The Iconic White Paint of Elizabeth I

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Chances are high that you may know her appearance from the many portraits that have been made of her, regardless of her living long ago in England. Her name is Elizabeth I and because of her many trademarks such as her dark red lips, creamy-white skin, and long red dresses, she remains one of the most recognizable British monarchs to rule. Although her look is centuries old, it is still highly looked upon in the modern world. However, having an image such as hers can easily conceal secrets from the world. In fact, her huge amount of concealment could have caused her eventual death.

1. Coming Close To Not seeing The Throne

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Being the daughter of Henry VIII and queen Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth came pretty close to never having a seat on the royal throne. However, once Elizabeth became crowned, she took it upon herself to never let go of it for as long as she lived.

At the time, this required her to look her best no matter what. And that is how her iconic looks emerged. Through her makeup, she maintained an image of beauty, strength, but also of power on the political scene. She needed this image in order to appear as a strong leader. And indeed, she became an emblematic personality.

2. Elizabeth’s Role in The Renaissance

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It was her overall look that many believe was the motivation for the Renaissance to begin, which was becoming ever popular at the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. The role of the queen became an important part of it by becoming a huge advocate for literature and the arts.

Elizabeth also became inspired by the ideals surrounding beauty in her time, and she ensured to reproduce them as she lived her life. Indeed, it was important for her to have beauty in her surroundings – her residence, her gardens and so on, but also on herself, through her clothing, hairdo and makeup.

3. A High Desirability

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With a look that Queen Elizabeth had, it was desired by many men throughout the Renaissance period. However, maintaining that standard was not always easy, especially during times of disease and other illnesses that were running wild throughout the country.

Knowing how she managed to maintain her look is what many continue to wonder. Probably, she was very aware of her role as a queen, and of how much of a model she was for her subjects. Indeed, particularly in hard times of diseases, it was important to have a queen who gave them hope. Maintaining a high standard was her way to inspire confidence.

4. The Queen’s Virgin Secret

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With her being recognized for being a virgin during her reign, it was thought that the secret layed within her makeup that she applied vigorously on a daily basis on her face. Her daily painting was such an essential part of her image, beauty, and overall power while reigning.

The fact that she never got married in spite of such beauty had rumors spreading out at the time. Indeed, the Queen met many handsome men at her court, and her subjects though many times that she would marry one of her suitors. But she did not and remained very enigmatic.

5. Elizabeth Catching Smallpox

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Film: Anonymous

Eventually, Queen Elizabeth caught smallpox, which made her ministers begin to develop a scheme to have her dethroned if her condition worsened. Plus, due to her having no heirs in line, many believed that the Queen of Scots, Catholic Mary would become the new monarch.

However, luck was in the queen’s corner because of her eventual overcoming of the disease prior to her replacement being recognized and eventually crowned. Upon Queen Elizabeth’s health returning to normal, she was still plagued by smallpox scars, which almost killed her.

Unfortunately, for Lady Sidney, her contraction of smallpox was more severe. This came about due to her continuous bedside presence to the queen, which ultimately create disfigurement.

6. Elizabeth’s Close Friend Lady Sidney

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It is believed that Lady Sidney had such a huge outbreak of smallpox that her disfigurement almost made her unrecognizable by her own family. It was so bad that her own husband wrote about how he felt disgusted by her appearance.

Besides Lady Sydney, since Elizabeth was also stricken she found the only way she knew how to cover it all up and hide the blemishes, through the Venetian ceruse. It came into good use when she needed to influence others, and worked very well when men controlled the current society. Plus, with the scars she had, she had no other way to convey her image that everyone came to recognize throughout her life as queen.

7. The Daily Painting

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Film: Elizabeth

This is why Elizabeth regularly painted her face. In fact, it became a daily routine where others hardly ever saw the real skin tone underneath it all. Because of the white makeup, her image remains iconic in today’s theatrical performances and in a movie portrayal, no matter how long ago it has been.

At the time also, her looks were very recognizable. The subjects, but also all other kings in the world, would instantly recognize her because of it. It made her a very strong looking and impressive figure for all. And this image remained, since we would also recognize her in a painting.

8. A small Circle

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When it came to being seen without the makeup, only those who were extremely close to the queen saw her without it. As time went on, the lead within the pain was slowly eating her real appearance and destroying her skin from beneath.

