Portrait of Elizabeth I of England, the Armada Portrait


Painted by an unknown English artist this portrait was made to commemorate the defeat of the Spanish Armada (depicted in the background). The background on the right can symbolize the winning army of Elizabeth 1. Compared to the gloomy painting to the left, the ships on the right are intact and not destroyed, hinting that there were English survivors. On the left, the atmosphere is dark and it looks as though the Spanish are suffering from a huge storm, hinting that there were not many Spanish survivors. The two backgrounds compare the success and failure of the two countries. Elizabeth1’s international power is reflected by the hand resting on the globe. After the defeat of the Spanish armada, England’s power is projected to the world and is now seen as a force to reckon with. The way Elizabeth is dressed is a symbol of her wealth and nobility. This picture displays much wealth especially through the jewelry and embroidery. The red cloth and furniture can symbolize England’s energy, danger, strength, power, determination, and passion.  Red is a very emotionally intense color. It enhances human metabolism, increases respiration rate, and raises blood pressure. It has very high visibility, which is why stop signs, stoplights, and fire equipment are usually painted red. In heraldry, red is used to indicate courage, showing Elizabeth’s courage to take on the Spanish Armada. (There is also this golden mermaid looking thing at the bottom left but I don’t know what it can stand for. :))

In 1558, Elizabeth succeeded her half-sister to the throne, and she set out to rule by good counsel. She depended heavily on a group of trusted advisers, led by William Cecil, Baron Burghley. One of her first actions as queen was the establishment of an English Protestant church, of which she became the Supreme Governor. This Elizabethan Religious Settlement later evolved into today’s Church of England. In government, Elizabeth was more moderate than her father and half-siblings had been. One of her mottoes was “video et taceo” (“I see, and say nothing”). In religion she was relatively tolerant, avoiding systematic persecution. After 1570, when the pope declared her illegitimate and released her subjects from obedience to her, several conspiracies threatened her life. All plots were defeated, however, with the help of her ministers’ secret service. Elizabeth was cautious in foreign affairs, maneuvering between the major powers of France and Spain. She only half-heartedly supported a number of ineffective, poorly-resourced military campaigns in the Netherlands, France, and Ireland. However, by the mid-1580s, war with Spain could no longer be avoided. When Spain finally decided to attempt to conquer England in 1588, the failure of the Spanish Armada associated her with one of the greatest military victories in English history.

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