Collection online

serjeant's ring

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Serjeant's ring; narrow flat hoop; inscription with cinquefoils and star between letters. No mark of maker.

  • Date

    • 15thC
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Diameter: 0.66 inches
    • Weight: 14 grains
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

        Black letter
      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

        vivat rex et lex
      • Inscription Translation

        Long live the crown and the law
      • Inscription Comment

        'rex' in this context is more appropriately translated as the 'crown'.
      • Inscription Type

        maker's mark
      • Inscription Content

  • Curator's comments

    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, but the candidate not known. Oman notes another example of this motto in the V&A.

    Text from Ward, Cherry et al, 'The Ring from Antiquity to the Twentieth Century,' London 1981, pl.194:

    This is the type of ring that was presented by a serjeant-at-law, a senior legal official, to various important people and friends on the occasion of his being appointed to office. Such rings are recognisable from the legal motto engraved on the outside. A new motto was chosen by each new serjeant or group of serjeants. This ring with a narrow flat hoop is inscribed in black-letter: VIVAT REX ET LEX ('long live the King and the law'); cinquefoil flowers divide the words. The black-letter style of the inscription suggests that the ring dates from the end of the fifteenth century, and therefore, it is one of the earliest of such rings to survive.

    cf. Mark Emanuel, 'The Surviving Rings of the Serjeants at Law', London 2008 (privately printed) no. 1. He identifies this as the earliest known surviving serjeant's ring.

    Emanuel lists six surviving rings with the same motto. A second is in the British Museum, AF 1745 (Dalton 1912, 1677), one is in the Liverpool Museum (ex Phillip Nelson Collection), one in the Victoria & Albert Museum, M.51-1960, one in the Ashmolean Museum: WA 1976.82 and the sixth was recorded in the Inner Temple Year Book 2004/5 p.53. It was found in 2002 but its present whereabouts are unknown.

    Text from J.H. Baker 'The Order of Serjeants at Law', Selden Society 1984;
    p. 98: The earliest rings, most of which were found by chance, have the same motto, although apparently of different dates. It seems probable that at this date the same motto was used for more than one call.
    p. 484: cf. 1 Samuel, 10, 24 (vivat rex). Illustrated in Dalton 1912, pl. XXIII, row 5; Connoisseur, CXXXIII, p.27, pl.XII; and in Baker pl. VI, no. 1.


  • Bibliography

    • Ward et al 1981 bibliographic details
    • Dalton 1912 1676 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


Serjeant-at-law ring; narrow flat hoop; inscription with cinquefoils and star between letters. No maker's mark.

Serjeant-at-law ring; narrow flat hoop; inscription with cinquefoils and star between letters. 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: MCM1578

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