June 25, 2024


Art Shines Through

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth 1

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth 1

We visited the Queen’s House at Greenwich today and viewed the artwork.

I’ve decided one way of blogging while walking is to focus on artwork I see on my walks! So today it’s the Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth 1!

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I

This is an iconic painting. It was

  • previously owned by relatives of Sir Francis Drake. However nobody knows who the artist was.
  • painted to memorialize the failed invasion of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
  • said to be a very good portrayal of the Tudor Queen.

It portrays Elizabeth in all her finery. So I took some close-ups of sections of the portrait to highlight how these aspects were painted.

Face of Queen Elizabeth 1 and ruff
Armada Portrait – Bows and Jewels
Part of the ornamented sleeve

The painting can be seen in the Queen’s Presence Chamber in the Queen’s House at Greenwich – which has the most fabulous painted ceiling. This is the room in which she received significant others – in much the same way King Charles III received the new Prime Minster Rishi Sunak yesterday.

The Queen’s Presence Room – with the Armada Portrait, portrait of Sir Francis Drake
and painted ceiling

The Queen’s House was built between 1616 and 1635 and is on (or near) the site of the original Palace of Placentia (meaning “pleasant place”) also known as Greenwich Palace which was the birthplace of both Queen Elizabeth 1 (b. 7 September 1533) and King Henry VIII (b. 28 June 1491).

There are actually three surviving versions of the Armada Portrait. It was customary at the time of copies to be made of important paintings.

  • the painting displayed at the Queen’s House in Greenwich; 
  • the version in the Woburn Abbey Collection; and 
  • a third, partly cut-down version at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Portraits of Elizabeth were often commissioned as official gifts for foreign monarchs and favoured courtiers, while other members of court would acquire versions to show their devotion to her. If Elizabeth hoped to commemorate the defeat of the Spanish superpower, why stop at just one painting?