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"An exercise in Dynastic Consolidation" - How far is this an accurate description of Henry VII's Foreign policy?

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"An exercise in Dynastic Consolidation" How far is this an accurate description of Henry VII's Foreign policy? By Rebecca Westwood Henry VII has been considered to have taken a far more defensive position as King than his predecessors. This was caused by the nature in which he had came to power, usurpation. This meant Henry had to be aware of possible invasion from foreign powers allying with pretenders to the throne. Polydore Vergil wrote Henry was "more inclined to peace than war," power struggles going on in Europe and his own vulnerable position in dynastic and financial terms, made no intervention the most sensible approach, dynastic stability had to dominate dealings with foreign powers. When assessing the extent to which Henry's foreign policy was an exercise in consolidating the Tudor dynasty, it is important to identify his aims, and to the extent to which they were achieved. In doing so, it is useful to use the pattern established by Professor Chrimes, dividing Henry's foreign policy into three clear phases. The way in which Henry had came to power meant his first aim had to be stabilising his position on the throne. Dynastic consolidation had to dominate his goals in phase one. This included his foreign policy, as his vulnerable position meant he would not be able to have any chance at fighting any wars or come into any conflict with foreign powers. Also, he had to remain on good terms with powerful countries as this was a very dangerous time for pretenders to the throne, who would look for support from such countries. Diplomacy was Henry's best tool in foreign policy and consequently dynastic consolidation. The first opportunity arose for such diplomacy when Henry negotiated a one-year truce with France, which was later extended to January 1489. An opportunity for this truce became apparent as France had helped to finance the expedition that directly led to Boswoth, which provided a chance to maintain good relations with the country regarded as England's traditional enemy. ...read more.


This was a key part of Henry remaining on good terms with France but not appearing weak. The main aim of this time for Henry was consolidating his throne. He successfully managed to use his foreign policy to not offend any major foreign powers that could back threats to the throne. Henry was now set up to continue this good position. Henry was successful in the first phase of his reign at consolidating his power, the first step towards dynastic stability. He then tried to continue this using marriage in the second phase of his foreign policy. This was because marriage created allies; it also showed that countries had faith in the stability and strength of England in Europe. With France now in control of Brittany European leaders were worried with the about the growing strength of France in Europe. So, in 1495 the Pope, Ferdinand, Maximilian, Venice and Milan formed the League of Venice, with the aim of driving Charles out of Italy. England managed to stay out of this conflict as it was outside the usual countries interest. Henry managing to remain diplomatic and neutral offending nobody, so they had no reason to aid a threat against him. However, by 1496 Ferdinand realised it would be dangerous not to include England in case Henry were to decide to ally with France, the chance had increased after France had Brittany as they were a bigger threat to England. Also, Charles was offering help to Henry with practical assistance against Warbeck. However, in 1496 Ferdinand and Henry secured the agreement of marriage for Catherine and Arthur, and secured England's place in the revamped League of Venice now called the Holy League. However, Henry joined on the agreement that he would not go to war against France, but will not fight with them either. Ferdinand agrees as having England's neutrality is better than having England as an enemy if allied with France. ...read more.


The League of Cambrai really designed as an anti-Spanish alliance. However Louis decided he could not risk the understanding with Ferdinand over Italy. So when the league was signed it was an alliance against Venice, between the Pope, Louis XII, Archduke Charles and Ferdinand. So in the end it was Henry that was isolated by this and not Spain. It seemed that dynastic consolidation was not as much as a priority for Henry in the third phase. However, perhaps if he had remained as diplomatic as previously he would have had more success in this phase. But the unlucky deaths in this phase played a major part in problems Henry faced. If Henry Isabella of Castile had not died, Henry would not have had to try and keep both Philip and Ferdinand happy. On the other hand if Henry had been as diplomatic as when faced with the problem of Brittany's independence, he may have kept neutral and less involved. Henry VII's foreign policy in terms of dynastic consolidation can definitely be described as his main aim in the first phase, and can be disputed if it was the same in the second phase. It was vital that dynastic stability dominated dealings with other major foreign powers, caused by the nature by which he came to power, usurpation. Perhaps to which the degree of which dynastic stability was the main aim in his foreign policy became weaker as the years and strength of England went on. This was caused by the financial and dynastic strength growing, which meant that Henry could afford to be brave. But when being brave, also consolidating the crown. For example, when France were attempting to take over Burgundy it was important that Henry showed resistance otherwise other countries would view him as an easy target. In conclusion, dynastic stability had to dominate Henry's foreign policy because of the powerful countries in Europe at this time, such as Spain and France, however the extent to which they dominated foreign policy decreased as time progressed. ...read more.

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