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- England Under the Tudors - 6/90 -
shiftiest and most impecunious of princes, concluded at Frankfort an independent treaty with France; who agreed to give up the places she occupied in Brittany if Henry were compelled to withdraw his garrisons; while there were signs that she might cede Roussillon and thus deprive Henry of his claim to Spanish support. Within the duchy itself, the Marshal de Rieux and his ward were in a state of antagonism; since he wished her to marry the Sieur D'Albret, a powerful Gascon noble who was not too submissive to the French monarchy; while the Duchess declared she would rather enter a convent. Anne at last announced her adhesion to the treaty of Frankfort; but as Henry had no intention of evacuating his forts, nothing particular resulted. The English King could not afford simply to drop the contest, and when the New Year came in, he demanded and obtained from Parliament fresh supplies for carrying on the war.
[Sidenote: 1490 Object of Henry's foreign policy]
The game Henry had to play in 1490 was a sufficiently difficult one: and he played it with consummate skill. He meant to hold his position in Brittany until he received adequate indemnities; he had to satisfy his own subjects that he was not going to draw back before the power of France; and he had to carry out the letter of his obligations to Spain under the treaty of the previous March, On the other hand, he had in fact no ambitious military projects, and while Spain abstained from sending active assistance in force, she could not complain if he merely stood on the defensive. The Duchess, finding herself no better off for accepting the Frankfort treaty, adopted the alternative policy of throwing herself on his protection. So he welcomed a mediatorial embassy from the Pope and showed no unwillingness to negotiate, but continued to strengthen his own position; while he could exhibit a sound reason for abstaining from aggressive action and still accumulate war-funds.
By Midsummer France had enlarged her demands since the treaty of Frankfort, requiring the withdrawal of the English from Brittany as a preliminary not to her own withdrawal but to arbitration on her claims. In September the shifty King of the Romans reverted to an alliance with Henry for mutual defence; and the scheme of his marriage with the Duchess Anne was pressed on. Marshal de Rieux had by this time become reconciled to the Duchess, thrown over D'Albret, and come into agreement with Henry. At this time, moreover, Henry ratified publicly the Spanish treaty which had been accepted by Ferdinand and Isabella eighteen months before; but he also submitted an alternative treaty [Footnote: Busch, _England under the Tudors_. pp. 59, 330; and Gairdner's note, p. 438.] (which Spain rejected) modifying the portions which placed the contracting Powers on an unequal footing. By this step he forced the Spanish monarchs to resign any pretence of having treated him generously or having placed him under an obligation; and the step itself was significant of the increased confidence he had acquired in the stability of his own position. In December Maximilian was married by proxy to Anne--whom he had never seen--and not long afterwards she assumed the style of Queen of the Romans.
[Sidenote: Apparent defeat of Henry's policy]
Ostensibly, the object of Henry's diplomacy had failed. Spain had rejected his proposals: and the direct results of Anne's marriage were that the activity of France was renewed; Spain, with the pretext of the Moorish war to plead, was less inclined than ever to render assistance; Maximilian as a matter of course proved a broken reed; D'Albret, his pretensions being finally shattered, surrendered Nantes to the French by arrangement. England was apparently to bear the entire brunt of the war. Henry was justified in appealing to his subjects for every penny that could be raised, and resorted to "benevolences"--an insidious method of extortion which had been declared illegal in the previous reign, but under the existing abnormal conditions could hardly be resisted. A great demonstration of warlike ardour was made, on the strength of which Spain was urged to pledge herself to throw herself into the war next year with more energy and on more reasonable terms than the existing treaty of Medina del Campo provided for. But in the meantime the French were reducing Brittany, and held the Duchess besieged in Rennes. The French King, Charles VIII., proposed that the marriage with a husband whom she had never seen should be annulled, and the dispute be terminated by his wedding her himself. Resistance seemed hopeless; Anne assented; the necessary dispensations were secured from Rome, and Anne of Brittany became Queen of France.
[Sidenote: 1492 Henry's bellicose attitude]
Now the defence of Brittany had been the primary ground of England's quarrel with the French; with Henry himself, however, this object had been secondary to the matrimonial alliance with Spain, from which the latter was now not likely to withdraw. Henry, moreover, had made use of the whole affair to acquire a full money-chest; and since it was of vital importance that this should be done without turning his subjects against him, it had been necessary to lend the war as popular a colour as possible. Hence it was part of his policy to emphasise at home as his ultimate end the recovery of the English rights in the French Crown, so successfully utilised by his predecessor Henry V. in the first quarter of the century. It would have been manifestly dangerous for him in establishing his dynasty to recede from a claim which both Yorkists and Lancastrians had maintained. Incidentally also, there was the matter of indemnities owing to him by Anne of Brittany for which Maximilian had been made responsible.
[Sidenote 1: France makes peace] [Sidenote 2: Treaty of Etaples (Dec.)]