With this occurring, the ones closest to her said nothing as they witnessed the queen’s status remain untainted because of her character as being seen as beautiful.

So, the Queen maintained her image of immaculate beauty for the world, whereas the reality was very different and known only by few persons of her entourage. But soon enough, the secret would be let out.

9. The True Look

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However hard she tried to keep her appearance hidden, one day it was seen by Robert Devereux as he grew tired of waiting and caught a glimpse of the queen prior to her makeup being put on. It was noted that Devereux was a favorite of the queen, but that quickly changed after he saw her.

The sight disgusted Devereux so much that he went on to make jokes with friends and colleagues about her true appearance and by calling her cruel names. Although many think that was the reason for the execution of Devereux. However, his execution is more likely caused by his failed attempt at a plot against her in 1601.

10. Increase in Dependence

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Film: Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Once this unwelcome instance by Devereux, Elizabeth became increasingly dependent upon the toxic paint in order to maintain her unblemished appearance throughout her life.

In officials events, she made sure that others were dressed in the most simple colors, as she catered to her huge, colorful gowns, which made her always be the center of attention among her peers.

This is how the myth of Queen Elizabeth went on, as she kept making remarked and beautiful appearances. For her subjects, who did not see the more private image of the Queen, the myth was still that of a radiant queen.

11. Her Reign of Majestic Splendor

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The good thing is that she continued to be seen in the right manner. With her huge amount of favor among her subjects, the queen was viewed as being Gloriana, which many began to celebrate her for the many accomplishments she managed, such as the Spanish Armada that threatened the land.

More so today, many continue to be reminded of how she was a magnificent queen that ruled with so much prestige and vigor. The imagery that was passed on through generations, mostly through paintings, is also showing us this particular image of the queen. She appears as strong, confident and sovereign.

12. The Underlying Cause For Her Death

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Sadly, the beauty that Queen Elizabeth continuously showcased may have also brought about her early death at just 69 years old. Throughout her older years, leading to her death, the queen was beginning to lose her hair. Besides this, Elizabeth also complained of being tired constantly, problems with digestion, and issues involving her memory.

In the modern world, any doctor would easily identify her as being poisoned by the lead that made up the makeup she wore her entire life. But in that time, unfortunately, this was still not known, and no one could identify was what causing the damage before it was too late.

13. Her Ultimate Image

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When it comes to knowing if Queen Elizabeth’s image was behind her untimely demise, it is hard to say. This is because prior to her passing, permission was not given in order to have her true cause of death known. Because of this, we are only left to speculate.

As time goes on, many continue to draw many conclusions and rumors as to why she made the decision, such as the possibility of her being a man in disguise or not even being a virgin at all. It is also unsure if the queen’s death was even related to any instance of vanity, due to it not being proven.

14. The Introduction of Anne of Cleves

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Of course, we cannot say we know everything that took place in Elizabeth’s life outside the obvious, such as the ingredients of her makeup. However, what many would like to know concerns Anne of Cleves, the queen’s stepmother.

If you are familiar with British history, then you will know that Anne was the wife of Henry VIII. As wife number four, she managed to live a life that was beyond extraordinary despite her and Henry VIII splitting up. Indeed, after they split up for strategic and political reasons, they managed to stay quite close. Anne of Cleves lived a very long life, which was usual at the time.

15. Her Escape

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This was as opposed to the many others before and after her, who had become subdued by the king, which is why Anne managed to escape from the ultimate demise that her union was slowly brewing up. It was a good thing because she managed to live to share her experience.

Besides managing to endure the monarch’s tight grasp, but managed to live longer than any other wife he had. Although knowing this about Anne is interesting in itself, there are a few reasons why the experience was significantly different as compared to the others.

Below, are the most accurate facts to date concerning Anne, which will have you more knowledgeable about her life.

16. The Matching of Anne and Henry VIII Was Political in Nature


Romance was not the driving force behind Anne and Henry VIII’s matching and eventual union. Instead, couples became matched and married due to their benefits achieved through political positions they held. Indeed, Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves had never met before they got engaged.

The union that eventually arose between Anne and Henry VIII became no different by any means. Due to the princess being a daughter of a nobleman in Germany by the name of John III, Thomas Cromwell saw this as a great match due to the ancestry involved, which made Anne the best choice as the king’s wife.

