Field of Cloth of Gold: 2. Banqueting

Here you can read the first part

In 1520 Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France met in the Field of Cloth of Gold, situated in a valley between Ardres in France and Guînes in the English Pale of Calais, which subsequently took the name of Val d’Or.

That was the first European summit in history and offered each of the two rulers the chance to outdo the other in splendour and military prowess. However, the most peculiar thing was that, in the Field of the Cloth of Gold, everything was temporary and only served to make a show.

Charles Dickens wrote in his nonfiction chronicle “A Child’s History of England”:
“There were sham castles, temporary chapels, fountains running wine, great cellars full of wine free as water to all comers, silk tents, gold lace and foil, gilt lions and such things without end”.

It was a very expensive display of wealth by both kings, who sought to outshine each other, with dazzling tents and clothes, grand feasts, dancing, music, jousting, games, and banquets

French and English cuisine were quite similar in 1520. Meat was predominant and vegetables, although growing increasingly in Italy and other European countries, were rarely enjoyed alone. There was a belief that fresh fruits and vegetables carried disease, so most of the fruits and vegetables on Henry’s feasts were cooked in some way and presented in the form of soups, pies and preserves. The king is said to have been very fond of jam.

Both countries used a lot of spices and sugar in their cooking, as these expensive delicacies, sugar imported from Cyprus and spices from China, Africa and India, demonstrated wealth and social status. There were also expensive citrus fruits, almonds and olive oil from the Mediterranean.

The lavish banquets prepared for that meeting were accompanied by music, archery and wrestling performances.

The food, served on large platters from which guests helped themselves, was generally distributed according to status. Those placed furthest away from the top table did not have the same quality food or sumptuous dishes as the most important guests.
On average, banquets consisted of a series of three or more courses, each of which included about fifty dishes, all brought out at the same time, from which diners could choose what to eat.

There was always an elaborate centrepiece: a bird like a pheasant or swan which had been ‘re-dressed’ in its feathered skin, live birds hidden in a pie that flew away as soon as it was cut, or other fanciful and edible table settings such as castles and knights made out of marzipan or sugar.

A historian who studied the account books of those banquets estimated that two thousand sheep and seven hundred sea eels were served on just two weekends.
Another claimed that over 3,000 sheep and lambs, 800 calves, 6,500 birds, and 300 oxen were slaughtered by the “engorged horde”, as well as 13 swans 3 porpoises, marine mammals similar to dolphins, particularly loved by Catherine of Aragon.
In addition there were other delicacies such as 29,000 fish, 98,000 eggs, and 200,000 litres of wine coming from Burgundy, the Loire Valley, Bordeaux and Gascony.
Another account even states the amount of wine was 216,000 gallons, which corresponds to about 950,000 litres, a quantity that looks incredible to me, even including the wine that flowed from the fountain that stood in front of Henry’s temporary palace.
Moreover the guests drank 66,000 litres of beer and ale, shipped over from England, and also brewed locally in Calais.

Ale was a common drink during the Tudor period, as water was considered unhealthy or contaminated. At the time it was brewed without hops, and had a very weak alcohol content.
Even small children were weaned on ale.

Il Campo del Drappo d’Oro’: 2. Banchetti

Nel 1520 Enrico VIII d’Inghilterra e Francesco I di Francia si incontrarono nel Campo del Drappo d’Oro, situato in una valle tra Ardres in Francia e Guînes nella regione controllata dagli inglesi, che successivamente prese il nome di Val d’Or.

Quello fu il primo vertice europeo della storia e offrì a ciascuno dei due sovrani la possibilità di superare l’altro in splendore e abilità militare. Tuttavia, la cosa più singolare era che, nel Campo del Drappo d’Oro, tutto era temporaneo e serviva solo a fare spettacolo.

Charles Dickens nella sua opera “A Child’s History of England/ Storia di un bambino d’Inghilterra” scrisse:
“C’erano castelli finti, cappelle temporanee, fontane in cui scorreva vino, grandi cantine piene di vino gratuito come acqua per tutti i convenuti, tende di seta, merletti e lamine d’oro, leoni dorati e innumerevoli altre cose del genere”.

Fu un’esibizione di ricchezza molto costosa da parte di entrambi i re, che cercarono di eclissare l’altro, con tende e vestiti abbacinanti, grandi feste, danze, musica, giostre, giochi e banchetti.

La cucina francese e inglese erano abbastanza simili nel 1520. La carne era preponderante e le verdure, sebbene stessero diventando sempre più utilizzate in Italia e in altri paesi europei, raramente venivano gustate da sole. C’era la credenza che frutta e verdura fresche portassero malattie, quindi la maggior parte della frutta e della verdura nelle feste di re Enrico venivano cucinate e presentate sotto forma di zuppe, torte e conserve. Si dice che fosse molto ghiotto di marmellata.

Entrambe le nazioni usavano molte spezie e zucchero nella loro cucina, poiché queste costose prelibatezze, lo zucchero importato da Cipro e le spezie da Cina, Africa e India, dimostravano ricchezza e status sociale. C’erano anche costosi agrumi, mandorle e olio d’oliva del Mediterraneo.

