Re: Help with signatures - Steven J. Coker
Subject: Re: Help with signatures
From: Steven J. Coker
Date: May 29, 1999

Lee Adair wrote:
> I'm still confused about L.S. I say that after seeing a number of
> husband/wife signature pairs in the deed books, both followed by
> L.S. If L.S. meant the place for a seal, it would mean that the wife
> also had a seal, which strikes me as being unlikely, or does it
> mean that her husband applied his seal to her name as well?

Husband and wife become "one person" when they marry.  The wife could, and often
would, use the husband's seal.  But, a woman might have her own distinct seal. 
There were traditions about what seal a woman used.  The traditions varied
somewhat from place to place and over time.  Depending on whether she was a
virgin, wife, widow, remarried widow, etc., she may have used the armorial of
her father, husband, deceased husband, etc.  A married woman who came from a
family of standing could have arms which show both the arms of her father and
the arms of her husband.  

On the 1691 document I mentioned earlier, Isaac Dubose and his wife Susanna
Dubose both signed their names and both left their wax seals.  The wax seals of
Susanna and Isaac are from the same seal.  Susana's mother, Mary Brigaud, was
widowed and remarried.  Her seal appears to show the arms of two families

".... These charters were impressed with the Lord's private seal, and endorsed
by granting parties or witnesses, possibly even the monarch's seal. Some of the
few surviving examples of these seals are the Ragman Rolls representing
'signatories' in 1291 and 1296 of almost 2500 Scottish magnates, mostly of
Norman descent.... The practice of 'sealing' was apparently widespread at this
time, almost universal....

The question of common usage seal "relics" enters the picture. Where did all
these seals go? Where is all this historic evidence?  Mystified historians have
previously placed spotty usage in the late 12th century. Archaeologists and
antiquaries have often despaired at the lack of personal remains of families who
held the castles and estates of the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, particularly
in England. The castles were wiped clean. The only feasible explanation is
"Would you leave your seal under the doormat?" The key to your domain, your
worldly wealth. You may carve your Coat of Arms over the mantlepiece, just like
modern lovers on a park bench or tree, but you wouldn't leave your key hanging
around. When the monarchy changed, it was your only proof of previous grants (or
attainders) and sometimes proved a history of family allegiances, depending on
who was then in power in a highly volatile Norman nation of empire builders who
might even have invented the seven deadly sins. Or, at least, applied a new
meaning to them. Perhaps the seals were kept in monasteries with the rest of
their valuables. In 1215, King John kept all his crown jewels in a monastry when
under duress at the time of the Magna Carta. Evidentially, in 1154, it was
reported with some disgust by the Justicair of all England, Robert de Lucy, that
'every little knight' had his own seal. Perhaps there was a dismay that the
proliferation even by that time was way out of control.

If we can agree that the signet seal was not an overnight phenomena of the
times, the end of the 13th century, that legal transactions to entitlement must
have emerged over centuries of usage, recognizing that the simple "x" for
identity was totally inadequate, then we can proceed. We can also assume the
unique identification was as organized as their Coat of Arms or crest with which
the seal sometimes bore resemblance. Similarly, forgery of 'seals' was no small
problem and many complex devices were introduced to protect the integrity of the
owner's rights and his unique identity...."

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