Henry VII: Foreign Policy

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Henry's Aims

  • Henry was more inclined to peace than war; his foreign policy was subordinate to his domestic policies - ensuring the obedience of his subjects
  • The security of his kingdom lay within the treaties he made with France, Brittany, Spain and Scotland
  • His aim in foreign policy was defensive because of the nature of his succession
  • He had to be constantly on guard against a possible invasion
  • The most vulnrable border was the northern one; there was fear for a potential invasion from Scotland
  • Scotland was traditionally the "back door" to England, and one that the French were familiar with
  • Henry could also not afford to ignore Wales, which had been invaded by England, or Ireland, which was volatile and prone to challenging authority of the English Crown
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Consolidating Support

  • In the first 3 years of his reign, Henry's foreign policy was designed to give him time to consolidate support
  • As France had helped finance the expedition that led to Bosworth, he seized an opprtunity to maintain good relations with them and negotiated a one-year truce which extened to Jan 1489
  • July, 1486 he succeeded in persuading James III of Scotland to a three-year truce
  • The assassination of James III in 1488 and the accesion of James IV meant that, for the short term, Henry had little to fear from across the border
  • July, 1486 he managed to negotiate a commerical treaty with Brittany in spite of his truce with France
  • Jan, 1487 he concluded a treaty with Maxilimian of the Holy Roman Empire for one year
  • Henry had done his best to ensure he would not suffer invasion from his principal foreign rivals while he was securing his throne at home
  • These treaties also revealed that Henry was accepted as King of England by his eurpoean counterparts and they expected him to remain so
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Problems of the Simnel Rising

  • Pretender Lambert Simnel caused various diplomatic problems because he received support from Ireland and Burgundy
  • Burgundy had been England's main ally in the Hundred Years' War against France and was the main outlet for England's cloth trade
  • Margaret of Burgundy had been supporting Yorkists in the recent civil war and was willing to give 2000 mercenaries for Simnel's cause
  • However other support for Simnel was very limited
  • This enabled Henry to defeat the rebels at the Battle of Stoke in 1487
  • However, this episode served as a warning to Henry and showed his vulnability as a king, particularly when claiments had support overseas
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  • The first major foreign problem faced was France and Brittany
  • Not long after the Simnel rising, Henry had to take an aggressive stance against France
  • The situation arose from the future of Brittany; Henry felt he could not allow France to take over Brittany unopposed because he belived it would pose a threat the England's security
  • On the other hand, he didn't want to provoke his neighbour
  • He sent several hundred volunteers to assist Duke Francis of Brittany while he acted as a mediator between the two courts
  • Since the Bretons refused to listen, Henry renewed the truce with France and disowned Duke Francis 
  • July, 1488, the Bretons were defeated by the French in the Battle of Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier
  • The Duke finally capitulated and signed the Treaty of Sablé in which he promised he would not let his daughter and heir, Anne, marry without the permission of the French king
  • After the Duke died, just three weeks later, the new duchess of Brittany, just 12 years old, was taken into French custody 
  • The annexation of Brittany by France seemed imminent 
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Brittany and the Treaty of Redon

  • Henry tried to use his diplomacy to resolve and deter the French from going to war
  • He enlisted the support of Maximilian and Ferdinand of Spain 
  • Treaty made at Redon in Feb 1489 in which the Bretons promised to pay the cost of 6000 men Henry undertook to send to them
  • Henry dispatched 6000 men but found himself let down by his allies
  • Maximilian's support was unreliable, while Spain only sent 2000 in 1490
  • Dec, 1491, the Bretons accepted defeat and the Duchess Anne was married to King Charles 
  • This marriage spelled the end of Brittany's independence 
  • Henry now faced one of the most difficult decisions of his reign; he promised to go to war with France to defend Brittany but it was now officially a part of France 
  • He had to choose whether he would try to liberate Brittany by conquring France or leaving Brittany to its fate while obtaining the best terms he could for himself
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France and the Treaty of Étaples

