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A History of Tudor Entertainment

Discover how the Tudors had fun and why, for Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, pleasure and politics always went hand-in-hand.

1,624 enrolled on this course

A historical interpreter dressed as a knight sat atop a horse participates in a reenactment of a Tudor joust.

A History of Tudor Entertainment

1,624 enrolled on this course

  • 3 weeks

  • 4 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Open level

Find out more about how to join this course

Explore the magnificent Tudor worlds of sport, art, culture, and celebration

On this fascinating three-week course, you’ll join the fun-loving Tudors in their world of lavish entertainment. You’ll discover how Henry VIII and Elizabeth I used shows of strength, sporting prowess, and pageantry to impress their subjects and build a powerful royal image at home and abroad.

You’ll enjoy delving into the sources with the curators and historians at Historic Royal Palaces. They’ll reveal a world of Tudor privilege at the pleasure palace of Hampton Court, and explore amazing public spectacles at the Tower of London.

Navigating this fascinating history, you’ll investigate the influence of sport, spectacle, pageantry, and celebration in this dramatic period of British history.

Discover why sport was so important to the Tudors

Learn how spectacular show-off Henry VIII used sport to demonstrate his power and majesty.

You’ll examine the wider role Tudor sport played in politics and international relations, learn how ‘elite sports’ were restricted to the wealthy, and why working classes were ordered by law to practise certain physical activities rather than others.

Immerse yourself in Tudor pomp and pageantry

Discover why the Tudors celebrated with entertainment, when no expense was spared on their magnificent processions and river revelries to mark coronations, royal marriages, christenings, and funerals.

You’ll learn how monarchs used pageantry to maintain royal power and prestige.

Experience entertainment of the Elizabethan era

Contrast how Elizabeth I used culture as entertainment to show off her power and majesty, compared to her father’s sporting spectaculars.

You’ll discover that amidst the magnificence and opulence, Elizabeth also enjoyed some surprising and disturbing leisure pursuits.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds The way we have fun says a lot about us and the world we live in. Our hobbies and interests are closely tied to our values and even our sense of identity. The vivacious Tudors were no different but for them, work and play were often intertwined. Entertainment was an important part of image building, a way to influence and impress the crowds.

Skip to 0 minutes and 37 seconds Monarchs like Henry VIII and Elizabeth I presided over lavish courts in some of the most spectacular palaces ever built. It was a dramatic period in Britain’s history, bursting with pageantry, celebrations and extravagance, as well as some darker pleasures, which are more shocking to discover. I’m Dr Tracy Borman, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces. During this free online course, I’ll be exploring Hampton Court, the ultimate pleasure palace. And I’ll also be visiting the Tower of London, where some of the more brutal spectacles took place. And I’m Dr Charles Farris, Public Historian for the History of the Monarchy. And I’ll be getting up close to the action to find out what the Tudors actually did for fun.

Skip to 1 minute and 26 seconds Together with colleagues at Historic Royal Palaces and a range of experts, we will investigate an age of flamboyant entertainment, from the sports and spectacle of Henry VIII’s reign to the Golden Age of Elizabeth I when arts and culture thrived.

Skip to 1 minute and 48 seconds We’ll discover that pleasure, power and politics always went hand-in-hand. And that the Tudor court wasn’t just a world of wonders, but the ultimate propaganda machine. You’ll even have a chance to try out some Tudor entertainments for yourself. So, join us on an intriguing voyage of discovery into the history of Tudor entertainment.

Syllabus

  • Week 1

    Sport and class

    • Introduction to the Tudors

      Welcome to the course and to the magnificent sporting world of the Tudors. Review the timeline for significant dates during this period and introduce yourself. Why do you think sport was so important to the Tudors?

    • Sport at Hampton Court Palace

      This section reveals a world of Tudor privilege at the pleasure palace of Hampton Court. Discover how Henry VIII used shows of strength and sporting prowess to impress his guests and build a powerful image at home and abroad.

    • Sport, politics and war

      Examine the wider role Tudor sport played in politics and international relations. Learn how 'elite sports' were restricted to the wealthy and why working classes were ordered by law to practice certain physical activities.

  • Week 2

    Pomp and pageantry

    • Public spectacle in Tudor England

      In this section, study the influence of spectacle, pageantry, and celebration through the lens of Anne Boleyn's coronation and learn about the rituals, pageants and river revelries during this period.

    • Royal hospitality at Hampton Court Palace

      Discover how the Tudors celebrated their royal marriages, christenings, and entertained their guests. Uncover uncomfortable Tudor attitudes towards disability with the presence of jesters at court.

  • Week 3

    Culture at the Elizabethan court

    • Public spectacle and Elizabeth I's image

      Contrast how Elizabeth I used culture as entertainment to show off her power and majesty, compared to her father’s sporting spectaculars.

    • The arts and entertainment at court

      In this section, you'll encounter popular pursuits such as dancing, theatre and music making. Amidst the opulence of the Tudor court, discover how Elizabeth I also enjoyed some surprising and disturbing leisure pursuits.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Assess the significance of Tudor sport and entertainment for politics, power and international relations.
  • Develop an understanding of why leisure activities of the both the Tudor elite and the working classes were controlled by church and state.
  • Compare Henry VIII’s use of sport and spectacle with Elizabeth I’s promotion of arts and culture to show off royal power and prestige.
  • Explore the role of pageantry, royal magnificence and display at major Tudor events and celebrations.
  • Assess how vital magnificent spectacle, opulence and pageantry were to royal image building.
  • Reflect on how attitudes have changed to animal cruelty, disability and the boundaries of humour.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in learning more about Tudor history, specifically the role of entertainment, sports, and culture in the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

Learners will not need any prior knowledge to enjoy this course.

Sign up for Limited Access to have three weeks to complete the entire course free. A paid option is available for unlimited access and a certificate.

Who will you learn with?


I'm a best-selling author, historian and broadcaster. As well as being Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces, I'm CEO of the Heritage Education Trust and Chancellor of Bishop Grosseteste University

I am a Public Historian and Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, based at the Tower of London. My research focuses on the history and material culture of the medieval and early modern British monarchy.

I am the Head of Historic Buildings at Historic Royal Palaces. I have worked for HRP for over 10 years, mainly at Hampton Court Palace.

I’m a curator at Historic Royal Palaces, looking after the Tower of London and Whitehall Banqueting House. I research Tudor architecture, especially temporary structures built for court entertainments

I’m the Historic Kitchen Manager at Historic Royal Palaces. My team recreates jobs and roles from the past to discover more about how our palaces worked on a day-to-day level.

Who developed the course?

Historic Royal Palaces

Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$109/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access

Free

Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 6 Jul 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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