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Online Courses

In partnership with FutureLearn

In partnership with FutureLearn

Our online courses on are created by historians and senior curators at Historic Royal Palaces. Take our self-guided courses and learn at your own pace, meeting other learners and sharing your ideas at every step.

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.

Course Overview

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

Over three fascinating weeks, join the fun-loving Tudors in their world of lavish entertainment. You will 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.

Enjoy delving into the sources with Historic Royal Palaces’ curators and historians. They will 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 will study the influence of sport, spectacle, pageantry, and celebration in this dramatic period of British history.

A full reading list is provided by our experts for each week’s topics, plus guided discussion, quizzes and activities to try throughout.

Start date

11 September 2023

Course weeks and hours

  • Three weeks (four hours per week)
  • Digital certificate when eligible
  • Open level

Sign up using the Limited Access option and you will have three weeks to complete the entire course for free. Alternatively, a paid option is available which gives you unlimited access to the course and a certificate of completion.

A Historic Kitchen Interpreter demonstrating the creation of Tudor subtleties
Historical interpreters demonstrating an Elizabethan dance at the Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace

Key topics

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. 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.

You will also have the opportunity to learn ‘how’ to play Tudor sports, to experience popular pursuits as such as dancing and music making, and to try your hand at Elizabethan entertainments such as poetry, needlework and theatre.

Our Historians

Tracy Borman

Tracy Borman is Joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces. She is an author, historian and broadcaster specialising in the Tudor period. Her books include The Private Lives of the Tudors, Elizabeth’s Women and Anne Boleyn & Elizabeth I: The Mother and Daughter Who Changed History.

Charles Farris

Charles Farris is a curator and historian at the Tower of London. His research focuses on the history, material culture, and ceremonies of the British monarchy.

Historians Tracy Borman and Charles Farris stand in a Tudor gallery at Hampton Court Palace
A historical interpreter dressed as a knight jousting along a tiltrail

Learn more and join this course

Join our A History of Tudor Entertainment course at

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