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Focus question 3: What is the difference between 'divine right' and 'citizen's right'?

Teaching and learning activities

Activity 1: Who's right? (45-60 min) ESL Activity 1
Activity 2: Pass around the hat! (20 min) ESL Activity 2
Activity 3: Don't lose your head! (30 min) ESL Activity 3
Activity 4: History Mystery Case #1640-49 (40-60 min) ESL Activity 4
Assessment ESL Assessment

Activity 1: Who's right? (45-60 min)

As you come to these terms in the following story, pause, explain them and invite the students to add them to a glossary of terms chart.

1a Write on the board:

  • King Charles I (ruled 1625-49)
  • divine right
  • ancient constitution
  • House of Lords
  • House of Commons

1b Introduce King Charles I, explaining that his is a true story of a monarch who unfairly used his powers of absolute rule. Read the following 'story' to the class:

In 1625 Charles Stuart was King Charles I of England. Charles ruled England by divine right. This means that he and his subjects believed that his right to govern his people, and to make the rules by which they had to live, came from God. He also governed by the ancient constitution, which is a very old set of customs and traditions - an unwritten set of rules about the powers of the king - which King Charles believed he honoured.

Of course, the King was willing to listen to advice - sometimes from personal advisers and sometimes from parliament - but he believed he had every right to ignore such advice and to make the final decisions about governing his country and its people.

Parliament in England at this time, we remember, consisted of two 'Houses' - a House of Lords (wealthy nobles and churchmen) and a House of Commons (representatives of landowners and merchants). Parliament only came together, or 'sat', at the king's request. It did not meet regularly as it does now.

To run the country, pay his servants and fight his wars, the King needed money. He got the money by taxing his people.

Activity 2: Pass around the hat! (20 min)

Prepare the taxation simulation:

Handout 8

  • Make a copy of Handout 8. Cut out and fold the labels. Place the folded social rank labels in a container (maybe a hat!).
  • Prepare 'The King's Taxation Envelope'. This can be an envelope containing a card or a piece of paper that sets out the rate of tax in the following manner:
 -  from Barons take 20 units
 -  from Bishops take 10 units
 -  from Judges take 10 units
 -  from Landowners take 5 units
 -  from Workers take 1 unit
 -  from Merchants take 5 units
 -  from Farmers take 3 units

  • Prepare a container labelled 'The King's Purse'.
  • Prepare the 'treasury'. Provide units of 'money', eg coloured discs, unifix cubes or food items such as raisins or even gold-wrapped chocolate coins! Sort the 'money' into sections of egg cartons (5 units per cup) according to the social ranks set out below. One 'unit' would equal one item.

Baron = 30 units
Bishop = 15 units
Judge = 15 units
Landowner = 10 units
Merchant = 10 units
Farmer = 5 units
Worker = 2 units

2a Pass the 'social rank' hat around to every student in the class (students will need these slips later).

2b Give the king the 'Taxation' envelope. Tell the king to read the contents of the envelope silently but to tell no-one what they say.
Anyone found touching any money will forfeit all money and will go to gaol (ie they will no longer be permitted to participate in the activity).

2c Group everyone else in the class into their social groups and issue 'money' according to the social rank. Explain that the money must not be touched until the king has spoken.

2d The king collects the prescribed tax from the students by having them tip it into a container called 'The King's Purse'.

2e When the money has been collected, ask the class: 'Would you like to have some say in what the king does with your money?'

2f Ask students to suggest the place where the king is most likely to listen to their complaints. The class should answer 'Parliament!'

2g Ask students to check their social rank slip and explain that if it also has the letter 'P' written on it, that means they have the right to a place in parliament. Those students with a 'P' should join the king.

2h Ask students to recall the powers of the parliament and those outside parliament:
Collect the money and redistribute more equitably.

  • Parliament can provide advice; the king is not obliged to listen.
  • Those outside have no access to the king and cannot advise him directly.

2i Discuss the fairness of the system. Consider why Charles and his parliament quarrelled so often.

Activity 3: Don't lose your head! (30 min)

Handout 9 Ask students to recall how they felt when the king taxed them unfairly. Explain that the following story will show what happened to King Charles when he tried to tax some of his subjects without their permission. Distribute Handout 9 and direct students to follow the events as you read.

It started like this. Between June 1625 and January 1629 Charles called Parliament to sit on four occasions. Charles wanted Parliament to vote him the right to impose taxes so that he could pay for the wars England was conducting against Spain and France. Parliament wanted to have more say about the King's decisions so it refused to grant him the tax. Charles taxed his subjects anyway and arrested some nobles and gentlemen who had refused to pay the tax because they believed it was illegal.

Parliament became angry over these arrests. Charles decided to dissolve Parliament but before that happened the Speaker was held down in his chair until three resolutions were passed. (A Speaker was someone appointed by the king to control parliamentary proceedings.) After this Charles I ruled without calling a parliament for 11 years.

By the time Charles called Parliament again it was most annoyed with him. Parliament put forward a document called 'The Grand Remonstrance' which stated all the things Parliament believed the King had done wrong, and demanded that Parliament have more power and the King less. This document made Charles very angry. He gathered together 400 swordsmen and marched into Parliament determined to arrest the leaders - but they had escaped. Charles' invasion of the House of Commons caused many Members of Parliament to turn against him.

In June 1642 Parliament put forward a new document called 'The Nineteen Propositions'. This document more or less called for Charles to give up all his rights to govern as king. England became divided on the issue of who should have the most power to make the rules - king or parliament - and in 1642 England went to war with itself. The Civil War was fought between armies loyal to the King (Royalists) and armies loyal to the Parliament (Parliamentarians). The struggles between the two sides continued for seven years. In the end, the side loyal to the King lost. King Charles was tried for treason. He was found guilty and was beheaded on 30 January 1649.

Parliament took over governing the country for a while; however, it did not govern well. Oliver Cromwell, a general who had been successful during the Civil War, took over from Parliament and became the Lord Protector of England.

You may prefer to do this activity as a class. Handout 13 could be used as an OHT and the case report can be presented orally.

Activity 4: History Mystery Case #1640-49
(40-60 min)

4a Introduce History Mystery Case #1640-49. Explain that in solving this case students will be promoted to Detective Inspector.

4b Divide the class into groups and distribute the envelopes containing the evidence for History Mystery Case #1640-49 (Handouts 10,11,12).

Handout 9-13 4c Discuss the contents of the envelope with the class.

4d Distribute Handout 13 and discuss the students' tasks.

  • Sort the sources into chronological order using the timeline on Handout 9.
  • Use the sources to provide answers to the questions on the handout.
  • Discuss the questions before writing individual answers.
  • Complete the check box activity on the timeline.
  • Write a brief summary of the case to report back to the class.
  • Select one person from each group to report back.
The envelope contains a CD ROM pass to enable timetabling groups to complete the 'Parliament versus Monarch' interactive on the Stories of Democracy CD ROM.

4e Conduct a report-back session.


Collect the completed case reports, and assess using the following criteria. The student can:

  • demonstrate an understanding that power has moved from the monarch to the parliament
  • provide reasons for this shift based on evidence.

ESL activities

Promote students to Detective Inspector for solving this mystery.

Back to 'Parliament versus Monarch - At a glance'

AcknowledgementsLegal Information