CHAPTER III. HENRY VII (iii), 1498-1509-THE DYNASTY ASSURED

[Scotland and England]

From time immemorial almost, it might be said that Scotland had been a perpetual menace to her southern neighbour. Since the days of Bruce she had, it is true, been torn by ceaseless dissensions; a succession of long royal minorities with intrigues over the regency, family feuds between the great barons, strong kings who found themselves warring on a turbulent nobility, weak ones who could exercise no control, had not given the country much chance of consolidation; but the one binding sentiment that could be relied on in a crisis was antagonism to England. To settle the question by conquest had been proved impossible. Scotland might be over-run, but she could not be held in subjection. If England's eyes were bent on France, she must still manage to keep a watch on the north: but so long as dissensions were raging, there was not much fear of anything more serious than raiding expeditions.

[Henry's Scottish policy]

To keep Scotland innocuous was a primary object with the Tudor King. At the time when he grasped the sceptre of England, the King of Scots, James III., was a feeble ruler surrounded by unpopular favourites, with a baronage preparing to rise against him, and there was little danger to be apprehended. He was over-thrown and murdered in 1488. But James IV, who succeeded to the throne was of a different type. He was only a boy, however, and Henry was not long in initiating a policy, more fully developed by his descendants, of purchasing the support of leading nobles, notably at this time and for forty years to come, the Earls of Angus-with whom there was a compact as early as 1491. James, however, soon proved himself a popular and vigorous monarch, of a type which attracted the loyalty of his subjects, with a strong disposition to make his country a serious factor in the politics of the time, and by no means devoid of political sagacity despite his unfortunate impulsiveness and want of balance. To block Scotland out of the field by the simple process of keeping her thoroughly occupied with internal factions was not practicable under these conditions, and the attitude of James in the affair of Perkin Warbeck showed that he must be taken into serious account. Henry's political acuteness recognised in alliance with Scotland a more hopeful solution of the national problem than in eternal strife. The idea of a matrimonial connexion had indeed once before, since the days of Edward I., taken shape in the union of James I. to Jane Beaufort; but with little practical effect. This idea Henry revived in a form destined ultimately to revolutionise the relations of the two kingdoms. His own eldest daughter Margaret was but eighteen years younger than the King of Scots - quite near enough for compatibility. From the time of the peace entered upon after Warbeck's capture, Henry began to work with this marriage as one of his objects. His foresight and sagacity is marked by the fact that he recognised - and did not shrink from the possibility - that a Scottish monarch might thus one day find himself heir to the throne of England.

[Sidenote 1: France and England] [Sidenote 2: 1498]

The peace-policy towards Scotland was facilitated by the development of friendly relations with France, especially after the accession of Lewis XII.: for the traditional "auld alliance," between France and Scotland, had proved times out of mind too strong to be over-ridden by English treaties. If France wanted Scottish help, or Scotland wanted French help, there was always some excuse for rendering it; the plain truth being that no treaties could restrain the forays and counter-forays of the border clans on both sides of the Tweed, whether the Wardens of the Marches winked at them or not; so that there was, in either country, a standing pretext for declaring that the other had broken truce. An instance of these border difficulties occurred within a few months of the truce of December, 1497. A small party of Scots crossed the border, and appeared in the neighbourhood of Norham. They were challenged, and replied - with insolence or with proper spirit, according to the point of view. Thereupon they were attacked by superior numbers; some were slain; in the pursuit, damage was done on the north side of the border. The Scots King felt that he had been outraged, and was on the verge of breaking off all negotiations with his brother of England. It required all the diplomatic skill of Fox (at this time Bishop of Durham), and the mediatorial efforts of the Spaniard Ayala to prevent a serious breach from resulting.

[Marriage negotiations, 1498-1503]

The opportunity, however, was seized by Fox to emphasise his master's pacific intentions by bringing forward the proposal for the marriage of James with Margaret. Nevertheless, for the next twelve months, Henry displayed no eagerness in the matter. Margaret was only in her eighth year, so that in any case the marriage could not be completed for some time; but apart from that, there was already existing a project of marriage between James and one of the Spanish princesses - which Spain had no real wish to carry out, while James was disposed to push it. It would appear, therefore, that Henry meant to give effect to his own scheme, but did not intend Spain to feel free of the complication while it could be used as a means of pressure.

[Marriage of James IV, and Margaret 1503]