`Dangers Averted', c. 1589
From the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) notable successes of the Royal Navy were occasionally celebrated by commemorative medals, which gave great scope for images of ships in sail and naval battles. In Elizabeth's own reign England was twice threatened with a Spanish invasion. The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 was marked by the issue of a superb gold medal, attributed to the famous painter and goldsmith Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619). It shows a bay tree (believed to be a protection from storms) on an island representing Britain, with ships in the distance.
This splendid piece was given to the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1936 as part of the bequest of Arthur W. Young.