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Seal-die of Robert Fitzwalter

Seal-die, Medieval England, AD 1213-19


Diameter: 7.350 cm

M&ME 1841,6-24,1

Room 40: Medieval Europe

    Seal-die of Robert Fitzwalter

    Medieval, about AD 1213-19
    From England

    The coat of arms of an English baron

    A seal-die is an engraved stamp used to impress a design onto hot wax in order to seal documents. This impressive example is made of silver and engraved to the highest standard. It relates to the career of Robert Fitzwalter (died 1235). It is inscribed with the legend: + SIGILLVM: ROBERTI: FILII: WALTERI and represents a knight on horseback in combat with a dragon. The owner's identity is established by the inscription and by the heraldry on the knight's shield and on the trappings of the horse.

    However, a second shield with a different coat of arms is placed in front of the horse. Whose shield is this, and why was it placed on Fitzwalter's seal? His political affiliations provide us with a clue. He was one of the most influential barons of the early thirteenth century and played a significant part in the baronial revolt which resulted in the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 by King John (1199-1216). John was said to hate three men above all others - Archbishop Stephen Langton, Robert Fitzwalter and Saher de Quincy. It is de Quincy's arms which appear on the second shield. Fitzwalter and de Quincy were close political allies and de Quincy also included the arms of Fitzwalter on his seal.

    The details of the armour and the figurative style indicate a date of about 1213-19 which is supported by the political context. Saher de Quincy died in 1219.

    J. Alexander and P. Binski, Age of chivalry: art in Planta (Royal Academy, London, 1987)

    A.B. Tonnochy, Catalogue of British seal dies (London, The British Museum Press, 1952)

    J. Cherry, Medieval decorative art (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)

    J. Robinson, Masterpieces: Medieval Art (London, British Museum Press, 2008)


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