The Coronation Portrait
This is a copy of the portrait made to commemorate Elizabeth’s accession to the throne in 1558. Elizabeth is lavishly dressed and holds the traditional orb and sceptre. Her hair is loose, as befits her unmarried state, and its colour is particularly striking against the white of her skin. Elizabeth’s much-admired hands are prominently displayed.
The Ermine Portrait
An ermine was the symbol of royalty and, if you look closely at the animal, you can see the gold crown it wears. The crown symbolizes majesty and purity. Elizabeth wears a black gown in a black background because black and white were the queen’s favourite colours. The sword of state rests on the table beside the queen and symbolizes justice; she also holds an olive branch to symbolize peace.
The Pelican Portrait
There is an imperial crown on either side. The crown is on top of a rose (on the left) and a fleur-de-lys (on the right.) These represent Elizabeth’s dynastic claims to both England and France. The Pelican pendant on her breast symbolizes charity. It represents the queen’s selfless love of her subjects. According to legend, the pelican pricked its own breast to feed its children with the blood. Elizabeth wore a pelican jewel in several state portraits to remind the English of her equally selfless love.
The Sieve Portrait
The sieve is a symbol of chastity and purity, taken from a story. In this story, a Roman Virgin proves her purity by carrying water in a sieve and not spilling one drop. The sieve reinforces Elizabeth’s image as ‘the Virgin Queen’. The rim of the sieve is inscribed in Latin: “The good falls to the ground while the bad remains in the saddle”. The figure to the right is possibly Christopher Hatton. The globe shows that Elizabeth leads a powerful nation. Ships are crossing west, possibly alluding to the conquest of the New World.