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English History: A New Future and a New Empire

photo of coast

From 1274 CE to 1453 CE, the English state was dedicated to pursuing warfare and conquest of continental territory in Europe and the British Isles.

England developed the institutional memory and knowledge on how to wage war in that period by facing multiple threats.

The military culture neglected the Navy throughout this period, even though England’s people were never more than 70 miles from the sea.

The British nobility and monarchy primarily saw the Navy as a means of transportation, not a national security issue.

The Navy was neglected because the English monarchy descended from Norman, Angevin Count, and Dukes from France from 1066 to King Richard II in his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 CE.

This meant England’s leadership primarily focused on maintaining or expanding its continental holdings.

England’s geographical position as an island nation’s command of the North Sea was never effectively utilised.

Henry Vii of England

The Tudor Dynasty

This policy would only change with the rise of a new Anglo-Welsh Dynasty of Welsh descent.

The new dynasty is called the Tudors and ruled England, Wales, and parts of Ireland from 1485 to the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603 CE.

Henry Tudor, or Henry Vii of England, the first Tudor King of England, is a descendant of Welsh nobility.

He defeated the last Plantagenet king of French descent in 1485 at Bosworth Field. He started England on a new future away from pursuing continental territory and being a political appendage of French national politics.

The future of England was still unclear until the end of the 17th century; during the 16th, it was still massively unclear what the future and policy of England’s rulers would be.

Henry VIII, who succeeded his father, King Henry VII of England, in 1509, still pursued continental policies until he died in 1547 of a dream of retaking England’s old continental domains in France.

However, by this time, England had lost most of its institutional memory of waging war to the use of Parliament by raising taxation, raising new soldiers, and outfitting a Navy able to defend the English coastline, the Scottish border, or even as a means of transportation to France.

This was because the Hundred Years’ War ended in 1453 CE, and England, from 1455 CC to 1487 CE, was engaged in a civil war over control of the English crown called the Wars of the Roses between the houses of York and Lancaster, which were cadet houses of House Plantagenet.

During this period, the central government collapsed, and its ability to function as a means of war was greatly diminished. When Henry VIII came and pursued war with France in the 1540s, most of this knowledge was outside living memory.

It was the failure and internal violence within the nation that meant that England lost national confidence in the ability to put forth a vision of national destiny due to the previous being a colossal failure for the Plantagenet dynasty, which contributed to the destruction of the dynasties are ruled England from 1154 to 1485.

The dreams of a continental empire were finally destroyed by the French finally reclaiming the city of Calais, the last English territory taken in France by King Edward III of England in 1347.

France retook the city during the reign of Queen Mary I of England. She ruled from 1553 to 1558 and succeeded her younger brother, Edward Vi of England, who ruled from 1547 to 1553.

In 1558, she was alleged to have stated, “When I am dead and opened, you shall find ‘Calais.” The closing of one dream of empire led to a new vision of an English empire stretching throughout the Americas with the goal of overseas English Dominion.

Philip II of Spain

Sea Power

The model that would become the British Empire and lead to the Pax Britannica comes from two places: the Dutch Republic, which existed from 1579 to 1795, and the English experience during the conquest of Ireland in the 16th century, which would be the blueprint of empire.

The English have been in Ireland since the 12th century with the support of the Pope of that period to conquer and establish the Dominion of the island of Ireland. In the 16th century, England’s rule and control over the island was greatly diminished.

It was during the reign of King Henry VIII, who made himself, with an Act of Parliament in 1542 CE, King of the island of Ireland. His daughter, Queen Elizabeth I of England, ruled from 1558 CE to 1603 CE, would truly establish British control of the island of Ireland and be the blueprint for colonisation, extermination, and exploitation through Britain’s new colonies in North America. What encouraged the Elizabethans to move away from continental wars towards colonialism and expansion of the Navy was due to 16th century England having no standing army and no true Navy.

When Philip II of Spain became king consort and co-ruler to Queen Mary I of England from 1556 CE to 1558 CE, he stated that “the true defence of England is its Navy.”

England has very much to be grateful for because it was Philip II of Spain who helped the development of the English navy.

He attempted three invasions of England with three separate Spanish Armada, one in 1588 CE, the second in 1596 CE, and the final Armada in 1597 CE.

It was these three defeats of Spain, which at the time was the world’s number one superpower with Philip the Second of Spain’s rule in the Netherlands, the Spanish peninsula, and all of South America the control over Portuguese trade and colonies when Philip became king of Spain in 1580 CE since then his motto after 1580 CE was “the world is not enough.”

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