|Image from flickr|
"Elizabeth I used this great seal during the second half of her reign - from 1586 to 1603. It is an impression from seal matrix made of bronze and was engraved by Nicholas Hilliard, who was famous for his small paintings or miniatures. The matrix was used to create wax impressions that were used to 'seal' documents. This was a means of proving that the accompanying document had been written or approved by the owner of the seal.
Seals were widely used by statesmen, nobles, judges, churchmen and even ordinary people. The great seal was the most important of all, as the monarch used it to approve public acts and announcements. It was a powerful political tool. The great seal of Elizabeth gives an insight into how the queen wanted to be seen. On one side, she is shown holding the sceptre and orb that are the traditional symbols of royal power. Heavenly rays above her head are a sign of her divine status. On the reverse side, Elizabeth is shown on horseback riding across a field of flowering plants. This symbolises hope and prosperity, as well as the queen's femininity.Her image is one of strength, but unlike her predecessors she is not wearing military dress.She is flanked by the symbols of her lands: the Tudor Rose of England, the Harp of Ireland, and the Fleur-de-Lys of France. The inscription around the edge reads 'Elizabetha dei gracia Anglie Francie et Hibernie Regina Fidei Defensor' (Elizabeth, by grace of God, Queen of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith)."