  • 1491, Henry announced his intention to assert claim to the French Crown; he sent commissioners to collect a forced loan 
  • Having spent a year preparing for the invasion of France, the English army of 26,000 men crossed the Channel in Oct 1492 and laid siege of Boulogne
  • Charles was eager to be rid of his English aggressor, so he offered Henry peace
  • 3rd Nov, the Treaty of Étaples was concluded; Charles' only concerns were to keep Brittany and get rid of Henry
  • He promised to give no further aid to English rebels (especially Warbeck) and to pay most of Henry's costs of intervening in Brittany - 745,000 gold crowns payable in 50,000 crowns a year
  • Henry had failed in liberating Brittany, and the French now had the whole southern side of the Channel (excluding Calais) 
  • However, he did manage to stop Charles VIII from helping Warbeck and secured a sizable annual pension from the French
  • He also made a valuable alliance with Spain, showing that England under a Tudor king could not be completely overlooked in Continential affairs 
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Spain and the Treaty of Merdina del Campo

  • The most significant part of Henry's foreign policy was his alliance made with Spain and the Treaty of Merdina del Campo, March 1489
  • Spain had emerged a major power in the late 15th century after the unification of the country in 1479; England and spain were originally commercial rivals
  • Early 1588, Henry suggested the marriage of his eldest son, Arthur, to Ferdinand's youngest daughter, Cathering of Aragon
  • Negotiations were laborious as both fathers wanted to secure the best possible terms 
  • Ferdinand agreed to Henry's demands about the size of Catherine's dowry and promised not to help and English rebels 
  • The fact that the Tudor dynasty had been recognised as an equal by one of the leading royal families in Europe was of major importance to Henry, who had a weak claim from the beginning 

Dowry - Money or property paid by the bride's father to the groom's family on his daughter's marriage

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The Holy League and Magnus Intercursus

  • This marked the beginning of Henry's most successful period in diplomatic affairs
  • The other European powers had feared that France was becoming too powerful; in 1495, the Pope, Ferdinand, Maximilian, Venice and Milan formed the League of Venice with the aim of driving Charles VIII out of Italy
  • England was not included at first because it was outside of its usual sphere of interest
  • Ferdinand realised it might be too dangerous not to include Henry
  • Oct, 1496, after they further concluded agreements on the marriage of their children, Ferdinand secured England's position in the revamped League (the Holy League)
  • However, Henry agreed only that England were not bound to go to war with France; he also managed to make a commercial treaty with France while maintaining good relations with the League
  • Henry concluded the Magnus Intercursus (Great Treaty), the basis on which good trading relations were resumed between England and Burgundy

League of Venice - Diplomatic and military organisation formed by the Italian states to resist the French conquest of Italy

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Problems of the Warbeck Rising

  • The significance of Warbeck's career was that he inolved other rulers in England's dynastic problem
  • He received support at different times from Ireland, France, Burgundy and Scotland; this greatly complicated Henry's foreign policy
  • It affected Henry's treaty with Spain as Catherine's parents did not want her marrying into an insecure throne
  • It also affected England's most successful trade: the cloth trade; in 1493, Henry placed a temporary embargo with Burgundy because Philip and Margaret were offering aid to Warbeck
  • It also highlighted the long-term posibility of an invasion from Scotland 
  • When Warbeck was captured in 1497, peace was made with Scotland

Embargo - the prohibition of commerce and trade with a particular country

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Truce of Ayton

  • Relations with Scotland were always tense; the kings of Scotland traditionally owed allegiance to the King of England - this was resented
  • Despite a truce made with Henry in 1488, James IV of Scotland gave support to Warbeck upon his arrival in 1495
  • However, Warbeck's invasion on England with Scotish help came to nothing and he eventually fled upon hearing that Henry was sending an army
  • This situation was made worse with the rebellion in Cornwall; fortunately, James was losing faith in Warbeck and did not attack when given the opportunity 
  • The Truce of Ayton was concluded in 1497 but not until Warbeck was executed that it became a full treaty of peace
  • It was sealed by the marriage of Margaret (Henry's eldest daughter) to James IV in Aug, 1503
  • However, Scotland did not abandon it's pact with France, so the peace depended on good relations between England and France, but while Henry was still king, this did not pose as a problem
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Marriage of Arthur and Catherine

