©National Archives

Second Great Seal of Elizabeth I, 1586

This is the second Great Seal of Elizabeth I which she used from 1586 until her death in 1603.

Heavenly rays above the Queen's head reflect her divine sanctioned status, while the sceptre and orb that she holds are the traditional symbols of royal power. On the reverse side, Elizabeth is shown on horseback riding across a field of flowering plants symbolising hope, prosperity and the Queen's femininity. She is flanked by the emblems of her realms: the Tudor Rose of England, the Harp of Ireland, and the Fleur-de-Lys of France. Seals were widely used by people as a means of proving that the accompanying document had been written or approved by them. This was particularly important during the Middle Ages when most of the population could not read or write. The Great Seal was the most important of all seals as it was used by the monarch to sanction public acts and edicts.