You've just been asked to join the Order of the Laurel. What does it mean to be a Peer, and a Laurel? This guide is designed to help answer your questions, and inform you on what it means to be a Companion of the Laurel.
Becoming a member of the Order is not for everyone.
Joining the Laurels is not simply being given a higher rank, it is a great responsibility not to be taken lightly. Before you accept this office, carefully consider the following aspects of the job:
When you are asked to join the Order, you are under no pressure to give an answer right away. If you have any doubts or hesitations, or would like to take some time to think about it, please feel free to do so. It is much better to take some time to think about the issues at hand than to make a hasty decision and come to regret it afterwards. Also, you may opt to be elevated at a certain event to give you time to prepare for your ceremony. It will only happen once, so make the most of it!
Consider the honour being offered to you by the members of the Order. They wish to make you one of their own, a Companion. The Order has thought about and discussed this, and have agreed, as has the Crown, that you are capable of fulfilling this role, or that you do already. There is an oft-cited phrase, "we recognise Peers, we don't create them".
There are two main parts to being a Laurel. On one hand, you are a master craftsman, with your skills and knowledge officially recognised by the Crown. As such, it behoves a Companion to continue their work developing, refining, fostering and encouraging the arts and sciences. This is a Laurel's prime function.
On the other hand, you are also a Peer of the Realm. This is defined by the qualities inherent in all the Peerage Orders. Peers are the pillars that support and hold together the SCA. They are the "good guys" who provide a more enriched experience for all, every time they attend events. They fulfil their role by being worthy of respect from those of every rank.
Essentially a Peer is a SERVANT to the masses, forever performing great and inspirational deeds.
Being a member of the Order, you are entitled to wear the symbol of the Order, the laurel wreath.
This is most commonly on a medallion, given to you at your elevation. You may request one from a member of the Order who you view highly, it may be offered to you, or you may choose to start a history of your own. If you do receive a medallion with a history, attempt to trace it so if you are fortunate to pass this medallion on, you can also pass on its history.
You may also receive a "laurel cloak". This is your robe of estate. It is usually green with a gold laurel wreath prominently displayed on the back, and perhaps a smaller one on the front. In Lochac, you may robed with the Laurel Cloak (the "Baby Laurel" cloak) at your investiture, which is then passed on to the next person to be elevated. This depends on the organisation levels of the order and the last person to be robed... You may wish to make a cloak of your own to suit your investiture garb. Laurel robes can be of any design: the traditional half-circle cape, cloaks of various styles, even Tudor or Elizabethan gowns.
Lochac is not known for its cold temperatures and cloaks can be hot and cumbersome. Many Companions in Lochac wear the laurel wreath in other ways eg: embroidered design, woven in to the cloth of their garb, upon a circlet of rank, etc. Remember, creativity is the hallmark of the Order go nuts!
If you swear fealty, you have the right to wear a fealty chain or collar of medallions emblematic of the Laurel. Some Laurels hang their medallions from their fealty chains, some dress up their chains to look more like period jewellery, some wear a collar of maintenance made up of laurel medallions. Again, be as creative as you like with this.
You also have the right to the title of Master or Mistress (or Dame if you prefer). The common SCA usage of this is Master/Mistress First-name; a more period form is Master/Mistress Surname (if indeed you have one). In Lochac, the form of address "Your Excellency" has customarily been extended to Companions of the Chivalry, Laurel, and Pelican, in addition to Royal Peers.
Wearing the regalia and using the title are highly encouraged. You support the Order by being visible and "showing the flag", and you enhance the pageantry of the Society. You should be proud of your regalia it was your accomplishments and virtues which earned you the right to wear it!
All Peers are equal. End of story.
