Places to visit

Field of the Cloth of Gold 1520

Henry VIII leaving Dover 1520  Field of the Cloth of Gold 1520
1. Henry VIII leaving Dover Harbour en route to the Field of the Cloth of Gold
2. Lavish temporary camps prepared for the meetings and festivities: Henry had a "crystal pavilion" (front); François was based in the golden tent behind. the picture shows Henry and his court riding out of their walled stronghold of Calais.

Famous Summit meeting
Reinvigorated by Joan of Arc, France had thrown out the English from everything but Calais by the end of the Hundred Years' War (1337-1475). During the war, splits in the French royal family led to the Dukes of Burgundy setting up their own separate empire in Flanders. Through royal marriages and inheritance, this came under Spanish rule. The new King of France, François I, now feared being surrounded on both sides by Spain - the most powerful and richest country in Europe.

Why did France want to ally with England?
England was a tiny country compared with France and Spain, with about 1/5th of the population - which meant Henry had less people to tax to pay for wars, or to form armies. Henry spent a lot of money defending Calais as England's last toe-hold on Continental soil, it was regarded as a vital stronghold. But Henry VIII and his father, Henry VII had also invested in building up Europe's most modern navy - as a growing sea power, England would be a good ally for France against Spain, and could help disrupt Spain's communications with Flanders.

Guines: Annual festival commemorating the "Field of the Cloth of Gold" - Camp du Drap d'Or. The area is known as the "Trois Pays" because it is where English, Spanish and French lands met.

Negotiating an alliance
n 1520 Henry VIII of England sailed from Dover to Calais at the invitation of François I of France - who hoped they could make an alliance against the Spanish.

Henry stayed in Guines, the border town of English Calais; François I stayed in French Ardres. Lavish tents were set up in a field in "no man's land" in the middle - the celebrated "Field of the Cloth of Gold". Here they met - and showed off! - for several days at near the village of Guines.

But negotiations were fruitless and they never became allies.

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Francis I - Henry VIII - Charles V of Spain

When Henry VIII failed to find the basis of an alliance with France, he met instead with France's long-term rival Spain - now with the discovery of America, enormously rich and powerful and masters of Flanders, just across the narrow end of the North Sea.

MAP: Through Charles V's inheritances, Spain also ruled Flanders, Austria, and all the German lands - completely surrounding France (see Spanish Netherlands)


Places to visit:
Guines: Field of the Cloth of Gold annually at Guines
Calais fortifications - what remains of Henry VIII's base on the Continent

Related background information
Spanish Netherlands
Hundred Years' War (1337-1475).
Relations with the English




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