Henry VIII, the Reign
Charles is Elected Holy Roman Emperor – Expanded Habsburg Empire Encloses France – Strategic Importance of the English Channel – Field of the Cloth of Gold
Following the death of Maximilian, elections were arranged for a new emperor. Henry VIII was a late entrant but notwithstanding the two favourites were Charles and Francis. Bribes and promises were made to the electors, and on 28 June 1519, Charles won and replaced his grandfather as Holy Roman Emperor.
Charles was already in possession of Spain, but his election brought him vast additional territories that all but surrounded France.
Protocol and tradition demanded a German coronation ceremony was required to be performed at the Palatine Chapel in the Imperial free city of Aachen. Charles, of course, was in Spain, and safe passage between the two countries, as when he had arrived in 1517, required peace.
For this peace, Charles relied on Wolsey’s Treaty of London and its guarantees, which had held since 1518. The treaty obliged the contracting parties not to attack one another and, accordingly, it committed all to come to the aid of any that suffered an attack. Wolsey invited Charles to visit England on his journey by ship to the Low Countries. It was an ostentatious invitation and was heralded as an honour to England to be the first country to host the new emperor. Wolsey’s original proposal was for Charles to land at Southampton.
At the same time, the cardinal organised a spectacular meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I at a venue just outside Calais between Guînes and Ardres; the meeting is known to history as the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
Wolsey readied to posture as papa over the three young monarchs: Charles, Francis and Henry.
Charles reappointed Adrian, the future Pope Adrian VI, as regent in Spain. The weather, however, delayed Charles’s sea journey. He was stuck at Corunna for nearly a month. Eventually, late on 26 May 1520, he neared the English coast. He was met offshore by Wolsey, not at Southampton but at Dover.
Charles witnessed the vast and busy English fleet in the Channel, going back and forth from Calais ferrying thousands of dignitaries, their servants and any amount of equipment in preparation for the Field of the Cloth of Gold. This was a demonstration of English naval prowess staged to impress Charles as much as it was Francis.
Henry met Charles at Dover Castle that night. The emperor stayed for three days with Henry and Catherine at Canterbury; he then sailed to Flushing, and Henry crossed to Calais on 31 May 1520 to meet Francis.
After the Field of the Cloth of Gold, Wolsey and Henry reunited for another interview with Charles on the border between Calais and Gravelines.
Supplement to Part 8 – The Importance of the Sea
The Empire on Which the Sun Never Sets was a term applied originally, not to the British Empire but the territories of Charles V, King of Spain, Holy Roman Emperor and various other titles.
From the fruits of medieval matrimonial unions, his empire was conceived.
Charles, born in the Netherlands to a Habsburg father and a Trastámara mother was educated there by Adrian of Utrecht, his future emissary, regent in Spain and later Pope Adrian VI.
When he came of age in 1515, Charles took up responsibilities from his aunt, Margaret, as Regent of the Netherlands on behalf of his paternal grandfather, Holy Roman Emperor, Maximillian.
In 1516 his paternal grandfather Ferdinand II died and because his mother was infirmed Charles became King of Spain. He departed the Netherlands to live in his new kingdom, at Toledo, arriving in September 1517.
In early 1519 the last of the ‘old guard’, Maximillian died following which Charles became King of the Germans and later he was elected Holy Roman Emperor, vastly increasing is domains.
Because of Charles’ ascendancy King Francis of France, Charles bitter rival and enemy, found himself all but encircled by Habsburg lands to the north, south, east and the sea to the west. This new order presented a geographical concern for Francis, but it also posed Charles with problems.
France separated the Holy Roman Emperor's new domains, and therefore a journey from Spain to Germany was hazardous. There were two routes; The first by sea, with a threat from both France and Islamic forces in the Mediterranean to northern Italy and then by land over the Alps followed by a long trip overland to Aachen.
The second by sea, under the protection of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey’s 1518 Treaty of London, sailing east along the English Channel and through Strait of Dover to Flushing in the Netherlands followed by a relatively short overland journey.
The cardinal exploited the second.
The Strait if Dover, the English Channel and the Papacy
The history of England and latterly the United Kingdom has been influenced beyond measure by a narrow, eighteen nautical miles wide, stretch of water.
The ‘narrow sea’ between England and France, known by various names throughout history but in modern times called the Strait of Dover is the narrowest point of the English Channel which links the Atlantic Ocean to the North Sea and the numerous ports of the Netherlands, Germany and beyond.
From the Roman conquest to the Battle of Britain, the Channel Tunnel, Vaseline coated swimmers and all, its relevance is world renowned. Cardinal Thomas Wolsey well knew its importance during the reign of Henry VIII, and he used that to drive a bargain.
The bargain was quite a straightforward arrangement:
The deal was that if Wolsey secured Charles’ safe passage home, under the protection of the English navy, through the Strait of Dover, the English Channel and on to Spain then, in return, Charles would make Wolsey, the next pope.
Notes and Links Part 8
Preparations for journey to Netherlands via England LP 728
Francis I Arrangements made for his meeting with Henry VIII -Field of Cloth of Gold. LP No 702
List of Noblemen and Others - Field of Cloth of Gold LP No 703
A memorial of things necessary for the transporting of the King - Field of Cloth of Gold. LP No 704.
Embarkation at Dover Image