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The Queen’s Seal

Isabella had a gold matrix, or seal-die, which was used to make her seal as Queen of England. The seal is the wax impression; the matrix is used over and over again to make the impression. Isabella’s seal is oval as all medieval queen’s seals were, and shows the full length queen standing with her hair flowing, a cross with a bird above it in one hand and a lily in the other.  All of these are symbols of purity and also fertility. At that time, once married, a woman could not be shown with her hair down or indeed uncovered. The other side would have shown her crowned but I have never seen that and suspect it is badly damaged. The wax impression was threaded onto the parchment documents with strips of ribbon or cord. The gold matrix would have been stored in a special pouch or richly embroidered bag. It is about 1 1/2 inches long and just under an inch wide

Queens generally did not seal in matters of state but restricted the use of their seals to their own affairs and the disposition of their often considerable wealth. However while Queen of England between 1200-1216, Isabella rarely used her seal and she did not have the wealth usually given to a queen. John treated her in a mean-spirited way! But when she returned to France she used it always.

The gold matrix is in the archives in Angoulême a tangible connection with Isabella, Queen of England

She stamped the letter with her great seal, and there she is standing, facing front, robed and crowned, her hair falling in ringlets around her face. In her right hand she holds a flower, in her left a bird. Isabella, by the grace of God, Queen of England, Lady of Ireland. Isabella, Duchess of the Normans, of the Men of Aquitaine and of Anjou.

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