Who controlled English Foreign policy 1509-1529, Henry or Wolsey?


Wolsey came to Henry’s notice after the French invasion of 1513 which, at the time, was hailed as a glorious success. It was he who ‘stage managed’ a large part of the event, and, given his character, naturally gained the credit from Henry for that same organisation. Henry awarded him the bishoprics of Tournai (one of the captured towns) and Lincoln in the same year. 1514 saw Wolsey exchange his position of bishop of Lincoln to become Archbishop of York, one of the two most important clerical positions in England. This advancement was followed by Henry awarding Wolsey with the position of Lord Chancellor in 1515. Not only did Wolsey have a high role in the church, he was also now one of the ‘top men’ in the king’s court and government. The currant position of the Lord Chancellor is as a member of the executive, legislature and judiciary. In the 1500’s it was a different role due to the more personalised form of government, nevertheless Wolsey was still head of the judiciary and had considerable influence over the executive (the King) due to his position in the Privy chamber. He was also a Member of Parliament, and so also had influence over, and was part of, the legislature (the King and Parliament). In short, Wolsey was powerful due to both his titles and his relationship with the King.


In the first years of his reign it was clear that Henry was not going to follow the advice given to him if it contradicted with what it was he wanted to do. His father had generally followed a policy of peace and after his death his old advisors urged Henry not to make war with France, it was they who were responsible for the renewal of the treaty of Etaples in 1510. Henry, however, had different plans. He did not want to take his father’s isolationist stance toward Europe, he wanted to re-live the years of Henry V and be known, as Henry V was, for great victories against the French. In 1511 he ignored the advice given and signed a treaty with Ferdinand. This treaty was a war pact aganst France arragning that Ferdinand would attack from the south while Henry attacked form the north. In 1513 this happened, but Ferdinand abandoned Henry. Thatnks to Wolsey’s organisation the mission didn’t fail and the egnlish were able to climed usccess with the battle of the spurs and the Capture of Therounne and Tournai