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September 30, 1544 – Henry VIII Returns to England after Capturing Boulogne

This is as close an image as we have – it is of Henry VIII and his fleet, though they were setting off to France in 1520 rather than returning to England i 1547 (public domain via Wikimedia Commons).

Yes, yes, I already wrote a blog post about Boulogne’s surrender – this is different. That other one focused Henry’s triumphant entry into the city and the surrounding pageantry. But the world changed during the two weeks he stayed there before returning home, and that change is what I am describing now.

First, let’s back up for some context. Henry had originally sieged Boulogne as part of his alliance with Spain: he and Charles had agreed they would invade France together. Henry had always had a high opinion of himself and his military abilities – and managed to maintain that rosy view even after two prior attempts to conquer France. But, likely hoping that the third time would be the charm, an aging Henry found himself raising another army against England’s traditional enemy. This time, at least, he snagged himself a town. Boulogne capitulated after a three-month siege, and Henry was able to take a victory tour around it so that everyone could pretend this was a triumph instead of a stupid waste of money and men (remember, England already had Calais as a foothold to the Continent – now they would have to defend two sites, not one).

The original plan had been to continue on to Paris, where the Spanish army would join them. Unfortunately, merely sieging Boulogne had consumed the lion’s share of the English resources and Henry planned to let Charles V shoulder the main attack. Perhaps Charles realized that England would not deliver the help she had promised, or perhaps it was just raw treachery that prompted him to make peace with France….on terms that did not include England or her interests. Henry got the news and immediately made plans to return home. He would have boarded the ship still keeping up the outer charade of triumph all the while knowing that Francis would likely seek revenge….

(PS so you don’t worry, yes Francis did try to invade England the following year, but English ships successfully chased away most of the French ships in the Battle of the Solent, and vigilant coastal forces addressed the small, isolated landings. You’re welcome.)


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September 30, 1544 – Henry VIII Returns to England after Capturing Boulogne
Published inOn This Day

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