June 6th, 1520: The Field of Cloth of Gold, (a.k.a. Histories most expensive dick measuring contest).

Back in 1518, when tensions between European countries were high, and each nation was acting like a chief to the next, declaring wars and generally being cunts to their neighbours, Henry VIII’s right hand man, Cardinal Wolsey, hatched a plan.

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Wolsey- more than likely hatching a cunning plan.

The idea was to invite all of Europe’s great monarchs to London for a sort of less shit, medieval G8 summit, where they would all sign ‘the Treaty of London’. The treaty was an agreement that stated that all those who signed would maintain peace in Europe, and if a country decided to break the treaty, war would be declared upon them by the others. It all sounded good in principal, but took less than a year to go tits up.

It all kicked off when Francis I of France and The Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V of Spain had a spat. Spain and France were the most powerful countries in Europe at the time, so shitting themselves both sought to form an alliance with England, the third most powerful. Whilst Henry must have loved all this attention, he was in a bit of a tricky situation: He was married to a Spanish princess, and the Aunt of Charles V, Katherine of Aragon, meanwhile France lies next door and could cause a potential shit storm for Henry.

Henry decided to meet Francis to talk shit through and try to ‘strengthen relations’. I feel it is important to say at this point that Henry fucking hated Francis, Francis was arty, rich and handsome, and knocked around with the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci , whilst Henry was athletic, spoiled and egocentric. The pair had one thing in common though, they were both competitive as fuck.

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The rather dashing Francis I of France, serving the painter come to bed eyes and a little coy smile.

 

They decided to meet at Balinghem, in the then English owned area of France known as the Pale of Calais. Henry took half the bloody country with him; he had around 5000 noble men and women, 3000 horses and a shit tonne of wine. Some of the noble’s had literally had to re-mortgage to be able to attend, but they wouldn’t have missed it for the world… to be fair would you? it was essentially front row tickets to see two kings make themselves look like right royal pricks (pun intended), in a display of self-provoked public humiliation. So off they all trotted, popcorn and front row tickets at the ready, off to France.

The whole event lasted nearly seventeen days, during which time each king tried to upstage and outshine the other. These cunts were so insistent on making the other look like a chump that they both nearly bankrupted their treasuries. Henry had a mock castle made to house him, which was draped in cloth made from real gold, (hence ‘the Field of the Cloth of Gold’). He had the finest, most expensive tapestries taken across, along with the most monumental feasts. There was dancing, jousting and archery tournaments and the whole thing became geared up to discover which country held the most wealth and power. It was less of a celebration of unity and more of a cock fight, (with Henry and Francis acting like big fucking cocks alright).

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‘I’ve got a tent’… ‘well I have a church’…’well I have a castle’… ‘WELL I’VE GOT A FUCKING DRAGON!’

The whole thing ended in tears when Henry challenged Francis to a wrestling match. Henry, who was built like a brick shit house, was no stranger to wrestling and confidently thought he could take the weedy, art loving ‘Renaissance Prince’, Francis. He was wrong, and to put a long story short, Francis owned his arse. Some say that Francis tripped Henry and therefore only won by cheating, but these ‘some’ would be English, and I like to think that Henry got pwned by a nerd.

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There is definitely no tripping to be seen in this instant replay still.

Henry, being the utter spoiled sore loser that he was, skulked off, and with that the Field of the Cloth of Gold was over. The whole event, which was designed to strengthen relations between the two nations, failed miserably. On his way home with his freshly bruised ego, Henry popped in to see Charles V and forged an alliance against France. Two years later England and Spain were at war with the French King and the Treaty of London went out of the window.

I love the story of the Field of the Cloth of Gold. It sounds like it should be a majestic and bromantic tale of two men finding peace, when actually its about a massive fucking mard arse with a big wallet having a pop at another massive fucking mard arse with a big wallet. I like to imagine that after the event Henry told Katherine, ‘you know what dear, I think as a way of showing my undying, eternal love to you, we will go and help out Charlie after all…’, and that’s why he decided to become allies with Spain. I’m pretty sure it was not because he was actually seething out pure venom from his sweat glands at the thought of a two stone when wet through, French as fuck hipster, kicking his hoop all over a posh field whilst his subjects look on… and then having to pay for the privilege as well. That would be childish.

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Henry VIII and Charles V, The Holy Roman Emperor…probably planning a dish of smack down for Francis. 

 

If you enjoyed this Tudorial, you may also like the Drunk Histories version of events told by Tiff Stevenson, which can be found here. Enjoy!

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29th November 1530: Suicide, Illness or Divine Intervention?

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The death of Cardinal Wolsey

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was, at one time, Henry VIII’s right hand man. He was the Pope’s representative in England, held a ridiculous amount of power and influence, and was the second richest man in the country next to the King, (Hampton Court Palace was actually commissioned by, and built for Wolsey – not Henry VIII, as most people believe). This dude was untouchable.

He died in 1530 after what can only be described as a ‘fucking nightmare’. Henry decided that Wolsey was to blame for everything that was going wrong with Henry’s love life, and that the only way to rectify this matter was to execute him. A common and predictable theme in Henry’s life.

It all started when Henry decided he had had enough of his wife of almost 24 years, and wanted to bin her off. He had found some bullshit clause in the bible which he reckoned made his marriage to Katherine of Aragon null and void in the eyes of God. The fact that Katherine had failed to give him a male heir, and that Henry was (almost)  wetting his end in the cock-tease Anne Boylen, had driven Henry’s desire to push for this annulment. His theory was that because Katherine had been married to his brother before him, the couple were doomed for failure and living in sin in the eyes of the Catholic church. Henry now needed Wolsey to pop and see the Pope and get an annulment.

Wolsey was rather stupidly confident that he could get this sorted so off he went. The Pope inevitably said something along the lines of ‘are you fucking mental? It’s not happening my friend’ (paraphrasing slightly), so Henry’s annulment was denied. Knowing what we know about Henry, you can just imagine how this went down. To cap it off Anne was now spouting a load of bollocks about Henry wasting the best of her youth by keeping her hanging on at the promise of marriage. Henry was not a happy chappy.

The problem was that the Pope was Wolsey’s boss, so Wolsey had to do as he was told, and the Pope was in turn told what to do by his boss, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V…Katherine’s nephew. There is no way that Charles was having it that a bell end like Henry was going to screw over his fab Aunt Katy and use Gods name as an excuse to do it. Wolsey could only do as he was told, and so sided with Katherine, Charles and the Pope. It was a bit of a rock and a hard place situation for the poor bloke.

wolsey  Anne now hated Wolsey, so decided that she would chip away at Henry in order to take matters into their own hands. Henry, who was now desperate to bend it up the manipulative genius that was Anne, was all about this and so decided that Wolsey was going down. How dare he fail to get the annulment and make him look a mug!

Henry had decided that because Wolsey could not secure the annulment, had cock-blocked him from Anne and had been a bit too chummy with Katherine, he should be accused of treason. Wolsey, who was now in York, was sent for. He was to come to London to explain why he couldn’t deliver the goods (and to ultimately be put to death).

At this time Wolsey had a new best pal, a bright young thing who went by the name of Thomas Cromwell. They were travelling together to London when Wolsey took ill. He rested in Leicester and it was quickly becoming apparent that he wouldn’t be able to continue the journey. Wolsey died of a bowel infection and was laid to rest in the Abbey at Leicester. Cromwell,  gutted at the death of his friend, still carried on to London to protest Wolsey’s innocence.

The curious thing about Wolsey’s death was that it happened just before he was obviously about to walk into a massive shit storm. If Wolsey had of made it to London he would have been greeted with accusations & public ridicule; his reputation pulled to shreds by the King’s concubine, a long stretch in the Tower and ultimately a humiliating and painful execution. In a lot of ways his death was conveniently well-timed. I don’t for one minute think that Wolsey would have committed suicide: he was devout Catholic after all. So was it illness, or something else all together? What if Wolsey’s death was the act of a kind friend  sparing the Cardinal his reputation at court, and preventing his public execution?

Before coming into Wolsey’s service, Cromwell was a mercenary who had travelled extensively, fought in wars and was ultimately a freaking genius. He was a lawyer and a badass, and exceptionally loyal to Wolsey. Its not implausible to think that he could’ve poisoned the Cardinal in order to maintain his innocence. By doing this he would also ensure the cardinal was comfortable in his remaining days and still able to get his affairs in order? Now I’m just speculating and there is pretty much no evidence for this, but a man like Cromwell was well-placed to protect his friend and take away the grief and worry the Cardinal would’ve undoubtedly had felt. It would also remove the need for suicide and bowel infections are synonymous with poisoning after all.

Whether it was illness or mercy that killed Wolsey, one thing remains for sure, Cromwell deeply missed the Cardinal and maintained his innocence for the rest of his life. Of course, it was Cromwell that later brought abut the downfall of Anne Boylen, and what happened to Henry in all of this? Well he just carried on being Henry.

 

If you fancy reading a bit more about Cromwell give this one a go: A Massive Fall Out