How Important Were Wolsey's Foreign Policies in Strengthening the Royal Authority of Henry Viii?

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In many respects Wolsey’s foreign policies were very effective in confirming Henry VIII’s royal authority and demonstrating his strengths, however in other ways they did not show this quite as well instead leaving him isolated. Many events need to be taken into consideration when deciding on the effectiveness of Wolsey’s foreign policies, these are the Anglo-Spanish treaty, the treaty of London, the field of cloth and gold, the election for Holy Roman Emperor after the death of Maximillian, his treaties during the second French war and finally his attempts at gaining an annulment for Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.

In 1515 Francis I won a victory against the Swiss, and so took power of Milan making him much more powerful. In response to this Wolsey set about creating an anti-French coalition via a Anglo-Spanish treaty and beginning agreements with Maximillian. Unfortunately England’s foreign policies were at the mercy of continental events so when Ferdinand of Aragon died leaving Charles I in charge, he made peace with France increasing their territory and thus their power yet again and so more of a threat to those who stood against them. Along with this Maximillian them made peace with France which meant that any talk of a anti-French coalition would be stopped as they could not compete with France and its allies. The only solution was to follow the heard and make peace with Francis I, this decision lead to the Treaty of London in 1518. Up until this point Henry’s authority had not been increased or demonstrated at all but this was due to events that Wolsey had no control over but it did mean that Wolsey had, had no impact Henry’s royal authority.

In 1518 the treaty of London was created. The idea spiralled from papal initiative to make peace among the countries so that war with the Turks could be more effective and ending in Wolsey’s getting 20 different European rulers to sign an extended version, the rulers included Francis I, Charles V, Maximillian and the Pope, this should have meant lasting peace if the contract had been truly binding which unfortunately it was not. Still thanks to this Henry was seen as a Peacemaker and this treaty a triumph. It confirmed his power and showed that he had an influence in European affairs. Some historians believe that Wolsey actions in the treaty of London made Henry appear more of a humanist as instead of organising a treaty for the sake of war he organised a treaty for a greater truce that would benefit the countries involved without harming others. This showed other nations that Henry was powerful but also that he was a prominent part of Europe and that his authority could not be undermined. However other historians believe that the treaty of London did not do as much good, as it did not last and that although Wolsey had temporarily relieved the Pope of his status as peacemaker it was only temporary, and that no matter how ingenious the treaty was it was completely at the mercy of the European rulers which Henry could not control. An example is the victory of Charles V in the imperial election in 1519 only one year later. If you agree with this theory then you could also assume that Wolsey’s foreign policy had no sway of Henry’s royal authority as although it may have been boosted at times, his policies did nothing to permanently show that Henry was one of the bigger players.

In 1520 Wolsey organised a meeting between Francis I and Henry VIII to discuss peace. It took place outside Calais in the field of cloth and gold. It was main meeting that took place in 1520 between Francis I and Charles V who both wanted to secure Henry as an ally before the Hapsburg-Valois war broke out. This competition between Charles and Francis allowed Henry and Wolsey to reaffirm the treaty of London and with it Henry’s authority in Europe. The set of meetings that took place allowed Henry and Wolsey to decide with who they wished to ally themselves and the field of cloth and gold is said...
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