Henry VIII’s Scottish Aggression: The Rough Wooing

Siobhan Ralfe

Henry VIII has his place in history as a tyrant, dangerous and unpredictable

Henry VIII has his place in history as a tyrant, dangerous and unpredictable, and hell-bent on consolidating Tudor power. The Anglo-Scottish relationship had always been a fragile one and positive actions could be quickly undone. His own sister, Margaret Tudor, had been married off to James IV of Scotland as part of the Treaty of Perpetual Peace (1502) with Henry VII. This peace was short-lived however. In 1513, James declared war on England, now in the hands of Henry VIII and at war with France, due to the Franco-Scottish Auld Alliance. James was subsequently killed at the Battle of Flodden in the same year and the peace by this point was well and truly shattered. Thirty years later, Henry was still battling with Scotland, in the hopes to bring it under his control within one bloodline. When James V was killed at the Battle of Solway Moss in 1542, he left behind his 9-day old daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots and Henry saw this as his perfect opportunity. The Treaty of Greenwich was therefore created and signed by James Hamilton, Earl of Arran and now Regent of Scotland. Arran himself was power-hungry and he flitted between England and France continuously during his regency. In exchange for marrying the infant queen to Henry’s son, the future Edward VI, and peace between the two nations, Greenwich promised the marriage of Arran’s son to Henry’s daughter Elizabeth. However, the Treaty of Greenwich was rejected, both by the Scottish lords and Arran himself turning to France. It was the failure of this treaty that led to the Rough Wooing, a series of invasions and attacks led by Henry VIII and Edward Seymour. Such violence lasted nine years and continued until French intervention removed Mary, and therefore Scotland, from the scene of appropriation.
Henry VIII’s Scottish Aggression: The Rough Wooing
King Henry VIII

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Henry VIII’s Scottish Aggression: The Rough Wooing
Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset

Despite Henry’s death in 1547, the Rough Wooing continued

Despite Henry’s death in 1547, the Rough Wooing continued through Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, in the name of England’s new King, Edward VI. Under Seymour’s leadership, the English continued their destruction and occupation of much of southern Scotland, particularly after the Battle of Pinkie (1547), which saw the capture and deaths of around 8,000 Scots, compared to only a few hundred English men. By this point, Scotland were in desperate need of help and so turned back to their old allies, France, and renewed the Auld Alliance with the Treaty of Haddington. By January 1548, the Treaty of Haddington was signed; Mary would be removed to France, raised there, with the intention to marry the Dauphin and Scotland would receive French support. This treaty was very agreeable in comparison to Greenwich and the ensuing violence. Unlike Henry and Somerset, Henri II made no violent encroachment on Scottish land and there was no threat of the kidnap of a monarch. Instead, France offered to defend Scotland in exchange for the young Queen, who herself would be protected. This had been a major concern during the Rough Wooing, clear from the fact that Mary was constantly moved around to avoid English invasion, to Dunkeld in 1544 and then to Inchmahome in September. Upon being removed to France in July 1548, the Scottish had achieved two things for their monarch. The first, her safety, thus securing their own, and secondly a dynastic marriage, with agreeable terms which could secure the Stewart line. The Rough Wooing continued until 1551, but with little use. Mary, the ultimate way to gain the Scottish crown, had been far removed from reach and instead England was now battling Scotland and France with no clear desired outcome. The Treaty of Norham was signed in 1551, calling for peace, returning of hostages and any lands returned to the pre-war owners. For Scotland and France, the outcome was a success – Mary was safe and secured, Scotland was no longer at war, and France had just gained a good footing into Scottish power. This intervention of France would be much disputed later on and was a source of irritation for many later in Mary’s reign, with the sentiment being that France had just a little too much influence over the crown. For England, very little if anything had been gained from this period. It was just one of many Anglo-Scottish disputes, although it would be the last major conflict before James VI united the two nations in 1603.
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Henry VIII’s Scottish Aggression: The Rough Wooing

Siobhan Ralfe

Hi I’m Siobhan! I graduated from the University of Essex back in 2018 after doing both my BA & MA in History. My main focus is female power, particularly looking at royal women in the Tudor & Stuart courts – both of my degrees focused on Mary, Queen of Scots! Since graduating, I’ve been lucky enough to travel for a living and love exploring new places and cultures. I’m hoping to return to university in 2023, but in the meantime you can keep up with me on Instagram.
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