It was painted in the first few years of her reign, and is nothing like the magnificent portraits of "Gloriana" from later in her reign.
Elizabeth I reigned from 1558 to 1603 and, alongside Queen Victoria and our current queen, Queen Elizabeth II, is one of England's most popular female monarchs.
The defeat of the Armada in 1588, the huge naval force that Catholic Spain sent to invade England, was one of the notable moments of her reign...
The picture that shows Queen Elizabeth I as a plain Jane
By Daily Mail Reporter
19th October 2008
An early portrait of Queen Elizabeth I - showing the monarch in a much plainer light than later pictures - has been found in a dirty condition in a country house.
The picture, completed just months after she came to the throne, portrays the queen as a simply dressed woman in her mid-twenties with a pale face.
It is a far cry from later portraits showing her in full regalia after defeating the Spanish Armada.
The different faces of Queen Elizabeth I: The newly discovered portrait, right, shows the monarch as a plain woman in her mid-twenties and, left, Anne-Marie Duff portraying The Virgin Queen
The portrait, which was discovered in an East Sussex home, is one of just three that are known to exist from the first few years of her reign.
The discovery does not stop there. X-rays of the painting have revealed another, even earlier picture of the queen below the surface.
Art dealer Philip Mould told the Sunday Times: 'The assumption is that the artist – and we do not know who he is – did an initial portrait, and either he or the queen did not like it.'
Mr Mould, who hopes to sell the painting for £350,000, made several checks to verify the age of the portrait, and used infrared technology to study the 'pouncing' - a method employed by artists of that period to trace subjects by putting fine powder through pin-prick holes.
Historian and biographer David Starkey said that, although it is 'not a great work of art', the picture is fascinating.
'What is really significant is how she looks. She is really pale and therefore has this pure image. She is holding a Bible or a prayer book. This is a key; it is her statement of religious intent. It is Elizabeth saying, ‘Look, I’m a Protestant’.'
Her half-sister "Bloody" Mary, who was queen before her, was a Catholic.
In the portrait underneath, the woman sometimes known as the Virgin Queen is not holding a Bible but what appears to be an orb.
She is wearing a detailed ruff, whereas in the top picture she is wearing ermine, which signifies purity.
Her facial expression is a wry smile.
'It is also a knowing smile of a woman who may only be 26 years old but in her life has already seen so much and learnt so much,' said historian and biographer Lady Antonia Fraser.
'So many people she knew well had been executed and so much had already happened to her.'
The only full portrait of Elizabeth at a younger age shows her at about 13 years old, wearing a red dress but also with a very pale face. It is at Windsor Castle.
There are 10 paintings of her at the National Portrait Gallery which were from later in her 45-year reign. Next month it will be 450 years since she became queen.
The newly discovered portrait had been in the possession of the same family for at least 100 years before it was brought to the attention of art dealers and historians.
Mr Mould said: 'It was in a poor state before we restored it and, like quite a few families who are not experts in art, they may simply not have understood its significance.'