England’s Changing Relations with Foreign Powers

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TítuloEngland’s Changing Relations with Foreign Powers
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England’s Changing Relations with Foreign Powers

When making your comparisons, many of you were far too vague; you need to identify similarities (continuity) and change, and then give specific examples in order to reinforce it!


Example of change from the reign of Henry VII

Example of continuity from the reign of Henry VIII


On the whole, relations with France a particularly negative, as can be seen by the wars which take place from 1512-14 and 1522-23. There are however improvements as Henry VIII starts to turn against the Spanish in 1525 after Charles V repudiates the marriage agreement between himself and Mary, which threatens Henry’s dynasty

France offer a way out of England’s isolation in 1540, however in 1544 Henry launches another attempted invasion of France

Under Henry VII, France threaten England’s national security and Henry’s dynastic security by harbouring Warbeck from 1491-2. Under Henry VIII they do not directly threaten Henry’s dynastic security.

Under Henry VII, the French are reluctant to get involved in Scotland (they try to encourage the Scots to abandon Warbeck in 1496), however they are more keen to get involved under Henry VIII given the fact that he poses a greater threat, and is more aggressive towards them. They sponsor Albany from 1516+, and send French forces to Scotland after the English invasion of France in 1544

Henry VIII shows clear war mongering intentions towards France, as shown in 1511 when he sends Archbishop Bainbridge to see the Pope to encourage war with France.

There is much more hostility between the two countries under the reign of Henry VIII.

When Henry VII goes to war with France he does so out of a fear for dynastic/national security as shown in 1492 (when Warbeck was on the loose and the French were trying to annex Brittany). When Henry VIII goes to war with France, he does so out of a desire for conquest and glory as shown in 1512, 1522 and 1544 (could this at all be seen as dynastic?).

Under the reign of Henry VII the French try to encourage the Scots to give up Warbeck. Under the reign of Henry VIII however they give increased support to Albany within Scotland. French influence within Scotland continues to grow as a result of the marriage between Charles V and Mary of Guise.

Conversely, Henry VIII is willing to conclude marriage agreements with the French (1514, 1518) which Henry VII is unwilling to do in spite of his better relations with the French. Henry does however break of the marriage agreement between his daughter and the Dauphin in 1521.

In 1545, the French make plans for a limited invasion of England (in the end, they only take the Isle of Wight for several hours). No such plan existed during the reign of Henry VII, as the two countries generally kept good relations.

Although the French do not directly threaten Henry VIII’s dynastic security, they do possibly threaten his national security by sponsoring Albany in 1516 and encouraging him to cause trouble on the English Scottish border. Similarly, in the reign of Henry VII they had supported Warbeck from 1491-2.

In contrast to the above point, they possibly could be seen as threatening his dynastic security as James V of Scotland married Mary of Guise (French). The French could therefore use James V, or their son (the future Mary Queen of Scots) to threaten Henry VIII’s dynasty.

France is still the major enemy; Henry VII goes to war with them in 1492 in what is his only foreign war (albeit for only several weeks), Henry VIII goes to war with them in 1512, 1522 and 1544.

Both receive pensions from the French (1492, 1514,1518).


On the whole, Henry VIII’s relations with Burgundy are relatively steady. Although he reluctantly declares war in 1528, his grievance is with Charles V. He declares war on the BN because it is part of Charles’ empire.

Whereas Henry VII’s relations with BN start off extremely badly, Henry VIII’s start off well-they do not support rivals like they did with Henry VII (Simnel ,Warbeck)

Henry VIII went to war with Burgundy (albeit reluctantly in 1528), something which Henry VII never did!

Good relations with the Burgundian Netherlands remains essential in order to support the cloth trade given the importance of the port of Antwerp.

Henry VIII largely retains positive relations with the BN, continuing the policy of Henry VII post 1495.

Both Henry VII and Henry VIII are willing to abandon trade with BN and impose a boycott, however this is only when their dynastic interests are under threat. This is seen by Henry VII in 1493-5 (where Warbeck was being sheltered by the Burgundians) and 1505 (when Edmund De La Pole was being sheltered). Henry VIII wanted a divorce from Catherine of Aragon in order to secure his dynasty (in the hope a new wife would provide him with a son). This would involve ending the Spanish stranglehold over Italy, so involved declaring war on the territories of Charles, which included BN. Henry VIII did this very reluctantly!


Relations are generally poor with Scotland up to 1527. This is due largely to the lack of attention that Henry gives to Scottish affairs; his focus is primarily on glory and conquest in France.

Although there is some improvement in the 1520s and early 1530s, relations deteriorate once more in the late 1530s/1540s, as the French start to play more of a role within Scotland.

Henry VII generally improved relations with Scotland after the Scottish invasion of 1496, with the Truce of Ayton, which eventually became a treaty after the marriage of Margaret to James in 1502. Henry VIII is less keen on taking an interest in Scotland, which means they start to pose a greater threat, as shown by the battle of Flodden in 1513.

The decision of James IV to re sign the Auld Alliance with France in 1512 damages Anglo Scottish relations and increases the threat posed by the Scots. Henry VIII can possible be criticised for the Scots taking such an action as he did little to try and cultivate their support. This is a move away from what happened under Henry VII, when decent relations with France ensured amicable relations with Scotland. Whereas Henry VII tried to use Archibald Douglas ( a pro English noble) to try and encourage the Scottish to adopt a policy that did not go against English interests, Henry VIII instigates no such policy until later in his reign.

