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England and the Papacy of Alexander VI

Old London Bridge

Detail from Nicolaes (Claes) Jansz Visscher : Old London Bridge, 17th century painting


Historic Map English ChannelEngland's relations with the Holy See during the pontificate of Alexander VI

As Italy was then ruled by a patchwork of independent princes, dukes and barons nominally loyal to the pope as the premier "king" of Italy, the day-to-day relations between Henry VII and the pope were mostly confirmation of England's fealty and reverence to the Holy See. were minimal, but the existence thereof is highly telling of the prestige and power of the island kingdom.

The letter below illustrates how sovereigns would request papal blessing of the giving of bishoprics and filling of secular offices.

Sept. 6. Venetian Archives, Library.620.
Henry VII. to Pope Alexander VI.
Congratulates him on his election. Has charged the Bishop of Durham and John de Giglis, his ambassadors at Rome, whom he reconfirms in their office, to yield canonical obedience to his Holiness.
Requests the Cardinal of Sienna may be received as his and his kingdom's Protector.
Greenwich, 6th day of September 1492.
Signed: “Henricus R.”


From: 'Venice: 1491-1495', Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 1: 1202-1509 (1864), pp. 203-226. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=94100&strquery=alexander


The following letter shows the obedience to the papal office as protector and champion of Christendom -case in point - against the aggressions of the Turk. The Turkish Ottoman Empire was advancing rapidly and threatened even the very shores of the Venetian Republic. Although not to join a Crusade, the language used indicated that England's resources were available to help defend the Church:

Jan. 12. Venetian Archives, Library.635. Henry VII. to Pope Alexander VI.
A few days ago received letters from you, whereby we learnt the immense slaughter inflicted in Dalmatia and Croatia by the Turks, and the great danger in which that country and every neighbouring province, especially Italy, is placed. This intelligence was very distressing. We indeed hope that under your auspices mature deliberation will be had for the harassed Church and the whole Christian commonwealth; to which effect, although at a great distance and embarrassed by a variety of cares, you will always find us most ready according to our power, on account of our devotion to you.
From our palace of Windsor, 12th day of January 1493 [–4].
Signed: “Henricus R.”


From: 'Venice: 1491-1495', Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 1: 1202-1509 (1864), pp. 203-226. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=94100&strquery=alexander




Henry VII, King of England

Henry VII, King of England (born 1457, ruled 1485 to his death in 1509)



Westminster Abbey


Westminster Abbey, Henry VII chapel
Henry Tudor was born at Pembroke Castle, Wales 28 January 1457 to Edmund Tudor and Margaret Beaufort.

He was related to the royal house of Lancaster through his mother, a descendant of King Edward III's son John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster.

Henry Tudor took the throne at the defeat of King Richard III after the battle of Bosworth Field 22 August in 1485. His ascendancy put an end to the disastrous Wars of the Roses that had plagued England for generations.

He was a careful, able ruler and brought much needed stability to the realm.



Children of Henry Tudor:

Arthur, Prince of Wales (1486-1502)
Margaret, Queen of Scots (1489-1541)
Henry VIII of England (1491-1547)
Elizabeth Tudor (1492-1495)
Mary, Queen of France (1496-1533)
Edmund Tudor, Duke of Somerset (1499-1500)
Katherine Tudor (1503-1503)
Elizabeth of York

Elizabeth of York, Queen Consort of England (born 1465 died 1503)

Tomb of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York (Torrigiano 1512)

Tomb of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York (Torrigiano, 1512)
HENRY VII OF ENGLAND
King Henry VII of England
by George Stuart



Trade agreements and war diplomacy with Italy would have been between Florence, Venice, and Milan. The following is a letter to Ludovico Sforza from Henry VII stating his anti-French sentiments and preparations for hostilities that were a constant fact. Charles VIII's later invasion of Naples in 1494 spurred the Italians to form the 1495 "Holy League" (an alliance between England, the Empire, Spain, Milan, Venice, and the Pope):

Jan. 10. Sforza Archives, Milan.617. Henry VII. to the Lord Ludovic[o] Were we not of opinion that the intense ambition of the French, and their lust for extending their sway and conquering the dominions of others, is manifest to you, we should endeavour to demonstrate it at full length; but we consider the fact so evident that there is no need for farther statement: though, how much it is our interest and also of yours, and of the rest of the Christian sovereigns, especially those nearest at hand, to repress such great thirst and desire for domination, we leave to your judgment; for the French are so on the watch to increase their power by any villainy, and more and more so from day to day, that they may annihilate all neighbouring sovereigns to their own advantage; and, unless this insatiable covetousness be combatted, it is vastly to be feared that much mischief will result to the whole Christian commonwealth… If we wished, however, to give you examples nearer horn, or rather to recall [them] to your memory, [we might show] how perfidiously they circumvented and supplanted the princes of Savoy, [but] we think [that fact] can be no secret to any sovereign in Christendom—to such a degree does this insolent licentiousness spread itself and advance with impunity in every direction; and what mischief the French are machinating against us, or what snares they are laying, we pass over in silence, as not with words but by arms have we determined to avenge their injuries...For the rest, as in this present year, we are about to undertake a war against these French, together with our confederates the King of the Romans and the King and Queen of Spain, and to carry our banners against them in person, we pray your Highness, by that consanguinity and friendship whereby we are linked to your illustrious Duke, to adhere to us in this just and necessary war, and to assist us to the utmost, it being your interest to prevent a neighbouring enemy, so covetous of empire that the whole world would not suffice him, from becoming too strong; one, in short, who threatens the duchy of Milan no less than the other principalities of Christendom, and lays claim to that identical duchy for the Duke of Orleans. From our palace of Shene, 10th day of January 1491 [—2]. From: 'Venice: 1491-1495', Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 1: 1202-1509 (1864), pp. 203-226. URL:
http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=94100&strquery=alexander


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