Teaching History
Teacher addresses a large group of students in front of Deal Castle

Teaching Tudors & Stuarts

The Tudor and Stuart periods were times of great social and religious change in England: invasion threats, a new Church and civil war. 

Read advice from our educational experts and historians on how to chart the monumental changes to society and religion during these periods and find suggested activities to try with your students in the classroom or on a school trip.

This guide is intended to help anyone teaching the Tudor and Stuart periods, but the activities featured will be of particular interest for National Curriculum Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 learners.

Three female students look up at the features inside Leicester's Gatehouse at Kenilworth Castle

Hints and Tips

  • Explain different denominations – Religious beliefs and the different denominations that had ascendency at particular times can often be challenging for young people to understand. Take time to work through what each doctrine would have meant in terms of religious observance and the practical impact on people’s lives.
  • Remember the multi-causality of events It can sometimes be easy to slip into simple ‘why?’ questions when exploring these periods, with students offering an overarching assessment before choosing one cause to the detriment of others. Henry VIII’s pursuit of an heir, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Elizabeth I’s reluctance to marry, or the occurence of the English Civil War can be challenging topics to explore in their full multi-causal colour, but can equally make for the most exciting of enquiries.
  • Appreciate the arts – The Tudors and Stuarts offer us literature, poetry, theatre, music, art, architecture, sports and games on a burgeoning scale – a veritable collective of culture to embrace and enjoy.

Suggested Activities

History at Home Live! Henry VIII and the Tudors

Watch History at Home Live! with Ben Shires and our expert Roy Porter as they explore the life and times of Henry VIII and the Tudors. 

Who were Henry's six wives? Why did he build so many fortresses? What was the Dissolution of the Monasteries like for monastic communities? Find out the answers to all of these questions and more. 

A teacher shows a large table-top map to two students at Deal Castle

Get to Grips with the Period

By ending the Wars of the Roses, Henry VII established the Tudor dynasty and restricted the power of the aristocracy. From this point, only the monarch would build fortresses. Henry VIII’s device forts (including Deal and St Mawes Castles) protected England against European reaction to religious changes Henry introduced. English Heritage’s collection of monastic ruins highlights the effects of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. 

Civil war under Charles I brought major devastation, epic sieges at Pendennis Castle and elsewhere, and the king’s imprisonment at Carisbrooke Castle. The king’s execution led to the creation of the Commonwealth – the only republic in England’s history. The future Charles II narrowly escaped capture near Boscobel House in 1651. 

The Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 began a period of continuing scientific advances, but also plague and fire in London and attack by the Dutch. This defeat spurred the building of Tilbury Fort. The continuing religious disputes in England during this period were addressed in 1689 when the Catholic James II was deposed by his Protestant daughter, Mary and her husband William of Orange. Under Queen Anne, the Acts of Union with Scotland made England part of ‘Great Britain’.

Read the Story of England

    The Tudor era witnessed the most sweeping religious changes in England since the arrival of Christianity, which affected every aspect of national life. 

  • Tudors: War

    The Tudor period saw the gradual evolution of England’s medieval army into a larger, firearm-wielding force supported by powerful ships and formidable gun forts.

  • Stuarts: Architecture

    From the grand country houses of the early Stuart period to Christopher Wren's new churches that rose from the ashes of the Great Fire of London.

  • Stuarts: War

    How the reorganisation of the Parliamentary army following the devastating Civil Wars of 1642–51 was the beginning of the modern British Army tradition.

Tudors & Stuarts Glossary

  • Tudors & Stuarts Definitions

    Act of Succession
    An Act of Parliament passed by Henry VIII’s government in 1534 that required people to recognise Anne Boleyn as King Henry VIII’s lawful wife and their children legitimate heirs to the throne. Anyone who refused was guilty of treason.  

    Act of Supremacy
    An Act of Parliament passed by Henry VIII’s government in 1534 that recognised Henry as the ‘Supreme Head of the Church in England’. It also asserted the independence of the Church of England from Rome and the authority of the Pope.

    Cardinal Wolsey
    An important Tudor statesman, churchman in the Roman Catholic church and one of Henry VIII’s closest advisors until 1529.  

    Charles I
    King of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1625. From 1642, Charles fought against Parliament in the English Civil War. After his defeat in 1646, he refused to accept a parliamentary monarchy and was executed for high treason in 1649.  

    Court of Augmentations
    One of the financial courts created during Henry VIII’s reign. Founded in 1536, it dealt with the monastic properties and revenues confiscated by the Crown during the Suppression of the Monasteries. 

    device by the king
    The building programme initiated in 1539 by Henry VIII and his government to build artillery forts along the south coast of England to defen against invasion from France and Spain. It continued, on and off, until 1547.  

    device forts
    Also known as Henrician castles. Artillery fortifications built during the ‘device by the king’ to defend the coast of England and Wales.   

    The process between 1536 and 1541 by which Henry VIII suppressed Catholic monasteries in England by taking their income and repurposing or destroying their properties and resources.  

    Eltham Ordinances
    Rules written for Henry VIII’s court on how they should behave around the king.   

    English Civil War (1642–1651)
    A series of armed conflicts between the Parliamentarians and the Royalists. They were disputing the way in which England was governed. The Parliamentarians began by calling for the powers of the monarchy to be reduced so that the king could only rule with Parliament's consent. After Charles I’s execution, they decided to replace the monarchy with parliamentary rule.      

