Royal Burse Title


Presenting the Royal Burse . . .

A Royal Burse was a very special kind of ceremonial purse made of rich materials,  decorated with the current monarch's coat of arms and initials, and in which the Lord Chancellor carried the Great Seal of England. The Great Seal was of great importance; it was used to seal Parliamentary writs, treaties and other documents of state.  The Great Seal was a silver seal impressed with the Royal Coat of Arms, which in-turn was pressed into wax to seal documents that had the Royal assent. The Great Seal was the ultimate symbol of the law in the same way that the crown symbolizes the monarchy.

Sir John Image RoyalBurse image
Oil on panel, The Weiss Gallery
Sir John Puckering proudly holds
the seal burse after his appointment
as Lord Keeper of the Great Seal.

This burse belonged to Edward Burtenshaw Sugden, 1st Baron Saint Leonards, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, 1835.


Scroll down the page for more descriptions and history of the Royal Burse.

Using images of 'The Lord Chancellors Burse', I have designed some fun items:

Click on an image below to learn more.

Royal Burse Binder Royal Burse Mokadore Royal Burse Tote
Royal Burse Binder - great way to store your project instructions and charts for the new tutorial series ‘The Queen’s Attire’

Royal Burse Mokadore  - glass cleaning cloth for your glasses, magnifier, iPad, etc.

Royal Burse Tote Bag - carry your needlework projects in this handy 18" x 18" tote
Royal Burse Mug1 Royal Burse Travel Mug  
Royal Burse Silk Scarf - 11 oz ceramic mug is dishwasher & microwave safe
Royal Burse Mokadore  - six inch tall Travel Mug with press-in suction lid



These fun Royal Burse items are presented now to set a Grand Royal Entrance for a new series of needlework kits and tutorials, 'The Queen's Attire'!


The coronation of Elizabeth the First was held on January 15, 1559. 

On January 15, 2016, watch for my newsletter and the release of ‘The Queen's Crown’; the first tutorial in the series of ‘The Queen’s Attire’.

Later the series will have several more projects to choose from:
The Queen's Ruff
The Queen's Sweet Bag
The Queen's Stomacher
The Queen's Glove
The Queen's Shoe
The Queen's Looking Glass

The Queens Attire Logo


The use of a special burse to hold the Great Seal can be traced back to the reign of Edward II (1284-1327), when it was traditionally carried in procession before the Lord Chancellor. The burse was originally made of white leather or linen, but near the beginning of the 16th century the burse was transformed into a magnificent velvet purse, embroidered with the arms. There are written references to the bag being of white linen “baga de albo corio” through the times of Edw. II, Edw. III, Hen. VI and Hen. VIII. So it went until the seventh year of the reign of Henry VIII when Cardinal Wolsey received the seal in a “baga de albo corio” but when he gave it up on October 17, 1529, the proud Cardinal had replaced the bag with a “quadam alia baga sive Teca de Veluto crimisino desuper armis et insigniis Anglino ornata”. By the end of the 16th century, the velvet bags received  additional details in couched metal thread, gold spangles and purl worked directly onto the velvet ground. The richly decorated elaborate designs became a testament to the lavish display of the Elizabethan court. The monarch traditionally employed an embroiderer responsible for organizing embroidery projects required in the court. An invoice from Roger Nelham, maker of the purse in 1652, included the following description "embroidering the rich purse for the Greate Seale of England with best double refined gold and silver upon a rich velvet, ingraine with the arms of the Commonwealth of England at large."

Elizabeth I had five chancellors during her reign (1558-1603), each with a different burse for the Great Seal.

Upon the death of each monarch, or at the change of Lord Chancellor, the Great Seal of England was defaced and replaced by another. One ‘perk' of office was that the Lord Chancellor and Keeper of the Great Seal was allowed to keep the obsolete seal with its accompanying burse. They would usually melt down the seals to make such commemorative items such as salvers or cups.

Three cups known as 'The Bacon Cups' were made for Sir Nicholas Bacon (1509-79) in 1574 from the Great Seal of Mary I, Queen of England (reigned 1552-58).
 After resigning office in 1672, Sir Orlando was given his burse and silver seal. The silver was melted down and used to create a large stem cup, engraved with an image of the burse. This cup may be seen in the collection at Weston Park.

Sir Thomas Egerton was appointed Keeper of the Great Seal on 6 May 1596. Upon retiring, he gave his burse to his servant Henry Jones, whose family transformed it into a cushion cover. It is recorded in his widow’s will of 1632 as "a cushion of velvet embrodered with gould which was a seale purse".

Lady Margaret Hardwicke (d.1761), the wife of Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke (1690-1764), who happened to be the longest serving Chancellor of the 18th century from 1737-1756, used the replaced purses to make curtains for the State Bed in their country estate, Wimpole Hall. The ceremonial burses were replaced annually until 1822.

The image of the burse that I used for the Royal Burse Fun Stuff shows the crowned royal crest and the letters ‘VR' (Victoria Regina) for Queen Victoria. The design has changed very little since Elizabethan times. This burse belonged to Edward Burtenshaw Sugden, 1st Baron Saint Leonards. He was Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1835, and then again from 1841 to 1846.

The 19” x 20” bag is richly made of deep crimson velvet with applied stumpwork decoration. The front is heavily worked in twisted and coiled gold threads, and gold spangles.

The central area beneath an Imperial Crown bears the Royal Crest of Queen Victoria, partly covered with red and blue satin, and embroidered with gilt purl, wire, plate and thread. The Royal Crest includes a harp in one quadrant, which was adopted by Henry VIII as part the official arms of Ireland.

The black velvet belt surrounding the crest bears lettering worked in gold passing thread that spells out the motto of the Order of the Garter, "Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense" or "Shame to him who evil thinks".

Framing the center crest and motto is heavily embellished, raised and padded embroidery, worked in gold and silver wire, silk threads and black beads depicting two intricately detailed beasts (a lion and a unicorn). Below the lion is a Tudor rose and under the unicorn is a thistle.

Below the beasts is a blue silk banner with the inscription, "Dieu et Mon Droit," which means "God and My Right", which is worked and outlined in gold twisted and coiled threads.  The motto is said to have first been used by Richard I as a battle cry and is presumed to be a reference to the divine right of the Monarch to govern. It was adopted as the royal motto of England by King Henry V with the phrase "and My Right" referring to his claim to the French crown.  The banner completes the Royal Coat of Arms.

The Imperial Crown atop the Royal Crest has been skillfully worked over a padding using gold wire, twisted thread, purl, crimson velvet and spangles, to create a variety of patterns and textural effects.

The Royal Arms of Queen Victoria is surrounded by a three inch wide border containing six winged cherubs' heads or putti, cornucopia, stylized flower heads and two oval-framed harps. The motifs, worked in several types of  gold and silver wires and threads, are laid and couched over padding.

The Monarchs’ arms represented on this burse are still the current arms of the United Kingdom.

I have collected several images relating to burses on a Pinterest page. You can view it here:

Sort By:
Royal Burse Tote Bag
Royal Burse Tote Bag