By Jack Garland
The Associated Press
LONDON - A new exhibition will provide a rare insight into the life of Queen Elizabeth I, showcasing such intimate artifacts as love letters from her suitors and largely unseen portraits of the monarch.
The exhibition, announced Sunday, is being staged to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Elizabeth's death in 1603. Many of the paintings, manuscripts and fine art objects have never before been displayed to the public.
"The exhibition will present an evocative account of a young Princess who overcame all the odds to become one of England's most successful monarchs," said David Starkey, guest curator of the exhibition at the National Maritime Museum.
Queen Elizabeth II will officially open the exhibit on Thursday. On view will be 350 items related to Elizabeth I, including drawings made at the execution of her enemy, Mary, Queen of Scots, and a copy of her first speech as queen.
Elizabeth I was one of the greatest monarchs, and her reign marked a crucial stage in Britain's history. She was 25 when she ascended the throne in 1558, inheriting a country torn apart by bitter religious intolerance and threatened by invasion and political instability. But during her 45-year reign England became one of the richest and most powerful nations in Europe, and her rule helped shape the development of the British Empire.
The love letters on display will provide more detail of the woman who styled herself as the "virgin queen" and famously refused to marry, instead using her marriage prospects as a tool of foreign and domestic policy.
Other exhibits include her orpharion - a rare musical instrument similar to a lute - and a fine chalk drawing by Holbein of Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth's mother.
National Maritime Museum: www.nmm.ac.uk
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