In 1535, the Pope had excommunicated Henry and called for his removal. Henry again feared invasion, particularly as France controlled the entire European coastline opposite southern England and was building a large navy at its shipyards in Brest and Havre de Grave.
In response, Henry:
- Developed the English navy. In 1514 he had 29 ships, by 1539 he had 120 in the mouth of the Thames and 30 in Portsmouth.
- Began to develop coastal defences
- Offered himself as husband to various French princesses to cement a new French alliance.
- Mustered levies, in March 1539 in the south-eastern regions to fight a possible invasion.
Thomas Cromwell persuaded Henry he should seek a Protestant alliance. In 1539, he began talks with the Schmalkaldic League. The English Church remained Catholic in theology despite its split from Rome. Little came of these talks – except the marriage with Anne of Cleves.
Anne of Cleves
- Cleves was a German duchy in an important strategic position astride the River Rhine.
- The Duke, William, was in dispute with Charles V over the ownership of Guelderland in Holland. William therefore needed allies, as did Henry.
- His sister Anne of Cleves was offered to Henry as his wife to cement an alliance. However, as tensions eased, Henry realised he no longer needed this alliance. Indeed, he could get dragged into conflicts in which England had no interest.
For this reason, as well as incompatibility, he divorced Anne of Cleves soon after having married her.
- Henry took charge of foreign policy himself as the 1540s developed.
- In 1543 he invaded France and captured Boulogne.
- Charles and Francis made a truce, which saw English troops isolated and forced to retreat to Calais.
- In 1545, France was prevented by adverse weather conditions from attempting an English invasion.
- In the same year, Henry was also at war with Scotland, hoping but failing to turn it into an English puppet state.