Francis I and Henry VIII
On April 27th, 1989, at Sangatte on the northern coast of France, a ceremony was held to mark the commencement of the main work on the Channel Tunnel. At the tunnel entrance stood two giant pasteboard figures. One was of Henry VIII of England and the other was of Francis I of France. Their symbolic presence at the beginning of an ambitious project designed to link England and France was especially appropriate.
Henry VIII is often called a |Renaissance prince' and is popularly remembered for his ebullience and the extraordinariness of his reign. What is often not so well appreciated, is the extent to which his style of monarchy and the events of his reign were ...view middle of the document...
A recent French study has identified more than a dozen different topoi of kingship which were produced under Louise of Savoy's patronage and which were taken up by the king himself. Among the most important were; Francis as the crusading roi chevalier, as the descendant of Charlemagne, and especially, as Julius Caesar's true successor. Royal propaganda promoted two ideals or hopes for Francis's reign. These were just and effective government at home and, abroad, the revival of a French imperial heritage.
In line with these ideals, Francis soon invaded northern Italy. He was determined to avenge the defeats which Louis XII had suffered there and to capture the duchy of Milan which he regarded as his inheritance. Although this ambition drew much of Europe against him, it became the fixed point of Francis I's foreign policy throughout his reign.
Initially, he enjoyed outstanding success. On September 14th, 1515, at the Battle of Marignano, Francis defeated a large Swiss army allied to the duke of Milan and so regained the duchy. He secured his prize by a concordat with Leo X and, later, by treaties with the Swiss, with Charles of Spain and with the Holy Roman Emperor, Maxmillian.
In England, all of this was watched with increasing unease. Henry VIII's accession in 1509 had generated the same kind of excitement as witnessed in France in 1515. The two kings did indeed have many personal similarities and rivalry between them was almost inevitable. Like Francis, Henry dreamed of martial glory and wanted to make a major impact on Europe. The young Tudor's great role-model was Henry V and he regarded northern France as his inheritance, rather in the way Francis saw Milan.
In 1513, Henry had invaded France in alliance with the pope, the emperor and the king of Spain. He had hoped for his own Agincourt but enjoyed rather more limited success. He won a cavalry skirmish called |the Battle of the Spurs' and captured the towns of Therouanne and Tournai. Nevertheless, these victories and the subsequent peace treaty with Louis XII, allowed Henry to feel that controlling France was a great way of demonstrating his own impressive royal power.
The French victory over the Swiss at Marignano did much the same thing for Francis. it also eclipsed anything which Henry VIII had accomplished in 1513 and both kings knew it. By 1517 Francis's various alliances had isolated England and he now wanted Tournai back. Henry was desperate to curb Francis' ambition but lacked the means to go to war directly. However, his great minister, Cardinal Wolsey, understood before the king did, that war was not the only way to assert one's international prominence.
Early in 1518 Wolsey persuaded Henry that by hijacking Pope Leo X's recently-announced plans for a truce between the European princes, he could make a virtue of his necessity and hopefully still get Francis back under control. And that is exactly what happened. In October 1518 the Treaty of London was...