Henry Had Military Ambitions above his Ability
Henry VII, as part of his policy of a âstrong and stable’ England, had tried to keep the costly business of warfare to a minimum. However, his son had his eye, not on peace but glory. Henry VIII wanted to be a warrior King in the mold of his namesake and predecessor Henry V and regain the English Crown’s lost French territories.
His chance came just two years after his ascension. The young King had already managed to jeopardize his father’s peace with France by signing a pact with Ferdinand of Aragon- Henry’s father in law and the French King Louis XII’s sworn enemy. However, the pope, Julius II was also distinctly anti-France and offered young Henry the chance to join his Holy League, regain some French land and cover himself in glory. Henry accepted. However, his military adventures did not allow him to shine in quite the way he planned.
Unlike Henry V, Henry VIII did not lead from the front. In fact, he very much stayed in the background. On June 30th, 1513, English troops finally invaded France after a lackluster start. The English won The Battle of the Spurs and followed this up by taking Tournai and Therouanne. Henry, however, could claim victory in name only. His advisers masterminded the military strategy- the same advisers who âpersuaded’ the young King not to lead his troops in person.
Meanwhile, at home, Queen Katherine was doing somewhat better as a general. Surprised by an opportunistic Scottish invasion, the Queen Regent acted decisively, deploying troops led by the Earl of Surrey to deal with the incursion. English troops decisively trounced the Scots at the Battle of Flodden. As a victory, Katherine’s achievement exceeded those of her husband in France.
After twenty years of relative peace, the aging King was given a second chance at military might when Charles V tempted Henry into another invasion of France. Boulogne was retaken- but by Henry’s friend, Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk- not Henry himself. The King was now so fat and infirm he could hardly walk let alone take to the field in battle. His last-ditch grab for glory only succeeded in provoking the French to attempt their unsuccessful invasion of England in 1545.