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In this activity, pupils will imagine that they have just visited the court of Henry VIII or the court of Elizabeth I and write a letter to a friend describing their experience. They will examine objects relating to the courts of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I in an attempt to discover what the Tudor Court was and how it worked.


KS2 - Britain and the wider world in Tudor times
KS3 - Britain 1500-1750
KS2 - Writing: composition, planning and drafting
Speaking and listening: group discussion and interaction
QCA Links
'What were the differences between the lives of rich and poor people in Tudor times?'
'Why did Henry VIII marry six times?'


Here you will find some ideas to help you prepare yourself and your pupils for a visit to the British Galleries.


We strongly recommend that you visit the Museum prior to bringing your class. This will give you a much clearer idea of how you can use the galleries. We suggest that you familiarise yourself with the spaces in the Tudor court displays and the route to them from the Exhibition Road entrance. Spend some time studying the displays on the Tudor court and explore some of the gallery interactives. These have not been designed for use by school groups but you might find them useful for supporting information. See:

Object in focus video: 'A Royal Writing Box'
(about Henry VIII's writing box)
Gallery 58
Explore the More family portrait Gallery 58

To find out more about the Tudor court and to view some images, see supporting information.


Do some preliminary work on Henry VIII and Elizabeth and their courts so that pupils are familiar with these key figures and concepts before they come to the Museum. You could discuss the following:

What was the Tudor court?
What kind of people visited it?
What happened at court?
Who were the important people at Henry's court?
Who were the important people at Elizabeth's court?

Key words: power, wealth, status, bias, propaganda, courtier.

Prepare pupils for the task which is described below. This is one possible focus for a Museum visit based on the Tudor court. It will be a good idea to split your class so that different pupils concentrate on different parts of the display, e.g court of Elizabeth I, court of Henry VIII.

Pupils should imagine they are visiting the court of either Henry VIII or Elizabeth I. Their task is to write a letter to a friend in which they describe what they have seen and what they have found out. At the Museum, they will gather information and ideas to help them write their letters.

Discuss letters and letter writing. Ask the class to talk about their experience of letter writing. You could talk about the following:

What are the things you need to remember when writing letters.
How did people write letters in Tudor times?
What did they use?
How did letters get from A to B?
Show some copies of original Tudor letters. Extracts are often included in text books or see


Find the Tudor galleries. The displays relevant to these activities are:

Achieving Splendour 1600-1640Gallery 58
The Court of Henry VIII 1509-1547Gallery 58
The Court of Elizabeth I 1558-1603Gallery 57

The task for pupils in the Museum will be to research the information they will need to write their letter. They should focus on the following aspects of life at the court of Henry or Elizabeth.

Pastimes and leisure activities
Luxuries and possessions
Clothes worn by people at court
Eating and drinking at court (on special occasions)

The class should already have been briefed on their task and should be ready to start when they get to the Museum. You can use the worksheets for pupils on this site which have been designed to help pupils with their tasks. They will help to focus and make suggestions for things they could include in their writing.


Using all the ideas and information gathered at the Museum, pupils will now complete the tasks. To do this, they will first need to organise their information and decide how they are going to structure it in order to write their letters.

What information do they want to include in the letter?
What are the things that impressed or interested them most?
What do they think is most worth writing about?

Pupils could have a go at using a quill and ink to write their letters to give them an 'authentic' feel. For guidelines on how to cut a quill see here.

Once complete, each group could present their letters to the rest of the class as part of a speaking and listening exercise. The finished letters could form part of a class display on the Tudor court. As an extension exercise, you could encourage pupils to think about what they had learnt about the Tudor court from looking at objects as opposed to written sources.


We are keen to get your feedback on this activity as well as any suggestions for other ways of using the British Galleries. Use the online evaluation form here

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