English Works of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester (1469-1535): Sermons and Other Writings, 1520-1535

By John Fisher; Cecilia A. Hatt | Go to book overview

5 Two Fruitful Sermons

Introduction

These two sermons show us Fisher in the role of pastoral preacher, a character naturally unemphasized in those public sermons which make up most of his printed English writings. Delivered in Rochester on the feast of All Saints and the first Sunday of Advent, not long after the occasion of the magnificent royal meeting at the Field of Cloth of Gold, they offer a glimpse of the ordinary parishioner's reaction to contemporary events and express a view of them radically different from that to be found in most official accounts.

On 7 June 1520, the feast of Corpus Christi, Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France sat on horseback on opposite sides of the Val d'Or, near Guines in northern France. After a fanfare from both sides, the kings galloped towards each other, met, embraced, and, dismounting, embraced again. 1 Until 20 June the monarchs with their wives and entourages feasted, jousted, danced, and revelled in a splendour and extravagance exceeding anything hitherto known in their own already splendid and extravagant courts. That this cordial meeting should have taken place between the kings of nations recently hostile is a tribute to the managerial and diplomatic powers of Cardinal Wolsey, who had entertained dreams of international law courts and regular diplomatic and princely meetings. 2 Although these projects were never to materialize, they were not in themselves much more improbable than the actual meeting which

not only raised problems of protocol of transporting the king and a huge entourage across the Channel, feeding and housing them . . . it required the leaders of perhaps Europe's oldest enemies to come together in a solemn and public way and, surrounded by the chief of the realm, who still felt contempt and hostility for one another, to embrace and pledge their people to brotherhood. For the warrior king of England, heir to Edward III and Henry V, to kiss Francis on the cheek was a significant act. 3

However, by the time Henry embraced Francis, he had already embraced the newly elected Emperor Charles V, returning to the Low Countries from Spain. It had been arranged that Charles should land at Sandwich in mid-May 1520, spend

-211-

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