Henry IV of England used a "remarkable seal" with two tall feathers (around the shield, helm and crest), each entwined with a garter which had his "favorite and significant" motto "SOVEREYGNE" written on it, which he is said to have used "a short time before his accession", as Duke of Lancaster. (Sources: English Heraldry, by Ch. Boutell, pg. 242. A Complete Guide to Heraldry, by Arthur Charles Fox-Davies)

A modern depiction of this feather can be seen here, by "Sodacan" on wikicommons.

Can anyone find a photo or even illustration of this image? I can't for the life of me find one. I can find double ostrich feathers for the Duchy of Lancaster, just not entwined with "SOVEREYGNE".

I came across this Seal of John, Duke of Bedford, which looks like it has the ostrich feathers entwined with writing. John of Lancaster was the third son of Henry IV, but I can't find any other higher resolution photos of this to confirm if this is the same symbol


1 Answer 1


The Erenow site has an image of the seal on it's page titled The Fears of Henry IV, although it isn't particularly high resolution, and doesn't provide further details for the source of the image:

seal impression

This seems to match the description that you mentioned on p 242 of Charles Boutell's English Heraldry

"... a very remarkable Seal, used by HENRY IV. a short time before his accession, the shield with helm and crest are placed between two tall Feathers, about each of which is entwined a Garter charged with his favourite and significant Motto the word SOVEREYGNE, ..."

I also found the records of two seals in the card index to armorial seals & seal impressions held by the UK National Archives (QFA 1-25). These describe the ostrich feather

"... encircled by a scroll lettered ma/so/ve/rey/ne"

and the cards date the seals to 1394 and 1395.

index card for first seal (click to enlarge)

index card for second seal (click to enlarge)

You would probably have to visit in person to view the actual seal impressions.

  • 2
    It's you again Mr Sempaiscuba! God bless u forever man! You're the best!
    – Johan88
    Sep 4, 2019 at 15:11
  • What makes it a “very remarkable” seal?
    – KRyan
    Sep 5, 2019 at 1:34
  • 1
    @KRyan A good question. It was the description used by Charles Boutell in his book. Unfortunately, he died in 1877 so we can't ask him exactly what he meant. Sep 5, 2019 at 1:40
  • 1
    @Johan88 QFA 1-21 describes two seals of John, Duke of Bedford. The first has "a shield of arms with helm and crest, a lion, an ostrich feather on the sinister side". The second has "a label of five points, with helm [and crest]; on dexter side an eagle and an ostrich feather encircled with ribbon inscribed ? ; field foliaged". Neither mentions the "Sovereyne" motto, although the 2nd does have an uncertain inscription around the feather. Sep 5, 2019 at 2:35
  • 1
    @Johan88 I wouldn't get too hung up about minor differences in spelling. English spellings were not formalised until much later. Nov 6, 2019 at 13:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.