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Hampshire Archives and Local Studies

Seals

Seals were used to validate a document or to physically seal, or close, items of importance. Great Seals were usually attached to important documents including title deeds, letters patent and royal grants. Seals were usually made using a double sided matrix which had two parts, an obverse or face, and a reverse. Great Seals depicted the monarch on their throne on the obverse side, and on horseback on the reverse.

There are two main types of attachment for seals, appended and applied. The pendent seal was attached to the document by silk or hemp cords, by tags, or by strips of parchment. Applied seals were formed by dropping heated sealing wax on to the surface of a document and applying the matrix to the hot wax. The materials chiefly used to form the seal were beeswax, often mixed with powdered resin to make the impression sharper, a mixture of paraffin wax and tallow, and a hard material called shellac.

Other materials include silver and gold, leather and paper. Apart from Great Seals documents might have attached to them an individual's personal seal, a town or borough seal, or an ecclesiastical seal.

Great Seal

Copy of the Great Seal of The Commonwealth 1655
The seal shows Oliver Cromwell on horseback, in a similar representation found of all previous kings and queens of England on their respective great seals. The reverse side shows the Cromwell family and Republican coats of arms.
Ref 16M61/66

 

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