Collection online

serjeant's ring

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Serjeant's ring; narrow flat hoop; raised borders; inscription with initial star and crosses between the words. No mark of maker.

  • Producer name

  • Date

    • 1577 (date of "call" - see curator's comments.)
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Diameter: 21.53 millimetres
    • Height: 8.63 millimetres
    • Weight: 7 grammes
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

        Roman capitals
      • Inscription Position

        hoop exterior
      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Translation

        Law is the protection of the crown.
      • Inscription Comment

        The star should be at the beginning of the inscription
      • Inscription Type

        maker's mark
      • Inscription Content

  • Curator's comments

    Text from Dalton 1912, Catalogue of Finger Rings:

    'This motto was chosen by Edward Fenner in 1577 (E.Foss, Judges of England, vol. v, p.414, notes 2 and 3). A ring with the same inscription was exhibited by Mr (afterwards Sir John) Evans at the 'Loan Exhibition of Ancient and Modern Jewellery', South Kensington, 1872 (Catalogue no. 853).

    For serjeants' rings see Dalton 1912, Introduction p. liv-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; this motto is listed as that of E. Fenner, elected judge in 1577, with reference to an example in the V&A as well as the BM. For the V&A ring, see Oman, pl. 95 D, M53-1960 (J. Rudoe, Feb 2004)
    The ring was previously owned by Richard Cornwallis Neville, Lord Braybrooke. The 1873 catalogue of the Braybrooke rings describes it as follows: 'A gold band three eighths of an inch accross the hoop, ribbed along the outer edges, and inscribed down the centre Lex regis praesidium, most probably a law serjeants' ring. These rings were presented by the serjeants on their creation to the judges but when the custom originated first is doubtful: in serjeant Wynne's observations touching the antiquity and dignity of serjeants at law, he says"the first introduction of rings themselves on the occasion of making serjeants is as doubtful as that of the mottoes". They are taken notice of by Fortescue in the time of Henry VI, and in the several regulations for general calls in Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth's reigns. The antiquity of them therefore though not to be strictly ascertained, yet being thus far indisputable, makes Sir H Spelman's account of them rather extraordinary, but whatever is the antiquity of these rings, that of the mottoes seems to fall short of them a century: those in the 19th and 20th of Elizabeth, 1576-7 may perhaps be the first, because till that time they are nowhere mentioned. The motto which serjeant Wynne notices as of the earliest occurence in the above years is the one on the present ring. This ring was dug up by a labourer, at Wimbish, Essex, when the hoop was cut through by the spade, but it has since been repaired. It is noticed in the seventh volume of the Archaeological Institute Journal, page 196. On serjeant Cockell's call in 1787, in consequence of a late regulation, no rings were given to the judges. - 101 1/4 grs.'

    cf. Mark Emanuel, 'The Surviving Rings of the Serjeants at Law', London 2008 (privately printed) no. 10. He identifies the call date as November 1577 and the maker as Richard Pindar.

    Emanuel lists two rings of the same date and with the same motto. The other is in the Victoria & Albert Museum: M.53-1960 (ex. Sir John Evans Collection)..

    Text from J.H. Baker 'The Order of Serjeants at Law', Selden Society 1984; .
    p. 475: William Bendlowes. There is a sketch of the ring with this motto, in British Library MS. Add. 25189, f.132v. Was in the collection of Lord Braybrooke (Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. 1st ser., II, 61; Archaeological Journal, VII, 196; XVI, 358). illustrated in Baker pl.VI, no. 8.


  • Bibliography

    • Dalton 1912 1680 bibliographic details
    • Cooper 2013 cat.57h bibliographic details
    • Braybrooke 1873 no 32 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    2013-2014 Oct-Jan, London, National Portrait Gallery, Elizabeth I and her People

  • Condition

    No sign of repair as Lord Braybrooke described.

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


Serjeant-at-law ring; narrow flat hoop; raised borders; inscription with initial star and crosses between the words. No maker's mark.

Serjeant-at-law ring; narrow flat hoop; raised borders; inscription with initial star and crosses between the words. No maker's mark.

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: MCN2986

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help