Henry VIII, king of England: Wolsey and Foreign Policy

Wolsey and Foreign Policy

As king, Henry inherited from his father a budget surplus and a precedent for autocratic rule. In 1511, Henry joined Pope Julius II, King Ferdinand II of Aragón, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and the Venetians in their Holy League against France. The campaign, organized by Henry's talented minister Thomas (later cardinal) Wolsey, had little success. A more popular conflict, which occurred during Henry's absence, was the victory (1513) of Thomas Howard, 2d duke of Norfolk, at Flodden over the invading Scottish forces under James IV.

Rapid changes in the diplomatic situation following the death of Ferdinand (1516) enabled Wolsey, now chancellor, to conclude a new alliance with France, soon expanded to include all the major European powers in a pledge of universal peace (1518). However, with the election of Ferdinand's grandson, already king of Spain, as Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1519, England's status as a secondary power was soon revealed. Henry joined Charles in war against France in 1522, but when Charles won a decisive victory over Francis at Pavia (1525), England was denied any of the spoils.

Henry and Wolsey tried to curb the alarming rise of imperial power by an unpopular alliance (1527) with France, which led to diplomatic and economic reprisals against England. Domestically, Henry had become less popular due to a series of new taxes aimed at providing revenue to bolster the depleted treasury. Despite the early advice of Sir Thomas More, one of Henry's councillors, Wolsey had remained the country's top minister, and by 1527 Wolsey had been forced to accept much of the blame for England's failures.

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