Peoples and Nations

Elizabeth I - Why were Portraits Painted?

Elizabeth I - Why were Portraits Painted?

When Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558 after the death of her sister Mary, she needed to win the support of all her people:

  • Catholics
  • Protestants
  • Those who believed that a woman could not run a country by herself.

One of the best ways for a monarch to win support was by making a tour of the country and showing themselves to the people. In Tudor times this was called a 'progress'.

This was not an option for Elizabeth because she had many Catholic enemies and it was not safe for her to travel around the country.

She chose, instead, to use portraits to show herself to her people.

It was, therefore, essential that the portraits showed an image of Elizabeth that would impress her subjects.

At intervals throughout her reign, the government issued portraits of Elizabeth that were to be copied and distributed throughout the land.

No other portraits of the Queen were allowed.