English Territory in 1525

During the Middle Ages England's Norman and Plantagenet kings had created an empire that included most of the British Isles and France but by 1525 all their possessions north of the Scottish border and south of The Channel had been lost.

Scotland had thrown off the English yoke after Edward II's crushing defeat at the Battle of Bannockburn [1314] whilst the final years of the Hundred Years War [1337-1453] had reduced England's French possessions to The Channel Islands and a narrow strip of land around Calais.

Though English grip on Wales and Ireland remained relatively secure, the loss of her wealthy French territories helped ignite the Wars of the Roses [1455-1485]. For three decades the rival royal Houses of Lancaster and York contested the throne but the final victory was won by a minor Lancastrian ally - the Welsh House of Tudor.

At the Battle of Bosworth [1485] Henry Tudor defeated and killed Richard III, the last Yorkist monarch, and ascended the vacant throne as Henry VII. The new king quickly strengthened his grip on power by marrying the White Rose heiress Elizabeth of York and betrothing his only surviving son, the future Henry VIII, to the influential Spanish-Hapsburg princess Catherine of Aragon. Henry VII also married his daughter Margaret to the Scottish king James IV but these attempts to bring peace to England through the marriage bed were only partially successful.

Yorkist plots and rebellions, though easily crushed, persisted and the Scots, in alliance with the French, continued to make trouble in the north. When Henry VIII succeeded his father in 1509 he knew he would have to fight to keep his throne but his overriding ambition was to rebuild the empire once ruled by his ancestors.

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