History KS3: Elizabeth I

Dr Sam Caslin begins her investigation into the personality of Elizabeth I by examining a source held at The National Archives at Kew.

“The Great Seal” is one of the official images of Queen Elizabeth.

It is preserved in beeswax and was attached to the most significant official documents of the time to prove that it had come from the Queen.

This particular seal is from 1586, at the height of Elizabeth’s power and the official image shows her in a very grand pose holding an orb to represent her spiritual power and a sceptre to represent her power on earth.

Caslin then unearths a second source at Kew, this time from 1554 when Elizabeth was only 20 years old and not yet Queen.

It is a letter to her older sister, Mary who was then Queen and in the letter Elizabeth is pleading for her life.

She has been implicated in a plot to overthrow her sister, but Elizabeth eloquently defends herself in the letter, claiming that she was not part of the plot.

The letter shows both Elizabeth’s vulnerability and her tenacity.

The two sources thus show very different sides to Elizabeth at very different stages in her life.

This clip is from the series Hunting for History.

Teacher Notes

Pupils could be asked to look at images of present day prominent figures and to consider how these figures manage their image.

After watching Sam analyse source 1 they could then be asked to say whether they think Elizabeth was motivated by fear, ambition, or something else.

After they watch source 2 they can decide whether they want to change their minds.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching KS3 History in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 4th level People, past events and societies in Scotland.