England & France sign treaty of Westminster


England & France sign treaty of Westminster

Westminster, London The 30th of April 1527 AD

It is tempting to see the politics of this era in Europe as the story of its greatest figures: Charles V, Francis I, Henry VIII , and Pope Clement. The Treaty of Westminster falls fairly neatly into that conceit, its meaning dependent on the viewpoint of whichever of the first three of that list you choose.

In 1520 Henry and Francis had met at the Field of the Cloth of Gold outside Calais, where much to his chagrin Henry was out wrestled by the lighter Francis. They reached an understanding however, though the following year Henry signed a treaty with Charles. In 1525 Francis was captured at the battle of Pavia by Charles’s forces, and only released on exacting terms. Typically, once released Francis immediately began organising against Charles who had just let him go, breaking his agreement in a trice.

The League of Cognac was formed by Francis in 1526, gathering together against the Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Papal States, Milan, France, Venice and Florence. Francis wanted revenge on Charles, and to recover some power over Italy; Henry wanted to combat Charles too, and needed allies to support him in his future divorce from Catherine of Aragon , but he shied away from formal involvement in the League. The Pope, Milan and Venice wanted to secure a degree of independence from the powerful Charles.

The treaty of Westminster, negotiated for Henry by Wolsey , was the formal acknowledgment that Francis and Henry had a shared goal, to reduce Charles’s power, particularly after the spectacular demonstration of his strength when his army sacked Rome. Princess Mary was used as a bargaining chip in the discussions, to be betrothed to Francis – she had previously been betrothed to his son the dauphin – or indeed to his second son the Duke of Orleans if it should prove more convenient.

The following year Francis and Henry declared war on Charles, but economic unrest put an end to the English involvement in a war of aggression. In 1529 Charles and Francis reached an accord at Cambrai. The dance carried on, partners changing at regular intervals.

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