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Henry VII’s Survival Game

Note – these guidelines are identical to those for the comparable activity on Elizabeth I. However, I have made slight changes to the original version published in The Tudor Century in 1993.


I’ve always been very fond of this activity.

It’s now over 20 years since I created it for my A level book The Tudor Century (1993), one of the first purely A level books to provide activities as well as ‘the history’. So why has it taken so long to put this activity on the site? When I first thought about it I tried to be too fancy, starting on an inter-active version that could be used for revision by individual students. However I’ve now gone back to my original intention – and what I know works – an activity for use in class as an introduction to the reign of Henry VII, with groups of students working in conjunction with their teacher. It’s enjoyable and it works very effectively in a number of ways:

1. It provides a first layer of knowledge about Henry’s reign, introducing names, events and the range of problems that Henry faced and how he reacted to those problems.

2. As a result of using the activity as an introduction, students read with more confidence – they’ve gained an initial familiarity with the topic. Even if the details haven’t been memorised or understood completely students have taken in enough to read more confidently – they recognize names and situations they’ve thought about in the activity and it’s that recognition ‘I remember when we discussed that’ that’s great for encouraging reading.

3. It develops constructive discussion and group rapport, especially important if the members of the group are new to each other. The structure also helps build the sense that discussion is part of history lessons.

4. Putting students ‘inside a past situation’ by asking them to think from a contemporary standpoint reveals their misunderstandings. The wrong answers can be most revealing to you as the teacher.

Two important points to underline:

1. Crowns are not awarded or taken away to fit with what Henry did – in this activity he would have lost crowns too. Crowns are taken away if a choice increases the risk of being deposed.

2. Students should not have studied Henry’s reign before doing this activity. It’s not designed to test if they can remember what Henry did but to get them thinking about the decisions themselves, to create a sense of the difficulties Henry faced. After they have done the activity you can turn to what Henry actually did, which may increase students’ interest because they can compare his policies with their own choices.


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

Or, a WORD version of this activity and accompanying resource can be downloaded:

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

PowerPoint Structure

The decisions are grouped in four sets of four. Each decision begins with a white introductory screen which is followed by a pale blue screen providing the options to choose from. After each set of 4 decisions there are 4 pale pink screens grouped together providing ‘the answers’ to that set of decisions. Experience suggests that tackling 4 decisions before going back and reviewing the choices works best.

The Activity

1. Students will need a list of objectives to achieve as king. Build this up as a class.

2. Dividing the class into pairs or trios and put each team’s name or initials at the top of the board. Under each name write 6 and explain that each team has 6 crowns but you lose crowns if you make poor decisions. If you lose all 6 you have been deposed and are out of the game. The team with the most crowns left at the end is the winner. In practice don’t leave teams out if they lose all six – keep them taking decisions and move into minus numbers.

3. Work through the decisions on the PowerPoint (or even a paper copy of the PowerPoint handout). It is best to split the decisions into 4 groups (1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16)

a) teacher introduces Decision 1 – the issue and the choices

b) students discuss and make choice, noting their choice. Give them a time-limit – Henry did not have unlimited to time for decisions.

c) repeat for rest of group of decisions e.g. 1-4

d) go over those decisions with the class, with you announcing the loss of crowns according to their decisions and recording this on the board.

e) then move onto Decisions 5-8, then 9-12 and finally 13-16. Build in a sense of fun and competitiveness – I never knew a group who didn’t get hooked by the competition.

Keep going even when groups go into negative numbers for crowns – it helps them see how tricky many decisions were and there’s the fun of seeing who did worst!


The most important question to ask before getting into detail is

1. What have you learned from this activity?’

This should lead (or you can lead it) to discussion of the difficulties facing Henry – helping students see that many problems did not have a single obvious solution. Then move onto:

2. What were the main issues facing Henry as king?

3. What have you learned about Henry himself?

4. Why do you think he survived?

5. What questions do you want to ask about Henry and his reign?

The activity can be used to create a timeline of events or a living graph showing the pattern of threat/danger (real or perceived?!) during the reign.

Finally the activity could be reviewed as an interpretation – does the focus on choices and survival create the impression that Henry faced a very difficult situation that he did well or was lucky to survive? If so the activity perhaps supports the interpretation (put about by Henry amongst others!) that he inherited a very difficult situation with constant dangers. In contrast Carpenter and others argue that he inherited a much easier task and it was his own inexperience and failures that prolonged his difficulties.

For a summary of these contrasting views see the following article which appeared originally in Teaching History and is reproduced on this website in full.

Henry VII: From diligent bureaucrat to paranoid blunderer? HERE …


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

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PowerPoint Structure

The Activity