Some people, in addition to being members of the Laurel, have been admitted to the Orders of the Chivalry or the Pelican. Such people are colloquially referred to as "double Peers" or "triple Peers". Unfortunately, this usage can leave a "single Peer" feeling embarrassed, degraded and devalued. However, a Peer is a Peer is a Peer. Someone who belongs to two or more Orders has no more "power" or "prestige" than someone who is "only" a member of one Order. All Peers are equal in rank, status, authority and responsibility, whether they have been a Peer for one year or twenty, and whether they belong to one Order or to three.
All too often, when a new Peer is made, they can go through a period of soul-searching and some stress associated with their elevation. This section is intended to help you over any of these hurdles, and come to terms with your new role as quickly and as painlessly as possible.
Some people may react to your elevation in funny ways. They may distance themselves, or suddenly want to be your best friend. Some people will hold you to unrealistically high standards; others will say you're getting above yourself. Some people will expect you to be the font of all wisdom, and some will say that now you're a Laurel you think you know everything.
This kind of thing can be very frustrating and hurtful; especially if the people concerned are close friends or people you have known for a long time.
These reactions can have many causes: there may be an (subconscious) element of jealousy or resentment, a feeling you've "sold out" or become "stuck up", or simply the traditional Australian preoccupation with cutting down the tall poppy.
Probably the best way to handle this is to ignore it. For the most part, it is their problem, not yours. You have had a change of status in the Society, and with that often comes a change of perspective. The people who know you may need time to adjust to that, just as you do. Rely on your true friends, and keep doing what you have always done. Sooner or later things will settle down.
The most common stress point is characterised by the statements, "My work isn't good enough to be a Laurel" or "I'm not worthy of being a Peer". This can be experienced at different levels, from brief hesitation to long-term crippling self-doubt. Almost everyone goes through this stage at some point, and it is perfectly natural: the trick is to not let it overwhelm you.
The membership of the Order has thought about and discussed at some length your skills, your personal qualities and your comportment, and they have agreed that your work is at the required level, and that you are worthy of the honour. If they weren't completely sure, they wouldn't have asked you to join them in the first place. So don't worry, you're there because WE WANT YOU!
Sometimes a new Laurel can be daunted by the seemingly overwhelming responsibilities that come with Peerage. Responsibilities to the Order, to the people, to the Kingdom, the bonds of fealty, the obligation to continue teaching, proper conduct in public: all this can look like far too much to cope with. However, keep in mind the fact that you're considered capable of fulfilling these responsibilities, and probably are already without realising it. Even so, having it all set out in front of you can be intimidating.
You might want to look at what you do already as a starting point, and, if you feel the need, build from there. Break it down, and look at your obligations one step at a time. Give yourself time to adjust and above all have fun in what you are doing. "If it isn't fun, don't do it".
Once they see that medallion, some people will expect you to be a one-stop reference library.
There is absolutely no shame in admitting that you don't know something about a particular subject. What you can do is explain your lack of familiarity with the subject and either point the que rent to someone who is familiar with it or help/tell them how to go about finding the information themselves.
One pitfall you have to watch out for is the temptation to think you do know it all. Some people think that now they are a Peer, they must know the answer to every question, they must have an opinion on every issue, they must exercise their "authority" whenever the opportunity presents itself.
In becoming a Laurel, you have been recognised as an expert in one or more fields of study. Even so, you don't have to know everything in your field you can't know everything. It's impossible. In fact, the minute you hold yourself up as the final authority on a subject, you are failing in your job! You should always be willing to learn more, and encourage others to do the same.
Laurels are only human, and the temptation to flaunt the knowledge you were recognised for can be strong indeed; but in doing so you can lose others' respect and gain a reputation for being dogmatic and arrogant. Go softly, offer your skills and opinions gently, and always be wary of hubris. Don't demand the spotlight; let the spotlight come to you.
When you become a Laurel, you have worked hard and come a long way. DON'T STOP NOW!
It may help to picture an upright yardstick with a marking three-quarters of the way up. The stick shows your journey of learning from the beginning, with the mark being your elevation to Laurel. Of course, there is still the quarter length at the top for your continued learning. However, upon reaching elevation, the stick is now turned upside-down. This describes your new journey into Peerage, learning as you progress.
