The worst leg is the first leg into a stirrup, as any rider will tell you and the best leg is the one you throw over the saddle if you don’t want to fall right over the animal. So at last, actual indications of Henry being a Leftie, his dagger placed for his left hand is another giveaway and it begs the question of why is he letting Francis know he is a leftie? Well if they are to compete in sports and banquets surely Henry must be able to be natural to win. Francis must have been aware and the picture was made that way to show Henry in a true, uncompromising manner.

Now the crunch. Why did they do it in the first place?

Going back to 1513 and Henry, the good Roman Catholic but with doubts in his mind, lots of terrible blows to his manhood with lost babies and a loss of love between himself and his wife of 11 years Katalina. Katalina being the strong woman she was, was left to rule England whilst Henry went off to war alongside the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Maximilian. Fear in Henry’s heart was brought out by Maximilian’s ruthless demonstration to Henry of murdering all the town of Therouanne on the field nearby in Enguinegatte. Henry must have learned that dreadful day what was in store for him if he dumped the Church and turned the Emperor against him. Just by giving the battle a fancy name like “Battle of the Spurs” does not a great battle make, and add to this the indignity of one’s own wife winning the Battle of Flodden without Henry, must have lowered his ego to the level of finding new friends and planning great changes in the future.
Seven years of planning, the Field party is dreamt up, a new allegiance with France to stand up to the Empire which held up the Church of Rome. The seeds for reformation were certainly not planted by Anne Boleyn as the planned separation from Katalina was formulated before he even met her.
Was “The Field of the Cloth of Gold” a success? Well for becoming a good yarn in history books is certainly was, for showing how good Thomas Wolsey was at organising big event it was a master-stoke but for forging an alliance with our neighbours it was a massive failure. Millions spent, time and men manipulated, pictures painted and changed and a new woman in Henry’s focus, this event was a catastrophe for many people.

Henry Tudor 2008.