illustration of the prince and the pauper standing back to back with a castle on the prince's side and a low building on the pauper's

The Prince and the Pauper

by Mark Twain

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In "The Prince and the Pauper," what is the purpose of The Great Seal?

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In this book, the search for the Great Seal is one of the major actions.  It is how they eventually decide that the real prince is telling the truth about his identity.

At one point in the book, the seal is described as "a massy golden disk."  Tom talks about how it has "devices and letters" engraved on it.  So that tells you that it really is a seal.  Back then, proclamations and letters and such had to be "sealed" to show that they were authentic.  This meant that wax would be heated and a seal would be pressed into the wax.  That is what the Great Seal was for -- only the monarchs would have access to the Great Seal so anything with that imprint must have been approved by them.

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