- Museum number
Serjeant's ring; narrow flat hoop; inscription with cinquefoils and star between letters. No mark of maker.
- Production date
Diameter: 0.66 inches
Weight: 14 grains
- 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.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number