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Lady Bennet

Elisabeth de Valois

The portrait below shows Elisabeth de Valois. It was painted in the 1550s. She died during childbirth in 1568, not long after this picture was painted. Her daughter grew up to rule all Spanish lands in the Netherlands.


Portrait of Elisabeth de Valois wearing a highly decorated gown covered in pearls and precious jewels.
Portrait of Elisabeth de Valois

What Clues does this Portrait Contain?

  • Elisabeth is wearing a rich gown with a strong red colour.
  • You can see on her dress the 'slashing' design popular in Tudor times. This involved cutting the cloth on the outside of the outfit and pulling through the cloth from underneath. The slashing design showed you were wealthy because it required more fabric.

Detail of slashing in a Tudor dress from Portrait of Elisabeth de Valois. The outer red fabric is 'slashed' to reveal a gold embroidered fabric underneath.
Portrait of Elisabeth de Valois (detail)

  • Like most wealthy Tudor women, Elisabeth would have followed the latest trends. In the portrait you can see her pale skin, a sign of being rich enough not to have to work outside. Elizabeth's skin is very smooth and she may have been wearing make-up to disguise lines and marks on her face of the wearer. 

Detail from portrait of  Elisabeth de Valois showing her head close up.  Her face is very pale, with pink cheeks.  She wears a tiara encrusted with precious jewels and pearls.
Portrait of Elisabeth de Valois (detail)

  • You might also notice that Elisabeth's hairline is very high. In the past women sometimes plucked their hair, to make their foreheads more prominent. At the time a high forehead was considered aristocratic.
  • Elisabeth wears a jewelled crown. What does this suggest about her position in life?
  • What do you think of the size of her clothes? Does her outfit remind you of any of the other portraits used in this resource?

Who was Elisabeth de Valois?

Elisabeth was a French princess, the daughter of King Henry II of France. She was a close friend of Mary, Queen of Scots, who grew up at the French court. In 1559, aged just 14, Elisabeth married Phillip II of Spain, although she had at first been intended to marry his son. She died in 1568, during the birth of her third child.



Aristocratic - belonging to the most wealthy and powerful class in society

Disguise - to hide or cover something up

Intended - meant or supposed to

Pluck - to pull something out 

Require - to need