Henry VIII Foreign Policy

Henry VIII and his foregin policy details, focusing on France, Scotland and Spain.

  • Created by: Spawn
  • Created on: 03-04-15 15:58


  • Henry VIII was more of an aggressive monarch than his father, Henry VII. He wanted to leave a mark on Europe like the warmongering kings of England's past.
  • Essentially, Henry was an interventionist king, while his father was a defensive king. Henry VII was completely willing to go to war to capture French territory.
  • In relation to European rulers, Henry saw himself as the equal of Francis I of France or Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire. He thought that England held the balance of power.
  • Henry's warlike tendencies contrasted with the humanist leaning of his chief minister, Thomas Wolsey. Wolsey wanted England to have glory in Europe but without costly wars.
  • Wolsey wanted to use international diplomacy to achieve these goals. Ultimately, his peaceful ideas did help to decrease Henry's appetite for war.
  • During Wolsey's time in 'high office' England only went to war once, in 1523, suggesting that Wolsey focused more on foreign policy than domestic policy.
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Relations with France, 1513:

  • Seeing that Henry VIII wanted to bring glory to the English through war, he began by starting a war with France in 1513, essentially trying to bring back the Hundred Years War.
  • Henry had a contested claim to the French throne as in 1422, Henry IV had been proclaimed king of France. However, by 1453, the only English territory in France was Calais.
  • Wolsey helped to organize the initial campaign, Henry was the leader of 30,000 soldiers and captured two French towns, Therouanne and Tournai.
  • It's possible that Henry married Katherine of Aragon in order to re-invigorate England's alliance with Spain to gain an ally against France.
  • The French were eventually forced to flee these areas after the Battle of the Spurs which Henry fought with help from Maximillian I.
  • This success made Henry more willing to continue direct involvement with Europe, setting a tone for the future.
  • The battle was significant as it allowed Wolsey to prove his worth to Henry, allowing him to be trusted with essentially running the country.
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Relations with France, 1514-22:

  • After the initial success against France, Henry made peace in 1514 and married his younger sister Mary to the elderly Louis XII of France.
  • However, in 1515, Francis I became the king of France, creating a rivalry with Henry. Despite this, Wolsey continued with his peace policy.
  • Henry had initially planned to invade France in 1516 but Wolsey tried to persuade him to join the coalition of powers opposing the French in Italy. However, this idea never took sway.
  • In 1518, Wolsey actually masterminded a general peace treat, the Treaty of London, bringing the major European powers together in 'universal and perpetual' peace.
  • This led to France paying 600,000 crowns for the returrn of Tournai and proposing a marriage between the king's eldest son, Dauphin, and Henry's daughter Mary.
  • These peace plans were helped by the meeting of the Field of the Cloth of Gold where Henry and Francis met outside of Calais for feasting and jousting, creating a victory for Wolsey.
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Relations with France, 1523:

  • During the early 1520s, France was involved in a series of wars in Italy against the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, nephew of Katherine of Aragon.
  • Henry hoped to benefit from an alliance with Charles and the traitorous Constable of France, Charles Duke of Bourbon, to invade France.
  • Wolsey was opposed to this but couldn't change the King's mind. The invasion proved to be a partial failure as English forces captured Boulogne but were held back by lack of supplies.
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Relations with France, 1524-9:

  • Henry had hopes of another campaign in France in 1524 but these plans were curbed at Wolsey's insistence.
  • Once again, in 15255 Henry had hopes of invading France after Francis was captured by Charles at the Battle of Pavia in Northern Italy.
  • This was curbed by Charles' lack of interest in Henry's ambitions. Consequently, peace was made and maintained with France from 1525 to 1543.
  • Ultimately, relations with France were strengthened when Henry attempted to secure an annulment with Katherine by 1527 as relations with Charles were weakened.
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Relations with Spain, before 1516:

  • The marriage to Katherine of aragon in 1509 helped improve relations. Thiswas important in foreign policy as Henry was usually anti-French.
  • France had a larger population and more wealth than England, making this alliance especially important for war.
  • Relations with Spain worsened slightly in 1512 when an English expedition to Aquitaine in France didn't receive help promised by Ferdinand of Aragon.
  • Anglo-Spanish relations decreased again in 1513 when Ferdinand agreed to a one year truce with France after he had promised to help Henry in a military skirmish.
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Relations with Spain, after 1516:

  • Ferdinand was succeededby his grandson, Charles V, as king of Spain in 1516. Next, in 1519, Charles succeeded Emperor Maximilian as Emperor of Germany.
  • Charles also became ruler of the Low Countries, a centre of trade for England. The Low Countries also bordered on France, allowing future invasions to be more efficient.
  • In the eyes of Henry VIII, Charles was the ideal ally against France as he seemed to be extremely powerful and the French were concerned about Hapsburg gains.
  • Relations between Charles and Francis worsened continually leading to Wolsey trying to act as peacemaker in 1521, meeting Francis in Calais and Charles in Bruges.
  • However, these negotiations failed, leading to Henry agreeing to an alliance with Charles against France.
  • Engalnd was visited by Charles in 1520 and in June 1522-3, Henry engaged in war against France with Charles as an ally.
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Relations with Spain, 1524-9:

  • Henry's failure in the French campaign of 1523 and the lack of a follow-up resulted in relations beginning to cool.
  • Charles had a decisive victory over the French in the Battle of Pavia in Italy however in 1525 he rejectedd Henry's plans to conquer France as he had been negotiating peace before the battle.
  • In 1526, Wolsey helped to create the League of Cognac against Charles. Then, in 152, Wolsey organized peace with France in the Treaty of Greenwich.
  • Charles grew increasingly angry with Henry after 1527 as he began the process of trying to annul the marriage with Katherine of Aragon, Charles' aunt.
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Relations with the Papacy:

  • One of the greatest failings in relations occured in 1527 when Charles sacked Rome and captured the Pope, meaning that he had to obey Charles.
  • This reveresed the strong relations between Henry and the Papacy over the last 20 years. The Pope was important internationally and Henry saw himself as a devout Catholic.
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Relations with Scotland:

  • Henry VII tried to create good relations with Scotland and married his daughter and Henry VIII's sister margaret to James IV.
  • However, in 1513 James was encouraged by France to invade England while Henry was fighting in France. He was defeated and killed by the Earl of Surrey in the Battle of Flodden.
  • Ultimately, this allowed Margaret  to become regent for James V, reducing French influence in Scotland meaning that there were no further invasions during Wolsey's time in office.
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  • Henry's key goal of leaving a mark on Europe was ultimately achieved as although he had tennuous relations at the best of times, he made England seem more important.
  • Francis (Valois) and Charles (Hapsburg) were the greatest powers in Europe and were usually in conflict meaning that both wanted English assistance against the other.
  • France was invaded twice by Henry and although neither invasion was signficant in the long-term, neither one was prevented by the French army.
  • Wolsey improved the perception of England through his peaceful means, the Treaty of London and Field of the Cloth of Gold helped in particular.
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  • Henry's foreign policy proved to be extremely expensive with the cost of warfare rising. The diplomacy, treaties and missions in Europe also cost a large amount.
  • During the 1520s, Henry had great difficulty funding these various initiatives. The Amicable Grant of 1525 proved to be one of the most signficant failings here.
  • In terms of a military, England was seen as a heavily second-rate power due to the lack of a standing army and poor military training.
  • It was also difficult for England to maintain constant relations with either of the main European powers.
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