In 1901 the Deputy Master of the Royal Mint was appointed ex officio engraver of royal and government seals. As a result, over the past 100 years the Royal Mint Museum has been able to accumulate a large collection of copper counterparts and paper impressions of official seals made by the Royal Mint, both for the United Kingdom and for overseas countries. In addition, the Museum holds a significant number of wax impressions of official seals of the 17th and 18th centuries made outside the Royal Mint but sent to the Mint for an assessment of the price charged by the engraver for his workmanship.
Browse highlights of the seal collection below.
There is a certain amount of mystery surrounding the seal pictured here. We know that it is a Royal Mint seal, that it was held by the Warden or his deputy and that it was used to authorise warrants granting exemptions to Royal Mint labourers from being pressed into service in the navy. We also know that it was made by the Royal Mint engraver John Croker about the year 1709 and that there are traces of the original letter A for Anne below the G for George.
What is not known is what happened to it after the abolition of the post of Warden in 1817. The deputy Warden, Frederick Mott, is believed to have taken it away with him but the trail then runs cold until 1838, when it was retrieved from a pawnbroker’s shop. Today it is safely on display in a showcase at the Royal Mint but we may never know the whole story of its travels.
Official seals tend to be heraldic in design but that for the Government of Palestine, prepared in 1923, is unusually pictorial in its representation of a typical eastern city on a hill. It was the work of the sculptor and medallist Cecil Thomas, who showed great skill in engraving the design by hand.
While new coins and medals are designed and issued fairly regularly, the need for a new Great Seal of the Realm occurs much less frequently but in 2000 just such a need arose. One of the first considerations was whether or not to continue the 1000-year tradition of depicting the monarch enthroned on one side and on horseback on the other. Since the Queen no longer attends important State ceremonies, such as Trooping the Colour, on horseback, the feeling was that a different solution should be sought and it was decided to use the Royal Arms instead of an equestrian portrait.
The artist chosen was James Butler, a Royal Academician and one of the foremost sculptors of his generation who has built a reputation for creating major figurative pieces. The plaster model illustrated of the Royal Arms reverse of the seal shows his free and vigorous style of sculpting and, at close to a metre in diameter, to reduce it down to the 16cm of the actual seal presented some interesting technical challenges.
You might also like
In 2000 James Butler, one of the foremost sculptors of his generation was commissioned to design a new Great Seal. Hear the story in his own words.
In 1978 a previously unnoticed draft Grant of Arms to the Royal Mint was discovered.