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Last Updated: Friday, 23 November 2007, 09:38 GMT
Elizabeth portrait fetches 2.6m
Queen Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I was under pressure to find a husband early in her reign
The earliest known full-length portrait of Queen Elizabeth I has fetched 2.6m at auction in London.

Painted by Steven van der Meulen, it is thought to have been commissioned to help the monarch "advertise" herself to potential suitors.

The portrait had been expected to fetch between 700,000 and 1m, auctioneer Sotheby's said.

The "Virgin Queen" never married, despite a string of suitors throughout the 1560s and 1570s.

The two-metre-tall painting depicts the pale-skinned queen standing in a crimson satin dress adorned with pearls and coloured gems.

"Like her father, Henry VIII, she was incredibly conscious of how important her image was," Emmeline Hallmark, of Sotheby's said.

"This painting is so pretty and decorative, and the symbolism alludes to the fact that she is in the ripeness of her life."

The painting had been hung, largely ignored, for 50 years on the wall of a private meeting room at Aylesbury Crown Court in Buckinghamshire.

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