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England under the Tudors By Arthur D. Innes Characters: 27528

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


HENRY VII (iii), 1498-1509-THE DYNASTY ASSURED

[Sidenote: Scotland and England]

From time immemorial almost, it might be said that Scotland had been a perpetual menace to her southern neighbour. Since the days of Bruce she had, it is true, been torn by ceaseless dissensions; a succession of long royal minorities with intrigues over the regency, family feuds between the great barons, strong kings who found themselves warring on a turbulent nobility, weak ones who could exercise no control, had not given the country much chance of consolidation; but the one binding sentiment that could be relied on in a crisis was antagonism to England. To settle the question by conquest had been proved impossible. Scotland might be over-run, but she could not be held in subjection. If England's eyes were bent on France, she must still manage to keep a watch on the north: but so long as dissensions were raging, there was not much fear of anything more serious than raiding expeditions.

[Sidenote: Henry's Scottish policy]

To keep Scotland innocuous was a primary object with the Tudor King. At the time when he grasped the sceptre of England, the King of Scots, James III., was a feeble ruler surrounded by unpopular favourites, with a baronage preparing to rise against him, and there was little danger to be apprehended. He was over-thrown and murdered in 1488. But James IV, who succeeded to the throne was of a different type. He was only a boy, however, and Henry was not long in initiating a policy, more fully developed by his descendants, of purchasing the support of leading nobles, notably at this time and for forty years to come, the Earls of Angus-with whom there was a compact as early as 1491. James, however, soon proved himself a popular and vigorous monarch, of a type which attracted the loyalty of his subjects, with a strong disposition to make his country a serious factor in the politics of the time, and by no means devoid of political sagacity despite his unfortunate impulsiveness and want of balance. To block Scotland out of the field by the simple process of keeping her thoroughly occupied with internal factions was not practicable under these conditions, and the attitude of James in the affair of Perkin Warbeck showed that he must be taken into serious account. Henry's political acuteness recognised in alliance with Scotland a more hopeful solution of the national problem than in eternal strife. The idea of a matrimonial connexion had indeed once before, since the days of Edward I., taken shape in the union of James I. to Jane Beaufort; but with little practical effect. This idea Henry revived in a form destined ultimately to revolutionise the relations of the two kingdoms. His own eldest daughter Margaret was but eighteen years younger than the King of Scots-quite near enough for compatibility. From the time of the peace entered upon after Warbeck's capture, Henry began to work with this marriage as one of his objects. His foresight and sagacity is marked by the fact that he recognised-and did not shrink from the possibility-that a Scottish monarch might thus one day find himself heir to the throne of England.

[Sidenote 1: France and England]

[Sidenote 2: 1498]

The peace-policy towards Scotland was facilitated by the development of friendly relations with France, especially after the accession of Lewis XII.: for the traditional "auld alliance," between France and Scotland, had proved times out of mind too strong to be over-ridden by English treaties. If France wanted Scottish help, or Scotland wanted French help, there was always some excuse for rendering it; the plain truth being that no treaties could restrain the forays and counter-forays of the border clans on both sides of the Tweed, whether the Wardens of the Marches winked at them or not; so that there was, in either country, a standing pretext for declaring that the other had broken truce. An instance of these border difficulties occurred within a few months of the truce of December, 1497. A small party of Scots crossed the border, and appeared in the neighbourhood of Norham. They were challenged, and replied-with insolence or with proper spirit, according to the point of view. Thereupon they were attacked by superior numbers; some were slain; in the pursuit, damage was done on the north side of the border. The Scots King felt that he had been outraged, and was on the verge of breaking off all negotiations with his brother of England. It required all the diplomatic skill of Fox (at this time Bishop of Durham), and the mediatorial efforts of the Spaniard Ayala to prevent a serious breach from resulting.

[Sidenote: Marriage negotiations, 1498-1503]

The opportunity, however, was seized by Fox to emphasise his master's pacific intentions by bringing forward the proposal for the marriage of James with Margaret. Nevertheless, for the next twelve months, Henry displayed no eagerness in the matter. Margaret was only in her eighth year, so that in any case the marriage could not be completed for some time; but apart from that, there was already existing a project of marriage between James and one of the Spanish princesses-which Spain had no real wish to carry out, while James was disposed to push it. It would appear, therefore, that Henry meant to give effect to his own scheme, but did not intend Spain to feel free of the complication while it could be used as a means of pressure.

