Why did Prime Ministers become
more powerful than the monarch c.1780 – 1830?

This is the second of two linked activities:

• the first explores ‘When did Prime Ministers and Parliament become more powerful than the monarch?’ [ HERE … ] by building a graph of royal and Parliamentary power using a set of cards

• the second (this activity) follows on by exploring why power finally shifted from monarchy to Prime Ministers and Parliament in the period roughly between 1780 and 1830.

Together the two activities complete the story of monarchy across KS3.


A WORD version of this activity and accompanying resources can be downloaded:

1. For a WORD version of this activity [ click here ]

2. Factor Cards (1 set of 5). To download PDF from the website [ click here ]

3. Explanation Cards (1 set of 5), available in two formats:

• Ready for printing – a pdf [ click here ]

• In a word file – you can amend the text to suit your students [ click here ]

Setting Up

1. Print the two sets of cards – as many as you need for the number of groups in the class.

2. Decide what kind of explanatory structure you want students to work to. They could organize the cards into:

a) a diamond shape (I’d call it a Diamond 9 but there’s only 5 cards)

b) long-term, short-term, trigger factors

c) a hierarchy, perhaps Olympic podium style or alternatively on a ‘washing-line’, labelled most important at one end, least important at the other end.

The Activity

This explanation is very short as the value is all in the discussion.

1. Begin by asking each pair or trio of students to match the headings (the factors) to the Explanation cards. This is simply a way of getting them to focus on the material.

2. Now students have to organize the 5 topics into your chosen explanatory structure. They’ll need a clear time-limit to get them to focus on the task – but you may wish to break into discussion after a short time to get some first ideas from 2 or 3 groups. This would provide ideas for others to build in, agree or disagree with.

3. By way of debriefing compare a range of explanations and then, perhaps, give students a couple of minutes review time before they create a written or IT version of their final explanation as a record of the activity.

Notes & Variations

1. More difficult – show students a variety of ways of explaining why the power of the monarchy fell c.1780-1830 and let them choose the one they want to use. This could then lead into discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of different methods of explanation.

2. As this is probably completing work on the thread of monarchy, look back over the whole story, to 1066 or before. Have these factors played a part before? [One of the advantages of using these factors is that they have affected the power of monarchy since the Middle Ages so help students see patterns across time – religion, warfare and the lack of an alternative were central to monarchy’s power in the Middle Ages and while the pattern was changing by the 1640s the absence of a strong alternative then does much to explain why firstly Cromwell was offered the crown and then monarchy was restored. For visual examples see SHP Y8 book pp.170-171 and King John pp.52-53.

3. The exact shape of the explanation seems less important than an awareness of the overall nature of the factors influencing change at this time. The personalities of George III and George IV seem important in determining the timing of change (as were the personalities of John and Charles I in their periods) but other factors are probably more significant in the long-run, particularly the emergence of a real alternative to monarchy.


1. Does this activity have any impact on the way you’ve covered monarchy and Parliament earlier in KS3? Could you use this activity earlier in the story of monarchy to introduce factors and develop a sense of continuity in approaching this theme across time?

2. How does this activity help students to develop their understanding of causation?

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Setting Up

The Activity

Notes & Variations