Gold and Glory: Henry VIII and the French King

A special exhibition of dazzling Tudor treasures celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Field of Cloth of Gold

A special exhibition of dazzling Tudor treasures celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Field of Cloth of Gold

When

10 April - 31 August 2020


Ticketing information


Included in palace admission (members go free)

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Immerse yourself in Tudor history as we reunite stunning works of art, gold, weapons, manuscripts and clothing from the Field of Cloth of Gold, Henry VIII's legendary encounter with his great rival François I of France.

The major new exhibition will star a never-before-seen tapestry which sheds rare light on people of colour in the Tudor period.

A Tudor spectacle

The Field of Cloth of Gold, an 18-day meeting between Henry VIII and François I in 1520, was unparalleled in its lavish demonstration of wealth and power.

Inside huge temporary palaces, under tents made of luxurious cloth of gold or on the specially constructed tiltyard, the two competitive kings and their courtiers jousted and wrestled, hosted great banquets and exchanged expensive gifts. Wine flowed from the fountains and a 'dragon' flew above the festivities.

Top image: The Field of the Cloth of Gold c. 1545. © Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

This is Tudor history at its most dramatic, dazzling best.

Tracy Borman, Joint Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces

Tudor West Gate of Hampton Court Palace under a blue sky. Visitors can be seen in the foreground

Reuniting 16th-century treasures after 500 years

Henry VIII (1491-1547) June 1526-June 1527, by LUCAS HORENBOUT (C. 1490/5-1544)

Taking place in rooms at Hampton Court Palace that were used by the mastermind of the event, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Gold and Glory: Henry VIII and the French King will combine significant artefacts from the Field of Cloth of Gold with dazzling treasures from Henry's Tudor court and François' Valois court.

Key items will include the spectacular Stonyhurst vestments — woven from luxurious cloth of gold and selected by Henry for use at the religious services held near Calais.

The resulting display will evoke the political tensions that preceded this defining moment in Henry VIII's reign, as well as the ostentation of the event itself.

Image: Henry VIII by Lucas Horenbout 1526-7. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Never-before-seen tapestry to go on display

As well as a treasure trove of precious objects from the rival courts of Tudor England and Valois France, the exhibition will feature a unique tapestry that will go on public display for the first time in its history.

Manufactured in Tournai in the 1520s, the richly woven textile depicts a bout of wrestling at the Field of Cloth of Gold, and includes a black trumpeter among the brace of royal musicians.

This incredible object is one of only a handful of surviving early 16th century visual representations of people of colour at the European royal courts, and the only depiction of a black musician in attendance at the Field of Cloth of Gold.

Explore the Field of Cloth of Gold



The Field of the Cloth of Gold depicting the meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I in 1520. INTERACTIVE

INTERACTIVE

Explore the Field of Cloth of Gold

Image: The Field of the Cloth of Gold c. 1545. © Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Image: The Field of the Cloth of Gold c. 1545. © Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Guînes Castle

Despite bringing so many tents, and constructing a magnificent temporary palace, Henry VIII slept in the relative comfort and security of nearby Guînes Castle. In 1520 Guînes was within an area of English owned territory around Calais.


The Dragon

A giant dragon flew through the sky at the Field of Cloth of Gold, adding to the spectacular occasion. The dragon was in fact a kite filled with fireworks that was attached by a long rope to a wagon that was driven between Ardres and Guînes.


François I’s tent

François I demonstrated his magnificence by building a 120ft tall tent covered in cloth of gold and topped with a 6ft tall gilded statue of St Michael.

The creator of The Field of the Cloth of Gold painting used it as the model for the golden tent in which the two kings are shown meeting, but in fact François’s giant tent had blown over in bad weather before the meeting took place.


Henry VIII meeting François I

Detail of Henry VIII stained glass from the west window in The Great Hall

Henry VIII and François I met for the first time on 07 June 1520 in a golden tent. The tent was pitched in a shallow valley called the Val d’Or (Golden Valley) halfway between their two camps.

The English and French retinues stood and watched the momentous occasion from either side of the valley.

Image: depiction of Henry VIII in a stained glass window in the Great Watching Chamber at Hampton Court Palace.


Jousting

Jousting was the most prestigious tournament event, and was one of Henry VIII's favourite sports.

At the Field of Cloth of Gold Henry and François jousted on the same team so that they did not have to face each other. Jousting could be dangerous and François left the arena with a bloodied nose.

