Henry VIII: Foreign Policy in the 1530s

Foreign policy in the 1530s, arranged into different topics so as to help with essay planning.

  • Created by: Tiula
  • Created on: 05-05-11 20:33


  • January 1533: Henry and Katherine were divorced by an issue from Archbishop Cranmer. Henry married Anne Boleyn.
  • 7 September 1533: Elizabeth born, Mary seen as illegitimate.
  • 1536: Death of Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn miscarried a son and was executed
    • NB at this point, Henry could have gone back to Catholicism
    • however, he did not because he truly believed that he was doing the right thing
    • convinced of his own supremacy
  • instead, he married Jane Seymour
  • 1537: Birth of Edward, death of Jane soon after.
  • 1539: Henry began considering another marriage
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Throughout this period Henry broke with Rome, stopped English finances going to the pope, abolished foreign authority in England and diverted church taxation to the crown.

  • 1533: Act of Appeals stated "this realm of England is an empire". Royal supremacy established
  • 1535: Execution of Thomas More and John Fisher
  • 1536: Dissolution of the Monastries
    • this gave Henry the money he needed for war with France
  • Pilgrimage of Grace: rebellion in the north
    • opposition to religious changes and the power of Cromwell
    • was sent away with promises of reform (never instigated)
  • 1539: Act of Six Articles
    • reaffirmed many Catholic doctrines such as transubstantiation

Although Henry was drifting towards more Protestant beliefs (e.g. the printing of a Bible in English), Catholic invasion was a real threat in the later 1530s and so he tried to reverse this with the Act of Six Articles.

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Good relations with France

  • Anne Boleyn and her faction were pro-French, so cordial relations were kept with France
  • 1532: Francis I promised to support Henry if Charles should attack England
    • Francis supported Henry throughout his break with Rome, however it is probable that this was not so much for religious reasons as wanting to see England isolated politically
    • Henry and Francis met regularly throughout the year
  • 1536: Francis and Charles resumed their hostilities, but Henry resolved not to enter into the conflict. This infuriated Francis.
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Why Charles V did not attack England

Charles V had relatively little money to spend on war with England in the 1530s. This was due to:

  • conflict with the Schmalkaldic League (a league of Lutheran countries and princes)
  • War against the Turks (in 1535 Charles had just launched a huge expedition against the Turks)
  • the economy in the Netherlands was in a bad way and he could not afford to launch an attack against England
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How real was the danger of invasion in the 1530s?

  • marriage of James V of Scotland to Mary of Guise (the French princess who famously jilted Henry VIII)
  • temporarily improved relations between France and Spain in 1538 (Treaty of Nice)
  • a dispute over a printing of the Bible between France and England

Thus England had no ally; Pope Paul III supported the Pilgrimage of Grace 1536-7 and in 1539 published a papal bull deposing Henry. Cardinal Reginald Pole was ordered by the Pope to launch a crusade against England.

Henry hurriedly published the Act of Six Articles (1539) reaffirming Catholic doctrines.

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