In Brief

Iconic Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I saved by the public

Donations from more than 8,000 people helped ensure that the masterpiece remains in Britain

One of the most famous portraits in British history will be owned by the public for the first time after a fundraising campaign raised more than £10m to purchase it.

The Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I is being sold by descendants of Sir Francis Drake, who is thought to have commissioned it in 1590, and it will go on display in Greenwich in October.

What is it?

The life-sized painting is widely considered to be a masterpiece of the English renaissance and commemorates the failed invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588. The Queen was in her 50s when she posed for the portrait, which is unusual in its large size and horizontal format.

"Her dress is like an armour showing that she, the Virgin Queen, is actually impregnable and has defended her realm against the Spanish," says Christine Riding, head of art at the Queen's House gallery.

The artist of the Armada portrait remains unidentified, although earlier art historians have ascribed it to George Gower or Nicholas Hilliard, the Art Newspaper reports. "Next year, the portrait is to be conserved, and this may yield more information that could reveal the painter's identity."

Why is it so important?

The painting is one of the best-known images from British history, says The Guardian, familiar to generations of schoolchildren because of its inclusion in textbooks.

Sir Peter Luff, chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, called it "a stunning piece of our national heritage" that has reshaped our understanding of Queen Elizabeth I.

"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," he added.

How was the money raised?

The campaign was launched by the Art Fund earlier this year, which made a £1m contribution, followed by £400,000 from Royal Museums Greenwich and £7.4m from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

A public appeal also generated more than £1.5m from 8,000 donations. The campaigns included one by seven-year old Christina Ryder who raised £662 selling cupcakes iced with Queen's face. She told her mother that she was "worried that if it gets sold she'll never get to see it," The Times reports.

"This campaign has been a triumph of popular will," said Stephen Deuchar, director of Art Fund. "The painting captured the national imagination in 2016 as surely as the defeat of the Armada itself had done in 1588."

He added: "Record numbers of donors, large and small, stepped forward with determination and generosity, creating an irresistible momentum that has brought this great work into public ownership at last."

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