An Expedition to Aquitaine, 1512

Guienne and Gascony were lost to the English Crown in 1453. General Sir James Marshall-Cornwall describes how Henry VIII had ambitions to regain them.

When Henry VIII succeeded his father in April 1509 he was under eighteen years of age. The handsome young King was a keen horseman, fond of hunting and skilled at archery and jousting. Gifted with a shrewd mind, he was highly educated and had a talent for music.

Endowed with these qualities and tastes, Henry was extremely ambitious, his first aim being to establish his country as a leading power in Europe. At the time of his accession, the balance of European power was rocked by the rivalry between the Austrian Maximilian I, who had become Holy Roman Emperor in 1493, and Louis XII, who had succeeded to the throne of France in 1498.

In October 1511, Maximilian strengthened his strategic position by forming an alliance with that astute monarch Ferdinand II of Aragon (14521516), thus confronting the French King with a hostile combination on both his Flemish and Pyrenean frontiers. This alliance, known as the ‘Holy League’, was intended to curb the growing power of France and to protect the Papal States from Louis’s incursions.

A month later, no doubt with the help of Thomas Wolsey, Henry’s spiritual and temporal adviser, Ferdinand persuaded the English monarch to join the Holy League. It was an appropriate accession to the alliance, for Ferdinand was Henry’s father-in-law, but he had deeper motives than family ones for enlisting English military support.

Ferdinand, or Hernando, of Aragon was a contemporary of Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), but needed no tuition from that exponent of subtle and unscrupulous statecraft. Besides his own heritages of Aragon and the neighbouring provinces bordering the Mediterranean, through his marriage in 1469 with Queen Isabella of Castile, Ferdinand had acquired joint dominion over all western Spain, including the provinces of Galicia, Asturias, Leon, Castile and Andalucia.

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