What Factors Influenced the Conduct of Foreign Affairs Between 1509-1529


Henry VIII succeeded his father to the throne at a very early age, with a correspondingly naïve fairy tale view of a war like king; seeking power and glory. He implemented these aims through an aggressive foreign policy in the first five years of his reign until Wolsey came and directed Henry’s glory attitude to a more moderate form of diplomacy. So it could be said that Wolsey was the main factor that influenced the conduct of foreign affairs in the later part of this period.


Henry thought that war would reunite his people and establish himself as king in a strong definite way. Henry gained an ally, Ferdinand of Aragon through marrying Catherine of Aragon, his brother’s widow. Although France was posing no threat to England; English troops still invaded in 1513 capturing the towns of Therouanne and Tournai. French troops fled quickly hence the battle being named the “Battle of the Spurs”.


Also in 1513 the Scottish King James IV was killed at the Flodden Field. This left the regency for James V in the hands of his mother, who was conveniently Henry’s sister, Margaret. These victories strengthened the English nobility, which was later to become increasingly important in Henry’s time; through the French invasion an administrative genius emerged and his name was Thomas Wolsey.


Wolsey had a passion for foreign affairs. He wanted to be a peacemaker, statesman and honest broker. Wolsey’s main aim behind his pomp arrogant attitude was to stop England going to war in Europe. Wolsey wanted England to have an active foreign policy but stop before it got to the point of war.


Ultimately, the hostility between France and Spain meant that England had no fears of invasion and every chance of being treated with respect. Because both France and Spain were searching for an ally, England might even gain their assistance in an event of an attack. France were worried because after his election as Emperor of Germany in 1519, Charles V’s territory seemed to encircle France. Meanwhile the Emperor was very worried about French expansion in Italy.


In 1514 England made peace with France, this was probably quite a lot to do with Wolsey’s influence. Henry seemed completely set on a peaceful coexistence with the old enemy. To seal the new friendship, Henry’s younger sister, Mary, was married to King Louis XII of France. However, in 1515 the ageing bridegroom dies. A young man Francis I became King of France. This was bad for England because Francis wanted to avenge England for their attack in 1513.


Francis tried stirring up trouble between England and Scotland. Wolsey persuaded Henry not to go to war, as they did not have an ally and not a large pile of finance.


In 1518 Wolsey hijacked a papal call for a crusade against the Turks and turned it to England’s advantage. He brought together the great powers of Europe, including England, Spain, France and The Holy Roman Empire, to sign the Treaty of London. This was a universal peace deal complete with protective security. Tournai was returned to France at the price of 600, 000 crowns, proposed marriage between Francis’ son and Henry’s daughter Mary, helped secure British – French peace. England was at the centre of affairs and it was Wolsey’s triumph and a step in the direction of a great European diplomat.


Two years after the Treaty of London, Wolsey triumphed again. Once again it was peace with glory for England. June 1520 Henry led an expedition to France (not in a war like manner). He met Francis in a field near Calais that belonged to England. There were feasts and games and the meeting was a festive, happy, peaceful occasion; peace broke out again.


However it wasn’t long before England was back at war with France in 1523. France was weak at the time due to the Italian wars; Henry saw this as an opportunity to gain power and glory again. The French army was taken up in Italy. English troops took Boulogne and after an embarrassingly failed advance on Paris, due to poor supply connections.


Henry kept being tempted to attack and each time Wolsey managed to persuade him otherwise and in doing so prevent war. Francis had been captured. Henry saw this as an