Elizabethan Unit Study: Week Two:



We continued to read the next two chapters of Elizabeth I: The People’s Queen:


We learnt that Edward never actually got to rule England as a man, dying of Tuberculosis in 1553.  Lady Jane Grey ruled after him for just nine days before Edward’s half sister Mary became England’s very first Queen Regnant, meaning she ruled in her own right.  Five years later she was dead, having died in childbirth.  Finally, Elizabeth was crowned Queen Elizabeth I.

It is my goal each week to share a couple of fiction books the children have read pertaining to Tudor England.  Last week I shared the ones about Henry VIII and his brother Arthur.  This week the books are about Lady Jane Grey focusing on her nine day monarchy and her execution and the time Princess Elizabeth spent in the tower:

elizabethan novels ladyjanegrey

Catholic v Protestant

Mary, Elizabeth’s sister, was a staunch Catholic whilst Elizabeth was very much her father’s daughter and a protestant.  The reformation, which began in 1517 when Martin Luther wrote his Ninety Five Theses, was still alive and well in Europe during the short reign of Mary I.   The reformation describes the protests against the perceived corruption coming from Rome inside the Catholic church and the resultant doctrinal separation of the Protestants from the Catholics.  It was Luther’s goal not to start a revolution but to merely begin a discussion about the selling of indulgences (a commoner would pay the church for forgiveness for their sins).  We will be revisiting this further in the coming weeks but for now we had a short chat about why the reformation happened during this particular period in history (The papacy was perceived as corrupt; monasticism and scholastic theology had declined; mysticism was capturing the attention of many; there was a revival of the Greek and Roman classics and therefore humanism; explorers were discovering the new world and the printing press had been invented).

This week we have been reading through ‘Inside the Reformation’.  This book is similar to the Eye Witness series, chock full of great information:


We will be covering the reformation each week alongside Elizabeth I.  During our morning meeting I have been reading out a few of Luther’s 95 thesis and chatting about each one.

Make a Banner

Symbols were very important during the 1500s.  Not very many people were able to read in the Elizabethan times so symbols displayed information which the average person would understand, such as the red cross of St George (England), harps (Ireland) and the white cross of St Andrew (Scotland).  Banners were also flown to advertise plays in theaters which tended to change each day:

“Each play-house advanceth his flagge in the aire, whither quickly at the waving thereof are summoned whole troops of men, women, and children”  

(An excerpt from the Curtain-Drawer of the World, 1612)

We will be spending the summer holidays immersed in Shakespeare, so I thought it would be kind of cool to make a couple of banners related to Shakespeare, rather than a royal one.

We used a thick cotton and acrylic paints, sketching the picture we wanted on in pencil and then colouring it in using the acrylics.  Acrylics are fabulous for painting on thick cotton (I used canvas) and in the UK cost practically nothing at the works (I got 24 colours for just £3):


First I photocopied some mask pictures and we free hand drew them onto the canvas using a charcoal pencil:


The girls took one each and began painting them:


I think they turned out better than we could have imagined and we have decided to make a couple more depicting Midsummer’s Night Dream and Romeo and Juliette.  Here they are almost finished (we just need to attach them to a hanger:


Tower of London

Aa tower of london

Princess Elizabeth was sent to the tower of London in 1555 when she was suspected to be in collaboration with Sir Thomas Wyatt in plotting against her sister, Queen Mary.  Whilst Wyatt lost his head, no evidence could be found against Elizabeth so she was released to a new home in Woodstock to live under house arrest.

Each week I want the children to be looking at some primary evidence.  Last week we studied and translated a letter written by Elizabeth herself.  This week I found a download about artifacts found in the Tower of London during fairly recent excavations.  I printed a copy for everyone and we spent some time studying it, paying particular attention to what the excavators were able to tell from their findings.

Make a Pomander

Elizabethan houses really weren’t big on hygiene.  Vermin, such as rats and fleas, covered the floors which inevitably meant their fecal matter would also be present.  Anything which made their homes smell a bit sweeter was welcomed and pomanders were one way of doing this.  Pomanders are traditionally whole citrus fruits decorated with whole cloves and other spices, dried with a ribbon to hang it up by.  Of course we had to try our hand at them:




Once finished we popped them in the oven overnight and we awoke the next morning to a really lovely smelling home!

