A Rare Bronze 'Cockett' or Customs Seal - The Duchy of Cornwall


A rare and of exceptional quality, this very early form of "cockett" or customs seal, ranks amongst the finest of its kind in existence.

Seal Detail

The seal has an everted hexagonal cone and triple-pierced clover-leaf loop for suspension. The circular matrix is cut with a crowned king’s head facing, flanked by two leaf sprigs, within a Lombardic inscription; with deep cable borders.

The inscription reads * sigillu . de . cokett . ducat . curnub * (‘cocket seal of the Duchy of Cornwall’).

Cocket seals were used on documents proving that a ship had already paid any necessary customs duties and so did not need to pay again when entering another port. In the case of the Duchy of Cornwall, the correctly sealed documents would enable a ship to enter further Cornish ports without subsequent payment. In the first duchy port of call, on payment of the duty, the havener, a duchy official who acted as harbour master, would give the ship’s captain a receipt, known as a ‘charter’. To prove its authenticity, the charter had to carry a cocket seal. The name ‘cocket’ apparently derives from the Latin quo quietus est (‘by which he is quit’).

The Dukedom of Cornwall was the first dukedom created in the peerage of England. The dukedom is the last in the United Kingdom still associated with an actual duchy, the Duchy of Cornwall. There is one other duchy in the UK, the Duchy of Lancaster, but there has been no Duke of Lancaster since that dukedom was merged in the crown in 1412, when Henry of Monmouth ascended the throne as Henry V.


Said to be from the collection of Dr Alexander Waugh, MD, grandfather of the novelist Evelyn Waugh;

Bonham’s, 13 September 1994, lot 641a;

Morton & Eden, 13–14 December 2005, lot 612.

Seal Specification

English (probably issued by Henry of Monmouth, Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall, 1399–1413), late 14th/early 15th century.

Height: 44 mm.

Diameter of matrix: 30 mm.