The Prelude to War

Treaties and Allegiances

The Treaty of Perpetual Peace (1502)

The reign of Henry VII was characterised by peaceful relations with both Scotland and Europe. The ‘Treaty of Perpetual Peace’ between the English and Scottish crowns in 1502 was the first attempt to end the conflict between the two nations for over 170 years, ushering in a new period of peace that would bring calm and safety to the English and Scottish border regions. The treaty was sealed by the marriage of Henry’s 14 year old daughter, Margaret Tudor, to the 30 year old King James IV of Scotland.

As part of the marriage contract a dowry was promised to James IV but was never paid. After Henry’s death this became a bone of contention between the new King Henry VIII and James IV.

The League of Cambrai (1508-1510)

King Louis XII of France came to the French throne when his cousin Charles VIII died childless. Although untrained to the task, Louis was a vigorous and active monarch who reformed many laws. In 1499 Louis started a series of wars in northern Italy to enlarge his holdings and wealth in that area, gaining control of Milan and Naples. Louis then turned his attention on Venice, a major force in the Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas, and was joined in alliance by Spain and the Vatican. The ‘Warrior Pope’ Julius II felt that the influence of Venice was too great. The Venetian army was repeatedly defeated and mostly destroyed. The League disintegrated when Pope Julius II saw that France was gaining too much power for itself. He changed sides, forming a new alliance against France.

The Holy League (1511-1513)

Pope Julius II’s new alliance included Venice, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and England. Henry took little action during 1511 and 1512 and finally invaded northern France in June 1513. This action was nothing more than a cynical attempt to improve the English Crown’s traditional land holdings around Calais and Boulogne.

The Auld Alliance (1513)

The traditional ‘Auld Alliance’ between France and Scotland, of mutual support against England as an aggressor, had been partially nullified by the Treaty of Perpetual Peace. In the face of Henry VIII’s aggression in France, however, the French began to refresh the Auld Alliance early in 1513. New arrangements for mutual support against England were underwritten by an exchange of money, arms and military advisors from France, and by the Scots’ loan of the Great Michael, the largest warship of its day, to the French navy. When Henry invaded France in the summer of 1513, the Scots had two treaties to consider. On one hand they were bound to perpetual peace with England by the treaty of 1502 but on the other they had new agreements of mutual aid with France. The French were in no doubt that the Scots had to come to their aid. Henry VIII seemed ambivalent, not caring which treaty the Scots chose to honour.