[Sidenote: Marriage of James IV, and Margaret 1503]

At last, however, in July, 1499, a fresh treaty of peace was concluded with Scotland, but it was not till January, 1502, that the marriage treaty was finally ratified; the marriage to take place in September, 1503 (when Margaret would be nearly thirteen), and the two Kings to render each other mutual aid in case either of them was attacked. James, however, declined to bind himself permanently to refuse renewal of the French alliance. There was much characteristic haggling over dower and jointure, matters in which the Tudors always drove the hardest bargain they could. The ceremony was performed by proxy, after the fashion of the times, the day after the treaty was ratified; and the actual marriage took place at the time fixed, in the autumn of 1503-a momentous event, since it brought the Stuarts into the direct line of succession, next to descendants of Henry in the male line; and-inasmuch as one of Henry's sons had no children, and the other no grandchildren-ultimately united on one head the Crowns of England and Scotland, exactly one hundred years after the marriage.

[Sidenote: Spain and England: marriage negotiations, 1488-99]

In the meantime the other and much older project for the union between the Prince of Wales and a daughter of Spain had been carried out. Originally, Henry's prime motive in this matter had been to secure a decisive recognition of his dynasty by the sovereigns, whom he regarded as the greatest political force in Europe. By this time, however, (1498), the stability of his throne and of the succession was no longer in peril; but Spain was still the Power whose alliance would give the best guarantees against hostile combinations. Neither Spain nor England wished to be involved in war with France; but neither country could view her aggrandisement with complete equanimity. At the same time, while her ambitions were chiefly directed to Italy both could afford for the most part to abstain from active hostilities. On the other hand, times had changed since Henry had been ready to go almost cap-in-hand to Ferdinand and Isabella for their support. The Spanish sovereigns were now quite as much afraid of his joining France as he was of any step that they could take. So the marriage treaty was ratified in 1497 on terms satisfactory enough to Henry; and both in 1498 and 1499 proxy ceremonies took place. In the latter year, clauses left somewhat vague in the earlier treaties were given a clearer definition in a sense favourable to Henry.

[Sidenote: 1499 Lewis XII]

The accession of Lewis XII. in 1497 affected French policy. Lewis required in the first place, to gain the friendship of the Pope Alexander VI., in order to obtain a divorce from his wife and a dispensation to marry Charles's widow, Anne of Brittany, so as to retain the duchy. In the second place, he claimed Milan as his own in right of his descent from Valentina Visconti (not as an appanage of the French Crown). He was anxious then to conciliate both Spain and England, and ready to make concessions to both in order to hold them neutral. His first steps, therefore, aimed at satisfying them, and at detaching the Archduke Philip from his father Maximilian; all of which objects were rapidly accomplished, England obtaining the renewal of the treaty of Etaples, with additional undertakings in the matter of harbouring rebels. Lewis made separate treaties with Spain and with Philip; but the former remained none the less anxious on the score of a possible further rapprochement between France and England.

[Sidenote: The Spanish marriage negotiation, 1499-1501]

So long as Perkin Warbeck had been able to pose as Richard of York, he was necessarily, to all who believed in him, the legitimate King of England. Setting him aside, it was still possible to argue for the Earl of Warwick as against his cousin Elizabeth, Henry's queen. But when Perkin and Warwick were both put to death at the end of 1499, there was no arguable case for any one outside Henry's own domestic circle. Even if it were held that Henry's title was invalid, and that a woman could not herself reign in her own right, Elizabeth's son had indisputably a title prior to any other possible claimant. It was stated, though the truth of the statement is doubtful, that the Spanish sovereigns had never felt at ease as to the stability of the Tudor dynasty till November, 1499; but, at any rate, after that date they could not even for diplomatic purposes pretend to feel any serious apprehensions. The year 1500 presents the somewhat curious spectacle of Henry on one side and Ferdinand and Isabella on the other, each quite determined to carry through the marriage of Arthur and Katharine, but each also determined to make a favour of it. In this diplomatic contest, Henry proved the more skilful bargainer, though the Spaniards were adepts. He frightened them not a little by crossing the Channel and holding a conference with the Archduke Philip, which was suspected of having for its object the negotiation of another marriage for the Prince of Wales with Philip's sister (Maximilian's daughter) Margaret, who was already a widow. [Footnote: Margaret had been married to Don John, son of Ferdinand and Isabella; while Philip married their second daughter Joanna. Their eldest daughter married the Portuguese Infant.] In fact, there was no such intention; but an agreement was actually made that Prince Henry should many Philip's daughter, while the youngest Tudor princess, Mary, should be betrothed to Philip's infant son Charles, then a babe of four months, in after years the great Emperor Charles V.

