A portrait of Elizabeth I has become public property, after an appeal helped raise 10.3m to buy it.
The Armada portrait, thought to have been painted in 1590, was being sold by descendants of Sir Francis Drake.
An Art Fund appeal generated 1.5m from 8,000 donations. The Heritage Lottery Fund gave 7.4m; the Art Fund and Royal Museums Greenwich were major donors.
The picture will go on show at the Queen’s House in Greenwich, near the site of Elizabeth’s birth, in October.
‘Inspiring female leadership’
The painting, considered to be a masterpiece of the English Renaissance, commemorates one of the most famous moments of Elizabeth’s reign, the failed invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588.
Sir Francis was the vice admiral of the English fleet at the time and it is believed he may even have commissioned the painting, which is unusual for its large size – 3ft 7ins by 4ft 1in (1.1m by 1.25m) – and horizontal format.
The Art Fund donated 1m to the cost of the painting, while Royal Museums Greenwich supplied 400,000.
The remaining funds came from the Linbury Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation and the Headley Trust.
Stephen Deuchar, director of The Art Fund, said the campaign to save the painting had been “a triumph of popular will”.
“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,” he said.
HLF chairman Sir Peter Luff said the painting was “a compelling historic icon, illustrating as it does a decisive conflict, inspiring female leadership, maritime power and the emergence of the Elizabethan ‘Golden Age'”.
“This image has shaped our understanding of the Virgin Queen for over 400 years and I am delighted that it will now have such an appropriate permanent home in Greenwich,” he added.
The painting will be the centrepiece for the reopening of the Queen’s House on 11 October.
It will then undergo a conservation process to “restore its fragile painted surfaces” before becoming part of an exhibition and outreach programme, an Art Fund spokeswoman said.
Among those who donated to the appeal were a seven-year-old Wakefield girl, who sold Elizabeth I cupcakes whilst dressed in a costume inspired by the painting, and pupils at St Paul’s Girl School in London, who held a bake sale to raise funds.
St Paul’s history teacher Blanche Girouard said the girls “study the portrait when we teach Elizabeth I and the Armada, so [they were] very keen to help save it for the nation”.