Home » Exhibitions » Review – Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I Exhibition at the Queen’s House in Greenwich from 13 February 2020 to 31 August 2020

Review – Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I Exhibition at the Queen’s House in Greenwich from 13 February 2020 to 31 August 2020

© 2020 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The three surviving versions of the famous Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I are on public display together in a free exhibition at the Queen’s House in Greenwich. The exhibition, entitled Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I, is the first time the paintings have been displayed together in their 430-year history.

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I, circa 1588 © National Maritime Museum, London

Considered to be, one of the most iconic images in British history, the Armada Portraits commemorates the most famous conflict in Elizabeth’s reign when the Spanish Armada failed in their attempt to invade England in 1588. Royal Museums Greenwich showcases its own version of the Armada Portrait alongside the two other surviving versions, from the collections of Woburn Abbey and the National Portrait Gallery.

The Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. From the Woburn Abbey Collection

All three versions of the Armada Portrait are believed to have been painted shortly after the event, circa 1588. Despite their iconic status, the origins of the paintings are shrouded in mystery with experts  suggesting that three different artists or studios could be responsible for the three principal Armada Portraits working from a single template.

Queen Elizabeth I by Unknown English artist, circa 1588 © National Portrait Gallery, London

This historic exhibition presents an unprecedented opportunity for visitors to come face-to-face with three iconic depictions of Elizabeth I. In all three versions, the Queen is shown in a rich gold-embroidered and jewelled dress, presenting her as a powerful and majestic figure with seascapes showing different episodes of the Spanish Armada story.

© 2020 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The paintings relate to an important part of British history, England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada was considered one of the greatest military victories in English history and Elizabeth was celebrated in portraits, pageants, and the literature of the day. The Elizabethan era provided important stability for the country and helped forge a sense of national identity. These portraits were more than just paintings, they were part of a ‘personality cult’  that represented the monarch as a strong and charismatic leader.

The portraits  are on public display in the Queen’s House, part of Royal Museums Greenwich. The 17th century Palladian villa, designed by Inigo Jones, is situated on the site of the original Greenwich Palace complex, which was a major political centre of the Tudor dynasty and the birthplace of Elizabeth I herself.

Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I is open from 13 February – 31 August 2020 at the Queen’s House in Greenwich alongside the Woburn Treasures exhibition that runs from 13 February to 17 January 2021, both are free to visit.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended 

For more information , visit the Royal Museums Greenwich website here

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