The Victorian Seal (1842)

The Victorian Seal (1842)

On 26th June 1843, Sir Henry Pottinger was appointed the first Governor of Hong Kong, while still retaining his responsibilities as Chief Superintendent of Trade. Clearly, a new public seal, for use in his capacity as Governor, would be required, and in the same despatch of 22nd December 1843 Sir Henry wrote: "I think it right to inform Your Lordship (Lord Hanley) that, as a public seal will be indispensably requisite in granting the Leases referred to in the two accompanying Notifications, issued on the 12th Instant, I have ordered one to be engraved similar to that which I use as Chief Superintendent, and of which I enclose an impression, with the impression "Government of Hong Kong".

There is something odd about this. In the first place, this seems a rather casual way to go about obtaining a public seal, which should have the approval of the Sovereign. But, more important, we have an impression of a public seal bearing the date 1842, the words "VICTORIA DEI GRATIA BRITANNIAR REG. F.D." * and the inscription "HONG KONG". The seal, which is reproduced in Plate II, is without question the first public seal of the Colony, and Eitel records that the public seal arrived in the Colony on 5th September 1843 for use by the new Governor and upon the formation of the first Executive and Legislative Councils. how then can Sir Henry, on 22nd December 1843, three months later, write in a despatch of undoubted authenticity that he has ordered a new public seal? It seems unlikely that this intriguing mystery will be solved.

Plate II - The Victorian Seal (1842)