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serjeant's ring

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Serjeant's ring; narrow flat hoop; engraved borders; inscription with initial cross and either a flower or cross between the words. Traces of enamel in the inscription. Maker identified but no actual mark shown.(see curatorial comments for details).

  • Producer name

  • Date

    • 1521 (date of "call" - see curator's comments.)
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Diameter: 0.88 inches
    • Weight: 32 grains
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Position

        hoop exterior
      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

        LEGIS + EXECVO *
        REGIG + PSERVA *
      • Inscription Translation

        The execution of the law and the preservation of the crown.
      • Inscription Comment

        'pserva' is an abbreviation for 'perservacio' indicated by a mark above the 'p' and after the 'a', and 'execvo' an abbreviation of 'executio'. Dalton has transcribed the words in the wrong order, beginning with EXECVO instead of LEGIS.

        Maker identified by Mark Emanuel as Oliver Dawes (See curatorial comments for further details).
  • Curator's comments

    For serjeants' rings see Dalton 1912, Introduction pliv-lv and p. 239. These rings were presented by serjeants-at-law to various officials, clerics and friends on the occasion of their call to judicial office. Each new serjeant chose a motto which was engraved on the exterior of the ring. The practice is recorded from the 15th to the 19th century. Charles Oman lists all the inscriptions then known to him in 'British Rings 800-1914', London 1974, Appendix II; the inscription on this ring is listed by Oman, but with the words in the wrong order, and the candidate unknown.

    Text from Dalton 1912, Catalogue of Finger Rings:
    'Given by R Burch Esq, 1879. Found at Tutbury, Staffordshire, in the gravel of the river Dove, at a spot where coins had been discovered (Archaeologica, xxiv, pp. 148ff)'.

    According to J. H. Baker, 'The Order of Serjeants at Law (Selden Society, London 1984) p. 98, this ring is likely to belong to the 1521 or 1540 call, in view of the Lombardic letters as opposed to the Roman capitals of later rings. Baker also notes that the goldsmith retained by the serjeants in 1521 was Oliver Davy, changing to Nicholas Deering in 1555.

    cf. Mark Emanuel, 'The Surviving Rings of the Serjeants at Law', London 2008 (privately printed) no.9. He identifies the call date as 1521 by comparison with other early dated serjeants' rings and the maker as Oliver Dawes. He also suggests that the motto probably alludes to the execution of the Duke of Buckingham on 13 May 1521 (Inner Temple Year Book 2004/5, p. 54)

    Emanuel lists three rings of the same date and with the same motto. A second is also in the British Museum: AF 1746 (Dalton 1912, 1678). The third is in the Chester Museum.

    Text from J.H. Baker 'The Order of Serjeants at Law', Selden Society 1984;
    p. 474: found in the gravel of the River Dore (sic) at Tutbury, Staffs. (Archaeologica, XXIV, 148) illustrated in Dalton 1912, pl. XXIII, row 5 and in Baker pl.VI, no.5.

    See also letter from donor dated 11 August 1879 in department correspondence files, addressed to L. Fagan Esq.:
    '58 Greenhill, Derby Augt 11th 1879
    Sir, Although I am aware that this is not a matter connected with your Dept. yet perhaps you will kindly hand this letter to the proper authority.
    I am desirous of presenting to the Museum a ring found in the river Dove, near Tutbury, and forming part of what is known in this part of the country as the 'Tutbury Diggings', vide the Saturday Magazine (or Penny Magazine) for Nov 1834, No. 166, pa. 430. I understand that about 1500 of the coins there found were recovered for the Crown, and are now in the Museum. In the account given in the Magazine it is stated that one ring only was found, this is an error, the one I have was purchased from an old gentleman - recently deceased at the age of 86 - who bought it from the workmen who were excavating in the bed of the river, and who had a barrow load of the gravel on the bridge, from which they were selling the coins etc to all comers, and it has never been out of his possession until purchased by me.
    It is a gold band, rather rudely engraved, on which is the following Latin inscription: - Regis P. Siera Gegis Exe Cuo.
    If the Museum will accept it, I will send it up to you to hand it over to them.'
    I am, Sir, Your obedt Servt
    R Burch'
    A subsequent letter from Burch to A. W. Franks, dated 16 August 1879, indicates that Franks had written back accepting the ring. Burch writes: 'Sir, I am glad to hear that you have rec'd the ring safely and that it is of sufficient interest to be added to the Museum collection.' The letter continues with a discussion of the associated coins. (letters transcribed by Marjorie Caygill, December 2005)


  • Bibliography

    • Dalton 1912 1679 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


Serjeant-at-law ring; narrow flat hoop; engraved borders; inscription with initial cross and either a flower or cross between the words. Traces of enamel in the inscription.

Serjeant-at-law ring; narrow flat hoop; engraved borders; inscription with initial cross and either a flower or cross between the words. Traces of enamel in the inscription.

Image description



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Object reference number: MCN3009

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