Continuity throughout the Tudor period

To what extent was there continuity in English foreign policy throughout the years 1485-1603?

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Anglo-French Relations

Although the belief that France was the traditional enemy stayed strong to the end of the Tudor dynasty (shown by the opposition in the Privy Council to Elizabeth's marriage negotiations with the Duke of Anjou), the youth of Edward and sex of Mary and Elizabeth combined with the loss of Calais meant that the aggressive foreign policy of Henry VIII was not sustained.

Key dates of change:

- Loss of Calais (January 1558) removed the easy route for war against France

- Descent of France into civil war following events such as the Massacre of Vassy (1562) and the Massacre of St Bartholomew (1567) - a stronger France was needed to balance the power of Spain!

However, although Anglo-French relations were often strained, motives differed:

- Henry VII -- trade
- Henry VIII -- personality, glory
- Edward VI -- forced to due to aggressive Scottish relations
- Mary I -- dynastic, following French support of pretender Thomas Stafford
- Elizabeth -- strategic (attempt to regain Calais, plus support of Huguenots was out of fear of Guises) 

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Anglo-Spanish Relations

Whilst at the beginning of the Tudor dynasty relations with Spain were generally good, by 1585 they had disintegrated into open warfare. They were consistently strong until Elizabeth's reign (minor blip).


- Break with Rome - originated the religious dispute but actually was not of serious importance; by 1542 Henry and Charles were in alliance

- Elizabeth's support of Huguenots and rebels in France/Netherlands

- English privateering against Spanish ships


- essentially, Henry VII - Mary I. Spain remained the traditional ally with only minor blips in this.

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Anglo-Scottish relations

Scottish policy did stay fairly consistent as the English tried and failed continually to keep the Scots under control. Only after it became apparent that James VI was heir to the English throne did poor relations die down.


- Aggression throughout Henry VII, VIII, and Somerset's rule

- Elizabeth's intervention in support of the Lords of the Congregation (fear of Guise domination?)

- Treaty of Berwick 1586 - after this relations became significantly better

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Religion was a relatively unimportant factor throughout the Tudor dynasty, consistently being used as an excuse to allow monarchs and rulers to pursue their chosen foreign policy. Although it became more frequently used as an excuse in Elizabeth's reign, it remained a relatively unimportant factor in foreign policy.


- Henry VIII's attack on France (Holy League 1511)

- Break with Rome did not provoke outright war or crusade against England so cannot have been that important

- Somerset's spreading Protestantism in Scotland (really was attempting to exert English dominance)

- Many examples in Elizabeth's reign: support of Huguenots 1562 (attempt to regain Calais), support of Huguenots in 1589 (defensive against Catholic League and Spain), support of Netherlands rebels (defensive against Philip)

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