Keeping The Favour Of Henry VIII Was The Dominant Factor In Wolsey’s Conduct of Foreign Affairs Between 1515 and 1529′ (Shakleton). How Far Do You Agree With This Statement? Certainly, before 1515, Wolsey needed to make the ‘dominant factor’ of foreign affairs to be Henry’s favour in order to rise to a high position in the government. This is shown by his preparations for the invasion of France in 1513 where Wolsey made sure that ‘the King’s wishes must take precedence over all other considerations’ (Randell). However, in the years 1515 – 1529 historians disagree as to whether this view is still valid.
‘Wolsey was a slavish follower of papal policy’ (Pollard). This historian’s view shows that Wolsey’s main priority was not Henry VIII’s favour, but the favour of the pope. However, Scarisbrick disagree and states that Wolsey, ‘Ignored the papacy as often as he supported it,’ claiming that Wolsey’s primary aim was the maintenance of peace. Doran also goes onto state that Wolsey’s primary aim was that he wanted to get England to the ‘forefront of the international scene. ‘ The above views all show an unselfish Wolsey, working for the good of someone else.
Although, on the surface these aims may seem to be the driving force, on closer examination many of the events which take place in Wolsey’s foreign policy have the dominant factor of Wolsey improving his own position, wealth and prestige both at home and abroad through the means of foreign policy. In 1518, the Treaty of London was signed. This was an idea, originally the popes, to unite Christendon against the Ottoman empire. When Wolsey and indeed Henry chose to support this, it would seem to imply that Wolsey was acting on the favour of the pope, supporting Pollard’s argument.
However, the event was also used to press for the legate that Wolsey so dearly wanted and Wolsey used diplomatic initiative and took control of the pope’s plan. The event was a huge success and 20 european countries signed to the treaty. This brought with it the huge prestige to England, in particular Wolsey, and a pention to both Henry and Wolsey. This shows that Wolsey was certainly not making his primary aim the popes favour, but he was out to see Henry’s wishes were dealt with (England becoming a major power) supported by Wilson,’Wolsey not only encouraged Henry’s foreign policy but possed the flair to make it work.
‘ However, Wolsey also improved his own position, prestige and wealth. This is supported by Murphy’s argument that Wolsey ‘upstaged’ Leo X by taking control from him. The fact that Wolsey used Henry to press for the legate shows Wolsey’s more selfish aims were very important. This event is the first time in which we see Wolsey trying to achieve more selfish aims. ‘A Triumph of (Wolsey’s) Planning and Orginisation’ (Randall) was the next event to follow. The field of the Cloth of Gold was a meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I.
Although no agreements of any importance were signed and Randall describes it as a ‘public relations exercise’ the event was a huge success. This event certainly showed Wolsey aiming for Henry’s favour. The fact that this event, in particular Wolsey, made Henry and England look equal to the superpowers of France and Spain meant that Henry would be overjoyed. Also, the fact that Wolsey also held talks with Spain before and after the meeting meant that England avoided taking sides showing how little substance there was to this meeting and that the only real reason for this event was Henry’s favour.
In late 1521 a series of agreements were made in Bruges between Wolsey and Charles of Spain. This is because Charles had finally dealt with a spanish revolt and was now ready to give his full attention to the problem of France. The situation was made event more serious because Francis was preparing to attack northern Italy infuriating Charles. This forced England to take sides, something which Wolsey was not keen to do. However, Wolsey chose to side with Spain, something which would have gained Henry’s favour as an alliance with a major European power would mean that England’s prestige increase greatly.
Spain also agreed to pay for both Wolsey’s and Henry’s pention from France if the payments were stopped due to war. This lends support to the argument that Wolsey was acting on selfish aims in order to improve his wealth. However, this could also be interprited as acting on Henry’s favour as this could show that England and indeed Henry, was so powerful that a pention from a major Eurpean power was not only for Henry, but for Wolsey (his chief minister) also. Other agreements included England attacking France if they didn’t negotiate with Spain which supports Scarisbrick’s aguement that Wolsey’s primary aim was to see peace in Europe.
The agreement of England attacking France if they didn’t negotiate with Spain, was one which Wolsey did not think would be required and even if a war broke out he would delay entering it until it had finished. However, Henry was encouraged to invade France by friends of Charles V. This shows that certainly in this event, Wolsey was acting for the favour of the King against his own will. The spectacular failure of 2 invasions which followed left England looking weak and ineffective in the face of European politics.