Queen Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I – the last Tudor monarch – ruled for 45 years and left a long and lasting legacy. Discover more about her rule, and find out more about what portraits of the Queen tell us about her life and impact.
See the three surviving Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I together for the very first time
Elizabeth I’s reign
The England that Elizabeth inherited was on the verge of bankruptcy. The country was at war with itself and others, and had little international standing.
Elizabeth's immediate challenge was to reassure her subjects and re-establish the credibility of the Tudor monarchy at home and abroad. This involved reinstating the Reformation, building a Church of England that was neither Catholic nor extreme Protestant, and reinvigorating the nation’s economy.
When she died, England was a comparatively stable country, with an expanding economy and power on the international stage. The Elizabethan era is now referred to in history as a 'Golden Age'.
Elizabeth I timeline
7 September 1533 | Elizabeth was born in Greenwich Palace to Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Both parents were so confident the child would be a male heir, a document was prepared announcing the arrival of a new prince.
17 November 1558 | Mary I died and Elizabeth became Queen of England, aged 25.
15 January 1559 | Elizabeth was crowned Queen in her Coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey.
17 December 1559 | Elizabeth consecrated Matthew Parker as the first Archbishop of Canterbury for the new Church of England.
1561 | Elizabeth’s 19-year-old cousin, Mary Stuart, returned from France to rule Scotland after the death of Mary of Guise, Regent of Scotland.
1585 | Sir Walter Raleigh attempted to establish an English colony at Roanoke Island, which he named 'Virginia' in honour of Queen Elizabeth ‘the Virgin Queen’.
8 February 1587 | Mary Queen of Scots was executed at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire after Elizabeth had signed her death warrant at Greenwich.
22 July 1588 | The Spanish Armada, a force of 130 ships and 18,000 men, left northern Spain and headed for the English Channel. Led by King Philip II of Spain, the Armada attempted to invade England to avenge the death of Mary Queen of Scots.
9 August 1588 | The Armada had been defeated and Elizabeth delivered her famous Tilbury Speech.
24 March 1603 | Elizabeth died aged 69 in Richmond Palace, Surrey.
The Armada Portrait
Recently saved for the nation, the Armada Portrait commemorates the most famous conflict of Elizabeth I's reign – the failed invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in summer 1588.
This iconic portrait is on public display in the Queen's House after careful conservation.
Queen Elizabeth I inherited a nation suffering from religious flux, but went on to build a stable, peaceful nation.
The Tudor dynasty was founded in 1485 by Elizabeth's grandfather, Henry VII, when he emerged victorious after the dynastic Wars of the Roses.
In December 1559, Queen Elizabeth I consecrated Matthew Parker as the first Archbishop of Canterbury for the new Church of England.
Greenwich Park is said to be the most historic of all London’s Royal Parks.
Queen Elizabeth I's tempestuous relationship with Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex, greatly influenced the latter part of her reign, and resulted in Essex's execution in 1601.
Armada blog pic.jpg
On 22 July 1588 the Spanish Armada, a force of 130 ships and 18,000 men, left northern Spain and headed for the English Channel. Its objective was to rendezvous with a large army assembled in the Netherlands, commanded by the Duke of Parma.
Early portraits of Queen Elizabeth I stress her God-given right to rule. By her death she symbolised national unity.
Spanish Armada blog.jpg
Last week we discussed the build up to the Spanish Armada, today we look at its arrival off the English coast and the most famous speech of Queen Elizabeth's reign.
In December 1587 Queen Elizabeth I put Lord Howard of Effingham in charge of England’s defence against the Spanish Armada.
Armada portrait of Elizabeth I (detail) - tile
What was the legacy of the defeat of the Spanish Armada and Elizabeth I's famous Tilbury speech, and what can the Armada Portrait tell us about it?