Elizabethan Dress Up

We had a really great time creating the whole coronation caboodle that a budding Princess would need.

First up was making her cloak a bit more regal by adding fir and gold:


C12 also made a sceptre from a stick, foil and other bits and pieces:


Meanwhile, L12 made an orb by attaching two plastic bowls together, covering in foil and decorating:


And finally she also made a gold crown:



The girls thought it would be fun to dress up like Queen Elizabeth I did for her coronation:



Elizabethan Food: Old fashioned Rice Pudding

We used this recipe and made a very simple rice pudding:


This was so delicious.  We cooked it in the slow cooker and it made a really nice bedtime snack.  We added cinnamon spice and some honey as a sweetener.

We are all enjoying this term so much and I can’t believe we only have three weeks left!


  1. Ooh I love this period of history. Thanks for shedding new light is certain areas. I think your children will be all set to be great historians, real ones, not just GCSE buffs, in love the way you take real evidence and get them to examine it.

    1. Thanks Vikki! C12 wants to get together with you and chat about all the different churches which came about as the result of the reformation- she is both fascinated and slightly confused by it all!

  2. I love, love, love this! English history is so very interesting. As always, you do such an amazing job of bringing in so many activities with each study. How exciting to study Shakespeare this summer. We have studied Shakespeare for several years and it is so much fun. When I took a Shakespeare class in college, I had never read his work (gasp), so I was determined that my children would not have the same experience. The flags turned out beautifully, the royal apparel is lovely, and the rice pudding looks delicious. I haven’t made a pomander since I was a child, so I think we might have to try one soon. I was going to do one at Christmas, but we didn’t get that far.

    I am so thankful you take the time to post all these ideas and resources. You truly deserve a “most dedicated and inspirational and fantastic…” blogger award!

    I hope you have a most wonderful weekend with your family.:)))

    1. I think we will focus on Midsummer Night’s Dream because I figured the little ones could join in as well. I have so many plans and not enough time to do them all! Also T has got himself a job and that will be taking up some of his time too.
      Thank you for your lovely words as always. I do appreciate you, Donna!

  3. What fun you all have been having! We enjoyed reading the 95 thesis and were struck by the fact that there really wasn’t 95 as he keeps repeating the same things over and over again with only slightly different wording.
    I love your banners and my drama-loving son wants to make one now. 🙂
    I absolutely love the Queen outfit! It is beautiful and perfect.
    We have had fun making pomanders at Christmas time, so now I associate that smell (along with a little pine) with Christmas.
    I love the fact that you look at primary documents! I don’t usually include that until high school, but your kids are doing it already! What a great education they are getting! Pat yourself on the back!

    1. The banners were such a hit here too. We have enough canvas to do another two and this time we are going to make them a bit more complicated and based on the plays we will be covering. Fun, fun, fun!

  4. I loved this entire post. I’ll have to use some of these ideas when we cover this time period in two years. Next to ancient Greece and Rome, this time period is also one of my favorites. My daughter (5) would LOVE dressing up as Queen Elizabeth.

  5. Absolutely perfect banners. We just finished this time period but didn’t do half of what you all are doing. It all looks like so much fun. I may have to revisit some of this at the beginning of next school year, as a recap 😉

    1. I’m kind of thinking I ought to be lessening the hands on now and focusing on more academic learning but we all have so much fun doing them, especially me!

  6. Claire this all looks fantastic! I can’ t wait to see what you do during your summer with Shakespeare. Thankyou for sharing all you do

  7. I love it! There’s a really fun movie (probably not appropriate for your kids, I don’t remember all of the details because I haven’t seen it for over 15 years) called Lady Jane Gray. It had Cary Elwes in it, and was fascinating.

  8. These posts are just wonderful! I have been a reader for a few years and have not commented (at least I don’t think I have!) But I have to tell you how much this series has encouraged me to amp up our Elizabethan studies this summer. I just told my husband, “This woman is amazing! I wish that she and I could be friends!” and he said, “You can! Tell her that you’re going to be friends!” Lol
    Thanks again!

    1. Oh Sarah, your comment put a huge great smile on my face this morning! I even read it out to my husband. I love receiving comments and one of the biggest blessings of having a blog is meeting people I would otherwise never have had the opportunity to meet. Thank you so much for taking the time to say hi, I’d love to be friends!

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