Saturday, 27 May 2017

Seal of the East India Company

Would you consider this an historical find? It's exciting when one manages to get ones hands onto old documents which go way back into time. As for me, I was thrilled to see this document - part of a title deed - which dated back to the Year 1818, that is, 34 years after the founding of the Prince of Wales' Island as an English trading post by Capt Francis Light in 1786.

When Light died in 1794, his position as the Superintendent of this English settlement passed through several hands. The Prince of Wales' Island was later elevated to a Presidency of India with George Town as the administrative centre and governed through a Lieutenant-Governor who was appointed by the East India Company in Madras, India. In 1800, Sir George Leith was the Lieutenant-Governor but by 1817, this position of Governor was filled by Colonel John Alexander Bannerman who died in office in 1819.

What intrigued me most about this document was the red wax seal. Clearly, this was the seal of the East India Company in Prince of Wales' Island in 1818. I had a bit of a problem trying to make out the details on the seal as it is now 199 years old but I believe that I may have most of the marks identified. However, I may still be wrong in my conclusions.

Firstly, the semi-circular scroll in the bottom half of the seal. Without any doubt, it read as PRINCE OF WALES' ISLAND, the pompous old name for Penang as adopted by Light.

Secondly, adorning the top half of the seal in a semi-circular design were UNIT●E●IND●COMP which surely must have stood for the United East India Company. But I was bothered by the word UNIT or "United". Why was UNIT included in the seal? As far as I know, the United East India Company would refer to the Dutch East India(n) Company. Perhaps someone, a historian perhaps, can help shed some light on the matter.

Finally, the centre of the seal featured the cross of the East India Company and in the top left quadrant, I could make out a crown on top of a small shield. The shield itself was divided into four parts and there were some semblance of wavy lines in its top right and bottom left quadrants.

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