Pas de Calais. Between forests and Artois hills, discover the Drap d’or camp trail
Through Writing Lille
The diplomatic meeting (nowadays, we would call it a “summit meeting”, on neutral and … flat ground!) Which we have called the ” Drap d’Or Camp Took place during the month of June 1520 in the Pas de Calais. We take you on the historical trail places.
French and English
This famous meeting was held in the open field, roughly equidistant between, on the one hand, the fortified town of Guînes belonging to the English (Calais and its hinterland, their “bridgehead” since 1347) and, on the other hand, Ardres, in a zone that remained French.
Landmark ? To the north, the abbey – ruined during the Hundred Years War – St Médard and Ste Rotrude d’Andres (necropolis of the Counts of Guînes), the “lowlands” of Guînes with their canals, their marshes, and the ponds of Brêmes . To the south, the parallel chalk folds north-west / south-east which cut into the “Licres plateau” stumbling over the vast forest massif of Guînes, which continues, in the shape of a crescent, with the woods of Ecottes, Clerques, de Tournehem, de Recques and d’Eperlecques, going up towards the Flemish plain.
If you want to explore the Camp du Drap d’or site, the fastest way is to arrive from the North (Dunkirk motorway). But the most attractive, the most exotic for non-peasants (city dwellers) is to go there from the south, passing for example through Acquin-Westbécourt (Ste Pétronille church and castle), Licques (abbey), the Mont du Ventus d’Alembon (181 m), and Campagne-les-Guînes.
Landes, called in Picardy “the dornes”, acid lawns mingle with junipers and thorny shrubs, where the magnificent hillsides of this sector. These mark the western side of the plateau and chalky hills with fairly steep slopes.
Sites of the old “sheep routes” which marked out the chalky slopes of Artois and Boulonnais, these slopes were used for a long time for uses other than grazing, such as the exploitation of chalk quarries: “white stones” for used the construction of churches (most of the 16th century) and “censes” of villages throughout this sector.
Hikers will note that the Via Francigena (Canterbury-Calais-Besançon-Aosta-Rome) just passes by (see the GR 128 and 145): guaranteed promise of sporty walks (steep) in inspiring sites!
Where is he really?
However, doubts remain about the exact geographical location of Camp du Drap d’Or, 501 years ago. The topoguide 6200 “Tour de l’Audomarois” or the regional Michelin map 511 says the area of the “Fond du curé”, near the Courgain (north of Campagne-les Guînes), while most websites give a more to the northeast, between Andres and Balinghem. On the northern berm of the RD 231 (Guînes-Ardres), between the perpendicular roads RD 228 and RD 248, a stele engraved “Camp du Drap d’or – Field of Cloth of gold” was indeed installed, decorated – during reenactment parties – two kakemonos.
In addition, the so-called popular Drap d’Or festivities still take place elsewhere, south of Guînes: in the park of the Bien-Assise castle-campsite (built in 1805, on plans by Cl.-N. Ledoux , for Count Charles de Guizelin, general councilor-mayor.)
What remains of this camp, which has become a field again, which was an enclosed field (tournaments) to avoid becoming a battlefield? Nothing, except the Museum (opened in 2002) in the center of Guînes which offers families, at the foot of the Clock Tower, many details evoking this history. This tower was built (1763) on a palisaded and ditched feudal motte, itself erected probably in the 10th century by the Vikings (Sifrid the Danish?)
Later, Baudouin II, Count of Guînes (1165-1202), had a strong stone keep built. The vast English fortified castle of Guînes (including this keep) was razed in 1558 following the victorious siege of the city by the French troops of Duke François de Guise.
Kings have fun
This immense “encampment” of two “gilt-edged” monarchs was, in the middle of the Renaissance century – dare I say it? – a kind of “high-end Woodstock” before the letter, bringing together the aristocracy who surrounded King François Ier (a fellow 1.95 m, 34 years old,) and the “gentry” of the Court of Henry VIII Tudor (massive 29 year old athlete)!
5,000 artisans, peasants and workers prepared this pantagruelic feast: banquets, games, tournaments, balls, masquerades, fireworks, and even kite competitions… for almost a month! Interspersed with a few brief exchanges half-fig, half-grape between the two monarchs, and long negotiations with speckled foils between ambassadors. Confidence hardly reigned! Thousands of men-at-arms kept their respective sovereigns; to keep them occupied, they were paraded, paraded, defied and… drinking.
Yes, maybe 10 or 15,000 people in the open air and under tents of brocade, velvet and satin. All kinds of beverages flowed freely: two “wine fountains”, one for the commoners, one for the nobles, had been built. Uplifting! Thousands of (handsome?) Men and young women, covered (during the day!) With precious fabrics encrusted with precious stones, were driven by the farm’s desire to be entertained, to compete in feats, to “amaze” each other. others !
Result of the “courses”: François Ier became even more indebted and did not succeed in concluding the dream alliance with England against the emperor Charles V.
It was Henry VIII who won the day, allying with the Spaniards behind the French. Treacherous Albion, despite the high tech textile of the hangings!
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