LONDON (AP) _ Queen Elizabeth II presented the government with a new Great Seal of the Realm on Wednesday _ the second in her 49-year reign _ continuing a tradition that has endured for a thousand years.

The monarch gave the silver stamp to the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, during a meeting of the Privy Council at Buckingham Palace. As Britain's top legal official, the Lord Chancellor is also keeper of the seal.

The seal dates from the 11th-century reign of Edward the Confessor, and is used to authenticate important state documents. The new seal replaces one introduced in 1953, which had worn out.

Designed by James Butler, the new seal is six inches across and is engraved with an updated portrait of the queen, wearing ceremonial robes and holding an orb and scepter. It bears the Latin inscription: ``Elizabeth II by the Grace of God of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.'' The reverse side features the queen's coat of arms.

The Great Seal is used on variety of documents, including proclamations, electoral writs and letters patent. One concession has been made to modernity, though _ nowadays the impression is made in cellulose acetate plastic, rather than wax, which is deemed too fragile.