The Field of the Cloth of Gold

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The Field of the Cloth of Gold is the name given to a vast and spectacular performance event that took place in France in 1520.[1] It is also the title used for various performances based on the event, including a play by Shafto Scott.

The original event

"The Field of the Cloth of Gold" (French: "Camp du Drap d'Or") was a site in Balinghem France that hosted a tournament field as part of a summit from 7 to 24 June 1520, between King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France. On that occasion each king tried to outshine the other, with dazzling tents and clothes, huge feasts, music, jousting and games. The tents and the costumes displayed so much cloth of gold, an expensive fabric woven with silk and gold thread, that the site of the meeting was named after it.

Representations of the event

Numerous paintings, descriptions and other representations of the event have been done over the years, including a number of literary works (e.g. novels by G.P.R. James, 1830, and Magnus Mills, 2015) and a range of dramatized versions.

The masque-scene in Shakespeare's King Henry VIII

The event famously features as a masque[2] in Shakespeare's King Henry VIII, a play said to have been a collaboration between the ageing Shakespeare and the young John Fletcher, which was first performed under the title All is True at the Globe in 1613. First published in the First Folio of 1623.

A spectacle by Ringling Brothers

In 1905 Ringling Brothers presented a spectacle called The Field of the Cloth of Gold, for which they claim to have converted their vast main tent into a huge theatre for the presentation of what they refer to as "the gorgeous, brilliant spectacle, the Field of the Cloth of Gold.”[3]

A drama by Shafto Scott

The Field of the Cloth of Gold, or Henry the Eighth and Francis the First is a drama by Shafto Scott (fl 1860s), possibly based on the English novel Darnley: or, The Field of the Cloth of Gold (1830) by G.P.R. James.

First performed in London on 24 April, 1869.

Performance history in South Africa

1884-5: A work referred to as The Field of the Cloth of Gold was performed by the Henry Harper Company in the new Theatre Royal, Cape Town, as part of Henry Harper's first season as lessee and manager of the venue. Called a burlesque by Boonzaier (1928), it is identified as the drama by Shafto Scott in F.C.L. Bosman (p. 380, footnote 32).


"Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar. Part 482 – Ringling Bros. 'The Field of the Cloth of Gold' ", (Information about historic theaters, scenic art and stage machinery).[4]

Allardyce Nicoll. 1975. A History of English Drama 1660-1900: Late 19th Century Drama 1850-1900 Cambridge University Press: p.558[5]

D.C. Boonzaier. 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1923. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: p.380

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