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Wax seal impression - Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I

  • Object:

    Wax seal impression

  • Place of origin:

    London (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1585 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hilliard, Nicholas (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Dark brown wax on parchment

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
When Elizabeth I issued an important document it was accompanied by a wax tablet bearing the impression of her Great Seal. The seal was the size of a saucer and embossed on both sides. It was a highly symbolic appendage and far removed from any ordinary security seal. This impression is taken from the Queen's second Great Seal, designed by Nicholas Hilliard. The document relates to land and property in Lincolnshire.

Subjects Depicted
The impression shows the monarch enthroned, and on the reverse, riding on horseback. This was the standard format for Tudor Great Seals. However, this one differs from earlier examples in the many allegorical motifs incorporated in the design: the orb and sceptre, the Tudor roses and the hands reaching down from the heavens are all supposed to stress Elizabeth's divine rule over England.

This seal was commissioned in 1584. It replaced another version in use since the Queen's accession to the throne 25 years earlier. The 1580s were difficult years for Elizabeth and the timing of this commission is historically significant: as she entered a childless middle-age amidst conflicts with Spain, it was hoped that powerful new imagery such as this might bolster her flagging popularity.

Physical description

Circular seal attached to a rectangle of paper bearing text.

Place of Origin

London (probably, made)


ca. 1585 (made)


Hilliard, Nicholas (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Dark brown wax on parchment


Height: 30.5 cm top of manuscript to bottom of seal, Width: 30.5 cm manuscript, Diameter: 15.3 cm seal

Object history note

Attached to a Royal Letters Patent, relating to property in LincolnshireImpression of a seal designed, probably in London, by Nicholas Hilliard (born in Exeter, Devon, possibly 1547, died in London, 1619)

Descriptive line

Wax seal impression designed by Nicholas Hilliard of the Great Seal of Elizabeth 1st. Great Britain, ca. 1585.

Labels and date

British Galleries:

Queen Elizabeth commissioned a new Great Seal in 1584. This drawing by Nicholas Hilliard may be one of the designs for her new seal. The silver seal itself was made at the royal mint. The Queen used to authorise important documents with a stamped wax impression like the one displayed here. [27/03/2003]


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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