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Should Henry VIII have been removed from the throne?

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By Eileen Jones — Playwright and author

This resource supports the Y5/6 transition unit: Persuasion, presenting arguments for and against the question: ‘Should Henry VIII have been removed from the throne?’ It provides background facts, and a summing up by the leader of the investigation into the case.


These teachers’ notes accompany the PRINT ONLY guided reading leaflet in Literacy Time PLUS Ages 9 to 11, July 2008.

The activity sheet offers an additional set of facts for the cold case: ‘Should Elizabeth I have been tried for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots?’ which the children can investigate.

Before reading

  • Write the question: ‘Should Henry VIII be removed from the throne?’ on the board. Ask for ideas/opinions. Can the children explain their views using prior knowledge?
  • In role as leader of the Special Investigation Unit, hand out the memo (on the first page of the leaflet) to your investigators.
  • Explain that you will revisit the question at the end to see if any of them have changed their minds after viewing the evidence.
  • Decide which part of the text to look at first.

Previous learning

The children should be familiar with: offering reasons/evidence for their views; supporting a hypothesis; considering alternative opinions; deducing characters’ reasons for behaviour from their actions.

Key learning outcomes:

Year 5/6

  • To present a persuasive spoken argument, defending views with evidence;
  • To work in role to explore complex issues and ideas.

Year 6

  • To use dialogic talk;
  • To recognise rhetorical devices used to argue, persuade and sway the reader.

Reading the Fact Wall

In pairs, find facts which could be reasons for removing Henry from, or keeping him on, the throne. Explain choices. Discuss different interpretations of similar evidence. How could these affect someone’s arguments?

Reading the two written arguments

  • What is the purpose of each text? How can we tell?
  • Explain the structure. How do topic sentences guide the reader? Note the clear introduction and conclusion.
  • Explain that the arguments are written in a formal style. Rewrite one sentence in a less formal style and discuss the effect.
  • Look at the sentence structures and rewrite some of the complex sentences. Why is it important to use effective sentence structures in a text like this?
  • Look for persuasive techniques: emotive language; questions; selective choice of facts and the slant put on them by the writers; use of connectives to help build arguments.

Reading the Summing-up

How have the two different sides been brought together? Look at the use of connective phrases to signal a change in direction. Draw attention to the introduction and conclusion and how they ask the reader/listener to come to their own decision.

Further reading

Why did Henry VIII Marry Six Times? John Gorman (Evans Step-up History series, 978 02375 30402) King Henry VIII Leon Ashworth (British History Makers, Cherrytree 978 18423 42831) The Secret Life of Henry VIII Bob Fowke (Hodder Children’s Books, 978 03408 84218).


  • Working in pairs, find examples of emotive language in both arguments and explain its effect. How is this persuasive?
  • What sort of mood is evoked by the formal language? In what sort of situations might this kind of language be used?
  • In pairs, sort the Elizabeth I Fact Wall on the activity sheet below into ‘for’ and ‘against’ reasons, adding notes to explain decisions. Swap ideas with another pair and add notes, either challenging or supporting the choices.

Ideas for writing

  • Write two questions to ask those arguing the cases ‘for’ and ‘against’ Henry remaining on the throne.
  • In pairs or small groups, re-read the texts, making notes about the evidence and coming to a conclusion. Produce new summing-up documents in which they explain their decision using evidence.
  • Write a persuasive argument stating the case either for or against putting Elizabeth I on trial for the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Speaking and listening

  • Practise arguing a case by asking one another questions and attempting to answer them in role.
  • Hold a whole-class formal debate, putting Elizabeth I on trial for the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, with children taking different roles: chairperson, defence team, prosecution team, the floor. Use the ‘How to plan a formal debate’ activity sheet to assist with planning.
  • Video the debate and evaluate performances and arguments against agreed success criteria.