Symbolism in Elizabeth’s Portraits

Symbolism in Elizabeth’s portraits has been there all along, but some of us have chosen not to see it until now. It wasn’t until I recently watched a documentary that talked about the symbolism in Elizabeth’s “Rainbow” portrait that I started looking for them. In this article I will cover three portraits with obvious symbols. If you happen to find more portraits with symbols please feel free to share with me!

Elizabeth “Rainbow” Portrait

rainbow portrait sybolism



Elizabeth had lots of symbolism in her portraits that is easy to overlook.

For example, this “Rainbow” portrait is loaded with symbolism and I’m not sure how I never noticed it before.

  1. “Mon Sine Sole Iris” means No Rainbow Without the Sun. Only the queen’s wisdom can ensure peace and prosperity.
  2. Notice the eyes and the ears – This is something I’ve overlooked and I’m not sure how I could have missed it! Clearly this is symbolizing that she is always watching and listening, or that she has eyes and ears everywhere.
  3. The snake/serpent symbolizes fertility while the heart at the top right hanging from the snake symbolizes love.
  4. In Elizabeth’s hand it looks like she is holding a clear tube – this is indeed a rainbow, however the colors have faded from the portrait. She hold the rainbow in her hand. The rainbow in this portraits symbolizes peace. She’s holding it – does that mean without her there is no peace?

We can also note that there are lots of pearls in this portrait…The pearls symbolize virginity. Isn’t it amazing how one portrait can hold so many symbols!?

The “Phoenix” Portrait

phoenix symbols



Here’s another portrait, the “Phoenix” portrait. Again, not sure how I missed the symbolism.

  1. Note the phoenix. In the full image it’s easy to overlook. A phoenix is (in classical mythology) a unique bird that lived for five to six centuries in the Arabian desert. After this time it consumed by fire and born again, rising from the ashes with renewed youth to live through another cycle. Only one phoenix can live at a time so it symbolizes it uniqueness and longevity.
  2. Elizabeth is holding a red rose. A red rose has religious connotations – it was the medieval symbol of the Virgin Mary. It also symbolized that Elizabeth was the Virgin Queen.
  3. Pearls. Again we see the pearls. They symbolize her virginity and purity.

The “Ermine” Portrait

Here are more symbols “hidden” within her portraits. From now on, every time you see a portrait of Elizabeth you’ll look a little closer.

This portrait shows her royalty, purity, wealth, prosperity and power.

ermine symbolism



1. The ermine. Ermine represents royalty and nobility along with purity.

2. The pearls. This time the pearls look black to me. Black pearls represent wealth and prosperity.

3. The Sword of State. Elizabeth would use this in her portraits, sometimes small, sometimes large to symbolize power.


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