Queen Matilda’s Seal

Show the image of Queen Matilda’s seal to the class on a whiteboard/printed copies.

Teacher asks the pupils if they can identify the type of source.  If not, explain it is a seal. During the ‘Middle Ages’ instead of signing important documents or providing your password to prove who you are, you would attach your seal to a document to prove your identity. Seals are usually made of beeswax (though the Pope used lead) and usually have a design on them, created by pressing a stamp known as a matrix into softened wax

This is Matilda’s seal and the front shows her seated on a throne. The letters around the edge said ‘SIGILLVM MATHILDIS DEI GRATIA ROMANORVM REGINA’ which means ‘Seal of Matilda, by God’s grace queen of the Romans’. Matilda used her title as ‘Queen of the Romans’ to refer to her first marriage in 1114 to Heinrich V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of the Germans.  She used this seal to show her royal connections in Europe and to assert her position in England, where she was not secure enough to commission a Great Seal during her struggle for the throne.

  • What does is this seal attached to?
  • Why would a seal be used in this way?
  • Why do you think a seal had a motto or important words around the edge?
  • Why was Matilda’s motto important?
  • What picture is shown on the seal?

[The seal shows Matilda sitting on throne holding a sceptre wearing a crown, the image is now very worn. These objects represent the powers of a monarch]

  • What impression did Matilda want to create by her seal?
  • What other sources from the past could we use to find out about the life of Matilda?
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