[Sidenote: Marriage of Prince Arthur and Katharine 1501]

So the marriage treaty was once more ratified. But it was not till the summer of the next year (1501) that Katharine sailed from Spain; and in November the actual marriage took place with no little display. It is probable, however, that Arthur and Katharine were still husband and wife in name only when, six months later, the Prince of Wales was stricken with mortal illness and died; leaving his brother Henry heir to the throne, and a fresh crop of matrimonial schemes to be matured.

[Sidenote 1: 1502 New marriage schemes]

[Sidenote 2: 1504 Dispensation granted]

The truth was that Ferdinand of Aragon and Henry of England were men of very much the same type. Both were crafty diplomatists, cautious and long-headed, not to be inveigled into rash schemes, keenly suspicious, masters of the art of committing themselves irrevocably to nothing; both had a keen appreciation of the value of money, and were experts at striking a bargain; while each wanted the political support of the other. Each had been working up to the matrimonial alliance which was now nullified by Arthur's death. Ferdinand had already paid over half his daughter's dower; he now declared that the Princess and her dower ought to be returned to Spain. Henry argued on the other side that the balance of the dower should be paid over. The Spaniards then proposed that the young widow should be betrothed to the still younger prince, Henry; but at a comparatively early stage in the negotiations over the new project, Henry's own queen died (February, 1503), and it was no long time before the English King began to contemplate a new marriage for himself. He is even said [Footnote: Gairdner, Henry VII. (Twelve English Statesmen), p. 190. The rumour was current, but it is doubtful whether it was more than a rumour; cf. Busch, p. 378.] to have thought of proposing that he should take his own son's widow to wife. Logically, of course, as a mere question of affinity, the idea was not more inadmissible than that of Katharine's marriage with Henry Prince of Wales; but it was infinitely more repellent, and Isabella was horrified at the suggestion. At any rate, nothing came of it, and an agreement for the marriage of Katharine with the younger Henry was ratified in the course of the year [Footnote: It was in the August of this same year (1503) that the other marriage, between James of Scotland and Henry's elder daughter Margaret, was finally concluded.]-subject, of course, to a papal dispensation. This was obtained, during 1504, from the successor of Alexander VI., Pope Julius II.,

and Isabella had the satisfaction of seeing it before her death. Political exigencies had only recently been accepted by Pope Alexander as justifying a dispensation for the divorce of Lewis XII. from his wife, to enable him to marry Anne of Brittany; but this dispensation of Pope Julius was destined to an immense importance in history-to be the hinge whereon swung open the gates of the English Reformation.

[Sidenote: 1499-1506 Affairs on the Continent]

The years from 1498 to 1503 had not been without importance in Franco- Spanish relations, more particularly with reference to the position of the two Powers in Italy. Lewis had made himself master of Milan in 1499; but the kingdom of Naples presented a more difficult problem; since, after disposing of the reigning family, the French King would still find a rival claimant in Ferdinand of Spain. In 1500 these two monarchs agreed to a partition; but French and Spaniards quarrelled, war broke out, the Spanish captain Gonsalvo de Cordova expelled the French; and in 1508 Naples was annexed to Aragon. A renewed attempt of France upon Naples in the following year proved a complete failure.

In 1503 died the Borgia Pope, Alexander VI.-poisoned, as it was believed, by the cup he had intended for another. The personal wickedness of Alexander and his relatives was the climax of papal iniquity, the reductio ad absurdum of the claim of the Roman Pontiff to be the representative of Christ on earth. His immediate successor hardly survived election to the Holy See; and was followed by Julius II., an energetic and militant Pope, who was bent on forming the Papal States into an effective temporal principality.

In the next year Isabella of Castile died, and by her death the European situation was again materially affected. While she lived she worked in complete accord with her husband, Ferdinand of Aragon; her name stands high among the ablest of European sovereigns. But with her death the Crowns of Castile and Aragon were no longer united. Ferdinand was not King of Castile; the sceptre descended to the dead Queen's daughter Joanna, [Footnote: The elder sister was already dead, as well as the one brother.] and in effect to her husband, the Archduke Philip, Maximilian's son, and after her to their son Charles. At the most, Ferdinand could hope only to exercise a dominant influence (converted after Philip's death in 1506 into practical sovereignty as Regent), with a perpetual risk of Maximilian turning his flighty ambitions towards asserting himself as a rival.

