Elizabeth of Valois was born at Fontainebleau on 2 April 1546, the daughter of Henry II of France and Catherine de' Medici. Initially betrothed to Edward VI of England, who died in 1553, she was being considered as a suitable bride for Prince Carlos, son of Philip II of Spain, when the king's second wife, Mary Tudor, died in 1548. Following his rejection by Queen Elizabeth of England, Philip agreed to marry the princess himself as part of the terms of the Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis signed on 3 April 1559. The Duke of Alba stood proxy for the king at the wedding in Nôtre Dame de Paris on 27 June 1559 and the couple met at Guadalajara on 31 January 1560. Brantôme, after praising Elizabeth's goodness, beauty and accomplishments, says that she never wore the same dress twice, and that all her dresses were 'si riches et si superbes que la moindre estoit de trois à quatre cent escus'.
Other versions are in the Philips Collection at Eindhoven (M.J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, XIII, ed. H. Pauwels and G. Lemmens, Leyden and Brussels, 1975, p. 105, no. 397, pl. 191) and in the Várez Fisa Collection, the latter attributed to Alonso Sánchez Coello (see the catalogue of the exhibition, Alonso Sánchez Coello y el Retrato en la Corte de Felipe II, Museo del Prado, Madrid, June-July 1990, pp. 132-3 and 233-7, no. 4, illustrated in colour pp. 59 and 235 and colour pl. 4). A version on panel with the sitter's left hand shown at a different angle is also in the Várez Fisa Collection (ibid., pp. 131-2 and 233-7, illustrated in colour pp. 59 and 233 and colour pl. 3)