The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I

Amy DeHerrera

There were many portraits painted of Queen Elizabeth I during her lifetime

There were many portraits painted of Queen Elizabeth I during her lifetime; each picture was done to be a constant reminder of what sort of Queen Elizabeth I intended to be. Elizabeth spent her reign carefully crafting a specific image to display to her people that they would know she was a pure virginal queen, something akin to a second Virgin Mary. Being a bit of a religious anomaly herself, she made sure to appease Protestants and Catholics alike to maintain good favor with her people. It was in her dress, jewelry, makeup, and ultimately the portraits that would help her succeed in this endeavor. The various portraits painted of Elizabeth I were wrought with symbolism; many of these were carefully chosen to be similar to those chosen to represent the Virgin Mary, which further solidified Elizabeth I as the Virgin Queen. Symbols such as the rose, star, moon, phoenix, ermine, and pearl were used throughout her portraits. Elizabeth Also saw herself called to the throne by God, and even though he had made her female, she didn't see that as a hindrance; she saw this as a challenge.
<strong>The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I</strong>
Elizabeth I Coronation

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<strong>The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I</strong>
Elizabeth I Portrait

The symbolism of virginity was found in the clothing and jewelry she wore

The symbolism of virginity was found in the clothing and jewelry she wore, which was then depicted in her portraits. Elizabeth simply stating she was a virgin was not enough; everyone in her court had to be on the same page. These motifs and symbols were a constant reminder of the image the Queen wanted to convey. Along with painting her face white to suggest purity, She also curated a wardrobe with specific colors to continue to send a message; white representing virginity and black consistency. The image of Elizabeth in these paintings was so essential to convey the correct and consistent message that Sir Walter Raliegh recorded how Elizabeth had all portraits of her that she disapproved of destroyed. Nevertheless, her images effectively immortalized her, creating a public memory of a figure of fantastic proportions. In Elizabeth's lifetime, she would go from being depicted as an eligible maiden to a second Virgin Mary, to finally a virginal goddess. Even when her coronation portrait was painted, she was strategic in all things. Although this portrait depicts the Queen in her youth with flowing hair, another symbol of virginity, this portrait was painted close to her death. The timing of this painting shows another example of how much control the Queen had over her image and pinpoints exactly what message she wanted to send and how she wished to be remembered.
Ancestry UK

The Armada portrait is where Elizabeth goes from Virginal Maiden to Virginal goddess

The Armada portrait painted after the defeat of the Spanish Armada is where Elizabeth goes from Virginal Maiden to Virginal goddess; no longer is Elizabeth being shown as merely a weak and feeble maid, but instead a strong and powerful Queen. This portrait presents the first time we see her image not solely focused on virginity but power as well. Similarly, the way Edmund Spencer writes in The Faerie Queen, he is not using imagery one would use to describe a feeble maid but instead evokes the image of a powerful ruler. The names of famous characters in literature became synonymous with Queen Elizabeth I, Gloriana, Belpheobe, Pandora, Astrea, Diana, Virgo, and many others to describe the Queen and promote her strength, wisdom, and capability as a ruler. Queen Elizabeth I's reign was full of intrigue and importance. The image she created for herself of a virgin when she decided not to marry held so much weight throughout her life that it is still represented in everything left behind. Her clothing, makeup, and jewelry were all symbols reflected not only during her time but preserved in our historical memory of her. Elizabeth's legacy is alive and well, living in our legend and our fantasies, and has become something of an icon herself. It is no wonder that Elizabeth is still widely studied some 500 years later.
<strong>The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I</strong>
Elizabeth I Armada Painting
<strong>The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I</strong>

Amy DeHerrera

I have been interested in history since I was able to pick up a book; whenever I went to the local library with my parents, I was always drawn to the history books, fascinated by all of the pictures of Ancient Egypt or dusty cowboys. As a teen, I was drawn to the English Renaissance and decided to focus primarily on that subject while in school. I have worked with my local Renaissance Festival for about ten years and enjoy wearing clothes of different eras and hope to get more into reenacting in the future. I am currently focused on getting more of my writing out in the world and am excited for where that journey will take me.
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