Lesson at a glance

Curriculum topics: Tudors

The royal progress

Queen Elizabeth owned many palaces and castles around London and spent most of her time here.


Have a look at the map showing London as it looked during the reign of Elizabeth I (MPEE1/25). Describe the city- does it look like a quiet place or a crowded place?

  • What types of buildings can you see?
  • What was the river Thames used for?

By the end of Elizabeth I’s reign, the population of London was 200,000. London was the largest city in England by far. It was a busy, bustling city full of noise and smells and disease. Most people who lived here were poor and life was a constant struggle. There were no holidays for the poor (other than Holy days marked by the Church). Entertainment had to be cheap or free. Games of football, dancing, listening to music, bear-baiting and bull- baiting were popular pastimes.

  • Can you spot any evidence of popular entertainment on the map?
  • What sorts of noises would you expect to hear in Tudor London?

The rich escaped London’s smells and noises when they could. Queen Elizabeth was fond of escaping London and visiting different parts of the country. These tours around England were called ‘royal progresses’. The Queen and her advisers would decide where to go and who to visit. Wealthy friends and relations were then told to expect a visit from the Queen.

The tours had to be very carefully planned because the Queen travelled with her court – 300 people minimum and 1,000 horses; all had to be accommodated!

The royal progresses gave the Queen a holiday from her usual London life and allowed her to keep in touch with her people. For those she visited, however, the royal progresses meant a lot of hard work and were very expensive.

Look at the portrait of Queen Elizabeth I:

  • Choose three words to describe Queen Elizabeth.
  • What kind of accommodation do you think Queen Elizabeth would enjoy staying in?

Look at the seal of Queen Elizabeth I:

  • Choose three words to describe Queen Elizabeth (are they the same words or different from those you chose before?).
  • What kinds of activities and entertainment do you think Queen Elizabeth would enjoy?

Look at document SP 12/125 (98).
The words are difficult to read because this is Tudor handwriting. Are there any letters or words you recognise?

  • What do you think this document might be?
  • What do you think the numbers next to the lines refer to?

This is a sketch map showing the route of Queen Elizabeth’s summer progress of 1578. The map is in fact upside down which makes it even more difficult to understand!

At the top right is the word ‘Hampton’. This is Hampton Court, one of Queen Elizabeth’s palaces just outside London. This was where her journey started.

The last place name (bottom left) is Thetford, a town in Norfolk. The numbers refer to the miles between each stopping place. It was important to plan the journey carefully to avoid travelling at night and to ensure that Queen Elizabeth was able to sleep in a comfortable bed in safety every night.

Look at document COPY 1/209 f360. It is a picture of the ruined castle of Kenilworth in Warwickshire. Today, visitors take photographs and wander around the site imagining what it might have been like to live there. Part of the castle was built in Norman times and part of the castle was built during Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

  • Norman castles included small windows for firing arrows out from. Can you find the Norman part of the castle?
  • Tudor castles included large windows as a sign of high status; glass was expensive. Can you find the Tudor part of the castle?

In 1563 Queen Elizabeth gave the Norman castle of Kenilworth to her favourite male friend, Robert Dudley. Dudley decided to transform the Norman castle and build a whole new castle next to the old one for when Queen Elizabeth came to visit!

Imagine having to build a whole new section of your house when visitors come to stay! Although she visited several times the most famous holiday Elizabeth spent at Kenilworth was in 1575. The Queen spent a total of 19 days there – she must have enjoyed her stay! No expense was spared and Elizabeth was treated to firework displays, hunting, dancing and her own specially built pleasure gardens and apartments. The Queen’s holiday left her host Robert Dudley almost bankrupt!

Activity ideas

Plan your own ‘royal progress’. Find a map – it could be of the UK or a different country. Think about all the places you would like to visit and sketch a route to show the different stopping points along the way. Where will you sleep at night? How will you travel between places of interest? Even if you don’t manage to make this journey this summer, perhaps you will in the future! Half the fun of a journey is in the planning and the anticipation.
Queen Elizabeth loved sports, such as archery. Why not have a go at creating an archery-themed game? You could draw a target and create a points system – then choose things to throw at the target – the closer you get to the middle the more points you win. You could throw bean bags or you might even make a simple bow and arrow using some bendy pieces of wood and some string.

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Lesson at a glance

Curriculum topics: Tudors