Tudor England's Relations with Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and the Low Countries

Tudor England’s Relations with Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and the Low CountriesCoat of arms of the House of Habsburg

Adams, Simon (University of Strathclyde)

State Papers Online: The Government of Britain, 1509-1714 (2008)


The expansion and then fragmentation of the Habsburg domains during the sixteenth century presented English diplomacy with its greatest challenges. The union of the Netherlands, the Spanish kingdoms and the Holy Roman Empire in the ‘empire’ of Charles V in the years leading up to 1519 created a bloc that included England’s major trading partners. The difficulties were compounded when Henry VIII decided to terminate his Elizabeth Imarriage to the Emperor’s aunt, Catherine of Aragon. Thanks to Charles V’s abdication in 1556 and the partition of his empire between his son Philip and his brother the Emperor Ferdinand I, Elizabeth I faced a novel situation on her accession. The future of Anglo-Habsburg relations was then transformed by the revolt of the Netherlands, which became the central foreign policy issue she faced in the last thirty years of her reign.

In 1519 England had established commercial relationships with two of Charles V’s domains. One was the Hanseatic League of North German ports, whose privileged and controversial trading position in England had been established by the treaty of Utrecht with Edward IV in 1474. The other was the Netherlands.

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