The Spanish Marriage

The Spanish Marriage

by Helen Simpson

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England in the early years of Henry VIII may be seen as a newly risen
power, with continental commitments; a rich country, thanks to the
economies of the King's father, and for this reason sought as an ally by
the more considerable States. Her traditional friendships were with Spain
and Portugal, her enmities with Scotland and France; of these latter,
Scotland, crushed by the victory of Flodden in 1513, gave little trouble
during Henry's reign.

The Empire was a sprawling net of territories that included Spain, the
Netherlands, Burgundy, Sicily, and Naples, with a host of small
principalities, electorates, and bishoprics in Central Europe, now
drawing together against the advancing menace of the Turk. These
territories encircled France, and perpetually threatened, according to
the temper of their masters, that compact kingdom. In 1521, Charles,
grandson of Ferdinand of Aragon, was elected to the imperial throne, and
thereby found himself heir to an alliance with England, together with a
considerable debt; Henry VIII had lent money to his wife's relatives for
wars in Barbary and for the quieting of the Low Countries. Charles was
prepared to accept and further this alliance, without any wish to add to
his responsibilities by conquest, and to pay the debt by any means which
did not involve the passing of money. The New World had not yet begun to
yield its treasures. The Emperor, for all his power, was poor.

France was ruled by a young man of great personal courage but indifferent
judgment, Francis I. He succeeded Louis XII, who had no children by his
marriage with Mary, a sister of Henry VIII. This marriage left no trace
in French history, and English history is concerned with it only because
Louis' death left his widow free to marry the Duke of Suffolk; from her
Jane Grey's claim to the English Crown derived. Francis, quarrelsome,
still had the wit to perceive that no country could deal successfully
with enemies attacking from all sides; and when Burgundy, Spain, Navarre
and the Netherlands came together under Charles, he attempted to shield
himself against invasion from the west by friendship with England. This
plan wrecked itself on the personality of Henry, jealous of the French
King's success in war--he had won Milan and Genoa at the age of
twenty--and inclined by tradition and family ties to side with the

The Pope from 1513 to 1521 was Leo X, a Medici, whose predecessors in
Florence France had, not long before, dispossessed. As a temporal
sovereign he was England's ally, and when his spiritual authority began
to be disputed he found English theology at his service. Luther's theses
on Predestination and the Sacraments were combated, the first by Erasmus,
the second by Henry, who gained thereby the title of Defender of the
Faith which has remained with the English Crown. Germany took the disease
of heresy first and badly; ten years of it threatened to split the
Empire. Persecutions had not been unknown hitherto in Europe, but as
printing and translation spread knowledge of the Bible, they multiplied.
The Reformation was a political force from its inception.

At the time Mary, Princess of England, was born her father was
twenty-five, Francis three years younger, and Charles a boy of sixteen,
not yet Emperor. The two former were near in temperament as in years,
warlike, absolute, and jealous. Charles physically was no match for
either; he was poor, prudent, and peaceful to hold his own, though he had
a heavy hand with rebellion. The approaches and withdrawals of these
three men, with the spiritual war in which according to temperament they
took sides, made twenty years of the history of Europe.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940013708730
Publisher: WDS Publishing
Publication date: 01/22/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 91 KB

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