Elizabeth I: The Ermine Portrait, 1585, by Nicholas Hilliard. This portrait can be viewed at Hatfield House. Why is Elizabeth seated with an ermine? It was the symbol of royalty; and, if you look closely at the animal, you can see the gold crown it wears. The crown symbolizes majesty and purity. As for the bejeweled black gown and background - black and white were the queen's favorite colors.