17. A Possible Alliance

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It became seen that both the father of Anne, John III, and Henry VIII had a commonality that was important, that is the fact that both of them disliked Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. In fact, both Charles V and John III had many instances of fighting that involved land.

With Henry VIII, his interactions with the emperor were characterized as being total opposites when it came to the new Protestant Reformation. Having a mutual hatred for the ruler, the king’s main minister saw a great opportunity as well as a great benefit to have king Henry VIII marry Anne.

18. Commissioning a Portrait to Make It Official

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When it comes to photos today, we can easily take advantage of their use. In fact, kids today can also create great photos. However, during the Renaissance, the idea of a modern photo was nonexistent, let alone what a camera phone was, let alone the invention of the camera itself.

So for individuals to see each other prior to meeting them was by way of having a portrait of them created. The person to be portrayed had to pose in front of the painter, who would then work for hours on the commission. The portrait did not only represent the person, but also obeyed symbolic rules and standards of beauty.

19. A Portrait Commissioned for the King

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With that, Henry VIII had a portrait ordered that would be used for the sole purpose of portraying Anne and her sibling Amalia as both being a possible wife number four. However, king Henry VIII had made an order that was specifically for the renowned Hans Holbein of Germany.

This is because the portraits were to be as lifelike as possible. Plus, Hans did not want to disappoint the king and make Germans viewed as being incompetent.

Anne and Amalia had to pose in order for the painter to make a picture that would be as resembling as possible, so the king would know how they looked.

20. Anne Decided To Be Difficult For The Painter

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Being a princess from Germany, Anne was seen often in the German fashion world back home. Because of this, her wardrobe was distinctly different in comparison to the English styles, where sleeves were considerably more comfortable.

Despite this, an issue arose that easily could have made a big problem for the king, which was the fact that Anne and Amalia wore veils that concealed their identities. Because of this concealing, the king’s advisors could have easily had a difficult time to provide precise information concerning their appearance.

In spite of that, the portraits were able to be seen by the king, which the sisters were seen completely from head to toe.

21. Anne’s Appearance Was Not To The Liking Of The King

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It became apparent that princess Anne was thought highly of among many others. To say the least, diplomat Charles de Marillac gave plenty of adoration for her beauty, features, and confidence. Not only that, but historian Edward Hall also gladly showed fondness in his published tome that described her hood as being the tool that set off her beauty and made every animal give her the respected praise.

Despite all of that, king Henry VIII did not feel affected by what he heard about Anne. In fact, Henry VIII thought his future wife was not more than decent looking as compared to what others had said. Henry also thought that Anne’s appearance was just typical of a woman, and then began to reprimand the individuals who thought more of her.

22. They Had A Big Difference In Age

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Regardless of how Henry thought of the image of Anne, the two had a significant difference in age. Although that was true, the couple married in 1540. At the time of the wedding, Anne was so young that she could have been Henry´s daughter. Plus, Henry was no longer young and youthful at the time he married Anne.

As a matter of fact, the older that Henry got, his waist was only growing more and more inactive. Also, his way of life began to present many different afflictions such as sores covering his body, and continuous episodes of constipation. With all things considered, Henry was not fully capable of being able to make a good judgement of others.

23. The Awkward Initial Meeting of Henry and Anne

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It is worthy to say that Anne did not have an easy time when first meeting king Henry and was actually pretty awkward for her. To make matters worse, as Henry tried to wooh Anne, he actually made it feel embarrassing. With the initial meet occurring on New Years Day of 1540 shortly after Anne arrived at Rochestert Abbey. It was then that Henry made his move to impress Anne as she watched the bullbaiting taking place.

At the time, a popular way to go about weas to dress’up and disguise yourself while in the court, so Henry decided to make his impression in that manner. However hard Henry tried, he ended up failing in his attempt. It was so bad of a meeting that when Hewnry embraced and kissed Anne she felt awkward of the event and only told him ¨thank you¨. During their many other talks they shared, king Henry was often referred to as being little and only liked to stair outside from a window.

24. The Wedding Ring Was Personalized for Anne

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After Marrying Henry, Anne was provided with a motto that was personal for her, the same as it was for hs other wives before her. Inherently, for Anne , the motto provided to her read “God Send Me Well to Keep”. Prior to the wedding, the motto was engraved into the ring.

