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Trio of historic royal paintings on show together for first time

Formerly attributed to George Gower [Public domain]

They were created to show the power of a Queen and now they will be united for the first time to underline that one woman’s continuing influence on history. Three Armada portraits of Elizabeth I will go on show together next year.

All three paintings are versions of the same image, one of the most famous PR creations of the Tudor dynasty, renowed for its ability to put on a good public show. The Armada portraits were created in the aftermath of the English victory over the Spanish fleet in 1588 and show Elizabeth I as an all powerful ruler.

She stands in front of a depiction of the defeat of the Armada, dressed in her favourite colour, black, and draped with pearls which symbolise her image as the ‘Virgin Queen’. To her side is a crown while her hand rests on a globe with her fingers covering the Americas, an indication that England now claimed dominance in the European race to take possession of the new world discovered in the past decades.

The Armada portraits are already among the most renowned royal paintings ever created but this will be the first time we get to see them together. They will hang side by side at the Queen’s House which is part of the Royal Museums Greenwich in London from early next year.

The versions of the portraits belonging to Woburn Abbey and the National Portrait Gallery have been loaned to Greenwich for the occasion. The Royal Museums also now have their own Armada portrait which was bought for its collection following a UK wide fundraising campaign in 2016.

And while all are based around the same image, visitors will be able to spot the subtle differences between the paintings and compare how they were used to represent the power of Elizabeth I and her realm to her contemporaries.

The exhibition ”Faces of a Queen: the Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I” starts at the Queen’s House on February 13th 2020 and runs until August 31st 2020. Admission is free.

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Lydia is a writer, blogger and journalist. She's worked in the media for over twenty years as a broadcast reporter, producer and editor as well as feature and online writer. As well as royals and royal history, she's a news junkie and podcaster.