How far was Henrys foreign policy merely defensive in the years between 1487 and 1509?

Category: Foreign Policy, Years
Last Updated: 25 Mar 2020
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Henry worked hard to establish, consolidate and recover many foreign relations within his reign. This was mostly defensive due to pretenders threatening Henry’s throne which meant a lot of Henry’s foreign relations were defensive. However, Henry did also establish policies to help other factors during his reign. One way in which Henry did establish relations out of defence was to rid of short term pretenders and threats to his throne. An example of this would be the Treaty of Etaples which was made in 1492 with France.

This treaty outlined neither country would support imposters which resulted in France having to stop supporting and give up Perkin Warbeck who was at the time pretending to be Richard, Duke of York. The treaty was a defensive manoeuvre to ensure the pretender was stopped to reduce the threat to Henry’s throne and this helped Henry a lot as France did not particularly like Henry at the time so the Treaty meant they would no longer support Warbeck which helped Henry protect his security well. However, some of Henry’s actions could have been seen as an attack rather than defence.

The treaty of Etaples also meant Henry demanded money resulting in France had to pay an annual pension of 50,000 crowns (?5,000). The money was given due to Henry reasserting an ancient claim to French lands and besieging Boulogne which was quite assertive and was this part of the treaty was more of an attack towards France. This is why it is debatable whether Henry was more defensive or attacking in foreign policy as the Treaty of Etaples did both as it forced France to give up pretenders, protecting Henry, but also demanding money, an attack of France.

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However, it is clear that indeed, henry did use the treaty to attack France but overall used it as a defence. Another reason Henry instated foreign policy completely as a defence was to secure his dynasty through marriages and treaties and make peace for his and others future rule. The Treaty of Ayton, made in 1497, established Anglo-Scottish harmony which matured into a formal peace Treaty in 1502 and the long term strength was symbolised with the marriage of Princess Margaret, Henry’s daughter, and James IV in 1503.

This was entirely to put a stop to the on-going conflict on the Scottish border and ensure a lasting truce and alliance with Scotland for his dynasty and future security. Yet on the other hand, Henry also established foreign policies and agreements to help improve England’s trade. Due to Margaret of Burgundy showing continuous support for Warbeck, Henry issued an embargo on English trade with Burgundy that lasted until 1496.

Henry then later dealt with this with the Intercursus Magnus also known as the Great Settlement in 1846 as both Henry and Philip had suffered from the commercial restrictions and needed each other’s trade again. This cannot be seen as defensive as relations did not improve massively as Philip continued to harbour Yorkists meaning this agreement was purely made to improve trade and English profits and did not benefit Henry in securing his throne nor dynasty. This clearly means Henrys foreign policy was not entirely defensive but was placed to improve trade as well.

In conclusion, Henry worked hard to establish foreign policies for different reasons. It is clear that Henry’s main priority was as defence but also that it was not the total reason and foreign policy was not used completely for defence as Henry did make some agreements to assist trade and as a form of attack on countries to instate and show power. However, it is fair to say Henry’s foreign policy was defensive to help secure his throne but mostly to provide and protect his dynasty.

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How far was Henrys foreign policy merely defensive in the years between 1487 and 1509?. (2016, Jul 18). Retrieved from

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