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The Field Of The Cloth Of Gold
by [?]

It was the day fixed for the opening of the most brilliant pageant known to modern history. On the green space in front of the dilapidated castle of Guisnes, on the soil of France, but within what was known as the English pale, stood a summer palace of the amplest proportions and the most gorgeous decorations, which was furnished within with all that comfort demanded and art and luxury could provide. Let us briefly describe this magnificent palace, which had been prepared for the temporary residence of the English king.

The building was of wood, square in shape, each side being three hundred and twenty-eight feet long. On every side were oriel-windows and curiously glazed clerestories, whose mullions and posts were overlaid with gold. In front of the grand entrance stood an embattled gate-way, having on each side statues of warriors in martial attitudes. From the gate to the palace sloped upward a long passage, flanked with images in bright armor and presenting “sore and terrible countenances.” This led to an embowered landing-place, where, facing the great doors, stood antique figures girt with olive-branches.

Interiorly the palace halls and chambers were superbly decorated, white silk forming the ceilings of the passages and galleries, from which depended silken hangings of various colors and braided cloths, “which showed like bullions of fine braided gold.” Roses set in lozenges, on a golden ground-work, formed the chamber ceilings. The wall spaces were decorated with richly carved and gilt panels, while embroidered silk tapestry hung from the windows and formed the walls of the corridors. In the state apartments the furniture was of princely richness, the whole domains of art and industry having been ransacked to provide their most splendid belongings. Exteriorly the building presented an equally ornate appearance, glass, gold-work, and ornamental hangings quite concealing the carpentry, so that “every quarter of it, even the least, was a habitation fit for a prince.”

To what end, in the now far-away year of 1520, and in that rural locality, under the shadows of a castle which had fallen into irredeemable ruin, had such an edifice been built,–one which only the revenues of a kingdom, in that day, could have erected? Its purpose was a worthy one. France and England, whose intercourse for centuries had been one of war, were now to meet in peace. Crecy and Agincourt had been the last meeting-places of the monarchs of these kingdoms, and death and ruin had followed their encounters. Now Henry the Eighth of England and Francis the First of France were to meet in peace and amity, spending the revenues of their kingdoms not for armor of linked mail and death-dealing weapons, but for splendid attire and richest pageantry, in token of friendship and fraternity between the two realms.

A century had greatly changed the relations of England and France. In 1420 Henry V. had recently won the great victory of Agincourt, and France lay almost prostrate at his feet. In 1520 the English possessions in France were confined to the seaport of Calais and a small district around it known as the “English pale.” The castle of Guisnes stood just within the English border, the meeting between the two monarchs being fixed at the line of separation of the two kingdoms.

The palace we have described, erected for the habitation of King Henry and his suite, had been designed and ordered by Cardinal Wolsey, to whose skill in pageantry the management of this great festival had been consigned. Extensive were the preparations alike in England and in France. All that the island kingdom could furnish of splendor and riches was provided, not alone for the adornment of the king and his guard, but for the host of nobles and the multitude of persons of minor estate, who came in his train, the whole following of the king being nearly four thousand persons, while more than a thousand formed the escort of the queen. For the use of this great company had been brought nearly four thousand richly-caparisoned horses, with vast quantities of the other essentials of human comfort and regal display.