Elizabeth I of England and the Splendour of Jewellery


- August 2017 -

One of the most remarkable queens has been Queen Elizabeth I of England, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. The splendour of her court was immense and was a fundamental instrument for stating her power. Portraits of her are famous for she is always depicted laden with precious jewels but never getting any older.


Elizabeth I of EnglandA beautiful woman of her time, she was slim with pale skin – as a Venus like woman should be – with flame blond hair, brown eyes, a piercing gaze, thin lips and she carried her head haughtily. Often nick-named ‘The Virgin Queen’ due to having never married, she remains one of the greatest monarchs of all time. She stood out by her intelligence and her political and strategic vision.

She learnt French, Italian, Latin, Greek and music. The Elizabethan scholar Roger Ascham, said of her: “all the qualities Aristotle required are met in her person”. Behind the splendour and the hedonism hid a pragmatic woman; she resisted all marriage proposals so as to keep her supremacy. She surrounded herself by wise councillors, without necessarily always following their advice: a characteristic of many great kings. She did not escape religious wars and chose Protestantism over Catholic Spain. She was also witness to her country’s artistic development, with William Shakespeare, among others. Diamond jewellery also became a diplomatic present with which she showed her recognition to certain disciples of the Court, or to other monarchs.

Elisabeth I, queen of EnglandSome jewels, such as the pendants seen in some of her portraits are typical of the era. She presented some such jewels to Sir Francis Drake who beat the invincible Spanish Armada. At the English court, the furniture at Hampton court gallery even included a twenty-eight feet long table covered with a velvet cloth embroidered with pearls the size of peas, a purple velvet throne embroidered with gold and inlaid with pearls and precious stones and a silver mirror inlaid with turquoise.  This extravagance in clothing, jewels and furniture was at its height towards the middle of her reign. Unfortunately a lot of these art pieces have disappeared. Before the Sun King, Louis XIV, Queen Elisabeth I, used her jewellery as a statement and a symbol of power.


Text ©World Luxury Jewellers



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