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- England Under the Tudors - 5/90 -
of Duke Charles the Bold and sister of Edward IV., was implacably hostile to Henry, and her court was the gathering place of dissatisfied Yorkist intriguers. Within his realms, Ireland, where the House of York had always been popular, offered a perpetual field in which to raise the standard of rebellion, any excuse for getting up a fight being generally welcomed. In that country the power of the King's government, such as it was, was practically confined to the limits of the Pale--and within those limits depended mainly on the attitude of the powerful Irish noble, Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare, who held the office of Deputy.
[Sidenote: 1487 Lambert Simnel]
At the close of the fifteenth century accurate information did not travel rapidly, but vague rumours were readily spread abroad. Rumours were now rife that one of the princes murdered by Richard III. had really escaped and was still living; and on the other hand that the boy Warwick was dead in the Tower. Some one devised the idea of producing a fictitious Richard of York, or Warwick. A boy of humble birth named Lambert Simnel was taught to play the part, carried over to Ireland, and produced after some hesitation as the Earl of Warwick. Presumably the leaders of the Yorkists intended to use the supposititious earl only until the real one could be got into their hands; but Lincoln, who certainly knew the facts, espoused the cause of the pretender, in complicity with Lovel and Margaret of Burgundy. In Ireland, Simnel was cheerfully and with practical unanimity accepted as the king, and a band of German mercenaries, under the command of Martin Swart, was landed in that country to support him; though in London the genuine Warwick was paraded through the streets to show that he was really there alive. Lincoln, who had first escaped to Flanders, joined the pretender; they landed in Lancashire in June. Within a fortnight, however, the opposing forces met at Stoke, and after a brief but fierce conflict the rebel army, mainly composed of Irish and of German mercenaries, was crushed, Lincoln and several leaders were slain, and their puppet was taken captive. Henry's action was the reverse of vindictive, for Simnel was merely relegated to a position, appropriate to his origin, in the royal kitchen, and was subsequently promoted to be one of the King's falconers. Kildare, [Footnote: The narrative in the _Book of Howth_ gives the impression that Kildare was at Stoke, and was made prisoner; but this is probably a misinterpretation arising from a lack of dates.] in spite of his undoubted complicity in the rebellion and the actual participation therein of his kinsmen, was even retained in the office of Deputy. Twenty-eight of the rebels, however, were attainted in the new Parliament which was summoned in November, the Queen's long-deferred coronation taking place at the same time.
The same Parliament is noteworthy as having given a definitely legal status to the judicial authority of the Council by the establishment of the Court thereafter known as the Star Chamber, of which we shall hear later. Besides this, however, it had the duty of voting supplies for embroilments threatening on the Continent.
The complexities of foreign affairs form so important a feature in the history of the next forty years that it is important to open the study of the period with a clear idea of the position of the Continental powers.
[Sidenote: The state of Europe]
Lewis XI., the craftiest of kings, had died in 1482, leaving a tolerably organised kingdom to his young son Charles VIII., under the regency of Anne of Beaujeu. With the exception of the Dukedom of Brittany, which still claimed a degree of independence, and of Flanders and Artois which, though fiefs of France, were still ruled by the House of Burgundy, the whole country was under the royal dominion; which had also absorbed the Duchy of Burgundy proper. The daughter of Charles the Bold, wife of Maximilian of Austria, inherited as a diminished domain the Low Countries and the County of Burgundy or Franche Comté.
East of the Rhine, the kingdoms, principalities, and dukedoms of Germany owned the somewhat vague authority of the Habsburg Emperor Frederick, but the idea of German Unity had not yet come into being. On the south-east the Turks who had captured Constantinople some thirty years before (1453) were a militant and aggressive danger to the Empire and to Christendom; while the stoutest opponent of their fleets was Venice. Switzerland was an independent confederacy of republican States: Italy a collection of separate States--dukedoms such as Milan, kingdoms such as Naples, Republics such as Venice and Florence, with the Papal dominions in their midst. In the Spanish peninsula were the five kingdoms of Navarre, Portugal, the Moorish Granada, Aragon, and Castile. The last two, however, were already united, though not yet merged into one, by the marriage of their respective sovereigns Ferdinand and Isabella. Sardinia and Sicily were attached to Aragon.
Finally we have to note that Maximilian, son of the Emperor, had married Mary of Burgundy; but on Mary's death the Netherlanders recognised as their Duke not Maximilian but his young son Philip--the father exercising only a very precarious authority as the boy's guardian; while the Dowager Margaret, the second wife of Charles the Bold, the lady whose hostility to the House of Lancaster has been already noted, possessed some dower-towns, and considerable influence. In 1486 Maximilian was elected "King of the Romans," in other words his father's presumed successor as Emperor.
[Sidenote: France and Brittany]
For the time, then, the consolidation of France was more advanced than that of any other Power; her desire was to complete the process by the absorption of Brittany. Spain, i.e., Castile and Aragon, had made considerable progress in the same direction, but for her the conquest of Granada was still the prime necessity.
