Active Learning on www.thinkinghistory.co.uk

Henry VII's Use of Bonds

Introduction

Active learning is as important at A level as at KS3 but it needn’t involve a lot of physical movement or role-play. This activity is fairly low key but does use physical enactment to show how bonds worked under Henry VII and gets students “thinking from the inside” of the situation about how bonds affected individuals. Reading about this policy can be a dry and difficult business but bonds were deeply personal, affecting individuals in very significant ways. It is difficult to understand why Henry used them and why the nobility reacted to them as they did without shedding a little of our normal objectivity and looking at bonds from the inside.

This is an introductory activity to be done well within one session, depending on how long you spend on the debriefing. It's raising ideas and issues before students study the topic in detail.

Top of the page

Support

A formatted version of this activity should print from your browser (omitting this support section).

Or, a WORD version of this activity can be downloaded, click here.

This activity is based on the ’Simulation’ style of model; for more examples of this model, click here.

Top of the page

Objectives

By the end of the activity, students should have developed initial ideas about:

  • why Henry VII used bonds
  • how they worked
  • likely reactions from the nobility

Follow-up reading can then be done with more confidence and these initial ideas developed because the groundwork has been done in a concrete and interesting way.

Setting Up

The activity involves you, in role as Henry VII, holding a brief council meeting with students as named nobles. No such meeting took place, a point that needs hammering home but this doesn’t devalue the exercise.

Set up the room so your nobles sit before you – place your throne slightly away from them at a respectful distance. The only prop you might want to use is a crown – some quite grand looking crowns can be found in toy shops or fancy dress hire places for less than £5.

You also need to identify the nobles by giving them name-cards to put in front of them or tabards to wear – tabards will come in more useful once they have to move about in Stage 4 of the activity.

The nobles named in this activity are:

  • Dorset
  • Kent
  • Lisle
  • Grey of Codnor
  • Grey of Wilton
  • de la Warre

If you have more students in your group you can add:

  • Mountjoy
  • Shrewsbury
  • Burgavenny
  • Hastings
  • Strange

Student Numbers

How many students? If you have around six students then just use Bond A – with 8-10 students you could have 6 in the named roles for Bond A and the rest as un-named nobles who take part in the discussion but not Stage 2 and 3 of the activity. If you have 11 or more students you can use Bond B as well.

The Activity

Stage 1 – Introduction and discussion

You introduce the topic in role as Henry, following a script along these lines:

“It's 1487 and there are stories of threatened invasion and rebellion. There are a handful of lords who might rebel for their own selfish reasons. My problem is how to ensure their loyalty.

Let me tell you a story. Nearly 20 years ago, in 1470, Edward IV had a similar problem. He feared a rebellion and was worried about whether the Earl of Northumberland would support him - the earl was already in the Tower because of his involvement in a treason plot. So what did Edward do? He released Northumberland but made him agree to a bond guaranteeing his loyalty. This said that Northumberland had to pay the King £5000 if he broke any of the king's laws and that 4 other lords agreed to pay £3000 jointly if Northumberland broke any laws. Northumberland remained loyal.

Now my lords - what do you think of this method of ensuring loyalty? Why do you think it worked for Edward?”

Here you need to be patient and wait for answers – if necessary pick on the more confident individuals to offer answers. Do NOT, in any circumstances, answer your own question! Push, in turn, for nobles to suggest the strengths and weaknesses of the policy.

The key point that you want to draw out of your nobles is the importance of other lords ensuring the individual kept his word.

Now ask another question

“Should I use the same policy?”

This time push for answers that focus on the logic of the policy. Avoid any sense of threat to the individuals in the room. Build up a sense of this applying to others, not them.

Stage 2 – the policy revealed.

Distribute sealed envelopes to the nobles - each has his name on it. Inside are details of a bond that that the individual entered into during H's reign. Now the general situation becomes very personal! Provide tow or three minutes for your nobles to read and think about the contents of the envelope. Below are the details of two bonds.

Bond A

Marquis of Dorset

you must agree to surrender all your lands and castles (and those belonging to your wife) with the exception of two manors if you become involved in any way in rebellions, risings or any other threats to the King.

Earl of Kent

you, jointly with three other lords, will pay the King £9,225 if the Marquis of Dorset becomes involved in any way in rebellions, risings or any other threats to the King.

