UK Raises $13.6 Million to Buy Historic Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth

The painting will be displayed on the site of the Queen's birthplace.

The Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I.
The Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I.

A historic painting of Queen Elizabeth will remain in the United Kingdom, thanks to a successful fundraising effort that started in May, reports Agence France Presse.

Donations came pouring in when the Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG), a group of four London museums, announced their campaign to raise £10 million ($13.6 million) to secure one of three extant versions of Queen Elizabeth’s Armada portrait, painted to commemorate her 1588 victory over Spain.

In addition to £400,000 ($530,000) from RMG, £1 million ($1.3 million) from the Art Fund, and £1.5 million ($1.98 million) in 8,000 public donations raised since May, the painting is being paid for with the £7.4 million ($9.77 million) donation from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which was raised through national lottery ticket sales.

“The Armada portrait is a compelling historic icon, illustrating as it does a decisive conflict, inspiring female leadership, maritime power and the emergence of the Elizabethan ‘Golden Age’,” said Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) chairman Peter Luff in a statement.

Painted by an unknown artist, the work celebrates England’s triumph in the face of a Spanish invasion, with a defense led in part by famed explorer and vice-admiral Frances Drake. The painting, which is said to have been commissioned by Drake himself, was being sold by his descendants.

The Queen's House. Courtesy of the Royal Museums Greenwich.

The Queen’s House. Courtesy of the Royal Museums Greenwich.

Most likely the work of George Gower or Nicholas Hilliard, the Armada portrait can also be found at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire and the National Portrait Gallery in London. Had the RMG failed to meet its fundraising goal, the piece would have been sold on the open market, where experts estimate it could have fetched up to £16.25 million ($21.44 million).

When the Tyrwhitt-Drake family moved to sell the work, they specifically sought a UK museum as a buyer in order to receive an inheritance tax exemption. The RMG plans to hang the painting at London’s Queen’s House, built in 1616 on the site of the former royal palace where Queen Elizabeth was born.


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