Discuss two policies of Henry VIII which were a major departure from those of his father.


Henry VII and his son Henry VIII were two very different monarchs who, despite being father and son, had very different characteristics and, consequently, two very different attitudes and methods of ruling. Henry VII is generally viewed as being an old man, a cautious, cold, calculating miser, a view enhanced by his (unflattering) 1505 portrait by Sittow. Henry VIII on the other hand is viewed as he was when he was still young. His most famous portrait by Holbein, painted in around 1536, shows a richly clad, bulky, young, healthy man in ‘the prime of his life’. Unlike his father he was not cautious, he often seemed to act upon whims like a spoilt child, and he frittered away the vast sums of money carefully hoarded by his father on expensive (and ultimately pointless) wars with France. In nearly every way Henry VIII seemed to be the very opposite of his father.


Henry VII’s foreign policy was ultimately designed to avoid conflicts which could be expensive ad cause instability back in England. This is not to say that Henry VII never went to war, in 1492 Anne of Brittany married Charles VIII meaning the French became dominant in Brittany. If Henry did nothing about this he would be regarded as a weak ruler both at home and abroad. Henry chose to invade France but while preparing an invasion, started negotiations with Charles. Charles took the hint and quickly offered peace terms resulting in the mutually advantageous Treaty of Etaples. However, Henry VII’s foreign policy seemed to be, in general, peace. This is demonstrated by the number of treaties which were signed during his reign and the minimal amount of war between England and the rest of ‘Christendom’.


Henry VIII’s foreign policy was, in the early years, completely different. From the outset he was determined to make war with France and claim back the old English empire. Susan Doran’s first words about Henry VIII are ‘From his accession, Henry VIII was bent on war’. In 1509 Calais was reinforced, new artillery was commissioned and general musters were ordered. The navy began to expand rapidly and negotiations were begun with the Empire and Spain to try and form an anti French league. Despite this, in 1510, England renewed the Treaty of Etaples with France. By 1511 negotiations with the Spanish an the Empire had borne fruit in the guise of the ‘holy league’, and anti French treaty which also included the Papacy. Despite a failed campaign to invade France with the aid of Ferdinand in 1512, Henry decided to try again and so, in 1513, invaded northern France from Calais. This campaign was more successful than the last and after the ‘battle of the spurs’ Therouanne and Tournai were captured. The campaign was proclaimed a glorious success by the English, despite being described years later by military historian C. Omen as ‘little more than a skirmish’.


Both kings’ financial policies were directly connected to their foreign policy. The quickest war to spend money in the sixteenth century was to have a war. Henry VII, as stated before, tended to try an avoid warfare, seeing it as costly and usually fruitless if not actually damaging. Henry VIII on the other hand saw war as a way for him to gain glory, regardless of the cost. Consequently, between 5th-12th June 1513 he was able to spend approximately £500,000, 4-5 years worth of revenue.


Henry VII is well known for his astute financial policy. He personally signed all of his accounts but despite this reputation, was only able to leave £9,100 to his son. In contrast to this Henry VIII’s financial policy seems to be non-existent. The money so carefully accumulated during the reign of his father was very quickly spent in wars in France and soon Henry was broke.


Henry VII had many reasons to be good with finance, one of which was to prove that the Lancastrians were not always worse than the Yorkists at managing the economy, as had been the case before. In this he succeeded, he has become known for good financial judgement, unlike his son. Another reason for Henry VII to be good was that it gave him relative