Elizabeth I, Queen of England & Ireland (1558-1603)

© National Portrait Gallery, London
Queen Elizabeth I
Unknown English artist | c.1588
Oil on panel | 38 1/2 in. x 28 1/2 in.
NPG 541

This portrait commemorates a famous English victory against the Spanish Armada.

In 1588, a fleet of 130 ships was sent by King Philip II of Spain in an attempt to invade England for the Catholic cause.

The Armada was intercepted in the Channel by eight English fire ships, and then driven north around Scotland. The weather came to England’s aid, and a series of storms sank half of the Spanish ships as they traversed the Atlantic and the Irish coasts trying to get back home.

When the Spanish ships were headed to the south east coast of England, Elizabeth joined her troops at Tilbury, Essex. It was here that she delivered her famous speech:

“I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and a king of England too; and think foul scorn that…any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm.”

Despite many suitors, Elizabeth never married.

She died childless on 24 March 1603, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, next to her sister Mary.

Elizabeth’s death marked the end of the Tudor royal line: she was succeeded by her closest royal relative, King James VI of Scotland.

This portrait is a life-sized depiction of Elizabeth I
 aged 55. She is draped in glorious pearl chains.

The painting has been trimmed. It was originally
 horizontal (as shown by the other two surviving versions
 of it), and either side Elizabeth’s head there were scenes
 showing the defeat of the Armada.

On the left hand side of this portrait we can still see the
 English fire ships sailing on calm water.

Explore the Tudor history we tell through this portrait:

Queen Elizabeth I & Beverley’s independence


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