    First Anglo-Dutch War (1652–1654)
    A war fought at sea between England and the Netherlands over who controlled English trade, particularly with the East Indies. England won and gained control of the seas around England, including all of the trade that relied on these waters.                   

    Gunpowder Plot
    A failed attempt to kill the Protestant King James I of England and VI of Scotland by a group of English Catholics led by Robert Catesby. The plan was to blow up the House of Lords on 5th November 1605 and replace the king with a Catholic ruler.   

    Henry VIII
    King of England from 1509 until his death in 1547. He was the second Tudor monarch. 

    Mary Queen of Scots
    (1542–1587), also known as Mary Stuart, daughter of James V, reigned over Scotland from 1542 to 1567. She took the throne at six days old but spent most of her childhood in France, while Scotland was governed by a regent. She came to Scotland in 1561, but was forced to abdicate after an uprising in 1567, fleeing to England to seek the protection of her cousin, Elizabeth I. Many English Catholics believed Mary should be queen of England. Queen Elizabeth I imprisoned her in various castles and manor houses until 1586 when Mary was found guilty of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth. She was beheaded in 1587. 

    New Model Army
    A professional fighting force created by the Parliamentarians in 1645. Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell felt that forming a professional army would help them defeat the king’s army during the Civil War. It could be deployed anywhere in the country rather than being tied to a particular region as other armies were during the Civil War. Many of the soldiers in the New Model Army were Puritans. 

    A group of people who fought on the side of Parliament in the Civil War. The Parliamentarians began by calling for the powers of the monarchy to be reduced so that the king could only rule with Parliament’s consent. After Charles I’s execution, they decided to replace the monarchy with parliamentary rule.      

    Pilgrimage of Grace
    An uprising in the north of England led by Robert Aske in 1536 against Henry VIII’s break with the Roman Catholic Church and the Suppression of the Monasteries. At first, the King’s advisors negotiated with the protestors, but when a second uprising broke out, the leaders were charged with treason and executed.  

    Someone who disagrees with Catholic teachings; a member of a Christian religious movement against the established Roman Catholic church.  

    A group of people who fought on the side of the king in the Civil War. They believed the king, Charles I, should remain on the throne as an absolute monarch and keep his lawmaking power.  

    royal progress
    A tour of their kingdom by a monarch and their entourage (the group of important people accompanying the king or queen).  

    Spanish Armada
    A huge fleet of approximately 130 Spanish warships that sailed up the English Channel in 1588 in an attempt to invade England. 

    Suppression of the Monasteries (1536–1541)
    An important part of the English Reformation, alternatively called the Dissolution of the Monasteries. In 1534, Henry VIII was declared head of the Church in England after the pope refused to grant him a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Many aspects of traditional Catholic belief were attacked and between 1536 and 1541 every monastery in England, Wales and Ireland was closed on the orders of Henry VIII. Many monastic buildings were destroyed and Henry seized the wealth and the monasteries. 

    Thomas Cromwell
    An English lawyer and statesman who served as chief minister to King Henry VIII of England from 1532 to 1540. 

    Sir Thomas Fairfax
    The Parliamentary commander-in-chief during the Civil War. He was in charge of the New Model Army. 

    Tudor period
    The years between 1485 and 1603 when the Tudor royal family was on the throne. Henry VII (r.1485-1509) was the first Tudor monarch and Elizabeth I (r.1559-1603) was the last. 

    Tudor Rose
    The Tudor Rose symbolised the uniting of the Houses of York and Lancaster following the end of the Wars of the Roses. It consisted of five white inner petals representing the House of York and five red outer petals representing the House of Lancaster. It was the emblem of the Tudor monarchs.

A member of staff addressing a group of school children in front of the red stone walls of Kenilworth Castle

Expert Advice

We asked one of our historians for their thoughts on what to remember when teaching the Tudors and Stuarts:

The Tudor and Stuart periods serve as a bridge between the medieval and modern worlds. This was a time of dramatic and often unsettling change, from the Dissolution of the Monasteries and associated Protestant Reformation, to the breakdown of feudalism, as power became increasingly centred on the the monarchy and the influence of the nobility was diminished. It was a time of hostility between England and Scotland, tempered for a time, when a Scot, James I took the English throne in 1603. It was also a time of civil war, as an increasingly assertive Parliament challenged royal authority, laying the foundations for our constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.

This was also a period of discovery, exploration and scientific endeavour that saw the foundation of the Royal Society and the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. An expanded navy enabled England to challenge Spain, France and the Netherlands to emerge as a dominant maritime power with colonies across the globe. Trade made England wealthier and introduced us to new goods, such as potatoes, tobacco, coffee and tea, but also brought slavery and exploitation of indigenous peoples. At home, fields were enclosed to raise sheep and the first manufactories emerged. 

Andrew Hann, Senior Properties Historian

Read more about Teaching History

Video Resources

Discover more about the Tudors and Stuarts with our variety of videos. 

Meet a Tudor Cook and watch the building of Kenilworth Castle in Minecraft. Find out about the lifestyle of a Stuart aristocrat and uncover why Charles II hid in an oak tree. 

  • Kenilworth Castle in Minecraft: Timelapse

  • Life as a Duke: William Cavendish at Bolsover Castle

  • Charles II and the Oak Tree

'step into englands story