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Henry Viii Foriegn Policy Essay

1192 words - 5 pages

Henry VIII’s foreign policy primarily involved France and the Habsburg Empire. Traditionally, Tudor foreign policy tried to steer a path of neutrality with both these states and initially Henry VIII’s foreign policy was no different. Henry knew that England did not have the ability to take on either state but that as a nation she could profit from extending the hand of friendship to both. This plan fell apart when it became plain that Henry wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon. Charles V would not contemplate any form of association with Henry VIII – as Catherine was his aunt. Charles believed that Henry VIII was depriving Catherine of all honour, something he was not willing to tolerate. ...view middle of the document...

The last thing Henry wanted was to become involved in a war between France and the Habsburgs – yet he did not want to antagonise Francis. The geographic distance between Vienna and England was sufficient to convince Henry that England was safe from Charles V. However, France was a different matter. When Francis made discreet overtures about marriage between his son and either Mary or Elizabeth, Henry failed to respond. He simply did not want to become embroiled in France politics.

Francis and Charles concentrated on one another after the death of Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, in 1535. Both concentrated their efforts on who should succeed him – thus leaving Henry with a degree of freedom with regards to his foreign policy. He pursued his desired for policy of neutrality. English diplomats in France were told to keep relations with Francis “cold”.

Henry could play this policy while Charles and Francis directed their foreign policies at one another. The one thing that Henry feared was an alliance between the two. Such an alliance seemed a distinct possibility by 1538. Charles and Francis met at Aigues Mortes in July 1538 in the presence of Pope Paul III. To Henry it appeared as if the major Catholic powers of Europe were pooling their power. On paper, Henry was in a weak position against such united powerful opponents and he tried to break up the Habsburg-Valois entente - he even offered himself for marriage to various French princesses but this came to nothing. In November 1538 Henry involved himself in negotiations for marriage to the niece of Charles V – but this too came to nothing. His position in a Catholic dominated Europe became even weaker when in December 1538 a papal order was dispatched supporting the deposing of Henry. The papal order called Henry “the most cruel and abominable tyrant”. This order made Henry fair game to any Catholic.

In response to this threat – a threat Henry took very seriously – Henry did a great deal to develop the navy. In 1539, Marillac, the French ambassador in England, wrote of 120 naval ships being based in the mouth of the Thames and 30 in Portsmouth – a considerable increase on the five ships he inherited from Henry VII. Henry ordered the modernisation of all coastal defences on the south coast – much of the material needed for repairs came from nearby monasteries.

One way that Henry countered this threat was to court the Lutheran princes of North...

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