Gold and Glory at Hampton Court Palace – Hampton Court Palace is to reopen with a new exhibition uniting dazzling display of Tudor treasures including 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 on 20 May 2021
Just over 500 years ago, in the summer of 1520, Henry VIII of England met François I of France near Calais, for an astonishingly grand European festival, designed to improve relations between the two great rival kingdoms. The competing royal dynasties, along with thousands of their courtiers, enjoyed a lavish 18 days of feasts, tournaments, masquerades, and religious services set amidst a sea of specially built – and incredibly elaborate – tents, banqueting houses and ‘portable palaces’. Wine flowed from the fountains and a ‘dragon’ flew above the festivities. So magnificent was the occasion that it became known as ‘The Field of Cloth of Gold’.
Taking place in rooms at Hampton Court Palace that were used by the mastermind of the event, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey – Henry VIII’s chief minister, 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 and the Wolsey’s Book of Hours.
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 presided over by François I, and includes among the brace of royal musicians a black trumpeter. 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 provides a window into the largely unknown world of the black Tudors.
The exhibition will also feature a treasure trove of precious objects showcasing the opulence and sophistication of Tudor England and Valois France and will unite priceless artworks, richly decorated textiles and finely crafted metalwork.
Joint Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, Dr Tracy Borman, said:
‘The Field of Cloth of Gold was a hugely important moment, not just in the history of our most famous king, Henry VIII, but in the shaping of our national identity and the making of modern Europe. In bringing together a host of treasures relating to this iconic meeting, this unique exhibition will reveal the fascinating story of the people and politics that lay behind it. This is Tudor history at its most dramatic, dazzling best.’
Having had a sneak preview of the event, it is well worth visiting. The paintings and the stories behind them are quite spectacular, giving us an insight into these historical moments. Visitors are asked to book in advance to help Historic Royal Palaces manage capacity and to allow visitors to enjoy their time at court with plenty of space.