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Elizabeth I takes centre stage at Trinity

Freshers eating lunch were not the only new faces in Hall this week. Queen Elizabeth I now surveys the scene from above High Table.

The portrait of Elizabeth I, painted by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, circa 1597
The portrait of the ‘Virgin Queen’

The portrait of the ‘Virgin Queen’, resplendent in a jewelled dress, replaces that of her father, Henry VIII, temporarily at least. The iconic portrayal of her infamous father, by Hans Eworth, one of Holbein’s successors, is on loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum.

There is another, symbolic, reason for moving Elizabeth I centre stage: 2015 marks the 40th year since the College statutes were changed to allow the admission of women. Trinity admitted the first female graduate student in 1976, the first female fellow in 1977 and the first female undergraduate in 1978.

The portrait of Elizabeth I, painted by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, circa 1597, was installed in Hall on 5 October 2015.

According to the Keeper of the Pictures at Trinity, Paul Simm, the Queen’s dress is in the style of those in the ‘Armada’ series of portraits produced from 1588. The painting is thought to have been given to Trinity by Mr Heywood in the 1790s.

In more recent times, diners in Hall may have become accustomed to being watched over by the celebrated image of Henry VIII, who founded the College in 1546.

Elizabeth I also played a part in Trinity’s history. While the exact details are disputed, the Chapel, begun by Mary I in 1555, was completed during Elizabeth’s reign, in 1564. She also assisted Thomas Nevile, who was Master of Trinity from 1548 to 1615, to finance the creation of Great Court, the Hall and the Master’s Lodge.

Senior Tutor, Professor Catherine Barnard, welcomed the installation of Elizabeth I’s distinguished portrait in Hall.

We are very proud to demonstrate her splendour in Hall as we mark 40 years of admitting magnificent women to Trinity.


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