[Sidenote: The Earl of Suffolk 1499-1505]

Although both Warbeck and Warwick had been removed in 1499, Henry had not been altogether free from Yorkist troubles in the succeeding years. Edmund de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, was brother of that Earl of Lincoln who had fallen at the battle of Stoke, and son of a sister of Edward IV. The Earl had not hitherto come forward as a claimant to the throne; but in 1499 he developed a personal grievance against the King, and betook himself to the Continent, where a certain Sir Robert Curzon espoused his cause with Maximilian. At the time, nothing came of the matter; Henry was not afraid of Suffolk, whom he induced to return to England with a pardon. In 1501, however, the Earl again betook himself to the Continent and made a direct appeal to Maximilian for assistance. But Henry was now on particularly good terms with the Archduke Philip, and Maximilian was inclining to revert to friendly relations with England. He was in his normal condition of impecuniosity, and Henry was prepared to provide a loan to help him in a Turkish war if his own rebellious subjects were handed over. The issue of these negotiations, towards the end of 1502, was a loan from Henry of fifty thousands crowns, and a promise from Maximilian to eject Suffolk and his supporters. In the meantime several of Suffolk's accomplices were executed in England, including James Tyrrel who had abetted Richard III. in the murder of the Princes in the Tower; and [Footnote: See genealogical table (Front.).] William de la Pole and William Courtenay (son of the Earl of Devonshire) were imprisoned on suspicion of complicity. Suffolk, however, remained at Aix la Chapelle, Maximilian making him many promises and providing inadequate supplies, while with equal lightness of heart- having got his loan-he left his pledges to Henry unfulfilled by anything more substantial than professions that he was doing his best to carry them out. In 1504 the migratory Earl had the misfortune to fall into the hands of the Duke of Gueldres, who detained him for use as circumstances might dictate-to the annoyance of the Kings of France and Scotland, both of whom wished him to be handed over to the King of England.

[Sidenote: 1505 Henry's position]

In 1505 then Henry's relations with all foreign Powers were satisfactory: that is, none of them were hostile and most of them were anxious for his friendship. In these later years, however, of Henry's reign he appears consistently in a more definitely unamiable light than before. The two counsellors who, however thoroughly they endorsed his policy, had probably exercised a moderating and refining influence-Cardinal Morton and Reginald Bray-were now both dead, and there is no doubt that Elizabeth of York, popular herself, had been a very judicious helpmeet to her husband. Moreover, though he was still by no means an old man, Henry was becoming worn out; yet he could never escape from dynastic anxieties, the younger Henry being now his only son. Marriage schemes had always been prominent features in his policy, and the marriage schemes for himself which he evolved one after the other in the closing years of his reign show him in a singularly unattractive light, at the same time that his financial methods were growing increasingly mean, and his evasions of honourable obligations increasingly unscrupulous.

Now the Duke of Gueldres was in conflict with the Archduke Philip-at this time not only lord of the Burgundian domains, but also in right of his wife King of Castile and not on the best of terms with his father-in-law of Aragon. In 1505 Philip got possession in his turn of the person of Suffolk, by capturing the town where the Duke of Gueldres held him. Therefore during this year Henry became particularly anxious to make friends with Philip, and lent him money; having got which, Philip preferred placing his hostage again in the hands of the Duke of Gueldres, who had submitted to him.

[Sidenote: Schemes for his marriage]

Out of these conditions rose another futile suggestion of a marriage for Henry: who had already considered and dismissed the idea of marrying the younger of the two living ex-Queens of Naples-both named Joanna-a niece of Ferdinand of Aragon. The wife now proposed was Philip's sister, Margaret, who on her first widowhood had been spoken of as a possible alternative to Katharine for Arthur of Wales. Since then, she had become Margaret of Savoy, the name by which she is generally known; but had been widowed a second time. This proposal probably came from Philip, but was resolutely resisted by Margaret herself.

[Sidenote: 1506 Philip in England]

In 1506 fortune favoured Henry. Philip sailed from the Netherlands in January to take possession of the throne of Castile: but was driven on to the English shores by stress of weather. The English King received him royally, but while the utmost show of friendliness prevailed, Philip found that he had no alternative to acceptance of Henry's suggestions. Before the King of Castile departed, he had not only entered on a treaty for mutual defence against any aggressor, but had actually delivered over the person of the unhappy Suffolk [Footnote: So Busch. Gairdner is doubtful.] to his sovereign, though under promise that he should not be put to death. The prisoner, however, was committed to the Tower, and though Henry kept his word, he is reported to have advised his son that the promise would not be binding on him. At any rate Suffolk was executed, apparently without further trial, early in the next reign. His brother Richard, known as the "White Rose," who had abetted him, remained abroad, and was ultimately killed in the service of Francis I. at the battle of Pavia in 1525, leaving no children.

