Henry VIII to Canterbury

The Great Hall at Charing Palace

Today 21 May is the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII setting out for Canterbury.

Early on the morning of 21 May 1520, after the Ascension, the King and Queen Katharine (of Aragon), accompanied by Cardinal Wolsey and a huge entourage, left Greenwich Palace.

A very long procession went uphill towards Blackheath. 

The final destination was to be France where Henry was attending the great summit known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold.

The government of England and Wales had been placed in the hands of Bishop Richard Fox of Winchester who remained at Greenwich.

Henry stopped at Lullingstone Castle, home of SirJohn Peche who was accompanying him, before staying overnight at Otford Palace.  The King was familiar with the Archbishop William Warham’s recently rebuilt palace having stayed there in the previous year.

Next day the party arrived at Maidstone.

But a night was still spent at nearby Charing, another of the archbishop’s staging post palaces.

A day later Henry and Katharine arrived at Canterbury ready to keep Whit Sunday at the cathedral.

They were joined by Charles V of Spain, who was concerned about the pending summit, and together the two sovereigns paid homage at the shrine of St Thomas Becket.

It was not until 7 June that Henry VIII at last met King Francis of France near Calais.

The return at the end of July was by way of Sittingbourne rather than Charing.

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