Elizabeth I and her relations with Foreign Catholic Powers
England and France
Although the two countries were at war at the start of her reign, the signing of the treaty Cateau-Cambresis in 1559 restored peace. The English never regained control of Calais, however, which meant that France had easy access to England, which was worrying for the Queen. There was some fighting in the 1560s over the French regent Mary of Guise in Scotland, but this was quickly and easily resolved.
From 1562 on France was enveloped in the French Wars of Religion. While this civil war continued, there was less pressure on the English as France had too many internal problems to deal with. Elizabeth, supported by the Privy Council, used the turmoil in France to reassert an English presence there. In particular, Elizabeth and Cecil wanted to reclaim Calais. It was an unsuccessful venture as the various factions in France joined forces to repel a common enemy.
After 1564, Catherine de Medici ruled as regent in France for Charles IX. Catherine was not sympathetic to the cause of Mary Stuart and without the support from Paris; Mary’s plight in Scotland was made a lot more difficult.
One area that Elizabeth and Cecil tried to exploit was to use the French against the Spanish in the Netherlands. This opportunity came when Catherine withdrew French support for Mary Stuart, thus helping Elizabeth with the ‘Scottish problem’. By being freer of issues north of the border, Elizabeth and her advisors could concentrate more of their time on the pressing issue of what was happening in the Netherlands – the major issue being that the Duke of Alva was just thirty miles across the English Channel with 50,000 soldiers at a time when relations between London and Madrid were deteriorating.
The Treaty of Blois was signed on April 19, 1572 in Blois between Elizabeth and Catherine de Medici. Based on the terms of the treaty, France and England relinquished their historic rivalry and established an alliance against Spain. Elizabeth expected the defensive treaty to isolate Spain and prevent France from invading Flanders.
To advance and develop the newfound friendship between England and France, Elizabeth began negotiations to marry the Duke of Alençon, though this came to nothing. It was not until 1578 that France was once again in a position to help the Dutch rebels when the Duke of Anjou agreed to send French troops to the Netherlands. To ensure that Anjou kept to his word, Elizabeth offered him her hand in marriage. This provoked furious reactions among certain sections of society in England, which could have been due to the events of 1572 and the persecution of the French Protestants.
Shortly after 1560 a period of religious wars, which lasted on and off for thirty years, set in for France. Into the details of these wars we cannot here enter, but we concentrate attention on the lights and shadows of the period. At the centre of action was Catherine de Medici, and although at the beginning she…