Henry VIII at Tournai

C.G. Cruickshank describes how, having captured Tournai, the twenty-two-year-old king indulged his taste for sport and pageantry.

Henry VIII made his ceremonial entry into Tournai on Sunday, September 25th, 1513, ten days after his troops first invested the city. The siege had been shamefully one-sided. The youthful Henry - he celebrated his twenty-second birthday two days before he left England - had come to France in search of honour and glory.

The capture of Tournai, although it was not part of the original plan, was to be the climax of a brilliant campaign, at least as he saw it, in which he had routed the flower of French chivalry at the Battle of the Spurs.

But there were no professional soldiers in Tournai; the city walls with their ninety-nine towers looked strong enough, but they could not stand up to the English siege guns, the best that Europe could provide; the cannon mounted on the walls were antiquated, and probably more dangerous to the amateurs who manned them than to the besieging force; and such hand weapons as the citizens found in their armouries were hardly likely to deter the English troops when eventually they poured through the breaches to administer the coup de grace to the city and load themselves with plunder.

The Tournaisiens were under no illusion about their fate if the city fell. The dire threats spelled out in the summons to surrender, proclaimed in Henry’s name by Thomas Benoit, Clarenceux King of Arms, must still have been fresh in their minds.

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