This is an oil sketch for a painting exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1847. The catalogue for that exhibition gave the following explanation for this scene from Anglo-Saxon history as related in David Hume's History of England (1754-57):
Archbishop Odo, to avenge the banishment of Dunstan, dissolved Edwy's marriage with Elgiva, on the plea of kinship, and sent a party of soliders into the palace, who seized the Queen, and, after branding her face, in order to destroy that fatal beauty which had seduced Edwy, forcibly conveyed her to Ireland.
The painting is of particular interest as an example of an early work prior to Millais' involvement in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. A finished outline drawing of the subject, dated 1843, is also in Birmingham's collection. A pencil study for the final painting is at the Art Museum, Princeton University.