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Assessment of Henry’s foreign policy

‘Relations abroad were subordinated by the need for the new dynasty to be recognised and respected, a necessity which usurpers had long recognised.’ John McGurk Henry Vii displayed good diplomatic skills when dealing with the Scottish, despite his hot headedness. With the lower countries, Henry was selfish and ready to sacrifice his people for his interests. With Spain he tried his best to tackle the country without the element of luck which all too often played a role in his ruling. With France Henry manipulated luck and diplomacy successfully to a large extent. And with Ireland, he tried to stretch his limited military force with limited success.One of the main reasons for the collapse of the medieval English Monarchy had been the cost of the hundred year’s war against France. Neither Edward nor Henry Vii could afford to implement the English kings claim to the French throne’ Roger Lockyer. Henry was desperate to maintain good relations with France, so in the first few months of the reign, henry made a one-year truce with France, which was later extended from 1486 to 1489. Fortunately for him, the regency government of France wanted to be assured of English neutrality while it sought to take over the duchy of Brittany. Over the years, Brittany had been a thorn in France’s side as it tended to ally with England and France’s other enemy burgundy. For Henry the situation was rather difficult because he had spent so much of his exile in Brittany and he did not wish to see the whole of the French coast across the channel from England fall into French hands.However, the powerlessness of Henry’s position soon became clear. He made a commercial treaty with Brittany in 1496 and when Francis died in 1488, he signed the Treaty of Redon with the Breton government, promising military aid to defend the duchy from French incursions. April 1489, he dispatched 6000men to aid Bretons. The French soon bought off Maximilian the ruler of the lower countries who also joined forces in support of Brittany. With Maxillilian gone Henry knew he had to concede. This underlined England’s military weakness. In the light of this, it would clearly be too dangerous to antagonise France too much by giving continued aid to the lost cause of Brittany. Despite caving on over Brittany, Henry was soon at war with France. In October 1492, he led a large army of 26,000 men, which landed in Calais which was England’s last possession in the continent. This war was caused by the appearance of Perkin Warbeck and the warm welcome Warbeck received on his arrival in the French court in 1491.The French allowed him to live honourably at court. This Upset Henry but many people thought Henry’s reason for invasion was financial and he wanted to emulate Edward IV’s invasion of France in 1475 to re-secure the French invasion of France in 1475 to re secure the French pension guaranteed to Edward but which lapsed since his death. Luckily for Henry the French were quick to offer terms .In the peace treaty drawn up by both sides of etaples in 1492, Henry was paid off by the French. Henry acknowledged that Brittany was now part of France. The fact that there was no further outbreak of war between the two countries was largely down to Henry’s good fortune.Luckily for Henry Vii, the French were keen to buy off the English late in 1492 because they wanted to invade Italy. Even more fortunate for Henry was the fact that the French conquest of Naples in 1494 set off a whole series of battles known as the Italian wars. This long term hostility between France and Spain in turn meant France and Spain wanted England as a friend of at least a neutral power. For the rest of his reign, the threat from France was lifted and Henry could have and most likely breathed a sigh of relief. In the matter of France, luck played a huge part and so did Henry’s ability to manipulate it which resulted in him keeping trading routes open by remaining on good terms with Antwerp, and his reputation as a ‘Big Player’ due to the treaty of etaples.With Ireland, Henry was a bit less lucky, and smart. He sent Richard Edgecomb to Ireland to get bonds for good behaviour, but with a small force. He got no results bond wise but he got recognition as the overall head and Kildare’s attitude to Yorkist pretenders was now more circumspect.Henry had little success in Ireland. He had persuaded the Irish lords to give up their support for the yorkist but he did nothing to increase the effectiveness of English rule in the pale, let alone the rest of Ireland, but with Henry’s insecurity at home and limited military forces he could dispatch to Ireland , he could not really hope to achieve much more.With Scotland, the threat to Henry wasn’t grave but there was a Scottish invasion of England and hostile relations between the kingdoms lasted a whole decade. Henry could have sought peace sooner. His offer of marriage for peace was traditional its wasn’t a new