Henry VIII: Foreign Policy

Henry VIII's Foreign Policy

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  • England was important because:
  • it was a strong ally for france or spain(though couldn't change affairs alone)
  • Geographical position. Could help charles encircle france or cut channel links against charles when aiding France.
  • The Netherlands were important becasue Antwerp was the main market for woolen cloth, which was England's main export.
  • Hostility with France was considered the natural state of affairs- the english king maintained a claim to the throne and calais was still english territory.
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  • From 1529, there were 2 main strands of diplomatic activity;
    • ambassadors were sent to the pope to seek an annulment
    • 1532 a treaty was signed with france but the relationship lacked strong foundations and therefore failed.
  • Henry and Francis had different hopes and aims
    • Francis wanted allies(H and the pope)
    • Henry was being agressive towards the pope
    • 1533 francis was angered by H8 marrying Anne B and so they bagan to divide.
    • H then decided to try and woo the schmalkaldic league becasue thay both denied the pope. However there was no political agreement and Luther's religious beliefs were too strong for henry.
    • 1536, h didn't feel he needed an aly because;
      • C & F were fighting again
      • CoA and AB dead
    • When anne dies there was possibility of reconciliation with Charles.
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20s/30s continued

  • Finding a wife became priority when JS dies. He searched for a wife amongst the French( daughter of Duke of Guise) and the Hapsburgs(Charles' niece Christina, who was put off by his marriage record.)
  • 1538; Charles and Francis sign a truce and made a joint declaration of war against the enemies of christendom, which included Henry. Pope Paul III sent Reginald Pole to Charles and francis to encourage invasion of England, and he sent Deavid Beaton to Scotland for the same purpose.
  • 1539 Henry and Cromwell began building and refurbishing fortifications and built up the navy.
  • Ambassadors were sent to the schmalkaldic League but the act of the 6 articles made religious settlement impossible. Thus act also proved an attack on England on religous grounds unjustifies.
  • Negotiations were also opened with the Duke of Cleves for a marriage alliance.
  • However the crusade against henry never happened, f and c were beginning to become hostile to one another again and therefore the cleves marriage was unnecessary.
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Assessment of the 30s

Henry didn't achieve much in the way of lasting alliances with the rest of europe, as he had his own motives contrary to agreements

H did adapt to events quickly, for example preparing for war and he was able to assess european relationships accurately.

Also, he didn't have many choices as he didn't have the power to engage in an ambitious foreign policy.

Overall, fair but nothing remarkable.

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  • Henry's foreign policy in the 1540s has been accused of being an enormous costly failure.
  • The last years of his reign involved a war on a sclae that stretched his resources to the very limits.
  • Between 1538-1547 he spent over 2million on FP and his annual income was only 150thou. henry financed the war throguh substantial parliamentary grants, the sale of 2/3 of monastic land and debasement of the coinage.
  • It had seemed in the 30s that H had learnt the futility of persuing an agressive FP.
  • H is accused of in the 40s reverting back to the discredited approaches of the first half of his reign.
  • He sought to regain his lost youth, especially after the moral shattering experience of catherine h.
  • His aims abroad were unrealistic and pursued with incompetence.
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  • security of Northern borders
  • tension between S and E
  • scottish alliance with France
  • James not turning up to a meeting


  • Henry organised a meeting between the 2 but james didn't appear, and so h was humiliated.
  • The dyuke of Norfolk lead a raid at the Scottish border 1542 and the scots retaliated at Solway Moss.
  • The superior scottish arms were trapped in the bog, and it was said that hames V died of shame, leaving 6 day old Mary
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  • 1543, treaty of Grenwich: took advantage of mary...it arranged a marriage between Mary and Edward.
  • The scots rejected the treaty in their parliament
  • The Earl of Hertford lead an expedition 1544 which reulted in most of Edinburgh burning.
  • As a result Henry has been seen as a failure becasue he lost their winning advantage.
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  • H was in an offensive alliance with Charles against France
  • H wanted to be stronger in calais
  • H wanted to expand in France
  • He wanted to be a warrior king, prestige


  • 1544 an English army of 40000 went to Calais, it was origianlly intended to advance to paris whilst Charles went to champagne. Henry changed the pland and as a result c made peace with f.
  • france attacked England and failed.
  • henry was left with Boulogne, but no allies and a costly war.
  • Treaty of campe signed in 1546
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  • Boulogne was relatively unimportant
  • H was to keep B for 8 years, then recieve £10000 on return to france
  • French recieved an annual pension of £5000
  • england paid a high price for little gain
  • The coinage was viewed with suspicion...inflation
  • Mary rose sunk
  • Henry gained some prestige.
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