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The Field of Cloth of Gold – an introduction

In June 1520 Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France met for a diplomatic and sporting event of unprecedented scale and ambition. The Field of Cloth of Gold was one of the greatest and most conspicuous displays of wealth, pageantry and culture that Europe had ever seen.

Our online exhibition marks the 500th anniversary of the Field of Cloth of Gold.

So what was it all about and who was involved?

The Field of Cloth of Gold was one of the most amazing political and sporting events ever.

Held in the summer of 1520, it aimed to cement the recent peace between Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France. For Henry VIII it was a chance to make his mark in Europe, but careful planning was necessary to make sure that neither king would outshine the other.

In the 1500s rulers across Europe began to view peace-making as a new way of establishing power, but bringing nations together after centuries of warfare was a difficult task. Years of diplomacy and months of preparation went into two weeks of friendly jousting, tourneys, foot combat and banquets between the former enemy nations.

Big personalities

Powerful European leaders were present at The Field of Cloth of Gold, each with their own interests and agendas. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V was well aware of the summit and very interested in its result, but he did not attend. Click on the portraits below for more information about their role or motivations.

Why is the Royal Armouries celebrating the event?

The Royal Armouries is the direct descendant of the armoury created by Henry VIII. It continues to care for many of his weapons and armours, including his famous Tonlet and foot combat armours you can learn about in our exhibition. It is important to mark the 500th anniversary of this momentous event and celebrate our legacy as an institution. A lot of our collection of objects come from this period and our predecessor the Armoury at the Tower of London was the start of our story as a museum.