After annulling the marriage, Anne quickly returned the ring to the king in order for it to be snapped in half as a symbol that the relationship has ended. Anne believed that by having the ring split in two would signify that the marriage was an ultimate failure.

25. A Regrettable Wedding Night

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With the fact that there was very little fondness for one another, which is probably not surprising to know that thier first night together was also a failure. It is believed that as he attempted to make seductive moves he was unable to due to the sheer sight of her body and was unable to complete what he had started. Also, many rumors were spreading that the king even had certain impressions surrounding his new queen.

King Henry was also only slightly appreciative and had even gone so far as to say that Anne had something that didn’t smell right, which he pointed towards the fact that Anne’s breasts were loose. Henry even went as far as to say that Anne was not a true virgin. However, the one reason that many believe was the problem was the possibility of king Henry was actually impotent and therefore unable to have the marriage consummated.

26. Passion Continued to Lack Within the Royal Marriage.

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If the wedding night was not bad enough, then the fact that their lack of passion continued is also no surprise. It is believed that Anne had talked to the Countess of Rutland and mentioned how the relationship was considered chaste.

It was also believed that Anne also said how Henry would kiss her and show her to bed and saying good night. However, Rutland believed that more must exist in order for a Duke of York to come about.

So it was not a secret, and soon the whole court would know about it. Still, at first, the king and queen tried to give the impression of a united royal couple.

27. Henry Eventually Gave Up In Trying To Make It Work

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Eventually, Henry gave up in trying to make it work, so he had the marriage annulled, of course with the likely help of his inability to consummate as being a factor. With all of that, Anne was told to occupy Richmond Palace shortly following her marriage. This was mainly due to the king feeling appalled by Anne having very little beauty. Plus the fact that he believed her not to be a true virgin.

In order to put the rumors to rest concerning his impotence, the king claimed of having a couple of wet dreams as he slept. People were quick to accept this as true and that his tools worked perfectly fine for him. However, the marriage was still annulled in 1540.

28. A very short-lived Nuptial

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Undoubtedly, Anne and Henry’s marriage was short-lived and because of just lasting six months, the marriage was the shortest that he had ever had. In fact, his marriage to his very first wife lasted for close to 25 years, despite the king’s attitude of beheading wives.

No matter what, though, Henry and Catherine remained together for more years that all of his relationships. Due to his love for the chopping, Anne was able to avoid any harm, unlike a couple of previous wives.

Some have come to feel a bit astonished due to the short amount of time they were married. Plus, besides avoiding execution, Henry actually provided gifts to her as a sort of, thank you.

29. The King Needed Someone To Blame

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It is well documented that Henry had a huge temper, which made him well-known and feared by many around him. Plus, he made sure that the Tower of London was kept full of those needing incarceration or to await execution. This may actually seem predictable as he felt that he needed someone to blame for the annullment.

Unfortunately, the individual king Henry decided to blame was Thomas Cromwell. It was believed that following the day of the annullment in 1540, Henry had Cromwell taken out of a meeting and jailed in the Tower of London without explanation. Henry then sentenced Cromwell to death and skipping the trial. By the tinme August came around in 1540, the chief minister of king Henry VIII was executed by beheading with a London crowd in attendance.

30. Both King Henry And Anne Stayed in Touch

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Although Cromwell experienced a beheading for thinking that the match was perfect, Anne continued to bring in much charity from her former husband. In fact, after the marriage was dismissed, Anne received an East Sussex castle and a palace along the Thames river. What’s more interesting is the fact that they also remained friends for the rest of their lives.

This demeanor was seen as rather strange due to his past behavior towards his former wives, by regarding her so highly on several occasions. In fact, Anne was nicknamed as being Henry´s ¨sister¨, and likely was known as that prior to haivng the annullment official. Anne was also seen spending a lot of time often within the king´s court .

31. King Henry’s Daughter’s Took A Liking To Her

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Besides remaining good friends with the king, she also stayed close to his daughters, especially Elizabeth and Mary. In spite of them having a difficult beginning, Mary and Anne became friends throughout the marriage with king Henry. This was even true after the annulment came to be, as she was believed to be seen with the daughter often.

Once Mary obtained the throne as queen, Anne was seated in close proximity during Mary’s coronation ceremony. In preparation of the ceremony, Anne and Princess Elizabeth made travels together by riding in an elegant royal carriage. Later, she was seen attending the banquet to celebrate the occasion. Anne’s will also gave mention of Mary and Elizabeth as such that she wanted her servants to join the princesses by wearing the abodes along with them. This was an obvious sign that her servants would be well taken care of from then on.

