Tournai under Tudor Rule: Cooperation or Opposition?

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Previous studies of the Tudor occupation of Tournai have tended to stress the imposition of English rule on the city. The most prolific of these historians, C. G. Cruickshank, saw Tournai’s occupation as ‘the beginning of a new English empire on the continent’, while T. E. Mayer described Henry’s rule over the city as a ‘colonial situation’. C. S. L. Davies has cautioned against such claims, stating that ‘the significance of Tournai lay not in any assimilation of the conquered territory into the English crown; but rather in its very separateness, its status as part of Henry’s dominion as “king of France”’. This article supports Davies’ revisionist view of the occupation, and demonstrates that Tournai, unlike Calais, was not intended to be developed along colonial lines. It will examine the impact of Tudor rule on Tournai and consider the nature of the relationship that developed between the English monarch and the native population. Although Mayer has asserted that Henry VIII developed a form of imperial kingship at Tournai and ‘asserted all the prerogatives of a rex imperator…against the Tournaisiens’, this article will demonstrate, in contrast, that Henry’s rule at Tournai was marked by the development of a favourable relationship between the king and the municipal elite. The Tudor monarch accorded the city’s rulers a range of economic grants and permitted them a highly privileged degree of access to the organs of central government. It is possible to track in detail the relations that developed between Tournai and the Tudor administration due to the large volume of surviving sources, which provide a wealth of detail on the city’s occupation. While Tournai’s archives were largely destroyed by a German air raid in 1940, the city’s archivists published a significant amount of the city’s records in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The most important of these documents are the collection of municipal sources edited by Adolphe Hocquet, which permit us to track in detail the ruling elite’s response to Tudor rule. In addition to the civic sources, the Henry’s administration left numerous records relating to its rule at Tournai, which permits us to examine both sides of the relationship. The study will look broadly at the impact of Tudor rule on the different strata of Tournai’s society, beginning with the municipal elite.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-70
Number of pages35
JournalMémoires de la Société royale d’histoire et d’archéologie de Tournai
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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