'This depiction of Elizabeth I impressed me deeply when I first saw it more than 60 years ago. She refused to be deflected by marriage from her duties as Queen and kept England safe.'

The Commons Petitioning Queen Elizabeth to Marry, 1911, by Solomon Joseph Solomon (1860–1927),
81⁄3 ft by 14¾ft, Palace of Westminster. Credit: SJS parlimentary art collection

Baroness Boothroyd OM says:
This depiction of Elizabeth I impressed me deeply when I first saw it more than 60 years ago. She refused to be deflected by marriage from her duties as Queen and kept England safe. Her courage and charisma were inspirational. Most women were confined to a spectator’s role in public affairs for another 350 years. Breaking the mould was still hard going when I tried to become an MP, but I persevered. Even so, my becoming Speaker of the Commons was unthinkable until the House elected me for what I was, not for what I was born. I like to think Good Queen Bess would have approved.

Baroness Boothroyd OM was the first woman Speaker of the House of Commons and Chancellor of the Open University. The Queen awarded her the Order of Merit in 2005. She is an independent
life peer in the House of Lords.

John McEwen comments on The Commons Petitioning Queen Elizabeth to Marry:
Solomon Joseph Solomon was the son of a rich London businessman. He studied art in London (Royal Academy Schools), Munich and Paris and was a founder of the New English Art Club, an alternative to the Royal Academy created by young artists. When Solomon later became a Royal Academician, he was only the second Jew to achieve that honour. His allegorical paintings were the ones best known to the public, but he was no less admired among private patrons for his portraits, the royal family to the fore.

This allegory is subtitled: ‘With this ring I was wedded to the realm.’ It was commissioned by Lord Swaythling, who, as Samuel Montagu, founded the bank of the same name. A pious Orthodox Jew, he devoted himself to good works and the advance of Jewish institutions. His head is at the shoulder of the man in black; the head of Herbert Asquith, the last Liberal Prime Minister (1908–16), is just visible behind it. It seems that deference on the part of the politicians meant the dominant black- and red-clad figures were anonymous models.

In the First World War, Solomon signed up as a private in the United Art Rifles, a home defence corps. Long range weaponry made camouflage essential and he promoted his ideas on the subject through the press and to senior army officers. In due course, he became technical advisor on the production of camouflage materials for British troops on the Western Front. His passionate advocacy of netting to camouflage tanks led to his obsession that the Germans were hiding huge armies under immense nets.