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What was life like at the court of Henry VIII?


The child is invited to be a page at the court of King Henry VIII. The time is 1539, just before Henry's marriage to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, and the child has to help the king write to her. This means exploring Hampton Court to find his portable writing desk. Before doing so, the page is reminded of the strict rules governing behaviour at the king's court and knowledge of these rules is tested in a number of situations that the page encounters. If the child makes the correct responses there is a second task. Henry wants the page to write a letter to Anne of Cleves to ask her to marry him. The child is invited to examine a miniature of Anne of Cleves before starting the letter. There are a series of onscreen prompts to help with the production of the letter.

A writing frame has been created to offer an extended and more structured approach to the letter writing task.

Writing frame  Go to enquiry


  • A miniature of Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein
  • Objects such as Henry VIII's writing desk, a claviorgan and a Tudor travelling trunk
  • Extracts from the Ordinances of Eltham, the rules governing Henry's court


Henry VIII was building up his position and stressing the magnificence of royalty by setting up a huge household at Hampton Court (300 paid staff, plus hundreds of unpaid courtiers). However, a vast court required regulation and the Ordinances of Eltham, 1526, not only provided regulations, but also ensured that the king's person was deliberately remote and well protected.

Supporting materials include:

  • An account of court life in the time of Henry VIII that pupils can use for research or help when carrying out the letter writing exercise. Alternatively, teachers may want to discuss this information with their pupils before they start the activity.
  • A classroom activity with short questions based on a proclamation describing the order of ceremony for Henry's meeting with Anne of Cleves

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The Tudors – Teacher's notes

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