| Our Island Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|A child's history of England from earliest legendary times delightfully retold. Beginning with the stories of Albion and Brutus, it relates all the interesting legends and hero tales in which the history of England abounds through the end of the reign of Queen Victoria. Ages 9-12 |
HENRY VIII.—THE STORY OF THE FIELD OF THE CLOTH OF GOLD
 LONG before Henry VII. died in 1509 A.D., all the joy and
love, which the people had felt for him when he came to the
throne, had faded away. He had proved to be a hard and
greedy King and no one was sorry when he died.
His son was also called Henry, and he was only eighteen
years old when his father died. He was gay and handsome and
the people believed him to be generous and good, so there
was great rejoicing when he was crowned.
Henry's Chancellor was a man called Wolsey. He was a very
great man and for many years it was really he who ruled
England. Wolsey was the son of a butcher. Being a clever boy
he was sent to school, and afterwards to college at Oxford.
There he showed himself to be so clever that people soon
began to notice him, and he quickly rose from one post to
another until he became chaplain to
Henry VII. Henry VII. found
Wolsey very useful to him. He became one of Prince
Henry's greatest friends, and when Prince Henry became King,
he made Wolsey Chancellor and Archbishop of York, and heaped
upon him many other honours and posts, until he was almost as
rich and as great as the King himself. Wolsey had most
splendid houses and about five hundred servants,
 all of whom
wore most beautiful clothes. His cook even wore a satin or
velvet coat and had a gold chain around his neck.
Wolsey himself dressed most gorgeously in bright red silk or
satin, and he wore gilded shoes set with pearls and jewels.
Whenever he went out there was a great procession. A man
carrying a mace walked first, then came two gentlemen
carrying silver wands, then two of the biggest and
handsomest priests that could be found, each carrying a
great silver cross, then came Wolsey mounted upon a mule. He
rode upon a mule because he said, being a humble priest, it
was more fitting for him than a horse. But the harness and
saddle were of velvet and gold, and behind him came a long
train of his servants and followers on splendid horses.
Henry VIII. was fond of magnificence and show, and it
pleased him to have so fine a chancellor. Henry was gay and
the Chancellor was gay. If Henry were sad Wolsey would joke
and laugh until the King laughed too; if Henry were merry
Wolsey would be merry with him. Soon people began to see
that if they wanted anything from the King, it was best to
make friends with the Chancellor.
Wolsey, on the whole, made good use of his power. He was
fond of learning. He saw that without learning no country
could be truly great, and he founded a school at Ipswich,
which was his birthplace, and a college at Oxford. If he
tried to make himself great, he also thought of England and
how to make England great.
The first few years of Henry's reign were peaceful and
quiet. Henry VII. had been a very rich man when he died, so
Henry VIII. had plenty of money and, at first, the people
were not troubled with new taxes.
Henry pleased everyone by marrying a rich and
 beautiful lady
called Katherine of Arragon. She was a widow, having already
been married to Henry's elder brother, who was called
Arthur. Arthur would have been King had he lived, but he had
died a few months after his marriage with Katherine. After
Arthur died Henry VII. kept Katherine at the English court
in the hope that his second son, Henry, would one day marry
her. This he now did, although it was then, and still is,
against the law for a man to marry his dead brother's wife.
However, as Henry thought it was a wise thing for him to
marry Katherine, he asked the Pope to give him leave to do
so. And the Pope, whom, you know, was a very powerful
person, gave him leave.
In those days people were never long content to be at peace,
and Henry soon began to fight with France and with Scotland.
In a battle called Flodden, the Scots were defeated and
their King killed, and Henry made peace with the Queen, who
was his own sister. Soon afterwards he also made peace with
Henry then decided it would be wise not only to be at peace
with France, but to make friends with the French king. So
the great Chancellor, Wolsey, arranged a meeting between
Francis I. of France and Henry VIII. of England. This
meeting took place on a plain in France near a little town
called Guisnes, and everything about it was so splendid that
it was called "The field of the cloth of gold."
A palace for the English king was built so quickly that it
seemed like a magic thing. It was only made of wood, but it
was so painted and gilded that it shone and glittered in the
sunshine like a fairy palace. Great golden gates opened into a
courtyard where a fountain, sparkling with gold and gems,
flowed all day with red and
 white wine instead of water.
This fountain bore the motto—"Make good cheer who will."
