THE FIELD OF THE CLOTH OF GOLD
 AS Louis XII. left no son to succeed him, his cousin
Francis, Count of Angouleme,
who had married his daughter Claude, now became king.
Francis I. was twenty years old when Louis XII. died.
He was tall and handsome, "a
comely prince as ever lived," yet he was at the same
time only a spoilt child.
Louis had loved his brave and brilliant cousin, but he
had been afraid that
Francis's extravagant, pleasure-loving ways would not
be good for the people of
France, for whose welfare he, Louis, had so greatly
"This big boy will spoil everything for us," he had
sometimes sadly said, as he
watched his cousin going his own wilful way.
His mother adored Francis, but she had not trained him
to love the country he was
now to govern, nor had she taught him to be kind and
unselfish to those who served
Francis I. began his reign by giving magnificent balls
and holding tournaments, in
which he himself was the most important person, for he
did not only look on, but
performed many skilful feats at the jousts.
On these festivities the king spent so much money, that
in a short time the treasury
was nearly empty, and, as Louis XII. had feared, it
became necessary to increase the
But Francis I. was not long content with the fame he
could gain at balls and
tournaments. He longed for the
 greater glory and
excitement of the
battlefield, and soon he determined to try to regain
what Louis XII. had lost in
Italy. When his enemies heard of his ambition, they at
once renewed the Holy
It was during this Italian expedition that the king was
knighted by Bayard on the
field of Marignano, as you shall hear.
Appointing his mother, Louise of Savoy, regent in his
absence, Francis I. set out
for Italy in July 1515 with a large army.
To cross the Alps at a spot which was unguarded by the
Swiss, who were fighting for
the Duke of Milan, rocks had to be pierced or blown up,
bridges thrown across deep
ravines. By the king's orders, and by his presence
encouraging the men in their
difficult task, every obstacle was at length overcome,
and the French army descended
into the plains of Lombardy.
At Marignano, about ten miles from Milan, the French
met the Italian soldiers with
their Swiss mercenaries.
Francis was quietly sitting down to supper in the camp,
when he was warned that the
Swiss troops were near, and he at once went out to meet
The Swiss, with long pikes, fought with the greatest
courage. Again and again the
French charged them, but after each repulse the Swiss
advanced, determined as
Bayard was, as ever, in the forefront of the battle,
Throwing himself furiously upon
the Swiss, he cried, "Swiss! traitors! villains! get
you back to eat cheese in your
mountains if you can."
The king, too, did not spare himself. Ever in the
forefront of the battle, he fought
so courageously that "the top of his helmet was
pierced, so as to let in daylight,
by the thrust of a pike."
Night fell and the armies withdrew, but there was
little rest either for the
soldiers or their leaders.
Francis remained most of the night on horseback with
 his men; snatching a
little sleep, however, by lying down on a gun-carriage,
a harder bed than that on
which kings are used to take their rest.
As soon as day dawned, the battle began anew. The king
fought bravely and his men
stood firm, but the Swiss still hoped for victory until
about ten o'clock, when the
Venetian troops hastened to the help of the French.
Then the sturdy Swiss knew that they were beaten, for
they were already exhausted by
the struggle of the day before, as well as by the heat
and want of food. So,
steadily and in good order, they marched away, leaving
Francis victorious on the
field of Marignano.
Those who had fought most bravely the king created
knights at once, before they left
the battlefield. First, however, he wished himself to
be knighted by Bayard.
"Sire," said the knight when Francis told him his wish,
"sire, the king of so noble
a realm, he who has been crowned, consecrated, anointed
with oil sent down from
heaven, is knight over all other knights."
"Bayard, my friend," said the king, "make haste; do my
"Assuredly, sire," answered the knight, "I will do it,
since it is your pleasure."
Then taking his sword Bayard said, "Please God, sire,
that in war you may never take
to flight." After which, holding up his sword in the
air, he cried, "Assuredly, my
good sword, thou shalt be well guarded as a relic, and
honoured above all others for
having this day conferred upon so handsome and puissant
a king the order of
chivalry, and never will I wear thee more, if it be not
against Turks, Moors,
Saracens." Whereupon he gave two bounds and thrust his
sword into the sheath.
The next day Francis I. entered Milan in triumph, while
the Swiss, "ragged, gaunt,
wounded, with flags torn and funeral dirges for festal
songs," marched wearily back
to their mountains.
 Soon after the battle of Marignano, in November
1515. Francis arranged a
Perpetual Peace with the Swiss and the Pope. He then
went back to France, where the
people, overjoyed at their young king's victory, gave
him a right loyal welcome.
In 1519 the Emperor Maximilian died, and this was a
matter of great importance to
Charles of Austria, who was already King of Spain,
being Maximilian's grandson,
should naturally have become emperor. Neither the
French nor the English king, Henry
VIII., however, wished Charles to become more powerful
than he was already.
Indeed, Francis I. determined that he himself would
become emperor. With this
purpose in his mind he did not scruple to bribe all
those who had anything to do
with electing a new emperor.
"We are wholly determined to spare nothing, and to
stake all for all upon it, as the
matter we most desire and have most at heart in this
world," said the king, speaking
of the choice of an emperor.
