Henry VIII, the Reign
Mary Rose and the Divorce
For the time being, England was pivotal in the balance of power between Valois France on the one side and the expanding Habsburg Empire on the other. The infinitely ambitious Wolsey had by this time appointed himself as a sort of steward of Christendom, the wise man presiding over the three inexperienced young monarchs, Charles, aged nineteen, Francis, twenty-four and Henry, twenty-eight.
Wolsey’s career with Henry VIII had begun with him as the youthful king’s almoner; he was then promoted to be Bishop of Lincoln, and after that very quickly became the Archbishop of York, then Cardinal Archbishop and then the Papal Legate in England. Now he was after the top job, the papacy itself.
Charles set sail from La Carruna and left Adrian of Utrecht, his former tutor and adviser in the Netherlands, with the daunting task of administering the kingdom of Spain as regent during his absence. Adrian had been a senior administrator in Spain since 1515.
Wolsey, as Charles sailed north, was erring towards the French and King Francis for support in relation to his aspirations to become pope. In return, he pledged England’s political and military assistance to France with the intention of tipping the balance of power in favour of the Valois dynasty over the Hapsburgs, but Wolsey was always open to an improved arrangement.
The Field of the Cloth of Gold
The French king and Henry VIII had often expressed a desire to meet each other and so Wolsey arranged an outlandishly lavish event that became known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold, infamous for its glamour, extravagance and apparent lack of political significance.
Francis, at some point during it all, beat Henry at wrestling, which is perhaps worthy of note.
Anyway, the staging of such an event was a logistical marvel in its day and would still be a remarkable achievement today. The total number of Henry’s company for the revels was estimated at 4,000 people and over 2,000 horses and Queen Catherine’s at over 1,000 people and more than 750 horses. There were dukes and earls, bishops, barons and a marquis, together with an army of priests. Then there were tents, timber for buildings, costumes for revels, the king’s bed, all the paraphernalia for the jousting, marvellous statues of ancient princes, probably a kitchen sink or two, and so on and so on. All this was shipped across to France by the splendid power of the English n