Castle Object of the Month: Seal of King James II

Castle, History

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Castle Object of the Month for January is the Seal of King James II. The seal, which would have been used to enclose letters, can be found in The Waldegrave Room, it dates back to 1685 and is made of bloodstone. 

The seal is among the most potent relics of the Stuart Court in exile. As the personal seal of the titular King it was used to the very heart of the Court’s authority, and its use was a statement of the user’s claim and right to the throne. This seal of the royal Stuart arms would have been employed in dealings with loyal subjects in England and on the Continent, and in the vital diplomatic dealings with European sovereigns, such as King Louis XIV and the Pope. The continued use of this royal seal for over a century by the Jacobite claimants is the clearest statement of belief in their cause and of their and their support’s conviction that they were the only true Kings entitled to the Royal Arm of Great Britain. 

The seal carved into the base of the stone shows in reverse the Stuart Royal Arms, quarterly 1st and 4th of England and France Modern, 2nd Scotland, 3rd Ireland. The shield is royally crowned and enclosed within the Garter, with legible motto: HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE – meaning evil to him who thinks evil. The fitted original case is made of shagreen with a velvet interior. 

The story of how the seal ended up in Hever Castle is just as fascinating. The seal’s provenance of course started with King James II of England, then went through many generations: James Edward Stuart ‘The Old Pretender’, Charles Edward Stuart ‘The Young Pretender’, Henry Benedict Stuart Cardinal Duke of York, the Marquis Malatesta 1807, the Marquis Malatesta his nephew and Blayney Townley Balfour Esq. before settling at Hever Castle in 2000.

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