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Teachers' Notes

MAPE Focus on History features the story of Sir Henry Unton, and is based upon the memorial picture hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in London. It contains comprehensive information about life in Tudor times, particularly as it relates to Sir Henry Unton and his family.

Copies of the MAPE Focus on History including a CD-ROM are priced at 10 and can be obtained from:
Valerie Siviter
Cilgeraint Farm
St Anns
Nr Bethesda

Portrait of Sir Henry Unton by an unknown artist c.1597

Lady Dorothy Unton commissioned this picture in memory of her husband. It depicts some of the most important events in his public and private life, summarised below.

Henry Unton was born in about 1557. His mother, Anne Seymour, was the daughter of the Duke of Somerset and had been married to the Earl of Warwick, son of the Duke of Northumberland. After the death of her first husband, Anne married Edward Unton, a man of much lower social status.

Henry was probably educated by a tutor at home before going to Oriel College, Oxford. After leaving Oxford Henry studied Law at the Middle Temple in London and then travelled through Europe. He visited Padua and Venice and may also have travelled to Paris and Budapest. He is reputed to have brought the umbrella back from Italy.

In 1586 Henry fought against the Spanish in the Netherlands and was knighted at the Battle of Zutphen, at which Sir Philip Sidney, the poet, was killed.

Henry was appointed ambassador to France in 1591. Henry suffered from jaundice while in France. He returned to England in 1592, having displeased Queen Elizabeth.

In 1593 Henry was elected MP for Berkshire. He spoke in the House against the raising of taxes and again angered the queen, who dissolved Parliament.

By 1595 Henry had been forgiven and was asked to return to France as ambassador. Henry was reluctant, as his last embassy had almost bankrupted him, but he left for France in December.

Following a fall from his horse Henry caught a fever. The French king, whom Henry had impressed during his previous sojourn in France, sent his personal doctors to treat him. Despite this Henry died in March 1596.

Henry had requested that his body be brought home for burial in Faringdon, Oxfordshire. This was done and his funeral took place on July 8th 1596.

The house in the picture represents Wadley, near Faringdon. Various clues to Henry's character are given in the rooms.

At the top of the house he can be seen in his study. The inventory of his possessions taken when he died mentions over 200 books!

Henry can be seen with a group of musician friends indicating he was musical.

A group of men, possibly clerics, can be seen in discussion. This may suggest that Henry was a pious man.

The main banqueting scene also includes characters performing a masque, based on Greek mythology, as well as more musicians. This may suggest that Henry was a great patron of the arts.

Lady Unton commissioned this picture, as well as an elaborate memorial in the church. This memorial, as well as much of the surrounding property, was badly damaged during the Civil War.

Using the picture

Encourage children to look closely at the picture and to suggest what they think is happening.

Look at the clothing. What can this tell us about people? (Look particularly at the scene of Henry's birth and his deathbed scene.)

Do you think the artist knew Henry personally?

What information can we get from the picture?

How reliable is this information?

Is the information available anywhere else?

Use a range of questioning techniques, closed and open.

Why do you think...?

What evidence is there to suggest...?

How do we know...?

Encourage children to justify their answers by making reference to the picture, or information they have accessed elsewhere.

There are various activities including multiple choice questions and writing in a range of genres. These do not rely upon the information to be found on the CD-ROM contained in the MAPE Focus Pack.

The memorial picture

As children explore the portrait they will find hot spots. Clicking on these will take them to new screens providing information about that part of Henry Unton's life. This information, and careful observation of the picture, will help them to answer the questions.

The Grand Tour

Click on the map to find information about the places that Henry might have visited.

Plan Henry's journey through Europe.

Keep a diary of his journey based upon factual evidence and the children's imagination.

Write a modern guide to the towns Henry might have visited researching information either from a CD-ROM encyclopaedia, the Internet, or any other available resource.

Sir Henry's Death

Sir Henry Unton was ill on both his stays as ambassador to France. During his first visit he developed jaundice and on his second visit, after falling from his horse he developed a fever which proved fatal.

The activities in this section look in general at diseases and common treatments in Tudor times, as well as focusing on Sir Henry's final illness and his death.

There is some general information for pupils that should assist them in completing some, but not all, of the activities, and they should be encouraged to read this first.

A glossary gives information about some of the less common terms. Children could be encouraged to develop this further providing resource material for the class.

There was no known cure for the plague – antibiotics had not been invented, and people's understanding of personal hygiene and public health was rudimentary. Many so-called plague cures were founded on little more than superstition, although some had a basis in fact. Tobacco is possibly one such case. The dangers of smoking are emphasised, but the antiseptic qualities of nicotine are also mentioned. You may wish to lay further stress on the dangers of tobacco.

The database questions are all simple searches.

In Tudor times many people could neither read nor write and so a book providing written information about herbs would have been of little use to most people. To encourage children to read for information, and to make better use of the data by providing an additional context for their work, they are asked to provide simple illustrations of herbs. In this way a class Herbal can be built up.

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