The Intercursus Magnus was a major and long-lasting commercial treaty signed in February 1496 by King Henry VII of England[1] and Duke Philip IV of Burgundy. Other signatories included the commercial powers of Venice, Florence, the Netherlands, and the Hanseatic League.

Background and detail

The Wars of the Roses, a series of dynastic civil wars between two branches of the House of Plantagenet, had been fought in several sporadic episodes, mainly between 1455 and 1485. In 1485, the Lancastrian claimant Henry Tudor defeated the Yorkist king Richard III on Bosworth Field and married Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and sister to the Princes in the Tower, to unite the houses. In 1490, a young Fleming, Perkin Warbeck, appeared and claimed to be Richard, the younger of the Yorkist "Princes in the Tower" and, thus, a pretender to the English crown. In 1493, Warbeck won the support of Edward IV's sister Margaret, dowager duchess of Burgundy. She allowed him to remain at her court, and gave him 2,000 mercenaries.[2]

After the Black Death in the late 14th century, England began to dominate the European cloth market, with trade reaching a first peak in 1447 when exports reached 60,000 cloths.[3][4] The Low Countries were one of England's major export markets, particularly Antwerp. The cloth trade was important to Burgundy, as well as being a major component of the English economy. It was a major act of domestic and foreign policy, thus, for Henry VII to issue a trade embargo — reciprocated by Duke Philip IV of Burgundy — as a result of Margaret's meddling, with Henry forcing the Merchant Adventurers, the company which enjoyed the monopoly of the Flemish wool trade, to relocate from Antwerp to the Pale of Calais and ejecting Flemish merchants from England.[2]

Margaret's influence faded after the threat of the removal of her dower lands of County of Artois and Palatine Burgundy and it became clear that the embargo was hurting both the English and the Flemish economies, so the Intercursus Magnus was signed, with Margaret's acceptance of the Tudor succession a condition of the treaty. Philip was also keen to secure English help against France, and so the treaty had very favourable conditions for English merchants.[2] The treaty granted reciprocal trade privileges to English and Flemings and established fixed duties.[5] These certainties greatly aided English export of wool, and thus both Henry VII's treasury[6] and Flemish and Brabantine industry,[7] whilst also providing freedoms to the Hollandic and Zeelandic fisheries.[7] Further treaty promises of impartial justice for English merchants in Burgundian courts[5] were poorly effected.[2]

Perkin Warbeck's story ended before the start of the 16th century: in September 1496, he persuaded James IV of Scotland to invade England but, a year later, Warbeck landed in Cornwall with a few thousand troops, fomenting the Second Cornish Uprising of 1497. He was captured at Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire and hanged at the Tyburn on 23 November 1499.[8]

Intercursus Malus

Intercursus Malus
Type Commercial treaty
Signed 1506 (1506)
Location Weymouth, England
Effective Never ratified; repudiated by Margaret of Austria

Continuing frictions with the merchant, combined with Henry's desire to secure Edmund de la Pole, 3rd Duke of Suffolk, the leading Yorkist heir, sheltering in Burgundy, led Henry to attempt further negotiations.[9] A shipwreck in 1506 left Philip stranded in England en route to claiming the Castilian inheritance of his wife, Joanna the Mad.[7][10] This enabled Henry to negotiate the Intercursus Malus ("evil treaty",[11] so named from the Dutch perspective for being far too favorable to English interests), intended to replace the Intercursus Magnus.[12] This replacement removed all duties from English textile exports without reciprocity and with little compensation for the Burgundians.[2][5] 49-year-old Henry, widowed three years previously, also arranged to be married to Philip's sister, the twice-widowed 26-year-old Margaret.[7]

Margaret's objection — both to the marriage and the treaty more generally — meant that, on Philip's death that September and Margaret's appointment as Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands (and de facto ruler), the treaty was not ratified[7][13] being replaced instead by a third treaty in 1507, repeating the terms of the first.[5]


  1. ^ "In 1496 Portinari was among the negotiators of the Intercursus Magnus, the great treaty which for many years was to regulate commercial intercourse between England and the Low Countries." De Roover 1966. He sources, on pages xxxix–xl, the Correspondance de la filiale de Bruges des Medici (Armand Grunzwig, 1931), which was a compilation of correspondences between the Medici Bank branch at Bruges and the home branch in Florence.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Magnus Intercursus". Everything2. 1 May 2002. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  3. ^ A "cloth" in medieval times was a single piece of woven fabric from a loom of a fixed size; an English broadcloth, for example, was 24 yards long and 1.75 yards wide (22 m by 1.6 m).
  4. ^ John Blair and Nigel Ramsay (eds) (2001). English Medieval Industries: Craftsmen, Techniques, Products. London: Hambledon Press. p. xxxi. ISBN 978-1-85285-326-6. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Intercursus magnus and intercursus malus". Oxford Dictionary of British History. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "United Kingdom". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Retrieved 3 October 2006. By 1496 they were a chartered organization with a legal monopoly of the woolen cloth trade, and largely as a consequence of their political and international importance, Henry successfully negotiated the Intercursus Magnus, a highly favourable commercial treaty between England and the Low Countries. 
  7. ^ a b c d e George Edmundson (1922). "II: Habsburg Rule in the Netherlands". History of Holland. The University press. pp. 16–17. ASIN B00085XL4Y. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "Henry VIII: The Mind of a Tyrant: Perkin Warbeck (1474–99)". Channel 4. 25 March 2009. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  9. ^ John A Wagner and Susan Walters Schmid (2011). "Intercursus Malus". Encyclopedia of Tudor England. ABC-CLIO. p. 640. ISBN 978-1598-84299-9. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  10. ^ "Treaty 'Malus intercursus' between England and the Netherlands". The Literary Encyclopedia. 1 November 2010. ISSN 1747-678X. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  11. ^ John Guy (1988). Tudor England. Oxford Publishing Press. ISBN 0-1928-5213-2. 
  12. ^ "Intercursus Malus (Spain 1506)". Encyclopædia Britannica. 
  13. ^ J.P. Sommerville (Fall semester 2012). "Domestic and Foreign Policy of Henry VII". Course 123: English history to 1688. University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of History. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 24 June 2012.  Check date values in: date= (help)


  • Raymond Adrien de Roover (1966), The rise and decline of the Medici Bank: 1397–1494, New York City; Toronto: W. W. Norton & Company; George J. McLeod Limited (respectively), LCCN: 63-11417  — the product of three years of research in the Florentine archives to improve the author's previous work, it was previously released in 1963 by Harvard University Press.

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