Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603)

British (English) School
National Trust Inventory Number 1129128

Category Art / Oil paintings
Date 1592 - 1598 - 1599
Materials Oil on canvas
Measurements 2235 x 1689 mm (88 x 66 ½ in)
Place of origin England
Collection Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire (Accredited Museum)
Not on show

This remarkable portrait of Elizabeth wearing a dress decorated with land and sea creatures appears to have been acquired by Elizabeth Talbot (‘Bess of Hardwick’), Countess of Shrewsbury (c. 1527 – 1608) and was almost certainly on display at Hardwick Hall in the Queen’s lifetime.

It concurs with others of the ‘Armada’ type, painted after 1588, in which the Queen is characterised by a rigid and hieratic expression and depicted almost as an impersonal image. It is thought that it was Bess herself who masterminded the design of the embroidery on the Queen’s dress, and possibly worked on it herself, intending it to be a spectacular New Year’s Day gift to the Queen. It is typical of the extravagant and sometimes bizarre late-Elizabethan style of embroidery which mixed together all manner of motifs taken from the natural world. A variety of flowers, including roses, irises and pansies, are interspersed with a lively depiction of insects, animals and fish. Sources for these motifs could be found in illustrations in natural history books and emblem books.

Summary description

Oil painting on canvas, Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603), English School, previoulsy catalogued as studio of Nicholas Hilliard (Exeter 1547 – London 1619), circa 1592/1598-9. A full-length portrait, wearing a dress decorated with land and sea creatures, standing, turned slightly to the left on a patterned carpet beside a crimson covered chair with the royal cypher embroidered on the cushion, wearing a crown, elaborate lace collar, white satin dress embroidered with flowers, birds and animals, over which is a black surcoat embroidered with pearl ornaments, holding a fan in her left hand and gloves in her right; the shaded area of the carpet at the bottom seems to denote a step.


Possibly the painting recorded as being transported to Hardwick from London in July 1599 in Chatsworth Archive Hardwick accounts (MS 8 f. 56 v. 19 July 1599); in inventory of the contents of Hardwick Hall made in 1601 and attached to the will of Elizabeth Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury (c.1520–1608); recorded by Horace Walpole (1717 - 1797) in 1760 as in the 'Gallerie'; by descent until, following the death of the 10th Duke of Devonshire (1895 - 1950), Hardwick Hall and its contents were accepted by HM Treasury in part payment of death duties and transferred to the National Trust, in 1959

Credit line

Hardwick Hall, The Devonshire Collection (acquired through the National Land Fund and transferred to The National Trust in 1959)

Makers and roles

British (English) School, artist
previously catalogued as studio of Nicholas Hilliard (Exeter 1547 – London 1619), artist
possibly Rowland Lockey (c.1565 – London 1616), artist
previously catalogued as attributed to Federico Zuccaro (Sant’Angelo in Vado c.1541 – Ancona 1609) , artist


Elizabeth I and Her People, National Portrait Gallery, London, 10 October 2013 - 5th January 2014 , 10

Related items

Place of origin England (115678)
Materials Canvas (6763)
Oil paint (5441)
Wood (87691)
Category Art / Oil paintings (8381)
Collection Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire (Accredited Museum) (673)
Maker British (English) School (2613)
Nicholas Hilliard (Exeter 1547 – London 1619) (10)
Rowland Lockey (c.1565 – London 1616) (2)
Federico Zuccaro (Sant’Angelo in Vado c.1541 – Ancona 1609)  (16)
Subjects Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603) (50)
Object Type Oil painting (9717)

Record Status


© National Trust Images © National Trust Collections Registered Charity No. 205846

Welcome to National Trust Collections. Our records are constantly being enhanced and improved, but please note that we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information shown on this website. If you are planning a visit to see particular items in a National Trust Collection, please check information with the relevant Property first.