Henry VIII's Foreign Policy

The F.Pol of Henry VIII - Susan Doran text used.

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Henry VIII spent over 25% of his reign in open war against France. 1512-1514, 1522 - Hasburg-Valois, peace in 1525 due to tax revolts. The next 15 years saw Henry trying to reproach the French King, but in 1543 Charles V proposed an offensive alliance against France and kept up fighting till 1546 - long after the emperor had resigned from battle.

Henry was not drawn into these wars, nor did he do so to defend Englih interests, he sought recognition os his valour and military prowess by success in battle, almost an extension of the tournaments he was so fond of.

Honour also stated that he should claim his right to the French throne and reclaim ancestral lands - Normandy and Guienne. By winning these wars Henry wished to place himself in national history. There were still always the dangers of invasion, diplomatic isolation, dynastic challenge and unfavourable peace treaties - loss of honour could bring threats to English in its wake.

Moreover the pursuit of Kingship did not seem unrealistic - the recognition that England was no longer a great martial nation did not affect the seemingly possible fall of France, and the emulation of victory of the Hundred Years War.

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1509 - 10

From the moment of his accession Henry was bent on war wtih France - one of his earliest actions was to commission a work detailing the life of Henry V, whom henry took to be his model. By 1509 he had reinforced Calais, ordered general musters, commissioned new artillery and created an expansion prgramme for the Navy.

The international situation however, did not warrant a war with France. The French King was cooperating with the Empire, Spain and most of Venice under the League of Cambrai. henry therefore had to isolate France - sent an ambassador to Italy to persaude them to counter French influence in the region. [Bainbridge] was succesful and laid the foundations for a long Anglo-Papal relationship.

Louis response to the pope's attempts to create a league against him was to summon a Genral council of the Church, this challenged the power of the Pope, it also helped henry to unite his council behind war and, in particular, to overrule the clerical councillors who had argued for a continuation of peace - Treaty of Etaples renewal 1510.

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1510 - 14

In November 1511 Ferdinand and henry agreed to moint a joint attack on behalf of the Holy league, however while Spanish troops recaptured Navarre the English soldiers under Dorset mutinied and were struck by dysentry. 1513 saw Henry try his hand at Fladers, with Maximilian his ally, and this gave henry the glory he craved. Under his leadership the English won the Battle of the Spurs, with the eventual occupation of Tournai. Tournai was granted to England in the 1514 peace treaty, but it was an expensive outpost.

While Henry was enjoying success in France a far more important battle was won in Scotland

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Scarisbrick’s Interpretation

The cardinal sought peace throughout his career, partly for practical reasons, but also because he was part of a new era of politicians. Treaty of London, tripartite conference at Calais and meeting with Charles V at Bruges in 1521 - realistic attempts to secure European peace. The fact that England went to war twice during his period of office was merely a sign that his policy failed.

However this argument has several objections:

Scarisbrick takes Wolsey’s word at face value - accepts his sincerity (may be tainted)

Brutal raids against the Scottish 1523 - contradictory for an ’Apostle of Peace’

Determination to delay war at Bruges, and defiant attempt to secure a treaty at Calais

Desperate attempts to gather time to prepare for war?

Misunderstands the relationship between king-minister - no evidence that pre 1526 the two

Opposed each other directionally. Historians now claim they were united by their aims!

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1515 - 1529

Death of Louis ends the brief respite between England and France. The new King Francis I, was set on making Henry madly jealous with his fine figure on the battlefield. Henry was keen to establish a coalition against France so that his rival did not become too powerful. For financial reasons Wolsey wished to avoid open warfare and preferred to find allies against the French. Henry also backed any moral justification for attacking France.

The death of Ferdinand in 1516 however, led to a severe diplomatic setback for Henry and Wolsey. His successor Archduke Charles did not continue the policy of alliance with England, preferring to sign anew treaty with the French king. Soon after Maximilian defected to the French camp and English was once more isolated. Wolsey’s diplomacy was shattered, his plans for a league against France had ended, and he had left England diplomatically isolated. Francis had demonstrated hostility by stirring up trouble in Scotland - Wolsey had little choice but to negotiate with France. In 1517 Anglo-French relations reached an agreement mover maritime disputes and Scotland.

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1515 - 1529 Contd.

Pope Leo was anxious for European peace, and tried to arrange a 5 year peace for the ’princes of Christendom’ and a crusade against the Turks. Cardinal Campeggio was named legate for England. This was perfect timing for England, as Anglo-papal interaction would bring prestige to Henry and rewards for Wolsey and both exploited the opportunity.

Campeggio was denied access to England until Leo made Wolsey co-legate with Campeggio. Wolsey continually upstaged the legate to become chief legate and transformed the papal truce into an international treaty. The treaty of London in 1518 was signed by all major rulers and 20 of the lesser ones. They all pledged to act together against any transgressor. Henry and Wolsey’s reputation for being peacemakers spread throughout Europe.

Two days later Henry concluded a treaty with France that ended most of the difficulties:

· Tournai ceded to France in return for another yearly pension

· Wolsey was compensated for his loss of the Episcopal see

· Francis agreed to keep Albany out of Scotland

· Henry’s 2 year old daughter was promised a marriage to the dauphin

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1515 - 1529 Contd.

As authors of the high profile peace Henry and Wolsey had to remain honest brokers in international affairs. Therefore the could not take sides in the Imperial Election yet Henry’s pride dictated that he must stop Francis from winning it, consequently, in the hope that the Pope would support him, Henry stood as a third candidate. Charles won the title and therefore became the most powerful ruler in Europe. In these circumstances, the peace at London seemed doom to end. With war on the horizon, both Charles and Francis looked to make firm alliance with Henry, who finally met Francis at the Field Of The Cloth Of Gold.

The meeting with Francis – 1520:

· Lavish display of wealth, although Henry beaten by Francis in a royal wrestling match.

· Discussions with Charles were more weighty and resulted in a treaty – July 1520. This apparently only tied Henry to not make alliances with Francis for 2 years.

Charles had hoped for the prospect of a joint invasion of France but both Wolsey and Henry thought the Imperial terms on offer were advantageous enough to destroy the treaty of London.

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1515 - 1529 Contd.

Francis and Charles finally ended peace in 1521, and by the summer Francis was prepared to accept any treaty the English would grant. Wolsey set up a meeting for arbitration in Calais, and all 3 cases agreed (Francis had suffered heavy military and diplomatic reverses). Henry had already decided to enter an imperial alliance if the terms were right. The set of events that followed can only be described as extraordinary:

· Conference at Calais opened in 1521 but two days later Wolsey left for Bruges to negotiate with Charles.

· By the treaty Henry promised to declare war on France in the fighting lasted until November 1521, and Henry’s daughter was married to Charles.

· Wolsey returned to Calais desperate to avoid an immediate rupture with the French to give him enough time to prepare for war.

· Henry also wished to remain his credibility as a peacemaker, so that when they entered into the war, they appeared to be upholding the terms of the treaty.

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