Faces of a Queen

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The Armada Portrait is one of the most iconic portraits in British history.

The Armada Portrait was painted to commemorate the most famous conflict in Elizabeth I’s reign: the failed attempt by the Spanish Armada to invade England in 1588.





Three versions of the painting survive, each offering a subtly different depiction of Queen Elizabeth I at the height of her power. 

Royal Museums Greenwich showcased the three versions of the portrait from Febuary-August 2020 in the exhibition Faces of a Queen, which included its own version of the Armada Portrait alongside the two other works: one from the National Portrait Gallery, the other from the world famous private art collection at Woburn Abbey

All three versions are believed to have been made shortly after the defeat of the Spanish Armada, each by different artists or studios. While the three paintings share the same essential pattern, each work contains subtle differences that hint at their unique histories.

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Woburn Abbey and the Queen’s House

2020 also sees an historic collaboration between Royal Museums Greenwich and Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire. A number of works from the private collection of the Duke and Duchess of Bedford will be put on free display at the Queen’s House. 

Find out more about Woburn Treasures

Woburn Treasures was genorously supported by the Deborah Loeb Brice Foundation. 

The Armada Portrait at Royal Museums Greenwich

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I held by Royal Museums Greenwich (© National Maritime Museum, London)
(© National Maritime Museum, London)

The Royal Museums Greenwich Armada Portrait, which was previously owned by descendants of Sir Francis Drake, was saved for the nation in 2016 as the result of a major public appeal.

Once acquired, the portrait underwent complex conservation work in which several layers of old varnish were removed, more fully revealing the painting’s intricate detail and vibrant colours.

Paint analysis suggested that the seascapes in this version were painted over in the early 18th century, with the original seascapes still underneath sharing similarities to those featured within the Woburn Abbey portrait.

Want to know more? Buy Icons: The Armada Portrait and discover more about the history and symbolism within the portrait.

The Armada Portrait at Woburn Abbey

The Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (© The Woburn Abbey Collection)
(© The Woburn Abbey Collection)

The Woburn Abbey portrait remains the only version of the three that maintains the complete seascapes as they were painted in the 16th century. The portrait is owned by the Duke and Duchess of Bedford, and has been in the family for centuries.

A Proposal for Radical Hospitality 

A new sound installation by composer Peter Adjaye comes to the Queen’s Presence Chamber.  

Created in response to The Armada Portrait, the work traces the painting’s legacies of empire and the roots of the transatlantic slave trade. 

Find out more

Discover more: Why are there three versions of the Armada Portrait?

Bags at the Queen’s House: Please note that due to the delicate nature of some of the displays, visitors are not permitted to wear backpacks or carry large bags while in the galleries. Lockers are available at the entrance for a £1 donation.

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Opening times: 
10.30am - 4pm
Queen's House, Queen's Presence Chamber
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