Philip had hardly departed from England when a new commercial treaty which he had authorised was signed with the Netherlands, terminating the war of tariffs which had again become active in recent years. This treaty, it is not surprising to remark, was so favourable to England that in contradistinction to the older Intercursus Magnus the Flemings entitled it the Intercursus Malus.

[Sidenote: Death of Philip]

The few remaining months of Philip's life were troubled. The position in Castile was difficult enough, and in his absence the Duke of Gueldres again revolted, with some assistance from France. Henry interfered, as he was bound to do by the recent treaty, not without some effect. But Philip's death in September left his wife Joanna Queen of Castile, with her father Ferdinand as Regent, and her young son Charles Lord of the Netherlands, with Margaret of Savoy at the head of the Council of Regency. Under these new conditions Henry agreed to modifications in the new commercial treaty, which indeed, as it stood, was almost impossible of fulfilment; probably in the hope that his project of marriage with Margaret of Savoy might still be carried out, the dowry she would bring being very much more satisfactory than that of Joanna of Naples.

[Sidenote: 1507-8 Matrimonial projects]

In a very short time, however, Margaret had another rival, at least for the purposes of diplomacy. This was Joanna of Castile, Philip's widow, whom Henry had seen in the spring of 1506. That her sanity was already very much in question seems to have made very little difference. Throughout the greater part of 1507 and 1508 the English King was making overtures to Margaret herself, and for Joanna to Ferdinand, blowing hot and cold in the matter of his son Henry and Katharine, and pushing on the betrothal of his younger daughter Mary with the boy Charles-a proposal brought forward, when the latter was but four months old, in 1500, but not at that time sedulously pressed. In part, at least, the explanation of all this diplomatic play lies in Henry's relations with Ferdinand. The King of Aragon, having lost his wife Isabella, wished to retain control of Castile; at the same time he was in difficulties about paying up the balance of Katharine's dowry, without which Henry would not allow her marriage with his son to go forward, while the luckless princess was kept scandalously short of supplies. Henry certainly wished to put all the pressure possible on Ferdinand to get the dowry; perhaps he seriously contemplated marriage with Joanna as a means of himself depriving Ferdinand of control in Castile; the marriage of Charles to his daughter Mary would have a similar advantage. On the other hand, if he married Margaret of Savoy he would get control of the Netherlands, and still grasp at the control of Castile through Charles, while playing off the boy's two grandfathers, Maximilian and Ferdinand, against each other. Henry was in fact paying Ferdinand back in his own coin; but the picture is an unedifying one, of craft against craft, working by sordid methods for ends which had very little to do with patriotism and no connexion with justice.

[Sidenote: 1508 The League of Cambrai]

If, however, it was now Henry's primary object to isolate Ferdinand so that he could impose his own terms on him, the object was not attained. Maximilian had just taken up a new idea-the dismemberment of Venice; an object which appealed both to Lewis of France and to Pope Julius. Ferdinand could generally reckon that if he joined a league he would manage to get more than his share of the spoils for less than his share of the work. The League of Cambrai-a simple combination for robbery without excuse-was formed at the end of 1508. Henry was left out, for which, indeed, he cared little, knowing that the process of spoliation would inevitably result in quarrels among the leaguers. But though he advanced the arrangements for the marriage of Charles and Mary so far as to have a proxy ceremony performed, the marriage project with Joanna was withdrawn, and his overtures were also finally declined by Margaret of Savoy.

[Sidenote: Wolsey]

In the last year of his life, however, his diplomatic successor-destined to outshine him in his own field-came into employment as a negotiator. It was Thomas Wolsey who probably carried through the arrangement for the union with Charles; Wolsey also who re-established friendly relations with Scotland, which had been becoming seriously strained. In 1505 James had more definitely promised not to renew the French alliance; but had considered himself absolved from this and other obligations, on the usual ground of border raids, in which Wolsey himself admitted that the English had been very much more guilty than the Scots.

[Sidenote: 1509 Death of Henry VII.]

But Henry's own days were numbered. As a boy and as a young man he had lived a hard life; throughout the four-and-twenty years of his reign he had never been free from the strain of anxiety, never relaxed his labours, never allowed himself to cast his cares upon other shoulders. In 1508 he had a serious illness, from which he never fully recovered; in the early spring of 1509 his health finally and fatally broke down. On April 21st the founder of the Tudor dynasty and of the Tudor system left the throne, which he had won by the sword, to a son, whose right by inheritance was beyond dispute.

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