32. The King’s New Wife And Anne Got Along Well

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Following the annulment of Anne and Henry, the king took another wife named Catherine Howard, which he married in July of 1540. The marriage was also on the same day that the execution of Thomas Cromwell took place. Evidently, the king´s daughter Mary was not very fond of Catherine and actually preferred if her father had remarried Anne instead of Catherine.

The thing with Catherine is that she was actually a lady-in-waiting with Anne, and it is believed that this is how the king and Catherine had initially met and found out everything about her. Yet, although many think that the marriage may have caused some discord, this was actually not true. At the minimum, Anne took it upon herself to give a gift of two horses laiden with velvet. It is believed that the meeting between Anne and the new queen was seen as being ladylike and subtle.

33. But Henry continued to be petty

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And it seems that Anne wasn’t the only charitable royal of the trio. Upon her trip to Hampton Court in January 1541, she was invited to continue dancing into the night with Catherine, with the ex-queen staying to eat with the newlyweds the following day. Reportedly, Catherine also chose to bestow Anne a couple of gifts: a pair of dogs and a ring from the king himself.

Little did Anne know, however, that at least one of these presents wouldn’t be for keeps. In the months that followed, Catherine would come to be accused of adultery and so faced death for her alleged treason. And owing to this apparent betrayal, Henry wrote a brusque note to Anne in which he asked her to give back the ring that she was gifted.

34. Remarrying Was Evidently A Plan

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In the year 1542, Catherine was beheaded at just the age of 19 and the youngest queen to have met such a young death. Like it was said already, the marriage between Anne and king Henry was not able to start off as good as many first thought it would have.

However, this does not mean Anne never thought about remarrying Henry and giving it another shot. It is known that Anne had met with Henry, along with her brother, to suggest reuniting, although the king did not feel very persuaded by their suggestion. So, indeed, they decided against this idea.

35. Appreciation of Catherine

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Also, all of the affection that Anne expressed in regard to Catherine was not very appreciated by the king, nor was it something he wanted to see in his potential queen.

In fact, in a book published in 2007, titled The Six Wives of Henry VIII, it was believed that Anne had overheard a comment that Anne made about how her beauty was much more than what Catherine had. Maybe a little bit of compassion was made for the queen, although a remark was also made concerning how Catherine was going to go through a big duty while being married.

36. Anne Managed To Live It Up

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After it was all said and done, it was Anne who managed to make Catherine Parr shut up due to her survivability by more than eight years. In hindsight, king Henry had also met his end in 1547, which was ten whole years prior to Anne’s death. Although Anne managed to live the longest among the wives, she was not the oldest out of them all. This accolade belongs to Catherine of Aragon who reached the age of 50 prior to her 1536 death.

Then there is the reality of Anne being able to safely annul the king´s marriage to her without loosing her head in the process. Also being provided for afterwards is always nice too, which definately made her very fortunate. She also was able to relish in a luxurious lifestyle after the marriage, while being able to maintain a safe distance away from her estranged king Henry VIII.

37. A New Nickname Developed After Her Passing

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Film: The Other Boleyn Girl

About a century after Anne’s passing, a nickname became famous to describe the former England queen. The nickname, known as “The Flanders Mare” was coined by Bishop Gilbert Burnet of Salisbury in 1679. Plus, there is no evidence that king Henry ever mentioned this offense.

Even so, the belief of Anne having very little beauty is still believed by many no matter how long time has passed and is also commonly believed about the fourth wife. Regardless of that, many historians have continued to ponder the nickname’s authenticity since the portrait by Holbein painted a picture of a much more beautiful future queen as opposed to what was thought of her.

38. Anne Laid To Rest With Grandeur

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Anne of Cleves passed in 1557 in her London home. She was 41 years and most likely died of cancer. The best part is that if it wasn´t for her fiendship with Mary I, then her burial may have gone unnoticed. However, she was laid to rest that could have only been perfect for a queen.

With a coffin shrouded with golden cloths and tapers that burned continuously, the former queen was eventually laid within Westminster Abbey in 1557, which made her the only former queen of Henry VIII to be within the Abbey out of all of the former wives.