Elizabeth I of England (r. 1558-1603) carefully controlled her image, whether it be through costume, processions, literature, coinage, or the annual festivities organised to celebrate her succession. In an age where few would ever see their monarch in person, portraits were an especially powerful form of communication and one which the Virgin Queen used to full effect, packing them with symbolism and ensuring the legend she had created in her own lifetime would endure for centuries thereafter.
Here we present some of the most famous of the Elizabeth portraits, often commissioned from the most celebrated artists of the day. We also examine the hidden meaning of the clothes, jewellery, and objects that combined to present the queen as a semi-divine figure who ruled her kingdom only for the good of its people. The portraits are presented in this gallery in chronological sequence, even if the aging of the subject is only very subtle across her 44-year reign.