innovative idea. Edward IV had also offered his infant child to the future James IV. Henry’s main problem in this situation was that he overestimated the threat from Scotland and as a result created unrest in his own Kingdom by increases taxes which led to the Cornish uprising. The British and Scottish signed a three year truce in 1486 which lasted 7 years.There was also a successful marriage which guaranteed that Scotland would not be a threat to England for the rest of the reign .In this instance, he showed good diplomatic and was a better diplomat in this situation. However, signs of failure can be found in 1495 when the truce was torn up, and the fat that the King of Scotland was on good terms with the arch-yorkist conspirator Margaret Beaufort. In 1945, to add to issues, Perkin Warbeck appeared and was welcome by scots with open arms and supported his attack. For Henry, Scotland was No great achievement, because the French rekindled their interest in Italy so the threat from Scotland was limited and it was too far away to be a threat.With the lower countries, he had some success with the Treaty of Windsor and the handing over of Edmund de la pole. But failure greatly outweighed the success Henry tried unsuccessfully to stop French takeover and strained relations. Also, trade embargos and the way in which the king was ready to sacrifice England’s trading interests in pursuit of his own political and diplomatic arguments. This situation was made better when the key catalyst Perkin Warbeck was murdered in 1498. Henry made a big mess of this collection of seventeen autonomous provinces ruled over by the Duke of Burgundy.In Spain, negotiations began one year after the country evolved, and Treaty of Medina El Campo and was signed one year later. The new Anglo Spanish treaty was drawn up to certify that the wedding was still on, and after 1485, alliance was in ruins. With Spain, Henry showed good negotiating skills. However, during the marriage alliance talks, the children were so young that no worthwhile treaty could be made for many years and there was a huge danger of failure. By April 1502, the alliance was in disarray with Arthur died and the marriage to Catherine hadn’t been consummated. This was a stroke of bad luck for Henry and the experience with Spain showed that Henry wasn’t good at dealing with the unseen.Henry’s aims of foreign policy were to protect the realm from invasion which was particularly important since Henry was a usurper and there were many Yorkist plots to overthrow him. Another one of Henry’s aims was to build up relations with the foreign powers to the point where alliances could be made, which would give the new Tudor dynasty recognition in Europe. Henry also wanted to play a part in European affairs. Henry also wanted to protect and possibly improve trade with the continent. However, Foreign affairs were not so much the relations between countries as the relations between a small group of families. He relied too heavily on births and marriages which is why when Arthur of England Isabella of Castile and Phillip of Burgundy profoundly altered Henry’s policy and left it in ruins. In the past, their neighbours had housed traitors and despite Henry’s best endeavours, there was no guarantee that they would not do so again.Henry’s apparent success depended on good fortune. Any serious campaign by the English in France would have been disastrous, since England’s military strength was based on ad hoc rather than standing armies. The way Henry went about things. Henry’s alliance with Scotland was too long in coming and was probably unnecessary given the limited strength of the scots without French backing. The Spanish raised great armies to conquer Granada between 1482 and 1492. Spain and France, and even Italian wars. England invaded France once and did no fighting at all. The fact that England did not join the League of Cambria in 1508 underlined the possibility that England did not join the league of Cambria in 1508 underlined the possibility that England was something of an irrelevance in European diplomacy. Henry’s foreign policy was too expensive. He spent vast sums in pursuing the quest for a Burundian alliance and he spent vast sums trying to protect England from a very small-scale Scottish threat.He over reacted to perceive threats and overspent accordingly. It is not clear that foreign marriages which Henry promoted for his children were necessarily beneficial. Henry’s policy was too fearful France, Spain, and the Low Countries had good reason to fear each other because they all had difficult and often ill-defined land borders to defend. England protected by the channel could afford to be rather more isolationist and Henry could afford to be rather more isolationist and Henry could have spent his money building up his defences at home- Both military and naval defences rather than spending it on uncertain diplomacy and unhelpful alliances to a great extent.

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