The absorption of Brittany, however, was opposed alike to the interests of Maximilian, of the Spanish monarchs, and of England. To the former two, any further acquisition of power by France was a possible menace. To the last, France was traditionally the enemy, and if Breton ports became French ports, the strength of France in the Channel would be almost doubled. Henry personally was under great obligations both to France and to Brittany, especially to France; but political exigencies evidently compelled him to favour the maintenance of Breton independence.
During 1487 France had been carrying on active hostilities in Brittany, but the results had been small and a treaty had been signed. Lewis, Duke of Orleans, and others of the French nobility who were hostile to the regency of Anne of Beaujeu, were actively promoting the Breton cause within the dukedom; there was no longer an active French party there; and now that Henry in England had suppressed the Simnel rising France became anxious to secure English neutrality. But, if Henry could not keep clear of the complication altogether; if once the parties in the contest began appealing to him; he was liable to find himself forced to take part with one side or the other. Hence the necessity for calling upon Parliament to vote money for armaments.
[Sidenote: 1488 Henry intervenes cautiously]
Thus in the opening months of 1488 we find Henry on the one hand fitting out ships, and on the other offering friendly mediation both to France and to Brittany: while his policy was not simplified by the unauthorised interposition of his queen's uncle Edward Woodville, who secretly sailed with a band of adventurers to support the Bretons. Henry repudiated Woodville's action, and extended the existing treaty of peace with France to January, 1490. In the same month (July, 1488) the Bretons suffered a complete defeat, and the Duke was obliged to sign a treaty on ignominious terms. Within a fortnight, however, the Duke was dead, and his daughter Anne, a girl of twelve, succeeded him.
The result was the renewal of war; since Anne of Beaujeu and the Breton Marshal de Rieux both claimed the wardship of the young Duchess, for whose hand the widower Maximilian was already a prominent suitor. Now up to this point Henry had refused to adopt a hostile attitude towards France, and had treated overtures from Maximilian with frigidity. But in six months' time he was concluding alliances both with Brittany and with Maximilian.
[Sidenote: England and Spain]
The determining factor in this change of attitude, practically involving a French war, is probably to be found in Henry's relations with Spain. It was of vital importance to him to get his dynasty recognised in an emphatic form by foreign Powers. In Spain under its very able rulers he saw the most valuable of allies, and during the first half of 1488 he had made it his primary concern to procure the betrothal of his own infant son Arthur to their infant daughter Katharine. And virtually his hostility to France was the price they demanded. The preliminaries were settled in July, 1488; the treaty was not definitively signed till March of the next year; and as the essential nature of the Spanish requirements became more apparent, Henry found himself compelled to accept active antagonism to France as part of the bargain. With his subjects, a French war was always secure of a certain popularity, though the provision of funds for it would entail a degree of opposition. Moreover, though foreign wars might give extreme malcontents their opportunity, it is a commonplace of politics that they distract attention from domestic grievances. Thus it is easy to perceive how the benefits of the Spanish alliance would very definitely turn the scale. And we shall still find that Henry had no intention of expending an ounce of either blood or treasure which might be saved consistently with the ostensible fulfilment of the Spanish Compact.
[Sidenote 1: 1489 Preparations for war with France] [Sidenote 2: Spanish treaty of Medina del Campo]
So in December, 1488, Henry was sending friendly embassies to all the Powers, but while that to France was merely offering mediation, the envoy to Brittany was offering military assistance--on terms. In January a new Parliament was asked for, and after considerable debate granted, £100,000. In February the embassy to Maximilian concluded an alliance for mutual defence; while that to Brittany pledged Henry to defend the young Duchess, but exacted in return the occupation by the English of sundry military positions in the duchy, and the right to forbid any marriage or alliance except with Maximilian or Spain. Then in March the Spanish treaty was completed: whereof the terms were very significant. The children were to be betrothed. If Spain declared war on France, England was to support her. Spain might retire independently if she recovered the small districts of Roussillon and Cerdagne, which had been surrendered (though only in pledge) to Lewis XI.; England might similarly withdraw if she got back Guienne--a very much more visionary prospect. Otherwise, one was not to retire without the other being equally satisfied. If England attacked France, Spain was to help; but occupied as she was with Granada the amount of aid likely to be forthcoming was problematical. In brief, Henry was prepared to pay for the marriage, and Spain could exact a high price.
France then was occupied in the west with the contest in Brittany, and in the north she was supporting the Flemings in their normal resistance to Maximilian. The English could use Calais as a base for operations on this side, and also began to throw troops into Brittany. Incidentally there was a rising in the north of England headed by Sir John Egremont, of which the pretext was resistance to the levying of taxes; this, however, did not take very long to suppress, nor was any one of importance involved in it. Still the hostilities with France were carried on in a very half-hearted fashion; being confined to defensive operations in Brittany which were supposed to be no violation of the peace recently prolonged to January, 1490.
[Sidenote: The allies inert]
Henry was satisfied to make a show of fighting, and Spain made no haste to help him, England not being formally at war. As early as July, Maximilian,
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