Role of a Queen – Mary I and Anne

Lesson at a glance

Suitable for: Key stage 1, Key stage 2, Key stage 3

Time period: Early modern 1485-1750

Curriculum topics: Changing power of monarchs, Events beyond living memory KS1, Georgians & Regency, Significant individuals, Tudors

Suggested inquiry questions: How has the role of Queen changed over time?

Potential activities: Create your own royal portrait. Create an informative poster.

Download: Lesson pack

What can we find out about the roles of Queen Mary I and Queen Anne?


Following on from the Jubilee Assembly video, pupils look at the role of two other female monarchs; Mary I and Queen Anne.

Here pupils explore documents from each Queen’s reign, to find out what they reveal about the responsibilities of Queens in the past. What similarities and differences can be drawn between their roles and Elizabeth II’s?


As we know, 2022 is the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. This means that she has reigned for 70 years and is the longest reigning monarch so far! This is a time of great celebration as we look back at the Queen’s service and dedication to her role. It has been a time of significant change, both in Britain and across the world.

However, we mustn’t forget that Elizabeth is not the first female monarch to rule England, or indeed Great Britain. In fact, there have been many other female rulers in the past. Let’s take a look at two very different queens; each of whom faced their own unique responsibilities and challenges, and who ruled during times of great change.

Queen Mary I

Queen Mary I ruled England from 1553-1558 and was the first female monarch to rule the country. She was the daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Although the oldest child in the family, she only became Queen after the death of her younger brother Edward VI; the rules of succession meant that the first-born son inherited the crown. As Edward died without having any children (heirs) to pass the throne onto, Mary was next in-line.

Historians have quite different opinions about Mary I and how well she ruled! Some describe her reign as a difficult time for England, as she tried to make the country follow the Catholic religion. She was known as ‘Bloody Mary’ for her harsh treatment of people who were Protestant; her re-introduction of the Medieval Heresy Laws, meant that those who did not worship as Catholics, could be burnt at the stake. These laws affected many ordinary Protestant people, as well as professional scholars (men who studied and wrote about the Protestant religion) and Protestant bishops.

The other factor that made Mary’s rule difficult, was her decision to marry the Spanish Prince Phillip. Mary knew that it was her duty to have children and to provide a male heir to inherit the throne when she died. Prince Phillip was Catholic, which meant that Mary saw him as an ideal match for marriage! However, many people in England viewed him with suspicion and were worried that it was an attempt by Spain to control England. There was much unrest and pockets of rebellion when the marriage was announced.

Yet, it shouldn’t be forgotten that when Mary first became Queen, she was very popular! She had stopped another rival for the throne – Lady Jane Grey – from becoming Queen. Thousands of people had supported her as the daughter of the Tudor King Henry VIII and saw her as the rightful Queen of England.

Mary I also did much to improve things in England; she built-up the navy, began to reform England’s finances and laid the foundations for some of the successes that came during later reigns. When Mary died, her younger sister Elizabeth became the next Queen of England and could learn from the lessons of her sister’s reign.

For more on Mary I’s reign visit:

Queen Anne

Queen Anne was the last Stuart Queen and the first to rule Great Britain! During her reign the Act of Union was passed, uniting England and Scotland into one kingdom with one parliament, brought together under one monarch.

Anne became Queen in 1702 after the death of her sister Mary and the death of Mary’s husband William. William and Mary had no children, so Anne was next in-line to the throne. Anne was ill for much of her life; she suffered from Gout (a type of arthritis that gave her pain in her legs) and she had to be carried to her coronation.

Anne famously had seventeen pregnancies, but when she died in 1714, none of her children had survived her. Sadly, many of her children had died when she was pregnant with them, or when they were young children. Anne’s longest living child, a son, died when he was only eleven years old.

For more on Queen Anne’s reign visit: 


1. Show this image of a Tudor state paper (a formal document) to the class on a whiteboard.

Explain to the pupils that at this stage, you are not going to tell them anything about the document, but you are going to ask them to make their own observations. Encourage them to look really carefully; what do they notice? Explain that you don’t want them to try to read the words in the document, but just describe what they can see.

Ask them to think about: the colour of the document, how it’s been produced, any images they can see and how the information has been set out on the page.

Based on these observations, do the pupils have any idea when the document might have been made? Do they think it is a modern document? Why/ why not? What type of document could it be? Why do they think this?

Now explain that you’re going to give the pupils a challenge! Provide them with copies of the document to look at together in pairs.

  • Can they spot any letters or words that they recognise?
  • Can they spot any names?

Give them a few minutes to spend looking at the document and encourage them to annotate straight onto the copy. Explain that you’re not expecting them to be able to read every single word, and that just spotting a few words or letters could be tricky, but to have a go together to see what they can work out!

Bring the pupils back together as a class to share their findings. Draw their attention to the title at the top of the page ‘Mary the Queen’. Who do they think this might be? Does this give us any clues about when the document might it have been made?

This document is an official Tudor record about Henry VIII’s oldest daughter Mary I. Explain that lots of professional historians find Tudor documents very difficult to read, so the pupils have done a great job! Fortunately there are printed transcripts and summaries of many Tudor documents for historians to use.

Show pupils the simplified transcript on the whiteboard.

  • What event has taken place?
  • Why is this such a happy event?
  • Why hasn’t the date of the baby’s birth been included on the document?
  • Why was it so important for the queen to have a baby, and in particular a boy?
  • Who would have received this document?

This document was prepared when Mary I believed she was pregnant. Her clerks prepared lots of documents just like this that could be completed when the baby was born and sent out to the different Queens and Kings across Europe.

Sadly Queen Mary was not pregnant after all but actually very unwell. She never had a child to pass the throne to.

2. Show this portrait to the pupils.

Ask the pupils to look carefully at the image. What can they see?

  • How is this person dressed?
  • What does this reveal about her wealth and importance?
  • How old might she be?
  • Who do you think she might be?
  • Why do you think this image was painted?

Explain that this is a portrait of Queen Anne and that it is painted on an official document from the Treasury. The Treasury were responsible for the money/ funds of the Queen.

  • Who might have seen this portrait?
  • Would these people have been important to Queen Anne?
  • Why would she have wanted them to see her in a particular way?
  • What does this reveal about how Queen Anne wanted to be viewed?

Explain that some of Queen Anne’s contemporaries (people alive at the same time as her), described her in an unflattering way: they said that she was very overweight, that her skin was red and spotty, and her clothing mismatched and untidy. Why do the pupils think these descriptions and the portrait of Anne don’t match? Who might have said these things and why?  The image and impression that Queen Anne wanted to show to her people was very important. In a time without social media, television and photographs, Anne needed to be shown as impressive and powerful; the role of Queen demanded this.


  • Look again at BOTH documents.
  • How does each document help us to understand the role of Queens in the past?
  • Can you think of other sources that could help us find out more?
  • How different is the role of Queen Elizabeth II today?
  • Have any aspects of Queen Elizabeth II’s role stayed the same?

Creative Activity:

  1. Pupils could paint their own self-portraits in the style of a King or Queen. How would they want to be portrayed to their people and why?
  2. Pupils could create an informative poster about either Queen Mary I or Queen Anne. What would they choose to include about their reigns and the role of Queen at these times?

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Lesson at a glance

Suitable for: Key stage 1, Key stage 2, Key stage 3

Time period: Early modern 1485-1750

Curriculum topics: Changing power of monarchs, Events beyond living memory KS1, Georgians & Regency, Significant individuals, Tudors

Suggested inquiry questions: How has the role of Queen changed over time?

Potential activities: Create your own royal portrait. Create an informative poster.

Download: Lesson pack

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