For one unavoidable reason, the plains of northern France will lie heavy in the public mind this year. In 1914, English and French soldiers repudiated ancient enmities and took to the field together. This union of arms – on territory where each nation had drained so much of the other’s blood – was not, as Glenn Richardson recalls in The Field of Cloth of Gold, unique. A little under four hundred years before, the nobilities of France and England, led by their monarchs, Francis I and Henry VIII, met on a stretch of farmland between the towns of Guînes and Ardres to proclaim everlasting concord between their nations.
For two and a half weeks in June 1520, some 12,000 English and French courtiers lodged, jousted and junketed together in a carnival of splendour. A temporary city of tents, pavilions and a hastily constructed palace was planted on the site, which lay inside England’s last surviving French enclave. Golden