Jousting for Peace

Thomas Penn

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Trying to describe the spectacular summit meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I which took place in June 1520, contemporaries fell into a kind of stupor. It was the eighth wonder of the world, said one. Another thought the temporary palaces – erected at staggering expense for the sole purpose of a fortnight’s worth of jousts and junketing – outdid the ‘miracles of the Egyptian pyramids and the Roman amphitheatres’. To one Italian observer, the English palace – with brick walls 300 feet long, so many windows that it seemed as though half the building was ‘made entirely of glass’, and chambers that in size and opulence outdid some of Henry’s permanent houses back home – merited the simplest and greatest of comparisons: ‘Leonardo,’ he wrote, ‘could not have done it so well.’

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