Elizabeth Armada Portrait.JPG

The Branding Queen

Elizabeth. Defender of the Realm. Patron of the arts... and Shakespeare. Loving and beloved by her people.  The image -- her brand -- was carefully crafted by the Virgin Queen herself. The brand conveys little accuracy.  But brands don't need to.  A brand is perception, not reality.

History remembers Elizabeth preparing her army to defend England from the approaching Spanish Armada. Clad in armor, horseback, she exhorts the gathered troops at Tilbury to stand up and defend beloved England.  Our collective memory of her actions is more brand than truth, though. A more accurate modern day analogue?  Terrorist, perhaps.  Elizabeth sponsored privateers -- pirates -- such as Francis Drake to pillage Spanish galleons returning from the Americas for gold and treasures. Interrogatory technique of the day?  Torture.  The primary threat to Elizabeth's crown, Mary Queen of Scots, was imprisoned and kept alive solely for the strategic purpose of postponing attack from Spain. The true colors of the Queen were apparent after the threat of the Armada was past, as the returning sailors and soldiers, ridden with disease and injury, were left to suffer in hunger as street beggars, forgotten by the crown. 

By the day of Elizabeth's famous speech at Tilbury,  the Armada had drifted too far northward up the English Channel to find its target on the British Isles. The Armada of 130 ships carried 30,000 human souls: sailors, infantry, priests and support -- not to mention the animals that upon landing in Britain would pull weapons and supplies alike. In the end, the Armada was beaten more by weather and inadequate equipment than by the pestering English fleet.  The smallish standing army of England, supposedly inspired by Elizabeth's words, never saw action.

But the brand lives on. 

'I count the glory of my crown that I have reigned with your love.'


Historians say that Elizabeth was perhaps the first monarch to understand the importance of managing the image and brand of her scheme of leadership and governance. 

Brand Imagery: Elizabeth's Royal countenance

Brand Imagery - The Royal Countenance

Consider the famous "Armada Portrait" at upper left. Elizabeth and her privy court approved a template of sorts to govern the likeness -- or unlikeness -- of any portrait of the Queen.  Her skin clear and devoid of the red splotches and scars from smallpox from which she'd suffered. Her mouth closed so that her blackened teeth would not distract from the dignified pose. The dress, the jewels, the gold... a magnificent brand that lives on centuries later.

Any portrait that not depict the Queen in similar manner was destroyed.

Collateral imagery was also carefully chosen. Elizabeth sits in front of images of the ships that had just defended the realm -- in glorious formation to our left, in exciting battle to our right.  Her right hand rests on a globe, indicating power and world dominance -- fingers resting on the Americas -- foreboding a future that deed indeed occur.

To further the royal reputation, Elizabeth "processions" -- progress

Brand Narrative: Queen Among the People

As described in History and Other Thoughts, Elizabeth and her governing cadre staged periodic "progresses", elaborate trips to visit various parts of the kingdom. "The Queen, travelling in a golden silver carriage and wearing the most beautiful silk dresses and exquisite jewels on her hair and neck, would look like a goddess to the peasants. In front of her traveled the servants, the guards and the equerries, while the counselors and her maids of honour were just behind her. 

And wherever she went, the inhabitants made sure to give her a magnificent welcome. Houses and palaces were embellished, the streets and gardens cleaned, and the gallows removed. Thieves and prostitutes were either imprisoned or told to do their business somewhere else for the duration of the visit, and even mentally ill people were kept under lock. A stage for recitals, performances and welcome speeches was erected, and food and drinks were prepared. Everything had to be perfect for the Queen's arrival. When she finally arrived, the bells would ring, the musicians start to play and the orators give speeches to welcome their Queen, who would graciously thank them, accept their presents and watch the performances under all kinds of weather, rain included."

Brands have both a Cognitive and an Emotional Component

'I count the glory of my crown that I have reigned with your love.'

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