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Iconic painting of Queen Elizabeth I 'saved' for $13.57 million

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
Michael Bowles | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

An historic and iconic portrait of England's Elizabeth I has been "saved" and put into public ownership for the first time in its history thanks to a public appeal and a large grant from the U.K.'s national lottery fund.

"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," Stephen Deuchar, director of the fundraising charity Art Fund, said in a statement.

The appeal was launched in May with a £1 million ($1.32 million) grant from the Art Fund and a £400,000 donation from Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG).

It benefited from 8,000 public donations in only 10 weeks, which saw £1.5 million raised. "Major" contributions were made by the Linbury Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation and Headley Trust, with the fund further boosted by a £7.4 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

In all, £10.3 million was raised and the painting, known as the Armada Portrait, was successfully purchased from descendants of the English explorer Francis Drake.

The Art Fund went on to describe the painting as encapsulating "the creativity, ideals and ambitions of the Elizabethan era."

The portrait will now be displayed in public at the Queen's House in Greenwich, London. It marks the defeat of the vast Spanish Armada in 1588, regarded as one of the most iconic events in English history.

It was during this period that Elizabeth, who was queen from 1558 until 1603, gave a rousing speech to her men at Tilbury, in Essex. "I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too," she said.

"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'," Peter Luff, the Heritage Lottery Fund chair, said in a news release.

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