Iconic Elizabeth I portrait saved

  • 29 July 2016

We’re thrilled that our public appeal, along with a £7.4m Heritage Lottery Fund grant, has enabled Royal Museums Greenwich to acquire the Armada Portrait.

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I, English school, c. 1590

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I, English school, c. 1590

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I – a masterpiece of the English Renaissance once owned by Sir Francis Drake – has been saved, thanks to the generosity of thousands of individuals, grant-making foundations and a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

This remarkable historic portrait will now enter public ownership for the first time in its 425-year-history and will hang in the Queen’s House when it reopens following a major restoration on 11 October.  Fittingly, the Queen’s House sits on the site of the original Greenwich Palace, the birthplace of Elizabeth I herself.

Extraordinary support


“This support enables us to bring the painting into the national collection thus safeguarding its future, and also allows us to make it the centrepiece of future displays, talks, tours, and education initiatives.”

  • Kevin Fewster
  • Director, Royal Museums Greenwich

Our joint public appeal with Royal Museums Greenwich launched on 23 May with a £1m grant from Art Fund and a £400k contribution from the museum.The painting, sold by the descendants of Sir Francis Drake, attracted a groundswell of public affection and support which was recognised by HLF Trustees in their decision to offer a substantial grant.

An overwhelming response from the public saw 8,000 donations in just 10 weeks, with every donation matched pound for pound, raising £1.5m in total. Major contributions were made by the Linbury Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation and the Headley Trust.  In total, £10.3m has now been raised.  The extraordinary level of support from the public makes this one of the most successful campaigns ever for a work of art.

Stephen Deuchar, Director, Art Fund, said, 'This campaign has been a triumph of popular will.  The painting captured the national imagination in 2016 as surely as the defeat of the Armada itself had done in 1588.  Record numbers of donors, large and small, stepped forward with determination and generosity, creating an irresistible momentum that has brought this great work into public ownership at last.'

The painting

The portrait commemorates the most famous conflict of Elizabeth’s reign (1558 – 1603), the failed invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in summer 1588.  One of the definitive representations of the English Renaissance, the painting encapsulates the creativity, ideals and ambitions of the Elizabethan era and is among the most famous images of British history and the inspiration for countless portrayals of Elizabeth I.

Thank you to all our supporters; sign-up to our newsletter and we’ll let you know when the painting is on display at its new home at the Queen’s House, Greenwich. Read more about this extraordinary portrait and discover the symbolic narratives within the painting.

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