Elizabeth I (1533-1603)

What did Elizabeth look like? A portrait of her as princess, aged about 15, shows a plain, rather reticent teenager with no hint of future greatness. As an adult Elizabeth sat for her portrait on very few occasions and only once did an artist dare to add any depth to the conventional outline. This was Isaac Oliver and the resulting pattern was never used. These drawings show Elizabeth at the start of her reign, (left) based on the nondescript work of Lavinia Teerlinc, and (right) at the time of the defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588), based on the Oliver portrait. As with other monarchs, before and since, Elizabeth made much more impact in person. Her grace, charm, intelligence and dignity were described as unequalled, and her gift of bestowing a smile on even the humblest bystander was remembered long after by those fortunate enough to be so favoured.