Tudor Facts for Children and Teachers
The Tudors are one of the most famous royal families in British history and the Tudor era is a fascinating one to explore with your KS2 children. Check out these Tudor facts to learn more about this key period:
When was the Tudor period?
The Tudor period began on 22nd August 1485 and lasted until 24 March 1603. This means the Tudor period lasted for over 117 years.
Who were the Tudors?
The Tudors were a royal family who came to power in England in 1485. Two of Britain’s most famous monarchs (King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I) were both members of the Tudor royal family.
How did the Tudors come to power?
The Tudors seized power in England at the Battle of Bosworth, which was the last significant battle of the Wars of the Roses. The Wars of the Roses was a series of battles that lasted for 30 years between the House of Lancaster and the House of York. Henry Tudor was part of the Lancastrian faction. Both sides believed they had the right to the throne.
However, at the Battle of Bosworth on 22nd August 1485, Henry Tudor defeated Richard III, the last Yorkist king, to begin the Tudor reign. He was crowned King Henry VII. He married Elizabeth of York, finally bringing the two houses together.
Who were the Tudor kings and queens?
There were six Tudor monarchs altogether, although only five of them were actually crowned; Lady Jane Grey was queen for just nine days.
- Henry VII (1485 - 1509)
- Henry VIII, son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York (1509 - 1547)
- Edward VI, son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour (1547 - 1553)
- Lady Jane Grey, a descendent of Henry VIII’s sister (1553)
- Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon (1553 - 1558)
- Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (1558 - 1603)
Teachers: Check out our fun lesson exploring the Tudor family tree in more detail.
Henry VIII and his Six Wives
Henry VIII was king for 38 years and, whilst there were lots of political and military events and achievements during his reign, he is most remembered for his charismatic personality and for having six wives.
Who were his six wives?
- Catherine of Aragon (divorced)
- Anne Boleyn (beheaded)
- Jane Seymour (died)
- Anne of Cleves (divorced)
- Catherine Howard (beheaded)
- Catherine Parr (survived)
Henry was married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, for nearly 25 years but they never had a son together and Henry needed a male heir. For this reason, Henry divorced her. His following marriages were all much shorter. His shortest marriage to Anne of Cleves lasted only six months. Only Jane Seymour, commonly thought to be his favourite wife, gave him what he most wanted – a son.
The Elizabethan Era
Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558 after the death of her half-sister, Queen Mary. Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his second wife. Elizabeth I ruled for 44 years – this period is known as the Elizabethan era. She was known as the ‘Virgin Queen’ because she never married.
The Elizabethan era often referred to as the golden age of English history because of all its artistic, cultural, social and political achievements. It was also an age of exploration in which there were many voyages of discovery across the seas to discover new lands.
Teachers: If you're looking for in-depth lesson planning on the Elizabethan Era, check out our Elizabethan England scheme of work for KS2.
What was life like in the Tudor period?
Life in the Tudor period depended very much on whether you were rich or poor, and whether you were a man or a woman.
The Tudors lived in a feudal system. This means that the monarch had absolute power and owned all the land in the country. Nobles would swear loyalty to the monarch who would then grant them lands. The nobles would then allow peasants to work the land in exchange for food and shelter.
In Tudor times, you couldn’t rise above the rank you were born into. This meant that if you were poor, you would always be poor.
Women and men had very different roles in the Tudor period. It was a man's job to provide for his family while women were responsible for raising children and taking care of the household. Women had very few rights and were under the control of their fathers or husbands.
Most ordinary Tudor houses were made with wooden frames. The spaces between the wooden frames were filled with wattle and daub. Wattle was interwoven sticks, and daub was a mixture of wet clay and sand, which was pasted over the wattle to secure it all together. The wattle and daub sections of the house were whitewashed, and the exposed wooden frames were coated in tar to protect them from the weather and make them less likely to rot. This is why Tudor houses were a distinctive black and white colour.
Most Tudor houses had a thatched roof, although wealthier families could afford a tiled roof, which was much more durable. Some houses had upper storeys which were bigger than the ground floor! This overhang was called a jetty. It was a good way of enlarging houses without taking up more street space.
Poor people might have had a small garden plot in which to grow vegetables and herbs, whereas richer people would have enjoyed a large garden decorated with mazes, fountains and shaped hedges.
A typical Tudor house had a fireplace with a tall chimney connecting to the outside. The dirt floor was covered in reeds or rushes - there were no carpets. There were sturdy oak benches and stools to sit on. Most Tudor houses would not have had a toilet (or a privy, as it was called then). Glass was very expensive in Tudor times, so people would take their windows with them if they moved house!
Teachers: Check out our FREE Tudor House Outline - it can be used as part of a display, as a colouring sheet or as a simple labelling activity.
Poor Tudors wore loose-fitting clothes made from coarse wool. Men wore trousers and a tunic which came just above the knee. Women wore a long woollen dress with an apron and a cloth bonnet. Their clothing was simple and practical.
