Five reasons to save the Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I
- National Maritime Museum
- 25 May 2016
We have joined forces with Royal Museums Greenwich to save this iconic portrait, which commemorates the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. But what makes this painting so special?
1. The painting is historically significant
The Armada Portrait depicts a pivotal time in British history – its ‘Golden Age’ – when England defeated its biggest rival, Spain, and established itself as the most powerful nation in the Western world. The painting was commissioned to commemorate the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and it is therefore an integral part of this nation's heritage. Since then, its glorious depiction of Elizabeth I has become an inspiration for countless portrayals on stage and screen, as well as a staple of historical textbooks.
2. It's an artistic masterpiece
The painting is visually stunning, making it not only an integral part of British history but also a magnificent work of art, the subject of study, analysis and admiration. It is rife with symbolism: for example, Elizabeth's hand rests on a globe, pointing at the New World – indicating that she is not only the ruler of England but also America; and the golden suns emblazoned on her sleeves are a signifier of her power.
3. It is in urgent need of care
The painting is 425 years old, and in a fragile state. It is integral that it is brought to a public collection to ensure its longevity and conservation – and Royal Museums Greenwich is renowned globally for its conservation expertise.
4. Royal Museums Greenwich is the perfect home for it
Royal Museums Greenwich would be the ideal custodian for this iconic painting, with its fine 16th- and 17th-century collections, maritime setting and world-renowned conservation expertise. If our appeal is successful, the portrait will hang at the newly renovated Queen's House, on the site of the original Greenwich Palace, where Elizabeth I was born. Plans are underway for a national programme to secure the widest possible audience for the portrait. There is no better location for the Armada Portrait to be displayed.
5. It was commissioned by Sir Francis Drake
The portrait is believed to have been commissioned by the legendary Sir Francis Drake – a sea captain, privateer and navigator, who carried out the second circumnavigation of the world in a single expedition – and it is currently owned by his descendants. Drake's connection to the painting adds further gravity to its historical and civic significance for Britain.
Donate now to help bring the Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I to the Queen's House in Greenwich. All donations will be match-funded, making your contribution doubly valuable. You can currently see the painting at the National Maritime Museum, London.