The smouldering fire

The treaties and allegiances of Europe provided the framework in which Kings and Nation States dealt with each other, making decisions about war and peace, trade and commerce. Yet it was the smouldering relationship between James IV and Henry VIII which lit the fires of discontent between the two nations in the early 16th Century. James IV was no stranger to conflict on the English border, having supervised previous sieges of Border castles such as Norham in 1496/7. Following the treaty of Perpetual Peace, these activities were reduced from the level of national endeavours to local squabbles.

James IV was a monarch of considerable standing in Europe. His profile was greater than that justified by the size and wealth of his nation. In Henry VII, James had found an equal south of the border, a king who was prepared to offer his eldest daughter in marriage to seal peace between the two nations that should last for all time.

The accession to the throne of the young Henry VIII ended this brief period of stability. Like Louis XII of France, Henry VIII was never meant to be king. He was crowned as the rightful heir because his elder brother Arthur had died in 1502. Like Louis, Henry had not been trained to be leader of a great state, or how to handle international diplomacy. Instead he had been taught the life of a prince and allowed to pursue interests of hunting, jousting and martial endeavours. It was Henry VIII’s hubris that finally led to war between England and Scotland. Henry made little effort to get along with James IV and Scotland. In James’ eyes, Henry failed to show the respect that he already received from other (and greater) monarchs on the European stage.

The Final Steps on the Road to War

Henry VIII was often dismissive or rude to James IV, even when he bothered to communicate at all. Matters came to a head in the summer of 1513 over the dowry of Margaret Tudor. This payment, promised by Henry VII as part of the Treaty of Perpetual Peace, remained unpaid. James wrote to Henry VIII on several occasions asking for payment, but without success. In the early summer he wrote again, his letter reaching Henry in France in June. Henry is said to have suggested that rather than pay the dowry he would consider re-asserting his rights of Feudal Overlordship over Scotland. James IV was deeply insulted.

Treaty Broken

Although Henry VIII’s response was insulting, it was no reason to go to war. It was however probably enough to influence James IV in deciding between the treaty of Perpetual Peace with England and the Auld Aliance with France. Henry had not only insulted James but had failed to honour the payment of Margaret Tudor’s dowry. In August 1513 Louis XII and his Queen (Anne of Brittany) requested James to honour the Auld Alliance and to invade England. James found it easy to respond.