The palace walls were hung inside with cloth of gold and
silver, everything was rich with embroidery and sparkling
with gems. Wherever possible, gold and jewels shone, the
Queen's footstools even being sewn with pearls.
When the French king saw Henry's splendid palace, he did not
wish to be outdone. He set up a great tent, the center pole
of which was a gilded mast. The tent was lined inside with
blue velvet. The roof was spangled with golden stars, and a
golden sun and moon shone night and day. The outside was
covered with cloth of gold, and the ropes which held it up
were of blue silk and gold.
The tent looked very grand, and glittered in the sunshine
like a ball of fire. But when everything was ready, a
terrible wind arose which snapped the ropes of silk and
gold, broke the mast, and brought the blue velvet sky, the
glittering stars, and golden walls to the ground. So Francis
had to content himself with living in an old castle which
stood not far away, and very likely he was far more
comfortable there than he would have been in his golden and
When all was ready, King Henry and Queen Katherine sailed
from England, and with them a great company of nobles, each
trying to be more splendid than the other.
The two kings met on the plain near Henry's palace. They
were both dressed in gold and silver cloth, and rode
beautiful horses with harness of gold and velvet. While
still on horseback, they embraced and kissed each other. "My
dear brother and cousin," said Francis, "I have come a long
way to see you. I hope you will think
 that I am worthy of
your love and help. My great possessions show how powerful I
"Dear cousin," replied Henry, "I never saw prince with my
eyes that I could love better with my heart, and for your
love I have crossed the seas to the furthest bounds of my
kingdom in order to see you."
Then the kings got off their horses and, arm in arm, walked
to a gorgeous tent near by, where a very fine dinner was
prepared for them.
For three weeks there were gay times. Grand tournaments were
held, in which the kings fought with the knights. And the
kings always won. There were balls and feasts too. Sometimes
the kings and queens and lords and ladies dressed up and
disguised themselves so that no one could tell who was who.
This they thought was the greatest fun of all.
The English people were very fond of wrestling, and the
soldiers used to amuse themselves in this way. Henry was
fond of all kinds of games and sport, and one day, while
watching the soldiers, he proposed to King Francis that
they, too, should try a wrestling match, and laughingly laid
hold of his collar.
Francis was quite pleased, for although he did not look so
strong as Henry, he was very quick and wiry. Soon the two
kings were struggling together, and in a few minutes Henry
was lying upon the ground. He sprang up with a laugh and
wanted to try again. But the nobles who stood round
persuaded him not to do so. They were afraid that what had
begun in fun might end in a quarrel, if Francis should again
throw Henry down, for Henry had a very fiery temper.
Francis felt, too, that in spite of all the show of
friendship, there was no love between the French and the
English. This was hardly to be wondered at, for they
been such bitter enemies for so long a time that it was hard
to forget all at once. Francis himself, however, was really
generous, and wished it really could be forgotten.
One morning, Francis rose early and, without telling any of
his nobles, he rode quite alone to the English camp. Henry
was still in bed when King Francis came into his room and
said, laughing, "My dear cousin, I come to you of my own
free will. I am now your prisoner."
Henry was very pleased to see that Francis trusted him so
much that he was not afraid to come quite alone like this.
He sprang out of bed and threw a chain of gold round the
French king's neck.
In return Francis gave Henry a beautiful bracelet, and then,
laughing and joking like a schoolboy, he insisted on helping
Henry to dress. He warmed his shirt, helped him to tie and
button his clothes, and then, mounting on his horse, rode
When he came near his castle he was met by some of his
nobles, who were anxiously looking for him. Francis
laughingly told them what he had been doing. "Sire," said
one of them, "I am very glad to see you back again. But let
me tell you, master, you were a fool to do what you have
done. Ill luck be to him who advised you to do it."
"Well, that was nobody," replied Francis. "The thought was
all my own."
In spite of the fears and jealousy of the French and
English, the meeting came to an end as peacefully as it had
begun. Henry sailed home again with all his gay knights, but
many of them were quite ruined and penniless. They had spent
all their money on fine clothes and jewels, so anxious were
they to make a great display and be grander than the French.
 But all this splendour and show of friendliness meant nothing
and came to nothing, for Henry, both immediately before and
after this meeting with Francis, met and plotted with
Charles, the Emperor of Germany, who was the enemy of
Francis. When war again broke out the English fought against
the French as they had always done.
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