GREAT DISPLAYS OF PLATE

One of the conspicuous characteristics of Mediceval England under the Tudors was the pompous display of plate by royalty and by those obsequious corporations and noblemen who sought to do honour to their sovereign. The plate these wealthy men and public corporations possessed had then assumed definite shapes and accredited forms for specific uses. These pieces were made in no haphazard way, neither were they the work altogether of men who were controlled by the church. Craftsmen had obtained some freedom, and were working under the control of influential guilds, of which they were members, rather than as aforetime working for private patrons, and under their guidance and direction. The standards and weights of the precious metals and the different articles being made were fixed, and the guilds had powers whereby the purity of the metal used and good workmanship were assured. The earliest guild of goldsmiths in England dated back to 1180, but the Guild of Goldsmiths in Medimval days controlling the output of plate acted under a Charter dated 1327, in which they were styled " The Wardens and Commonality of the Mystery of the Goldsmiths of London." The so-called " Tower pound " had in former days been the standard, but in Tudor days the pound Troy, taking its name from the town of Troves, in France, regulated the making of plate and assessed its weight. These regulations had brought the quality of English plate to a higher and more regular standard, and the marks already explained (see Chapter VI) tended to establish greater confidence in the work of the craftsmen whom it became the fashion to support. This led to wealthy men and others being in possession of plate which they were anxious to display, and the fact of possession and the encouragement of art by such patrons caused some competitive desire to make a show which would eclipse others with whom they came in contact. f There have been many occasions when great displays of plate composed of gold, silver and metal of other kinds ornate with jewelled settings-have contributed to the splendour of the occasion. In the days when kings and priests and civil and ecclesiastical powers vied with one another the display of those things which added to the impressiveness of the scene enacted, or to the grandeur of the reception of kings and ecclesiastics, was deemed necessary. Many historic examples could be recalled. C , One of these often mentioned in history, and frequently imagined, is the historic meeting of the Kings of England and France on the Field of the Cloth of Gold, so vividly portrayed on tapestries and paintings in royal and national collections. It was hoped by the greatness of that meeting and the pomp and ceremony that surrounded it, to cement the friendship of the kings and peoples of England and France. The entente cordiale between the two nations had been established ; it has been broken and re-established, but the bonds of past years have never been so close, or the fraternal feeling so strong, as the bond of blood shed on French soil during the past few years. In the Great War of 1914-1919 there have been many meetings of English and French rulers and the representatives of the two peoples. They have stood shoulder to shoulder in the great battles for freedom and right. Very great and historic have been the meetings between the King of England and the French President, but by contrast remarkable in their simplicity when the pomp of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, when silversmiths and goldsmiths and artists of every kind vied with one another to produce something great and to contribute to the eternal friendship they hoped thereby to build up, is recalled. When Henry of England and Charles of France met in that historic pageant so gorgeous was the display that it was said that beaten gold was the commonest ornament. Imagine that great fountain which we are told was covered over with plates of gold ! British and French gold have recently, it is true, been given freely towards the provision of armaments to defy the common foe, and money has been spent, but there has been no need of the pomp of Tudor times to assure the citizens of both nations of the real friendship existing between them. The galaxy of kings who have passed the Arc de Triomphe has not needed the display of gold and plate, and gold and silver embroidery, to assure them of either the wealth or power of the two nations or of their Allies. The British race can find gold, but it is in bullion and cash rather than in the plate of which there was such a lavish display on that day when in June, 1529, French and English fraternised near Calais. The plate displayed in that festive hall on the Field of the Cloth of Gold .exemplifies the great shows of gold and tangible possessions then common among friend and foe, deemed necessary as indicative of power, wealth and good faith. The King of England had with him his great Cardinal, for the Protestant Faith had not then been secured for England. Before Cardinal Wolsey, surrounded by many courtiers and supporters, was borne crosses of silver and much altar plate. It was amidst grandeur of gold and silver that the treaty was signed. To many persons the force of King Henry's words will be a matter of interest in the light of present day events. The King of France had told of the " demonstration of his power " but the King of England replied : " What matters to me most is the steadfastness and loyal keeping of promises compressed in charters between you and me." Displays of plate and pomp of gold are as nothing to the keeping of the entente cordiale and the peace of the world, and the respect of signatures involving the honour of great countries. It is the power behind the pomp that matters ; that has been true ' throughout history, and it is true to-day. The world knows it, and by the might and justice of their own cause the Nations of the Earth intend to preserve peace hence-forth, and with peace the full preservation and enjoyment of the arts of peace, including those of the goldsmith and the silversmith and other artists in metal. r