Armada Portrait Campaign

A fundraising campaign has been launched to purchase one of the famous “Armada Portraits” of Elizabeth I of England. The painting was originally owned by Sir Francis Drake and is now being sold by his descendants.


This painting presents Elizabeth I as victor over the Spanish Armada of 1588, one of the major naval campaigns during the European Wars of Religion.  The composition provides a powerful image of early modern feminine authority and assertive sovereignty.  The painting raises interesting questions regarding gender, religious politics, and warfare in early modern Europe.

“It is the painting that represents everything about the Elizabethan age, including Shakespeare, the moment when England began to rule the waves, and Elizabeth’s reign,” according to Christine Riding of Royal Museums Greenwich. Riding stresses that “It indicates a gear shift in the national identity, the idea of the plucky English, punching above their weight, of the mythology of Gloriana, and the idea of the queen as a strong and just woman.” Riding’s comments appear in an article in the New York Times (see link below).

The Royal Museum Greenwich now hopes to acquire the painting. The New York Times reports that “The Art Fund has pledged £1 million, and Royal Museum Greenwich said it would use its entire annual acquisition budget of £400,000 toward the purchase.”

The New York Times reports on the fundraising campaign.

Northern Illinois University students who have taken my course on European Wars of Religion, 1520s-1660s will recognize this painting.

This entry was posted in Art History, Atlantic World, Early Modern Europe, Early Modern World, Empires and Imperialism, European History, European Wars of Religion, Gender and Warfare, History of Violence, Museums and Historical Memory, Reformation History, Religious Violence, Renaissance Art and History, War and Society, War, Culture, and Society, Warfare in the Early Modern World, Women and Gender History. Bookmark the permalink.

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