octagonal ‘fountain … gilt with fine gold’

My favourite history ‘experience’ of 2012 has just been published in History Today magazine:

‘The historical ‘thing’ [we could chose books, films, anything] that has given me the most pleasure this year is our recreation at Hampton Court of Henry VIII’s wine fountain.  The original was constructed in a field outside Calais in 1520 for the famous party known as ‘The Field of the Cloth of Gold’. (I once heard this translated, during a meeting with fellow curators from Versailles, as ‘The Camp of the Golden Sheet’.) The event took place to celebrate a meeting between Francis I of France and Henry VIII. Fabulous pavilions, a jousting yard and an octagonal ‘fountain … gilt with fine gold’, were erected and there is a painting of the whole scene, dating from about 1545, on display at Hampton Court.

There are a couple of important differences between our modern wine fountain and Henry’s. Unlike in the painting of ‘The Field of the Cloth of Gold’, we haven’t yet had any drinkers fighting or vomiting.  Also, the Tudor courtiers would probably have objected to paying £3.50, which is today’s (very reasonable) price for a glass’.

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