Painting the Armada exhibition

This summer, the Royal Gallery hosts an exhibition featuring six vast paintings depicting events of 1588 when Philip II of Spain sent his Armada to land an army of invasion and take the English crown from Elizabeth I.

The paintings are based on a series of 10 tapestries, commissioned by the commander of the English fleet, Lord Howard of Effingham, to celebrate the English victory. The tapestries hung in the House of Lords Chamber for over 175 years until they were destroyed in the fire of 1834.

When the new Palace was built in the 19th century it was decided that this iconic moment in British history should be included in the scheme of decoration. The first painting in the series of six was commissioned from the artist Richard Burchett. Unfortunately the other five paintings were never completed until now.

Commissioning the new paintings

In 2007 the Convenor of the Crossbench Peers presented a paper on the history of the Armada tapestries to the House of Lords Works of Art Committee who were enthusiastic to complete the scheme.

The paintings have been made possible by a significant private donation and the artist Anthony Oakshett was commissioned to undertake the massive task of completing the series.

The five canvases, each measuring 3.6 x 4.3m, have taken two and a half years to complete. This autumn they will be installed, along with Burchett's painting, in their permanent position in the Prince's Chamber

Displaying the new paintings

Until the autumn, all six paintings are on display in the Royal Gallery accompanied by historical information telling the story of the tapestries and their life in the House of Lords and an account of how Anthony Oakshett and his team have undertaken the complex task of painting the new paintings.

How to visit the exhibition

The exhibition can be visited by free guided tour. Tours are not bookable in advance and offered on a first come first served basis.

To come on a tour enter Parliament via the Cromwell Green Visitor Entrance and ask at the information desk in Westminster Hall.

Opening dates and times from Monday 21 June – 30 July 2010:

  • Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: 9.30am, 10.30am and 11.30am
  • Sitting Fridays: 4pm
  • Non-sitting Fridays: 9.30am, 10.30am, 11.30am, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm
  • 10.30am tour unavailable on Wednesday 7 July 

Tour numbers are limited to 15 people.

If you wish to arrange a group visit, call 020 7219 3003 in advance.

Related information

Crossbench Peers

Find out more about the Crossbench Peers and their role

Where do I go?

Enter via the Cromwell Green Visitor Entrance and go to the Westminster Hall information desk

Art in Parliament

Explore the Parliamentary art collection that is displayed throughout the buildings of the parliamentary estate.