But in spite of all that Francis could do, Charles of
Spain was chosen emperor, and
thus became the most powerful monarch in Europe.
Francis was bitterly disappointed, and henceforth he
Henry VIII., who had also wished to be chosen emperor,
was quite ready to join
Francis in the war which he intended to carry on
against his successful rival. He
therefore gladly agreed when Francis suggested that
they should meet together to
talk over their plans.
The French king delighted in splendour as much as did
Henry's great minister,
Cardinal Wolsey. French and English indeed vied with
each other in their
preparations for the meeting of the two kings.
When all was ready, so brilliant was the scene, that
the plain near to the little
town of Guines, where the two
 kings met, was ever
after called the "Field of
the Cloth of Gold."
Henry VIII. sent hundreds of skilful workmen from
Flanders and Holland to build him
a palace at the meeting place.
It was only a palace of wood, yet, when it was gilded
with gold, it shone bright in
the sunshine, gorgeous as any palace reared in
Great gates of gold opened into the palace grounds, in
which was a wonderful
fountain that also shone as gold; while from the mouth
poured, not water as you
would expect, but wine that sparkled crimson in the
rays of the sun. And from this
wonderful fountain all who wished might drink, for on
its margin were inscribed in
letters of gold the welcome words, "Make good cheer who
Without the palace shone as gold, within it was hung
with tapestries of gold and
rich embroideries. Wherever one turned, one's eyes were
dazzled with gleam of gold
and precious stones.
Francis did not wish to be surpassed in splendour by
the English king, so he ordered
an enormous tent to be erected. The roof was covered
with cloth of gold, while
inside the dome was lined with rich blue velvet. Here
and there amid the blue shone
golden stars, until almost it seemed that one was
gazing into the starry heavens
Ropes of gold and silver fastened the tent securely, or
so it seemed, to the ground.
But before the kings met a violent storm of wind arose,
and to the dismay of Francis
and his lords the gold and silver cords were twisted
and broken as though they were
but threads. The golden pole which supported the tent
was snapped in two, and the
beautiful blue velvet dome with its spangling stars was
blown to the ground.
Francis did not attempt to put up his tent again.
During the storm he went for
shelter to an old castle close at hand,
 where he
stayed during the meetings on
the "Field of the Cloth of Gold."
THE FIELD OF THE CLOTH OF GOLD.
In June 1520 Henry VIII., with a grand retinue, sailed
from England, and soon after
Francis and he met near the golden palace which the
English king had built.
Both kings were on powerful horses, richly adorned with
trappings of gold and
silver, Francis and Henry being dressed, as was but
suitable, in garments of gold
and silver cloth.
Without dismounting the two kings embraced one another,
and then, leaping from their
horses, they walked, arm-in-arm, into the golden
"I am come a long way, and not without trouble, to see
you," said Francis
courteously to the English king, "and I am ready to help you as much as is in my
"Never saw I a prince," answered Henry, "whom I could
love better than you, nor for
whose sake I would have crossed the seas."
For three weeks dances and tournaments were held every
day, and in the tournaments
the kings themselves took part and fought with the
One day Henry laughingly laid his hand on Francis's
collar, and said, "Brother, I
should like to wrestle with you."
Francis, nothing loath, at once agreed, for although he
did not look as strong as
Henry, he was a "mighty good wrestler," and soon the
English king was lying on the
ground. He sprang up, wishing to try his strength
again; but his nobles, afraid lest
jest should turn to earnest, persuaded Henry that it
was time to go in to supper.
The French king was, as you know, young, and some times
he grew tired of the
ceremony that always surrounded him. So one morning he
made up his mind to do what
he liked, and without telling any one he got up early
and rode off to visit King
Henry in his golden palace, taking with him only two
gentlemen and a little page.
 When he reached the palace and asked for the
king, he was told that he was not
"It does not matter," said Francis gaily, and to the
amazement of the English lords
he went at once to Henry's bedroom, knocked at the
door, and walked in.
Henry, sleepy as he was, was pleased that the King of
France had come to visit him
alone. He jumped out of bed, took from his neck a
collar of gold, and begged Francis
to wear it for his sake.
Francis was pleased with Henry's gift, and promised to
wear it; while he gave Henry
a bracelet which the English king said he would wear
It was too merry a visit to end quickly. Francis stayed
while Henry dressed, and
refusing to let him call for his servants, he helped
him, warming his shirt, and
making himself so useful that Henry's toilet was soon
Then, well pleased with himself and his morning
escapade, Francis rode off to his
On his way home the king met his nobles, who, alarmed
by his absence, had come to
look for him.
They welcomed Francis gladly, and then, after hearing
where he had been, one of the
nobles begged to know who had advised him to go without
"Not a soul counselled me," answered the king,
laughing, "and well I know that not
one in my kingdom would have done so."
But Henry VIII. was not really so friendly to Francis
as he seemed. Before he went
back to England he met the Emperor Charles; and when
war broke out Henry VIII. did
not, after all, help Francis, but fought on the side of
the emperor against the
French king. So that in reality all the expense and all
the splendour of the "Field
of the Cloth of Gold" had been of little use.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics