500 years has passed since the start of The Field of Cloth of Gold – a spectacular festival that took place in 1520 near Calais as part of a summit between King Henry VIII of England and King François I of France. Leeds Castle is celebrating with the launch of a special display to tell the story of the great events that took place in 1520: the purpose, the players, the politics and the extravagance. When you visit our display, you can find out about the important role Leeds Castle played and what the Castle was like during the reign of Henry VIII.
The festival came about when Henry VIII of England, who was keen to strengthen the bonds of friendship between Britain and France, travelled with his court to visit King François I, to create a festival unlike any before seen. The festival set the precedent for extravagance, and it became known as one of the most lavish royal events to ever have taken place. Due to the splendour of the temporary golden pavilion that was built, it became known as ‘The Field of Cloth of Gold’.
Although the original oil painting of this monumental event rests with the Royal Collection, you will be able to see our exact replica in the Castle’s Banqueting Hall which will sit proudly alongside Leeds Castle’s loan painting of ‘The Embarkation of Henry VIII at Dover’. In 1520, Leeds Castle was a royal Castle owned by Henry VIII, and was thought to be used as a stopover by both him and Catherine of Aragon on their way to Dover. Its close proximity to London and its large estate and hunting grounds made the Castle an attractive draw for the royal couple. The beautiful Castle and grounds, which were already 400 years old when Henry VIII was the landlord, have survived and the ancient walls tell many stories to inspire generations more of imaginations.
‘The Field of Cloth of Gold: Meeting of Kings’ display will be available for visitors to enjoy until September 2021, and we hope you will be able to come back time and again to see it.