Charles is Elected Holy Roman Emperor – Expanded Habsburg Empire Encloses France – Strategic Importance of the English Channel – Field of the Cloth of Gold
Following the death of Maximilian, elections were arranged for a new emperor. Henry VIII was a late entrant but notwithstanding the two favourites were Charles and Francis. Bribes and promises were made to the electors, and on 28 June 1519 Charles won and replaced his grandfather as Holy Roman Emperor.
Charles was already in possession of Spain, but his election brought him vast additional territories that all but surrounded France.
Protocol and tradition demanded a German coronation ceremony was required to be performed at the Palatine Chapel in the Imperial free city of Aachen. Charles, of course, was in Spain, and safe passage between the two countries, as when he had arrived in 1517, required peace.
For this peace, Charles relied on Wolsey’s Treaty of London and its guarantees, which had held since 1518. The treaty obliged the contracting parties not to attack one another and, accordingly, it committed all to come to the aid of any that suffered attack. Wolsey invited Charles to visit England on his journey by ship to the Low Countries. It was an ostentatious invitation and was heralded as an honour to England to be the first country to host the new emperor. Wolsey’s original proposal was for Charles to land at Southampton.
At the same time, the cardinal organised a spectacular meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I at a venue just outside Calais between Guînes and Ardres; the meeting is known to history as the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
Wolsey readied to posture as papa over the three young monarchs: Charles, Francis and Henry.
Charles reappointed Adrian, the future Pope Adrian VI, as regent in Spain. The weather, however, delayed Charles’s sea journey. He was stuck at Corunna for nearly a month. Eventually, late on 26 May 1520, he neared the English coast. He was met off shore by Wolsey , not at Southampton,but at Dover.
Charles witnessed the vast and busy English fleet in the Channel, going back and forth from Calais ferrying thousands of dignitaries, their servants and any amount of equipment in preparation for the Field of the Cloth of Gold. This was a demonstration of English naval prowess staged to impress Charles as much as it was Francis.
Henry met Charles at Dover Castle that night. The emperor stayed for three days with Henry and Catherine at Canterbury; he then sailed to Flushing, and Henry crossed to Calais on 31 May 1520 to meet Francis. After the Field of the Cloth of Gold, Wolsey and Henry reunited for another interview with Charles on the border between Calais and Gravelines.