- Museum number
- Object: Burse for the Great Seal of Elizabeth I
Panel from the Burse made to hold the silver Great Seal of Elizabeth I. The panel is made of crimson velvet worked in purl wire, gold and silver-wrapped threads with the Elizabethan Royal cypher in raised work. The rampant lion of England and the Welsh dragon support the Royal arms, surmounted by a crown with, below, the Tudor rose flanked by the cypher E.R. The quarterings of the Royal arms are in blue satin alternating with scarlet; the Tudor rose has a yellow floss centre with applied silver sequins. Silver sequins also appear on the velvet ground, which is worked with purl wire and leaf forms. The border is worked similarly with shamrocks and flower-heads and the outer borders with ears of wheat.
- Production date
- 1596-1603 (circa)
Length: 52 centimetres
Width: 47 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Made at the cost of the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, Sir Thomas Egerton, around 1596, to keep the second Great Seal, which was designed by Nicholas Hilliard. He was Elizabeth's fifth Keeper, from 1596 and was a distinguished lawyer, orator and patron of poets like Donne. He was born a Catholic with Welsh connections, see DNB. A portrait of him with a Burse survives at Montacute House, it has a drawstring top and may be this actual Burse [though new ones were frequently made, possibly annually, this one is in great condition].No Great Seal survives from the Tudor period, as they were broken up when replaced by a new seal or at the end of the reign and the silver was given as a perk to the Keeper. The Bacon Cup in the British Museum, 1915,0313.1, was made from the melted down great Seal of Mary Tudor, one of three made from the Seal for Sir Nicholas Bacon';s houses. The BM has a design by Nicholas Hilliard for the Second Great Seal of Ireland, 1912,0717.1. It also has a print from 1677 showing the fornt and back of the second Great Seal of England under Elizabeth I, the seal for which this Burse was made, 1871,1209.2245.
PROVENANCE: Given by the Keeper of the Great Seal Sir Thomas Egerton, to his servant Henry Jones, between 1603 and 1609. Jones died in 1609 but was survived by his widow Elizabeth, who mentions the Burse in her will of 1632 as "a cushion of velvet embroidered with gold which was a seale burse." it passed to her son Thomas and down through the family. The Burse was probably bought at auction by the vendor's family in the late 1880s. The contents of the Jones family house in Anglesey, Plas LLangoed, were sold around 1890, and the Burse probably left the family then.Sotheby' sale catalogue, Important European and Oriental Costume, Textiles and fabric Swatch Books, 13th March 1997 (Lot 37). See National Art Collections Fund (1997), pp.87-8, no.4442. The Burse was then framed with a label on the back which stated that it came from Plas Llangoed.
Other examples of Royal burse appear occasionally on the art market. These were replaced regularly until the cost was criticised in Parliament in 1872. See details on object file for notes relating to other burse of: Elizabeth I (V&A, T.40-1986), William IV (Sotheby's New York, 1999), George II (500 Years of American Patronage exhibibition, 1992) and George III (Philips, 1998).
Published by Cynthia Jackson in Embroiderers' Guild of America, 2014-15pp.14-18.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2012-2013 Nov-Mar, Bonn, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle, Treasures of the World's Cultures
- Generally excellent; some restoration of purl wire and re-applied spangles; damage to the bottom right border.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Acquired by private treaty before the Sotheby's sale (13/3/1997). National Art Collections Fund 10,000; National Heritage Lottery Fund 28,000; BMS 5000.
Given by the Keeper of the Great Seal Sir Thomas Egerton, to his servant Henry Jones, between 1603 and 1609. Jones died in 1609 but was survived by his widow Elizabeth, who mentions the Burse in her will of 1632. The Burse was probably bought at auction by the vendor's family in the late 1880s. The contents of the Jones family house in Anglesey, Plas LLangoed, were sold around 1890, and the Burse probably left the family then.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number