The clothes of the rich were much more colourful and elaborate. Fashion was extremely important to rich Tudors, who used clothes as a sign of how wealthy they were. Their clothes were made from fine wool, linen and silk, and often decorated with gold thread and jewels. Men wore white silk shirts with frills at the neck and cuffs, a doublet (a tight-fitting jacket) and striped hose (loose-fitting trousers). Women wore corsets underneath bodices to make their waists look small, and padded underskirts (which were held in place with hoops) gave more structure to the floor-length gowns they wore over them. Children were dressed in miniature versions of these outfits.
Fashion was such a status symbol that there were even special rules (called Sumptuary Laws) to dictate what the different social classes could and could not wear. If you were found guilty of breaking these laws, it didn’t matter how wealthy you were - you could lose your title, your property, or even be sentenced to death! Here are some examples of the Sumptuary Laws:
- Only members of the Royal family could wear purple silk.
- Only those above the title of Viscount or Baron could wear cloth of gold or silver.
- Only those who earned over £100 a year could wear satin, damask, silk or taffeta.
The Tudor period was a time of religious upheaval. At the beginning of the Tudor period, England was a Catholic country. However, there were lots of new ideas about religion spreading through Europe at this time. This was known as the Protestant Reformation. Protestants criticised the Catholic church, and the Pope in particular, believing that many of the Catholic practices were not Biblical, and that faith in Jesus was the only way to pardon sin.
When Henry VIII was excommunicated from the Catholic church following his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, he made himself Supreme Head of the Church of England. A new Protestant England was formed. Catholicism was now forbidden and all of England’s subjects had to convert to Protestantism.
When Mary I became queen, all the Catholic practices that had been forbidden were reinstated and Protestantism became illegal. Mary was so severe in her treatment of Protestants that she became known as ‘Bloody Mary’. She burned more than 280 Protestants at the stake in her five-year reign.
It was all change again when the Protestant Elizabeth came to the throne after Mary’s death. Most people were glad to have a Protestant monarch again.
Who are some famous Tudors?
- William Shakespeare: a playwright who wrote famous plays, such as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
- Sir Francis Drake: the first person to sail around the world in his famous ship, the Golden Hind.
- Sir Walter Raleigh: he travelled to the ‘New World’ (America) and established England’s first colony there.
- Lady Margaret Beauford: the mother of Henry VII, she was instrumental in her son being crowned as king. Without her, it is unlikely that the Tudors would ever have come to power.
- William Tyndale: he was the first person to write a Bible in English directly translated from the Greek and Hebrew texts.
Top 15 fascinating Tudor Facts:
- The Tudors didn’t have forks – they ate with knives and their fingers.
- Only rich boys could go to school in Tudor times. Rich girls received an education at home and poor children had to work to earn money for their families.
- Tudor school teachers were very strict – you were given 50 lashes with the cane if you misbehaved.
- The punishment for fighting in the royal court was having your hand chopped off!
- The Tudors liked keeping pets. It is thought that Mary I had a pet parrot while Elizabeth I had a pet monkey.
- Tudors knew very little about how to cure diseases. Only rich people could afford doctors but they had no better chance of surviving an illness. Common cures included eating spiders in butter to cure a cough and pressing a hangman’s rope to your head for a headache.
- Henry VIII’s toilet attendant (called the ‘Groom of the Stool’) was the most important royal servant. Only four people had this role during his reign.
- Henry VIII was a slim, athletic man when he was younger, but by the end of his reign, he was so fat that he had to get a crane to help him mount his horse!
- People in Tudor times didn’t live as long as we do today. The average life expectancy was between 35 and 40 years.
- Most Tudors ate foods they could grow or catch for themselves, like fruits, vegetables, eggs and meat. Rich Tudors liked to show off how wealthy they were with elaborate feasts, often including meats like swan, tortoise, peacock and even dolphins.
- Most people weren’t allowed to play sports in Tudor England. In 1512, Henry VII passed a law that banned ordinary people from playing sports, apart from at Christmas when the rules were relaxed a bit.
- Punishments for crimes were very harsh in Tudor times in the hope it would deter people from committing crimes. In Henry VIII’s reign alone, more than 70,000 people were hanged. Common punishments also included the stocks, ducking stools, having your limbs cut off, being crushed by a ‘presser’, or being burned at the stake.
- Potatoes were first brought to Britain in the 1580s from the New World.
- It was illegal to beg for money or food in the Tudor period unless you were disabled in some way. If people didn’t have a job, they had no way to earn money so often pretended to be disabled so they could beg.
- Sugar became a very popular commodity amongst wealthy people in Tudor times but it was so expensive that only the rich could afford it. Elizabeth I had a very sweet tooth and ate so much sugar that her teeth rotted and turned black. This started a fashion for black teeth among rich people – they wanted to show that they could afford lots of sugar too!
Teachers: If you're looking for engaging cross-curricular Tudor lesson planning, check out our Tudors Topic for Year 3 & Year 4 children.