Story of Liberty - Charles Coffin

The Field of the Cloth of Gold

Three hundred masons, five hundred carpenters, scores of painters, plasterers, decorators, glass-setters—three thousand men in all—have been at work since the 19th of March, and it is now the middle of June, building a royal palace on the Field of the Cloth of Gold. The edifice is in the form of a quadrangle, with audience-rooms, chambers, halls, and courts. Upon the towers of the palace and on the battlements are figures of gods and heroes. The interior is hung with rich tapestries. Adjoining the great audience-room is a chapel, the walls of which blaze with jewels. The altar, the candlesticks, and the crucifix are of silver, and the canopy above the altar is of pure gold.

Near the palace is a grand pavilion, the covering of which is cloth of gold, lined with blue velvet and studded with silver stars. The tent ropes are of pure silk, intertwined with threads of gold. There are many smaller pavilions of the same material, gorgeously decorated.

[Illustration] from The Story of Liberty by Charles Coffin


Henry VIII. of England has erected the palace, and Francis I. of France the pavilion. They have made these preparations for a tournament and fraternal meeting. Francis would like to have Henry his friend while he gratifies his revenge against Charles. Henry is a little jealous of Charles—so much power is too much for a boy of nineteen to wield—and he is quite willing to be on friendly terms with Francis.

Cardinal Wolsey arranges affairs. There will be tilting, mock battles, banquets, dances, promenades; but not much talk about political matters. The King of France shall be well pleased at the hospitality of the King of England; the King of England shall be gratified with the courtesy of the King of France. But the cardinal determines that there shall be no treaties made or promises given that cannot be broken.

[Illustration] from The Story of Liberty by Charles Coffin


What a grand assembly! Two kings, two queens, dukes, earls, lords, barons, nobles, knights, counts, marquises, cardinals, archbishops, gorgeously arrayed in silk, satin, and velvet; in purple, crimson, green, blue, and buff, with gold and silver trimmings, with ostrich plumes and eagles' feathers—their garments glittering with jewels!

Six thousand of the nobility of England are there, with nearly four thousand horses. Thousands of the noblemen of France, and Spain, and Italy, and Germany are assembled; for messengers have been travelling in all those countries, inviting them to attend the grand tournament.

Henry rides a beautiful horse. His coat is cloth of silver, ribbed with gold. His jacket is of rose-colored velvet; his boots of yellow morocco. He wears a black velvet cap, blazing with diamonds, and adorned by a white plume. Around his neck is a heavy gold chain, set with rubies and pearls. On his breast is a jewel that twinkles like a star.

[Illustration] from The Story of Liberty by Charles Coffin


Before the king rides a marquis, carrying the sword of state. Two pages, ready to do his bidding, walk by his side. At his left hand rides Cardinal Wolsey, on his donkey, wearing his scarlet cloak, scarlet slippers, and a scarlet hat. Behind the king is the Duke of Suffolk (Charles Brandon), on a white horse; and following him is the Bishop of Rochester, with a beard so long that it covers all his breast. Sir Henry Guilford leads the king's spare horse. After him comes a grand cavalcade of nobles, magnificently arrayed.

[Illustration] from The Story of Liberty by Charles Coffin


Out from the Golden Pavilion rides the King of France. He is tall, and has a long nose. His face is bronzed. He has long legs and small feet. He wears a coat of satin silver cloth, glittering with precious stones. His cap is of damask and gold, spangled with diamonds. With him are the noblemen of France, in rich attire, riding the most beautiful horses to be found in the kingdom. Some of them have expended so much money in preparing for the tournament that they will be in debt for the remainder of their days.

A great camp has been established, with magnificent pavilions, where the queens of England and France, with the ladies, may behold the games. The kings have each a private pavilion near by; and there are other tents by the thousand. In one are hundreds of casks filled with the choicest wines. There are dining-halls and lunch-tables, and there is to be no end of feasting. Hundreds of cooks are employed day and night in preparing the feasts.

[Illustration] from The Story of Liberty by Charles Coffin


It is on the 11th of June, 1520, that the tournament begins. The Queen of England (the little girl whom we saw in the Alhambra) wears a rich dress, covered with jewels. Even the cloth upon which she rests her feet is powdered with pearls.

Claude, the Queen of France, is younger than Katherine, and very beautiful. Francis has obtained for her the richest dresses to be had in the realm, and the most costly jewels. She rides in a stately carriage.

Among the ladies in the train of Queen Claude is a girl whom we have seen before, one of the number who went to France with Henry's sister Mary, when she went to be the wife of the king, who was old enough to be her grandfather—Louis XII. Very little happiness did Mary have with Louis, who was afflicted with dropsy, and who died three months after their marriage.

[Illustration] from The Story of Liberty by Charles Coffin


What did Mary do then? Without letting Henry or anybody else know what she intended to do, she married her true-love, Charles Brandon. Henry did not like it at first, but made the best of it, and now the young man is riding by his side as Duke of Suffolk.

The little girl, Anne Boleyn, was only seven years old when she went with Mary to France to be her little waiting-maid; now she is eighteen. Of all the ladies at the tournament, there is none so fair, none more graceful in the dance, none so bright and witty. Henry beholds her in all the freshness and beauty of maidenhood.

The kings put on their armor, the trumpets sound, the heralds make proclamation, and the tournament begins. The kings are victors in the games. It would not do for a subject to disarm the king—he would stand a chance of having his head cut off, or at least of losing the king's favor.

One of the noblemen accompanying Francis is the Duke of Guise, or Duke of Lorraine, as he is sometimes called. He was a poor boy, but he has been making his fortune by fighting for Francis. He was badly wounded three years ago, but has recovered. He is married to Antoinette of Bourbon, and has a little daughter, Mary, who will be Queen of Scotland by-and-by, and the little babe which she will hold in her arms will also bear the name of Mary—Mary Queen of Scots. The duke has a son, Francis Guise, a spirited boy. Little does King Henry imagine that the son by-and-by will wrest the old town of Calais from his daughter Mary—the little girl now four years old—who will be Queen of England, and that the loss of it will break Mary's heart.

Henry and Francis talk of betrothing Mary to Francis's son Henry, who is only two years old; but such a marriage never will be consummated. The son of the French king, whom we shall see by-and-by on the throne as Henry, will find a wife beyond the Alps in the old city of Florence, where she is at this moment sucking her thumbs in her cradle in a palace near the grand old cathedral—the palace in which Pope Leo was born. She is Leo's grandniece, Catherine de' Medici, who, when she is fourteen, will come to France to be married to Henry. Let us keep this Florentine baby in remembrance, because she will play a terrible part in the story of liberty.

[Illustration] from The Story of Liberty by Charles Coffin


The tournament lasts three weeks. When it is ended, Francis returns to Paris, and Henry and Cardinal Wolsey set their faces toward England; but before crossing the Channel they ride out from Calais a little way, and whom do they meet? Charles, who has been waiting conveniently near for an interview; and Charles is greatly pleased to hear from the cardinal that Henry has entered into no alliance with the King of France. He will do in return all that he can for Cardinal Wolsey.