Image: jousters compete on a tiltyard at Hampton Court Palace.


The Tree of Honour

On the edge of the tiltyard (tournament arena) stood an artificial tree with leaves and branches made from silk and cloth of gold. Hanging from the tree were three shields, each representing one of the three tournament sports; jousting, combat on horseback, and foot combat.

To participate in one of these events each knight had to touch the shield of his choosing.


Queens and Kings

The English Queen Katherine of Aragon and the French Queen Claude of France played an important role in the diplomacy and the entertainments at the Field of Cloth of Gold.

Katherine and Claude, who was heavily pregnant during the event, hosted banquets and masques and handed out prizes to knights who had distinguished themselves in the tournament. Katherine entertained Francois in the English camp while Claude hosted Henry in the French camp.


Bread ovens and kitchens

Feeding over 12,000 people who attended the Field of Cloth of Gold was no mean feat. It lasted for 18 days and supplies had to be shipped in from all over England and France.

The English provisions included more than 2,000 sheep, 98,000 eggs, 13 swans, and three porpoises.

Image: Tudor cooks prepare a feast for the King in Henry VIII's Kitchens at Hampton Court Palace.


Wine fountain

The English, and no doubt the French, brought huge quantities of wine and beer to Guînes in 1520.

Accounts suggest that the English took the equivalent of 266,000 bottles of wine and 132,000 bottles of beer. The English built fountains that ran with wine and beer.

Image: a replica of the wine fountain at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, in Base Court at Hampton Court Palace.


The temporary palace

The Great Gatehouse, showing the 16th century terracotta roundel Tiberius after treatment by Graciela Ainsworth Sculpture Conservation, October 2011. All sections (2).

The Tiberius bust is one of a series of terracotta roundels each representing the bust of a Roman emperor. Attributed to Giovanni da Maiano (c1486-1542) and commissioned by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (c1475-1530) in the late 1510s.

Henry VIII's greatest piece of showmanship was a huge temporary palace, built from timber and canvas that was painted to look like masonry and tiles. Each side of the building was 100m long. In the middle was a large courtyard and to the rear there was a chapel.

The palace was decorated with terracotta roundels like those still visible at Hampton Court Palace (pictured) and all the windows were glazed. There was so much glass that the French called this the Crystal Palace.

Image: A 16th-century terracotta roundel on The Great Gatehouse at Hampton Court Palace, depicting the Roman emperor Tiberius. The Tiberius bust is one of a series of terracotta roundels each representing the bust of a Roman emperor. They were commissioned by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in the late 1510s.


Procession

Henry VIII processed to meet François I accompanied by a huge entourage. Like the French, the English wore their best clothes – including huge quantities of cloth of silver and gold. This helped to give the Field of Cloth of Gold its famous name.


Thomas Wolsey

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was the mastermind behind the Field of Cloth of Gold and would have been easy to spot in his crimson robes.

Although he later fell from favour, in 1520 Wolsey was Henry VIII’s most trusted and able servant.


Henry VIII in procession

Henry VIII loved pageantry and wanted to be the most magnificent prince in Europe. On the first day of the Field of Cloth of Gold, Henry wore a doublet and mantel of cloth of silver, with a real gold belt – even his horse was decorated with real gold bells.




The Lost Dress of Elizabeth I exhibition, showing curator Eleri Lynn looking at the Bacton Altar Cloth in a case. The Rainbow Portrait hangs in the background of the green exhibition space.
Things to see Highlights

See the Bacton Altar Cloth, a rare survival of Elizabethan dress worn by Elizabeth I, and the iconic Rainbow Portrait at Hampton Court Palace.

12 October 2019 - 23 February 2020

Hampton Court Palace

Included in palace admission (members go free)

Visitors explore Henry VIII's Kitchens after re-interpretation in 2018.
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Transport yourself back to the heyday of Tudor feasting and entertainment in Henry VIII's Kitchens at Hampton Court Palace.

Open daily

Hampton Court Palace

Included in palace admission (members go free)

The Tudor Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace, showing the Abraham Tapestries and the room set out for day visitors.
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Experience the splendour of the Tudor court in Henry VIII's Great Hall, complete with his magnificent tapestries.

Open daily

Hampton Court Palace

Included in palace admission (members go free)

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Anne Boleyn initial hanging decoration

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