Henry VII's Foreign Policies

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  • Created by: LeFay
  • Created on: 07-01-14 17:02

Henry's aims

        • To maintain peace.
        • To avoid war.
        • To gain allies.
  • War was expensive and dangerous. Peace was far cheaper and gave Henry time to consolidate his power in England. 
  • Gaining allies offered some guarantee of support and stability. 
  • Henry's foreign policy was very much subordinated to his domestic policies of enriching the monarchy and ensuring the obedience of his subjects.
  • In short, Henry's primary aim was to retain control of the Crown and secure the long-term future of his dynasty.
  • As a usurper, his right to the throne was thought by many to be suspect and most of Europe's rulers did not expect him to last long. 
  • In addition, Henry was menaced by the claims of pretenders to the throne, two of whom, Simnel and Warbeck, successfully sought aid from foreign powers.
  • Henry persued a more cautious and defensive policy than that of his predecessors because he had to be constantly on his guard against possible invasion.

Consolidating support

  • In the first three years of his reign, Henry's actions in foreign affairs were deliberately designed to give him time to consolidate his position. 
  • His preferred policy was the truce, because it was temporary, could be extended, and did not tie him down to any long-term promise or commitment. 
    • Henry's first target was England's traditional enemy, France. The French were willing to negotiate a one-year truce with Henry because they had helped finance his expedition to seize the throne. The French regent, Anne of Beaujeau, believed Henry was unlikely to survive more than a year but when he did the truce was extended for another three years until 1489.
    • Henry next sought peace with Scotland. In July 1486 he succeeded in persuading James III to agree to a three-year truce. The assassination of James III in 1488 and the accession of young James IV disrupted relations but the terms of the truce held firm.
    • Brittany was not regarded as a threat, but more so a trading partner. This meaning that Henry was prepared to negotiate a long-term treaty rather than a temporary truce. As a consequence, the treaty, signed in July 1486, was more commercial than political and involved favourable trade agreements that benefited England.
  • Henry had done no more than play for time. 
  • The Simnel rebellion of 1487, however, had revealed how vulnerable he was because much of the finance for the invasion, together with a sizeable contingent of professional troops, came from a foreign power, Burgundy.


  • The Burgundian dukes had long opposed French expansionist policies which might lead to the conquest and annexation of the duchy. Consequently, they sought the aid of France's enemies such as England to protect their independence.
  • England and Burgundy were political, military and commercial allies. The duchy was the main outlet for the sale of English cloth, England's biggest industry.
  • The arrangement Edward IV had made for his sister Margaret to marry the Burgundian duke, Charles the Bold, worked well until the death of Richard III at Bosworth…




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