First Anglo-Dutch War came to an end, Cromwell turned his attention to England's traditional enemies, France and Spain. Although Cromwell believed it to be God's will that the
Protestant religion should prevail in Europe, he pursued a foreign policy that was at once pragmatic and realistic, allying himself with Catholic France that was engaged in a major and longstanding war with Superpower Catholic Spain. In essence, by going to war with Spain he was seeking a return to a policy of commercial opportunism pursued in the days of
Elizabeth I and subsequently abandoned by the
Stuarts. Cromwell's attack on Spanish trade and treasure routes immediately recalled the exploits of
Francis Drake and
Walter Raleigh; and it is not by accident that printed accounts of their activities began to circulate in England at this time. There was, however, one important difference: alongside silver and gold a new treasure was becoming ever more important – sugar. This meant occupation of territory, a step beyond the piracy pursued in Elizabethan days.
During the first year of the Protectorate, Cromwell conducted negotiations with the French
Cardinal Mazarin, resulting in the drafting of an Anglo-French alliance against Spain in October 1655. The alliance had an added benefit of keeping the French from helping the Stuarts to regain the throne of England for a few more years.