ELIZABETH I. [HILLIARD, Nicholas]. ~ The Great Seal of Elizabeth I.
Original wax seal of Elizabeth I depicting the monarch seated with regalia and flanked by coats of arms and mounted on horseback on the verso. The images encircled by the motto “Elizabetha Dei Gracia Anglie Francie Et Hibernie Regina Fidei Defensor” (”Elizabeth, by grace of God, Queen of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith”). 14.5 cms in diameter. Remains of original vellum tie attachments to head and foot. Contained within a half brown morocco custom-made fleece-lined solander box in half brown morocco over beige cloth. With a few small chips and cracks and a repair to the top (with loss to Queen’s head verso) where a small section has been reattached, otherwise a remarkably good survival.
A nice example of the second Great Seal of Elizabeth I used to authorise correspondence and state documents in the Queen’s name. Designed by the celebrated Elizabethan miniaturist Nicholas Hilliard in 1584 and coming into use first in 1586, the seal was important as a symbol of power. Elizabeth knew how to project her image and Hilliard promoted it here to great affect with a typically resplendent dress, holding teh great symbols of power, flanked by the royal arms, Tudor roses, a fleur de lys (France), and a harp (Ireland). The image presented in this seal became the unwritten ‘official’ portrayal of the queen, and was reproduced in numerous portraits and illuminations.
On the death of the monarch or when a new design is approved, the matrix for the Great Seal is destroyed, in this case no further seals could be made after 1603.