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While English foreign policy was a failure to 1529, Wolsey should be regarded as a success. How far do you agree with this statement?

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Introduction

While English foreign policy was a failure to 1529, Wolsey should be regarded as a success. How far do you agree with this statement? While Wolsey must be regarded as an overall success, English foreign policy to 1529 was, although not totally successful, far from a failure. England may not have become a foreign superpower, but its international position did not get any worse and it certainly did not sink into obscurity. If anything, Wolsey made England seem more influential than it actually was, and to maintain that illusion was a success. Wolsey first entered royal radar during the aftermath of the First French War, which was indeed a disastrous campaign. Henry was manipulated by his fellow, more experienced monarchs and his troops used as diversions. Although he did conquer two French towns, they were on the border with Burgundy and therefore of no useful strategic value whatsoever, and Henry returned home with nothing much to show for it. Wolsey volunteered for, and was handed, the clean-up job, and performed it with smooth mastery, impressing Henry. ...read more.

Middle

It was at this time that he was ordered to secure an approval, for Henry's divorce, from Rome, only compounding his problems. Although Wolsey ultimately failed both to end the war with France and to secure the divorce successfully, we must recognise that this was an extremely difficult task. The Pope was held prisoner by Charles V of Spain, who was Catherine of Aragon's nephew, and thus he would have had tight control over the Pope during this period. Wolsey's failure to secure the divorce comes as hardly a surprise as it was inevitable. Despite this, however, we must not forget the good Wolsey had done for England before that. He was not only a success on the international front, but also responsible for many local policies that improved the lives of the people and made society fairer. In the justice system before Wolsey, the courts were theoretically open to anybody, who could take their case up to the King if need be. However, corruption was rife. One could avoid being lawfully punished with a mere bribe to officials, and not even bother turning up to court. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although English foreign policy results were ultimately less than stellar in the events leading up to 1529, we can see that it was not a complete failure. The Treaty of London and Field of Cloth of Gold had served to boost England's international image and England was treated as important enough for allying to be necessary, as demonstrated in the events leading to the Second French War. We can even argue that the "English foreign policy" in question does not only cover Henry VIII's reign, as was inferred from the mention of Wolsey, but also the monarchs' before him. It is highly improbable, not to mention untrue that all English foreign policy was a failure until 1529, as Henry VIII's own father Henry VII was a capable diplomat, able to skilfully divert international attention from England during the Italian Wars and successfully defeat France in a winter war campaign. Wolsey was also, despite his eventual fate and problems with his policies, a great success story. He had risen from the lowest class to the highest class and administered England successfully for over 10 years, as well as modifying England's image abroad for the better. ...read more.

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