Anglo-Spanish relations under Elizabeth

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Elizabeth’s Reign (15 58-15 88)


Situation in 15 58


       Elizabeth was never entirely free to develop foreign policy independently, she always had to work within parameters determined by recent events at home and abroad

       For the first two decades of her reign, foreign policy was also closely intertwined with the question of Elizabeth’s marriage and the succession.

       Foreign policy was a royal prerogative, but Elizabeth looked to the Privy Council for advice. 

       Elizabeth’s leading councillors were Protestant, and some saw England’s relationship with other European powers as part of a larger conflict between Protestantism and the forces of Roman Catholicism.  For this reason they were more ready to help Protestant rebels against their divinely appointed rulers than Elizabeth was. 

       Elizabeth was fully aware of England’s inability to wage war in Europe for a prolonged period of time, lacking the financial and military resources


Foreign Policy, 15 60-68



       In 15 59 a group of Protestant lords in Scotland deposed Mary of Guise.  Cecil feared French intervention, so persuaded Elizabeth to aid the rebels.  She reluctantly sent financial aid and naval and military forces as part of the terms of the Treaty of Berwick in 15 60.  This policy proved successful.  In the Treaty of Edinburgh of 15 60, the French agreed to withdraw from Scotland, leading a Protestant regency under Lord James Stuart (half-brother of Mary Queen of Scots).  Thus, the problem had been solved without war and Elizabeth was seen as the protector of Protestants. 


       In 15 62, the French Wars of Religion began, between Catholics and Protestants and the leading rival royal families, the Guise and the Bourbon.  Elizabeth came under pressure from Dudley and Throckmorton to send help to the Huguenots, and to prevent a united France under the Guise family becoming a threat to England.  Reluctantly, Elizabeth sent loans and troops under the Treaty of Hampton Court in 15 62.  But the Huguenots were defeated and made peace with the Catholics, jointly driving the English out of France at Le Havre in 15 63.  Philip II complained that Elizabeth was supporting Protestant rebels (though this failure made her more reluctant to do so in future), the French were annoyed at English interference

The Netherlands

       At least three quarters of England’s trade passed through Antwerp.  Businessmen there had been upset by the new Book of Rates introduced by Mary I, in which duties on imports were increased by 75 per cent and by instances of piracy in the Channel.  There were also concerns that Elizabeth was supportive of Protestants in the Netherlands.  In 15 63, Granvelle (Philip’s chief minister in the Netherlands) used the excuse of the plague in London to ban the import of all English cloth.  Elizabeth responded by stopping all imports from the Netherlands.  The


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