Although there is graphic evidence of the heraldic associations of the Lord family as early as 1510 in London, there are only two "archeological" artifacts connected to the family. The more elaborate and more easily fitted into the documentary evidence is the wax seal on the will of Dorothy Lord of Hartford, Connecticut, formerly of Towcester, England, dated 1669. (See below - the actual seal on left; a drawing of the features of that center; and a reconstruction of what the intact seal would have looked like at right.)
The signet ring which made this imprint is believed to have belonged to her grandson, Richard Lord, who was lost at sea, presumably with the seal ring, in 1685.
The only other known holder of a seal ring was his great-grandfather, also named Richard Lord, who died in Towcester, England, the family home until 1635 when they all came to New England. His will, dated 1610 (below) is preserved in the Northampton County Archives and bears a papered seal next to his signature - a "marke".
A "papered seal" is one where a flap is cut into the edge of the document, melted sealing wax is poured onto the document near the signature, the flap is quickly folded over the wax, and the seal is pressed into the paper and wax "sandwich". (See below, left) When I requested a CD of the full document from the Archive a few years ago, during photography, and not requested by me, the archivist folded back the flap to reveal the fragmented wax underneath (see below, right).
The advantage of a papered seal is the wax is protected and thus the authenticity of the signature is preserved. Whereas a standard surficial wax seal is prone to loss through breakage, or even being detached completely from the document, a papered seal remains, with normal handling, intact for hundreds of years.
The dis-advantage, for researchers attempting to confirm what the original seal represented, is that the same paper that protects, also obscures. The delay caused by folding the flap over allows the underlying wax to cool somewhat, thus preventing a clean imprint. And the very thickness of the paper interferes, and can prevent a clean impression, unlike the sharp imprint made directly in un-covered molten wax.
If one examines this seal closely (and I have stereo images I made myself that allow examination in great detail) one can see that some parts of this animal, whatever it was, appear to be swollen or inflated. Some of this may be an artifact of the interaction of the paper between the seal and the wax. It is possible for air to even be trapped under the paper if the seal is lowered rapidly, causing essentially a bubble. Some slight additional perspective was obatined from examination of the stereo images (below).
Is it a horse? A unicorn? On close examination, the "obvious" unicorn horn is actually a crack on the seal matrix, probably a jewel or stone, as it extends to the extreme outer edge of the seal, and is not just part of the engraved area. Graphic heraldic evidence for this family suggest it could be a horse or deer, and the decision has remained suspended pending any further information coming forth.
And the most dramatic new evidence DID come forth, out of the blue. A researcher into Collingwood family history discovered a document - a Cuthbert Collingwood vellum indenture from Daldon, Northumberland, England, with a wax seal attached, and dated from 1595 (see below).
This a particularly relevant, as it was sealed only 15 years prior to the Lord will, and both seals may be considered contemporaneous. This researcher is asking for anyone with information on this family line to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
But the eye-opener is the seal itself, below, left) which is nearly identical to the one Richard Lord used in 1610 (below, right).
Similarities include the general shape and contours of the animal's body, the attitude of the head and neck relative to the body, the relative mass of the front shoulder, waist and rear haunch on both, and the precise position and orientation of the four legs. In addition the raised surrounding ring is identical, and would have been recessed in the seal to produce a raised band. This band is braided in the 1595 example, but such braiding is too fine a detail to have ever survived impressing through paper in the 1610 example.
These two seals, in my opinion, are so alike, I would hypothesize they were made by the same seal engraver.
But of course, one critical difference is immediately obvious...namely, the 1595 example has antlers and is obviously a male deer, which is consistent with the emblem of the Collingwood family in later documentary illustrations. Such antlers are absent in the Lord seal, although what appears to be an ear, or ears, blurred by being papered, is seen.
What the 1595 seal does seem to clarify about the 1610 seal is, however, that the animal in both represents a deer. And this suddenly connects with the 1510 and later Lord family coats of arms where a central figure on the fess is a "hind" (see the 1510 Lord arms below).
Note that in 1510 it was normal to represent a hind (or antlerless deer) with a very horse-like body, which may have led some later historians to claim a horse was part of the family arms. One can see (below, left) that later heraldic artists more correctly represented the hind as a thinner beast, as the actual animal is (below, right)
Of course it must be remembered, we are dealing with very small engravings. And it is difficult to do too much with detail at that time period on surfaces of that size. "Overstuffed" animals appear on some very early engravings, such as the ancient coins below (left) and the ancient bronze seal (below, right). It is the nature of carving and the tools used at this scale that tends of "fatten up" the animals shown.
The Lord seal was no doubt a signet ring, and while the Collingwood seal size could still be a large ring, it may have been a desk seal... with a wooden handle, or a metal holding device (see medieval example below). Such seals were often worn on a chain around the neck.
The Lord seal measures only 14 mm (c. 1/2") across the engraved area and the Collingwood seal reportedly measures just 2 cm (c. 3/4"). The Northampton archivist provided me with the image below and added the measurements as shown.
The type of signet ring used by Lord (and possibly Collingwood) would be just like the one shown here (below), which dates from the same general period in Europe.
This seal ring is silver and holds a flat-faced jewel in a setting similar to any jeweled man's ring. The jewel is intaglio engraved, in this case with a horse (?). Note the gap between the edge of the jewel, which is tapered, and the edge of the metal mounting. This would produce the raised band we see in both the Lord and Collingwood seal imprints. Sometimes ancient Roman jewels were merely mounted in Elizabethan rings, often without any heraldic meanings, but were used as seal rings due to their constant association as a special posession of the owner/wearer.
Such is the limit of what we know as of this writing, which is more than we knew before we started writing it :-)
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