The Latymer School History Magazine - page 21

Armada Portrait
Painted by George Gower
The Rainbow Portrait
Painted by Isaac Oliver
married to Mary. After Mary
had died, he lost authority
over England. To regain his
power and authority, he tried
to persuade Elizabeth to
marry him, but Elizabeth
Elizabeth did not wish to
marry, wanting to rule
England on her own. Her
subjects thought it was a
ridiculous idea and that
Elizabeth would be poor
ruler because she was a lady
ruling the country unassisted.
As she lost her status, she
was determined to create an
image that would impress
her subjects. She wanted to
win loyalty; so therefore, she
toured the country on
‘progresses’ (tours). Even
though she impressed some
of her people, she wanted to
impress more; it was very
difficult to do that by just
going on progresses as there
was limit to the number she
could affect. A big hazard for
Elizabeth on these tours was
that she had many Catholic
enemies and it was not safe
for her to travel around the
One way of portraying a
strong image was through
portraits of which artists then
made copies of. Elizabeth
took this principal very
seriously as most of her
semblance was represented
through her portraits. Most
of her portraits had a lot of
intricate details which
symbolised different things.
Here is some of the
symbolism behind her
portraits: Historians say that
William Scrot’s painting,
Princess Elisabeth
probably one of the few
portraits where Elizabeth
was represented as ‘herself’.
They say that she was
‘herself’ as Elizabeth was
not certain that she was
going to become Queen of
England. It was therefore
necessary to make a good
impression towards all her
people. However, there are
still some symbolic features
of this portrait. The blank
book in the background
symbolises the fact that
Elizabeth was going to ‘write
the future’. The book she has
in her hand symbolises the
fact that she was clever as
‘she always carries a book
around with her’. However,
some have argued that the
blank book represents the
Old Testament and the
smaller book represents the
New Testament. The cross on
her necklace represents her
devotion to her religion.
The Armada portrait was
painted to commemorate
the defeat of the Spanish
Armada and perhaps
contains most symbolism of
all her portraits.Her hand
placed on a
globe symbolises
the fact that she
was ‘on top of the
conquering and
everything and
everyone. By
doing this, her
intention was to
show her
subjects that she
was not the weak
and pointless
contradictory to
the belief that
many people had
of a female monarch.The two
windows in the background
represent the two countries
that went to war with each
other: England and Spain.
The left window shows
England with bright scenery
with boats coming in to the
harbour, symbolising their
success and glory in the
battle. The boats symbolise
returning home after a long
war. The scenery in the right
window, Spain, is miserable,
symbolising their defeat and
the gloom that God had sent
them. Her back is turned to
the right window, Spain,
meaning that she does not
want to have a link with them
anymore. anymore.The
crown confirms and reminds
her people that she is the
monarch of England,
reinforcing her powerful
position and her royalty. Her
grand clothing and jewellery
emphasises her status and
her riches.
The Rainbow Portrait is
another one of these
paintings. Although this
portrait was painted near the
end of Elizabeth’s reign, it is
still rich with symbolism.The
heart on her right arm
stresses the love and passion
that she has for her subjects.
The serpent along the sleeve
of right arm represents the
knowledge and wisdom that
she has gained during the
years of her reign. The
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