  • Another of Henry's diplomatic marriage alliances was achieved through Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon's marriage on the 14th Nov, 1501
  • This alliance was now even more significant than when it had originally been suggested
  • Henry hoped England would play a part in the growing Spanish empire in the New World, which he could now achieve through this marriage
  • Catherine's sister, Joanna, and her marriage to Philip of Burgundy united the two states and provided Henry with another possible ally if he neeeded one
  • The two marriages were the pinnacle of Henry's success in foreign policy
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Death of Prince Arthur

  • A major blow to Henry's foreign policy was the sudden death of Arthur in April, 1502, only 5 months after his wedding
  • Henry's dynastic hopes seemed shattered 
  • Within 5 weeks of his death, Ferdinand and Isabella were instructing their ambassador to conclude a marriage of their newly widowed daughter to the new heir, Prince Henry
  • A formal treaty was confirmed in Sept, 1502, but it was recognised that a dispensation was needed as Catherine was considered too closely related to Henry because of her marriage to his older brother
  • The required papal document arrived in 1504
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Death of Queen Elizabeth

  • Feb, 1503, Henry suffered another personal loss when Elizabeth died shortly after giving birth to a daughter 
  • This provoked new dynastic worries: Henry could no longer have any children and 2 of his 3 sons were dead 
  • Henry began to consider the possibility of taking a second wife who might be able to bear him more heirs
  • He seemed to have sought Joanna of Naples, Margaret of Savoy and Joanna of Castile and Burgundy 
  • The match of Joanna of Naples, newly widowed, in 1504 seemed to be encouraged by spain because Ferdinand was keen to strengthen his links with England as his relations with France were worsening
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Death of Queen Isabella

  • Isabella's death meant that Henry and Ferdinand were rivals in the matrimonial stakes
  • It also threw into question the continued unity of Spain because of the position of Castile
  • Joanna was her mother's heir, so the unity of Spain would only be possible if she allowed her father to act as regent on her her behalf
  • However, her husband, Philp of Burgundy, was dazzled by the prospect of a crown to add to his other titles; he forced her to take up her inheritance immediately 
  • It appeared that Henry's major ally of the whole of Spain was to be reduced to Aragon only 
  • In addition, it now meant that his two allies whom he depended on, Spain and Burgundy, were now rivals 
  • Henry had to struggle to ensure he did not lose the support of neither
  • This explains why the last few years of Henry's foreign policy was subject to sudden changes of direction in a way it had never been before
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Relations with Burgundy

  • In 1503, Henry attempted to estabilish more amicable relations with Philip in case of a possible break with France 
  • Friendship with Philip at this time made relations with Ferdinand more difficult, particularly after Henry lent Philip money to finance his expedition to claim the throne of Castile
  • Henry further antagonised Ferdinand by keeping Catherine's dowry, despite her father's request to complete the marriage settlement or return the bride and her dowry to Spain
  • Henry now began to seek a French or a Burgundian vride for his son
  • In 1506, Philip was forced to take shelter at the English court where Henry negotiated terms for him to hand over the Earl of Suffolk and Henry would marry Philip's sister, Margaret of Savoy - she rejected his proposal
  • In Sept, 1506, Philip died; Henry's diplomacy had to alter its direction to keep pace with the changes
  • Fearing France would seize on the weakness of the Netherlands to take lands there, Henry repaired relations with Ferdinand and strengthened relaitons with Maximilian
  • By1508, Henry had achieved a measure of stability in his foreign relations and his position on the throne was now secure from foreign intervention 
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