Due to Henry VIII’s increased involvement in France, relations with Scotland deteriorate as the Scots are duty bound to help their allies the French this can be contrasted with Henry VII. By 1515 Margaret flees to England, and by 1516 Albany appears back in Scotland; this is a radical departure from 1513 where James IV had been killed at Flodden, and Margaret was acting as regent! Scotland is now starting to pose a real problem. In 1537 James V married the French noble Mary of Guise, and in 1538 Cardinal Beaton arrives in Scotland to try and raise troops for a crusade against England. In 1545, the French send soldiers to Scotland in order to threaten England’s northern border (this never happens under Henry VII’s reign due to the relatively good relations that he was able to cultivate)

Very few examples of continuity, aside from the fact that Scotland posed a threat to both monarchs.

Both do face a Scottish invasion, Henry VII in 1496 (where the Scots back Warbeck), and Henry VIII in 1513, which culminates in the Battle of Flodden.

By the early 1540s, Henry VIII starts to show more interest in Scotland (link to Henry VIII), and launches an invasion in 1542. Although Henry VII never actually invaded Scotland, Henry tried using captured Scottish Lords as the nucleus of a Pro English Party within Scotland. Some links can be drawn here with Henry VII, and his attempts to work with Archibald Douglas.

Like Henry VII, Henry VIII does try and sort out the Scottish issue (eventually!) by trying to get a marriage between his son and Mary Queen of Scots through the Treaty of Greenwich. This desire to subdue the Scots was similar to Henry VII’s motive when arranging for the marriage between Margaret and James IV. Henry VII was not however trying to unite the two Kingdoms like Henry VIII was (however unlike Henry VIII, Henry VII actually got the marriage to go ahead!). It is however important to understand the difference between these 2 events. The 1543 marriage was forced upon the Scots, so made relations worse, unlike the 1503 marriage which was mutually beneficial to both sides.


Spanish relations are on the whole positive, however they start to deteriorate post 1525 as Charles V repudiates the marriage agreement between himself and Mary.

From 1527 to 1540, relations are relatively poor, however they recover in the later part of Henry’s reign, with the two launching a joint invasion of France in 1544.

The purpose for a Spanish alliance was slightly different. Whilst it clearly aided national security for both Henry VII and VIII, it appears Henry VII viewed Medina Del Campo more as a defensive alliance, aimed at securing his dynasty and safeguarding national security. Henry VIII however seemed to see a Spanish alliance more as a way of achieving glory in France.

This view can however be countered, see the right hand column (bold type)

Although relations with Spain did deteriorate under Henry VII’s reign (particularly in 1505 when he gave aid to Philip of Burgundy), relations plummet in the second half of Henry VIII’s reign due to his divorce from Catherine and his break from Rome.

Under Henry VIII, Spain possibly threaten English security in 1533 and particularly 1538. They never threaten national security under Henry VII.

Both Kings adopt Pro Spanish/Anti French alliances early on in their reign. Henry VII agrees to the Treaty of Medina Del Campo (which saw a Spanish alliance and a betrothal between Arthur and Catherine of Aragon) was signed in 1489 and ratified with the marriage in 1502. One of Henry VIII’s first actions upon becoming King was to marry Catherine of Aragon himself in 1509.

Although both Henry VII and Henry VIII do see Spain as their major ally, both turn away from Spain at certain points in their reign. This is due primarily to dynastic concerns; Henry VII turns away from Spain in 1505 after it appears Spain will split, as this will reduce their power and would make it harder for them to safeguard Henry VII’s fledgling dynasty. Henry VIII starts to turn against Spain post 1525 after Charles repudiates the marriage agreement (and later as Henry breaks from Rome). This makes Henry VIII determined to get a divorce in order to increase his chances of getting a male heir and securing his dynasty (this however involves turning against Spain who have a stranglehold over Italy and the Pope).

Even when relations were relatively good, the Spanish would often let the English down. In 1489 Ferdinand recalled troops which he had promised to defend Brittany from the French, leaving Henry VII with the burden. Similarly in 1522/3, Charles V never provided Henry VIII with the Spanish troops he had promised for the planned invasion of France. In 1544 the Spanish came up with a separate truce with the French at Crepy.

At some point in their reign (primarily due to dynastic concerns), both Henry VII and Henry VIII are willing to sponsor other nations/families against Spain. From 1505 to 1509 Henry VII gave around £340,000 to the Habsburg’s to aid their fight against the Spanish. Similarly in 1527 Henry VIII helped fund a French army that sought to remove the Spanish from Italy in 1527.

Spain were not particularly eager to let England profit from Spain’s trade connections. They fiercely guarded trade with the New World under both Henry VII and VIII. After the Spanish victory at Pavia in 1525, the Spanish were also reluctant to allow England increased access to the lucrative Italian trading market.

Both saw their dynastic security in resting with Spain, and therefore wanted to stay on good terms for dynastic reasons. Henry VII made this perfectly clear when signing the Treaty of Medina Del Campo in 1489, and it was only unique circumstances (the potential break up of Spain) which made him move away from them. Similarly Henry VIII saw his dynastic security resting with Spain; the agreement that Charles V would marry Mary would hopefully have safeguarded his dynasty by marrying his daughter and heir to Europe’s strongest man. Charles’ decision to repudiate the betrothal in 1525 therefore drastically altered Henry VIII’s relations with Spain. This desire for dynastic security would then see Henry VIII move towards France from 155-33.

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