Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Ring

Ring

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1555 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Deering, Nicholas (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Engraved gold

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dame Joan Evans

  • Museum number:

    M.54-1960

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, case 8

From at least the fifteenth century, candidates called to be admitted to the ranks of Serjeants-at-Law (from whom judges were appointed) were required to present rings bearing a suitable motto to the monarch and various dignitaries. They frequently also gave further rings as souvenirs to their friends. The practice came to an end when the office was abolished by the Judicature Act of 1875. New mottoes were chosen at each call; the rings differing in value according to the rank of their recipients. The rings were generally gold with a suitable motto inscribed around the outer hoop although some early examples appear to have been enamelled.

This ring is inscribed 'Lex est Arma Regum' (Law is the armour of kings) and made for the general call of 1555. It is believed to have been made by the goldsmith Nicholas Deering.

Physical description

Gold hoop with inscription framed by moulded edges, reading 'Lex est arma regum' in capital letters separated by a cross and small stars. The surface of the inner hoop bears light scratches.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

1555 (made)

Artist/maker

Deering, Nicholas (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Engraved gold

Marks and inscriptions

'LEX.EST.ARMA.REGUM'
'Law is the armour of Kings'
Motto for the general call of 1555

Dimensions

Diameter: 2.1 cm, Height: 0.6 cm

Object history note

Most of the V&A's collection of serjeants' rings were presented by Dame Joan Evans, the majority of these were from the collection of her father, Sir John Evans. This ring was bought by Sir John Evans at Sotheby's (June 24, 1898 -lot 359).

Historical significance: From at least the fifteenth century, candidates called to be admitted to the ranks of Serjeants-at-Law (from whom judges were appointed) were required to present rings bearing an appropriate legal or patriotic motto to the monarch and various dignitaries. They frequently also gave further rings as souvenirs to their friends. The practice came to an end when the office was abolished by the Judicature Act of 1875. New mottoes were chosen at each call; the rings differing in value according to the rank of their recipients. The rings were generally gold with a suitable motto inscribed around the outer hoop although some early examples appear to have been enamelled.
The custom of giving rings is described by Sir John Fortescue around 1470 in 'De Laudibus Legum Angliae' as follows: all serjeants at their appointment "shall give rings of gold to the value of forty pounds at the least, and your Chancellor well remembreth that at the time he received this state and degree, the rings which he then gave stood him in fifty pounds" (De Laudibus Legum Angliae c.59). A full description of the investiture ceremonies and a list of mottoes up to 1765 was given by Mr Serjeant Wynne in Observations touching the Antiquity and Dignity of Serjeants at Law, 1765.
This ring dates from the general call of 1555 and was made by Nicholas Deering (information given by Dr J.H. Baker to Claude Blair in 1976, from annotation in register).

Descriptive line

Gold serjeant's ring inscribed 'Lex est arma regum'. English, 1555.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Bury, Shirley. Jewellery Gallery Summary Catalogue. London:(Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982, p.260, Case 34, Board I, No.24
Kunz, G. F. Rings for the Finger. From the earliest known times to the present, with full descriptions of the origin, early making, materials, the Archaeology, history, for affection, for love, for engagement, for wedding, commemorative, mourning, etc.. Philadelphia & London: Lippincott, 1917, pp 186-190.
Walcott, Mackenzie, Notes and Queries, Vol.v.,pp 110-11, January 31, 1852

Labels and date

'SERJEANTS' RING
Inscribed: +LEX.EST.ARMA.REGUM. (Law is the armour of the Kings). General Call of 1555. Supplied by Nicholas Deering.
ENGLISH
M.54-1960' [1982]

Production Note

Supplied by Nicholas Deering. Unmarked.

Materials

Gold

Techniques

Engraving

Categories

Jewellery; Metalwork

Collection

Metalwork Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.

  • Copyright: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2017. All Rights Reserved