Queen Elizabeth I by Unknown continental artist, circa 1575. Photograph: National Portrait Gallery London
There’s a painting in the National Portrait Gallery that has long been a source of fashion inspiration for me; it dates from about 1575, and is a peerless image of redheaded chic.
Elizabeth I wears a gown of white and gold satin with dashing scarlet frogging across the breast, like a hussar, and she holds a particularly wonderful feather fan – whites and sulphurous yellows, dark iridescent greens, oranges and russet reds.
That ghostly face is turned three-quarters of the way toward us; her expression reserved; her lips compressed.
The line of that nose – “rising somewhat in the midst”, as Sir John Hayward described it – is clearly shown.
My nose does the same. My hair is also red. Elizabeth I has been my pin-up girl since I was tiny.
But it was only when I began researching my book Red: A Natural History of the Redhead that I came to appreciate how revolutionary Elizabeth’s image-making truly was.