By 1513 there were two main governing powers in control of English foreign policy – Thomas Wolsey and King Henry VIII. Wolsey was, by now, Archbishop of York and was decorated further in 1515 with the titles of Cardinal and Lord Chancellor. Both he and the King wanted England to have an active foreign policy, but was it effective? In this essay I will explore weather or not their foreign policy was effective In 1513 Henry personally led a campaign into France in Guinegate. He defeated the French in what has come to be known as ‘The Battle of The Spurs’ because of the speed at which the French army retreated.
The town of Tournai was captured. This small town was a very important and valuable possession for diplomatic bargaining. While Henry was celebrating the success, and on his way back from France King James IV Of Scotland declared war on England during King Henry’s absence. He invaded England although he was married to Henry’s sister, Margaret. The Earl of Surrey assisted the queen and marched north. They defeated the Scots at the Battle of Flodden on 9th, September 1513 and King James VI of Scotland was killed.
Since this war was fought and won by Catherine Of Aragon, it is unfortunately not given much importance. These two battles were very successful and Henry VIII had gained prestige from this. He had shown that he was capable of organizing a large army and therefore proving himself as the King in the traditional matter. On the 2nd October 1518, English and French representatives agreed to a treaty binding the great powers to a never ending or changing peace. Twenty other countries were also eventually included in this agreement, which was called The Treaty Of London.
It was agreed that Henry should return Tournai to France in return for 600,000 crowns and that Henry’s sister, Mary should marry the 53 year old, Louis XII of France. This marriage was purely political and Mary only agreed on the marriage if she was allowed to marry whomever she wanted on Louis’s death. The Treaty Of London was a success. It was a brilliant recovery after the three years of diplomatic disaster. England was the pivot of the Treaty Of London as each state made their agreement individually with England and not with each other.
Therefore, Wolsey and Henry VIII were seen as peacemakers of Europe, and England had secured an influence in Europe out of proportion to its real power and wealth. Although we see The Treaty Of London as a success because of what England had gained, it failed to achieve what it intended to- perpetual peace within Europe. We see this clearly as three years later Francis reopened hostilities with Charles V. In May 1520, Henry VIII was to embark on the most glamorous and spectacular of his meetings with Francis I at “The Field Of The Cloth Of Gold”. The Field Of The Cloth Of Gold was located in no man’s land between Calais and French territory.
The two Kings parted on the 23rd June and exchanged vows of peace between the two great nations. The Field Of The Cloth Of Gold was a wonderful show of peace. However, we once again question whether this foreign policy was a success. This is because The Field Of The Cloth Of Gold seemed to achieve nothing of significance; therefore it is seen as a failure. If it was intended to cement Anglo-French friendship, it blatantly failed. The members of the English party whose views are known, all seem to have been confirmed in their anti-French prejudices rather than having them removed or weakened.
No agreements of any importance were reached during the fortnight celebrations. In fact it seems that Henry VIII and Francis I viewed the occasion as no more than an opportunity to impress the others of their wealth and international standing. Certainly, the Field Of The Cloth Of Gold did nothing to advance the cause of general peace. If anything it created problems for Henry VII and Wolsey in convincing the rest of Europe that England weren’t taking sides in the already developing struggle for supremacy between Francis I and Charles V.
Meetings were arranged to take place both before and after the the Field Of The Cloth Of Gold, so that the clear message could be given that there was an English partially toward France. The fact that these meetings were necessary validating the view that the extravaganza in France was essentially a public relations exercise, rather than being a contribution to the cause of general peace. France soon began to decline and it began to be weak in comparison to the Empire. This led to England declaring War on France in 1522.
Henry VIII began to move to an alliance with the Emperor and he was hoping to marry his young daughter Mary to the Emperor. Wolsey and Henry VII still sought peace, as peace was more important in itself, and War began to be expensive and risky. Since War was so expensive, Parliament met in 1523 to supply money for war. However it did not grant enough taxation. This seemed to be a spontaneous decision. Wolsey and Henry VIII tried to extort money from the wealthy in the Amicable Grant of 1525, but were forced to back down when rioting ensued. No money was collected and peace was made with France.
The Battle Of Pavia in 1525 also appeared to turn affairs upside down once more. Imperial forces routed the French and captured Francis I. France had never been more open to invasion. The English idea of peace also quickly vanished. Henry VII had rejoiced at this. Even though Charles V had no intention of invading France, especially ass not to help Henry VIII to a success when England had constantly put off helping the Empire. Furthermore, Wolsey faced another problem that would be deemed as another failure for their foreign policy in 1525. This failure was called the “Amicable Grant”.
It was to be a non-refundable contribution by the English people to finance the war in France. The Amicable Grant created opposition mainly based on poverty and inability to pay rather than not wanting War. Eventually no money was collected and peace was made with France. The Amicable Grant was viewed as a humiliation for King Henry VIII and Wolsey. In conclusion, I believe that Henry VII and Wolsey conducted a poor foreign policy. Although it did have a few successes like the Battle Of The Spurs in 1513, the majority of these policies were failures because they didn’t do what they were intended for. Kayleigh-Anne Revagliatte 12A4.