I sontuosi banchetti preparati in occasione di quell’incontro erano accompagnati da musica, esibizioni di tiro con l’arco e lotta.

Il cibo, servito su grandi vassoi da cui gli ospiti si servivano, veniva generalmente distribuito in base all’importanza dei commensali. Quelli più lontani dal tavolo più importante non avevano lo stesso cibo di qualità o gli stessi piatti prelibati destinati ai commensali più importanti.
In media, i banchetti consistevano in una serie di tre o più portate, ciascuna delle quali comprendeva di una cinquantina di pietanze, tutte fatte arrivare a tavola contemporaneamente, dalle quali i commensali potevano scegliere cosa mangiare.

C’era sempre un centrotavola elaborato: un uccello come un fagiano o un cigno che era stato “rivestito” del suo piumaggio, uccelli vivi nascosti in un centrotavola di pasta che volavano via non appena veniva tagliato, o altre realizzazioni fantasiose e commestibili, come castelli e cavalieri di pasta di mandorle o di zucchero.

Uno storico che ha studiato i libri contabili di quei banchetti ha stimato che duemila pecore e settecento anguille vennero servite solo nei due fine settimana.
Un altro ha affermato che oltre 3.000 pecore e agnelli, 800 vitelli, 6.500 uccelli e 300 buoi furono macellati da quella “orda ingurgitante”, oltre a 13 cigni e 3 focene, mammiferi marini simili ai delfini, particolarmente apprezzati da Caterina d’Aragona.
A tutto ciò vanno aggiunti 29.000 pesci, 98.000 uova e 200.000 litri di vino proveniente dalla Borgogna, dalla Valle della Loira, dal Bordeaux e dalla Guascogna.
Un altro resoconto afferma addirittura che la quantità di vino fosse di 216.000 galloni, che corrisponde a circa 950.000 litri, una quantità che mi sembra incredibile, anche includendo il vino che sgorgava dalla fontana posta davanti all’ingresso del palazzo provvisorio di Enrico.
Inoltre, gli ospiti bevvero 66.000 litri di birra, spedita dall’Inghilterra o anche prodotta localmente a Calais.

La birra era una bevanda comune durante il periodo Tudor, poiché l’acqua era considerata contaminata o malsana. All’epoca veniva prodotta senza luppolo e aveva una gradazione alcolica molto debole.
In quei tempi anche i bambini piccoli veniva svezzati con la birra

53 thoughts on “Field of Cloth of Gold: 2. Banqueting

  1. History makes man rich . Nobody has said so . I came to this conclusion after going through your blog . That how the then Kings were so extravagant that a set of historians were required to collect information on counting all the food items/materials ranging from meat , beef , pork, fish and , of course , nine lakhs liters of wine of different types and of different tastes . What a funny style of the first Summit of the world took place between the two prosperous kings of their times whose majority of population had to spend life miserably . As you have rightly written that a lot of vegetables were grown in even Italy , but they considered vegetables as heath hazard . That’s why reliance on all those poor animals , miserable birds and innocent fish for their dishes . You have narrated the history of that great Summit in such a beautiful words that , while reading , I felt that I was present there in that Summit as a silent spectator as such . Thanks !

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  2. You’ve painted a brilliant picture of the Field of Cloth of Gold in this post Luisa. It sounds so extravagant that I have trouble in believing this is how it was – but even if it’s only half true, it still seems abhorrent to me. Of course, we live in different times and see things from a different perspective. Even so, I believe that it was still wrong then to put on a show like that when ordinary folk struggled so hard to keep any sort of food on the table. I really enjoyed this one. Thank you my dear friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Forse erano abituati ad ingurgitare enormi quantità di cibo,.
      Comunque i piatti di portata contenevano il cibo già a porzioni e i commensali potevano servirsi a piacimento, anche di soli pochi pezzi. Tuttavia credo che alcuni seguissero la regola dell”all you can eat”

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  3. Che esagerazione di tutto!!! Mi rendo sempre più conto che il troppo sia sempre esistito e sia sempre stato eccessivamente troppo!!! Bellissimo articolo ricco di ogni nozione storica, sei eccezionale come sempre 😘

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Henry VIII started to get fat after he received a leg injury during a joust when he was 44. It didn’t heal fully and contributed to his physical decline. Inactivity after this fall and the continued excessive eating made him obese

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      1. I knew he had a leg injury and was not clear on when that happened. Supposedly Anne Boleyn miscarried a son after hearing about his injury, If I recall correctly, the courtier that gave her the news made it sound as dire as possible. Thanks for clarifying that for me. I never realized that both kings were so young when this took place.

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  4. Each post of yours is the revelation of a passage in the history of humanity that many times, one did not know. It is also an excellent narrative that is easy to take in the facts. This first summit of Reyes, it is fascinating. Greetings Luisa. Good week.

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  5. l’acqua ovunque era riservata ai bagni. A tavola venivano servito vino, sidro e birra. In effetti aveva un senso perché le fonti d’acqua erano ricche di batteri e producevano molte malattie. Cumunque a parte tutto il bere hanno mngiato quantità di cibo incredibile

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