Intercursus Magnus

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Intercursus Magnus
TypeCommercial treaty
Signed24 February 1496 (1496-02-24)

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[edit]

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, then Burgundian, 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]


  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 "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.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  5. ^ a b "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 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.


  • 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.

External links[edit]