Page:The Green Bag (1889–1914), Volume 25.pdf/412

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The Mysterious " SS." to similar documents"; but got no reply. But nearly thirty years later the question of the origin and significance of the mysterious esses was again raised and in the issue of Notes and Queries for May 13, 1911, occurs an extended historical discussion of "ss" as used on the collar worn by the lord chief justice in an effort to relate the letters to the words "Souvent me souvient," or "Soveigne vous de moi." Going now to the latest and fullest authority, the Encyclopedia Britannica, eleventh edition, under the word" Collar," contributed by Mr. Oswald Barron, F.S.A., we find: . . . Livery collars . . . appeared in the 14th century, worn by those who displayed their alliances or fealty. . . . During the sitting of the English parliament in 1394 the complaints of the Earl of Arundel against Richard III are re corded, one of his grievances being that the King was wont to wear the livery of the collar of the Duke of Lancaster, his uncle; and that people of the King's following wore the same livery. To which the King answered that soon after the return from Spain (in 1389) of his uncle, the said duke, he himself took the collar from his uncle's neck, putting it on his own, which collar the King would wear and use for a sign of the good and whole-hearted love between them, even as he wore the liveries of his other uncles. This famous livery collar, which has never passed out of use, takes many forms, its esses being sometimes linked together chainwise, and sometimes, in early examples, bestowed as the ornamental bosses of a garter-shaped strapcollar. The oldest effigy bearing it is that in Spratton Church of Sir John Swinford, who died Albany, N. Y.


in 1371. Swinford was a follower of John of Gaunt, and the date of his death easily disposes of the fancy that the esses were devised by Henry IV to stand for his motto or "word" of Soverangne. Many explanations are given of the origin of these letters, but none has as yet been established with sufficient proof. . . . Plain collars of esses are now worn in the United Kingdom by kings-of-arms, heralds and serjeants-at-arms. Certain legal dignitaries have worn them since the 16th century, the collar of the lord chief justice having knots and roses between the letters " Out of all of which comes a clear and reasonable suggestion that from being an ornament of royalty, the esses became the badge of followers of the house of Lancaster, and thence passed unofficially to persons in authority, like magistrates, mayors and justices; and from being used upon the collar came naturally to be used on official writings to indicate the authority of the magistrate, mayor or judge who gave the same. The mysterious "ss" is then, we may conclude, no abbreviation but a symbol of official position. The lawyers of other days in Great Britain knew their Latin and made no obscure abbreviations or impossible applications of words or phrases. Whatever the origin of the symbol, the esses as an ornament passed naturally into a sign of judicial or magis terial authority, and as such properly follow the names of the state and county where a document is witnessed or an action at law laid.