Since then it was impracticable simply to retire, the alternative course was to demonstrate; and Henry spent the greater part of 1492 in making the greatest possible display of preparation for war on a great scale--with a view to obtaining satisfying terms of peace. The one real piece of military work taken in hand was the siege and capture of Sluys in Flanders (in conjunction with Albert of Saxony, on behalf of Maximilian); from which port much injury of a piratical order had been wrought upon English merchants. Meantime negotiations had been carried on, but with no appearance of success. At last in October the King actually crossed the Channel to take command of the army of invasion; and sat down before Boulogne. Then on a sudden the air cleared. Charles in fact did not want a serious English war, out of which he could make nothing. But he had developed a very keen ambition to enter Italy and win the Crown of Naples. Henry by himself, or even in conjunction with the much offended Maximilian, was hardly likely to penetrate very far into France, if the forces of that kingdom were arrayed against him; but while he threatened, Charles could not move on Italy; moreover, his presence was an encouragement to those of the nobility whose allegiance was doubtful. So the French King resolved to buy off the English King at his own price. Lewis XI., threatened by Edward IV., had agreed to pay what Edward called a tribute, in return for which he held his claim to the French throne in abeyance. Henry need have no qualms about following his Yorkist predecessor's example. Beyond that, Charles was prepared to pay off the Brittany indemnities. Thus Henry secured Peace with Honour and a solid cash equivalent for his expenditure; besides being able to silence the complaints of the warlike by emphasising the gravity of embarking on a great campaign with winter coming on. He threw over Maximilian, but the faithlessness of the King of the Romans was so palpable and notorious that at the worst Henry was only paying him back in his own coin. As to Spain, Henry knew that the monarchs had been endeavouring to negotiate a separate peace, and they had never carried out their part of the contract. So far as he was breaking engagements with his allies, their own conduct had given him ample warrant. The event had justified Henry's management of a very difficult situation. The Peace of Etaples was ratified in December; and Henry emerged from the war with England's continental prestige restored to a respectable position, a full treasury, and his throne in England infinitely more secure than it had been three years before. He was never again driven to enter upon a foreign war; and now the appearance of Perkin Warbeck on the scene, though it kept England in a state of uneasiness for some years, was incomparably less dangerous than it would have proved at an earlier stage.
HENRY VII (ii), 1492-99--PERKIN WARBECK
[Sidenote: Ireland, 1485]
Before entering upon the career of Perkin Warbeck, we must give somewhat closer attention to the affairs of the sister island, to which reference has already been made in connexion with the Simnel revolt. Ireland had never been really brought under English dominion. Within the district known as the English Pale, there was some sort of control, extending even less effectively over the province of Leinster, and beyond that practically ceasing altogether, except in a few coast towns; the Norman barons who had settled there having so to speak turned Irish, and even in some cases having translated their names into Celtic forms. The most powerful of the nobles at this time were the Geraldines, at whose head were the Earls of Kildare and of Desmond, and the Butlers whose chief was the Earl of Ormonde. But the primacy belonged to Kildare, who moreover had stood high in favour with the House of York. It had been the practice for the English kings to appoint a nominal absentee governor, whose functions were discharged by a Deputy; and Kildare was Deputy under both Edward IV. and Richard.
[Sidenote: 1487-92 The Earl of Kildare]
Henry, on his accession, had seen that the one chance of keeping the country in any degree quiet lay in securing Kildare's allegiance and support; and proposals for his continuation in the office of Deputy had been under discussion when Lambert Simnel was hailed as King and crowned, with the open support not only of Kildare but of nearly all the barons and bishops. It did not suit Henry's policy to attempt punishment under these conditions; he preferred conciliation; and after Stoke, Kildare was retained as Deputy, when he and Simuel's principal adherents had sworn loyalty. In 1490 Henry had found it necessary to reprimand Kildare for sundry breaches of the law, commanding his presence in England within ten months. Kildare made no move, but at the end of the ten months wrote to say that he could not possibly come over, as the state of the country made his presence there imperative. The letter was written in the name of the Council, and signed by fifteen of its members. This was backed by another letter from Desmond and other nobles in the south-west, declaring that they had persuaded the Deputy that the peace of Ireland quite forbade his departure.
Probably it was much about this period--that is, some time in 1491--that a new claimant to Henry's throne (Perkin Warbeck) appeared in the south-west of Ireland, declaring himself to be that Richard Duke of York who was reported to have been murdered in the Tower along with his brother Edward V. Desmond espoused his cause, while Kildare and others coquetted with him. Agents from Desmond and the pretender visited the court of the young King of Scots James IV., in March, 1492, and in the summer Charles VIII., whose territories Henry was then ostentatiously preparing to invade, invited the young man over to France where he was received as the rightful King of England. The conclusion of peace, however, at the end of the year, made it necessary for the French King to withdraw his countenance from Henry's enemies; and the pretender retired to the congenial atmosphere of the court of Margaret of Burgundy. In the meantime Kildare, whose complicity with Desmond it had become impossible entirely to ignore, had been deprived of his office, and a new Deputy appointed.
[Sidenote 1: 1491 Perkin Warbeck's appearance] [Sidenote 2: Riddle of his imposture]
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