Lord Grey of Codnor

you, jointly with three other lords, will pay the King £9,225 if the Marquis of Dorset becomes involved in any way in rebellions, risings or any other threats to the King.

Lord Grey of Wilton

you, jointly with three other lords, will pay the King £9,225 if the Marquis of Dorset becomes involved in any way in rebellions, risings or any other threats to the King.

Lord de la Ware

you will pay the King 500 marks if the Marquis of Dorset becomes involved in any way in rebellions, risings or any other threats to the King.

Lord Lisle

you, jointly with three other lords, will pay the King £9,225 if the Marquis of Dorset becomes involved in any way in rebellions, risings or any other threats to the King.

Bond B

Lord Mountjoy

you have been appointed constable of the castle of Hammes at Calais. If you lose the castle to the French you will pay the King 10,000 marks.

Earl of Shrewsbury

you, jointly with 4 other lords, will pay the King 8,000 marks if Lord Mountjoy loses the castle of Hammes at Calais to the French.

Lord Lisle

you, jointly with 4 other lords, will pay the King 8,000 marks if Lord Mountjoy loses the castle of Hammes at Calais to the French.

Lord Burgavenny

you, jointly with 4 other lords, will pay the King 8,000 marks if Lord Mountjoy loses the castle of Hammes at Calais to the French.

Lord Hastings

you, jointly with 4 other lords, will pay the King 8,000 marks if Lord Mountjoy loses the castle of Hammes at Calais to the French.

Lord Strange

you, jointly with 4 other lords, will pay the King 8,000 marks if Lord Mountjoy loses the castle of Hammes at Calais to the French.

Stage 3 – Moving into groups

Time to get out from behind the desks! Ask students to arrange themselves into groups based on the information in their envelopes. For example, Dorset is linked to all those in Bond A who stand surety for him. Therefore they should group themselves around Dorset. Allow students to talk to each other and find out what information each has in the envelope and work out the pattern for themselves – this helps general group dynamics if they don't already know each other well.

This physical arrangement is an important part of understanding the policy. If you use Bond B, it also shows that it is possible to be involved in more than one bond because Lisle is in both.

Stage 4 – Thinking from the Inside

Give your nobles a few minutes to discuss their reactions to your use of bonds, now that it has become a more personal policy. Give them a precise time and count it down – this sharpens the focus of discussion. An open-ended statement that “I’ll give you a few minutes to discuss …” is too woolly!

Debriefing

Cast your crown aside and play the part of the teacher, pulling out their ideas. Some questions to pose:

  • Why did Henry use this policy? What were its advantages to him?
  • Was this policy likely to increase loyalty in terms of actions/attitudes? (it’s helpful to distinguish between the two)
  • Was this likely to increase loyalty in terms of devotion to Henry?
  • What does it tell us about Henry's ability to manage his nobility and his attitudes to them?
  • How do you think the nobility might have reacted to Henry's death in 1509?

So was it a good policy?

What questions do you want to find the answers to?

This is where you set up further enquiry and reading - hopefully with students’ interest whetted to investigate this policy and with confidence increased that they can find their way through the explanations in the textbooks. This has just been an introduction, the base for more detailed study but one that makes further study more likely to be successful.

Notes & Variations

This activity could be extended by adding information about other bonds and so extending the numbers of nobles involved. That would also show that some individuals were party to many bonds.

Or you could make this a research task – ask individual students to find out how many bonds a particular noble was involved in and to report back on the details.

Reflections

  1. How did tackling this topic through this physical activity affect students’ learning? e.g. was understanding of the patterns of events deeper?
  2. If used at A level, what was the impact of this activity on motivation to read and effectiveness of reading? [discuss with students]
  3. Have students enjoyed this activity and was it of value for them beyond the specifics of the topic of bonds e.g. discovering different learning styles?

Resources

The Early Tudors: England 1485–1558

Top of the page

Feedback

Constructive feedback is always welcome, particularly anything that will help other teachers.

Top of the page

This Page

Introduction

Support

Objectives

Setting Up

The Activity

Debriefing

Notes & Variations

Reflections

Feedback

 

Resources

The Early Tudors: England 1485–1558