Queen Elizabeth I wears a rose in her hair - a symbol of both beauty and the House of Tudor - and holds the Lesser George, emblem of the Order of the Garter (the highest English order of chivalry), which is suspended from a blue sash around her neck. Her hair and dress are embellished with jewels and pearls and lace ruffs decorate her neck and wrist. This portrait is one of several similar portraits, known as 'Darnley Pattern' portraits after an early version once owned by John Bligh, First Earl of Darnley (1687-1728) and now in the National Portrait Gallery. Other versions of the image follow the same basic pattern, although each differs in some respect. In the three-quarter length Darnley portrait, painted from life, Elizabeth holds a fan made of coloured feathers.
Elizabeth sat for her portrait at least eight times during her reign. However, this work is not painted from life but follows a pattern, which is the basis of several similar works by different artists. Such portraits are commonly listed in contemporary inventories as the property of wealthy merchants, the gentry and members of the nobility.
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