Images of a Dead Queen

‘There was such a generall sighing and groning, and weeping, and the like hath not beene seene or knowne in the memorie of man’: visual images of the death of Elizabeth I played a key role in her funeral and in creating the ensuing cult of Gloriana.

Drawings of the funeral procession of Elizabeth I of England to to Westminster Abbey, 28th April 1603 : the horse trapped with velvet, led by two attendants; the Sergeant of the Vestry and Children of the Chapel Royal;
Drawings of the funeral procession of Elizabeth I to Westminster Abbey, 28 April 1603 (detail). Wiki Commons.

Elizabeth I died at about three o’clock in the morning of March 24th, 1603. While the natural body of the queen perished, the body of symbolism that had been built up around her did not. The cult of Elizabeth persisted, enjoying a revival under the Stuart kings. It engendered posthumous images of Elizabeth’s form in written texts, in visual art and – as is appropriate for a period when the word ‘image’ referred primarily to a sculpted three-dimensional figure or model – in life-size effigies.

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