Source 3 supports the idea that Henry VIII’s foreign policy was actually quite successful; ‘Henry and Wolsey had good reason to think that they had been very successful’. Wolsey had gained immense status after the Treaty of London, when he became legatus a latere. Henry had successfully pulled off the field of cloth of gold (source 1), and was seen as peace keeper amongst the great powers since the 1518 Treaty of London. In conjunction with his successes in France in 1513, it was very easy for them to concentrate on how well they had done.
On the other hand, the field of cloth of gold was a VERY expensive event. Yes it had been successful in generating a reputation for Henry, and for him maybe that was enough to balance the fact it had cost over a year’s worth of his income. But as the Archbishop of Canterbury says in source 2; ‘little or nothing hath prevailed’. Since 1511 Henry had spent all the money he inherited from his father, plus more than a million pounds but it was obvious to everyone else that Henry’s expenses really did not match up to his success.
The towns captured in 1513 were sold back to the French in 1518. Ironically, one particular success at Flodden (when the earl of Surrey defeated the Scottish invasion and the Scottish King was killed) was even played down by Henry! It was not a personal success of his, so it did not deserve as much recognition despite the fact that it meant that his nephew (a young boy) was now King of Scotland and Henry’s sister was the Regent. This was a good result for Henry. We can trust what the Archbishop says, as an ex advisor for Henry, and as a man of the cloth he is a reliable source.
Source 1 and 3 support the view that Henry’s 1513 campaign was a success; ‘Henry knew he was internationally regarded as a figure of splendid chivalric kingship’. Even the fact that the French tents blew over, and the English tents did not was a particular high point for Henry! The treaty of London is another particular success, for both of the men. When campaigning
was not an option, the two men turned to peace keeping. This resulted in prestige for both the men, particularly Wolsey who was offered a legateship, and a legateship that was made permanent in 1524.
Ultimately, Henry’s successes were minimal. He had captured two towns (1513), yes, but these cost more money to keep than they were worth. They were even returned to France in 1518! Henry did successfully get his pension from Francis I, (about £15000 pa) but this stopped only a few years later. Henry’s campaign in 1523 was a failure, as Charles V once again failed to support England.
And to add insult to injury, Charles never married Henry’s daughter, Mary as promised in 1521. Henry also experienced widespread refusal to pay benevolence dues in 1525. Money was running out. Attempts to attain an annulment via foreign policy were also a big failure. The pope was under Charles V jurisdiction after 1527, and seeing as Catherine of Aragon was Charles aunt, he wasn’t going to allow it.
In my opinion, Henry VIII’s foreign policy was an expensive failure. Although he did experience some isolated successes, they did not outweigh the failures or the cost. To add further insult to Henry’s failure, I think that a lot of the success England experienced in the period was more down to Wolsey than Henry. The field of cloth of gold was down to Wolsey. It was the companionship between to two that made Henry seem more successful. Henry had not gained power in Europe – failing to marry his daughter to Emperor Charles V, and not retaining control of any land won in 1513 and he had not succeeded in achieving his annulment.
Courtney from Study Moose
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