While Henry VII had built up a war chest and was militarily cautious, his son was the opposite. Henry managed to use up all the reserves his father had built up by embarking on a series of costly wars against France. In 1544, Henry invaded France for the third time and took Boulogne, which he was to keep. However, while he was often on the defensive with France, he was able to defeat Scotland in 1513 and then again in 1542.

Henry spent large sums of money on fortifications and the navy. Not only was he fascinated by ship design, he was also interested in the organisation of the navy and coastal defences.

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Henry’s passion for war led to the building of his most famous warship, the Mary Rose. This illumination of a ship, from the Black Book of the Admiralty (HCA 12/1), predates Henry’s reign by around 60 years. The book was an illuminated manual of instruction for the Lord High Admiral and contains details on cases in the High Court of Admiralty, as well as codes of maritime law. It would certainly have been consulted by the navy during Henry’s reign.

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This is a nineteenth-century copy of the original sixteenth-century death mask of John Yonge (SC 16/29), who held the position of Master of the Rolls from 1508 to 1516. He was responsible for the rolls (or records) of the Chancery Court, which we now hold at The National Archives.

Yonge also had a diplomatic role and was engaged in forging alliances between Spain and the Holy Roman Empire under Emperor Maximillian during the period of war with France. By 1511 Henry VIII had promoted Yonge as special ambassador to France and he later accompanied Henry’s invading army to Calais. In 1515 Yonge was sent as envoy to renew the peace with France under Francis I.

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