Becoming a Laurel does not mean you should totally change your personality! Just because you have been made a Peer doesn't mean you can't tell a joke, hang out in the tavern, or that you must give up your barbarian persona and become a renaissance clotheshorse.
What is expected is that you exercise self-restraint in certain situations, and be aware that your actions will have consequences. Even if you are having THE worst day of your life, stop and think before you scream abuse at someone if they bump into you while dancing. Consider what damage might be done if you repeat that piece of juicy gossip. If you simply must bitch about someone's costume/fighting-style/lover, do it where you WON"T be overheard.
On occasion you will stuff up. Everyone stuffs up, be they commoner, Peer or Prince. In such cases, the most courteous and mature response is to admit culpability and apologise. Once you have done that, learn from it and move on. Don't beat yourself over a mistake that has been corrected.
Remember, after everything's said and done, REAL LIFE must come first. Do what you can for the Order and the Society, but you also have to pay the rent.
If any of these problems occur, you may feel lost, frustrated, resentful and "dumped in the deep end" by the Order. The truth is that many Companions of the Laurel went through something similar, and they know exactly what you are going through. It seems that most problems do sort themselves out by the end of your first year as a Laurel.
Never feel that you have to cope with a problem on your own. If you are having a problem, please talk to someone about it, be it other Laurels in your local group, the Principal of the Order or someone from another group that you do feel you can talk to. Most Laurels will be willing to share their experiences and how they overcame their problems.
Being a Laurel can be a difficult and frustrating job, but it can be a rewarding one too. Like most people, you are better than you think and nobler than you know. Give yourself the time and gentleness to discover you own best self, and you will do yourself, you Order and your Kingdom proud.
A vigil is by no means obligatory but is often rewarding. If you do have one, make the most of it! In period, a vigil was a night of prayer and contemplation when a squire would reflect and prepare himself for the burdens of the station of knighthood. The SCA version is a gathering of Peers of an Order, to support and advise a candidate (or candidates) the evening before they are to be elevated. Also in attendance might be the reigning Royalty, some apprentices and a few others of your choice who would benefit from the experience.
These can be all-night marathons or a simple get-together over dinner. If there is a very short time (say, one day) between being asked and being elevated, it would be best for a member of the Order to arrange a location, food, drinks, chocolate or whatever for your Vigil. If there is more time, you have the opportunity to research and prepare, so you may consider having a vigil at the location of your choice.
Make the most of this, because it will only happen once.
To a large extent, you can customise the ceremony to fit your persona, skills and tastes. Basically, the sky's the limit! This can include subtly changing the wording of the Ceremony and even translating it into the persona's native tongue. For example, it could be appropriate for a Viking persona to swear fealty by handing their unsheathed dagger to the King hilt first (giving the King power of life and death) and the King returning fealty by handing it back hilt first. If you are interested in using your persona's native tongue, ask around the council as we may have a spare copy of the oath in your language.
As part of your elevation ceremony, you will have to promise to carry out certain obligations. This is commonly called your "laurel oath" or "Peerage oath". So what exactly are you swearing to?
Will you now give Us your word that you will henceforth comport yourself as befits a Peer of the Realm, as you have most surely done until now, and that you will continue to be of service to the Kingdom and Their Majesties' people?
I so swear.
Will you further swear to treat all with Courtesy and uphold the Laws and traditions of the Kingdom of Lochac?
I so swear.
To summarise, you are agreeing to
Most Peers in the Kingdom of Lochac also swear fealty, but you are by no means obliged to do so. Swearing fealty means that you are making a commitment to the Crowns of Lochac, and they are making a return commitment to you. Fealty should be considered carefully, and never undertaken lightly. For more information, please read the article "Fealty, Loyalty and Obedience as We Know and Use Them in the Kingdom of Lochac", attached as an appendix to this package. If you have any questions, please discuss it with the members of the Order.
The fealty oath (as used in Lochac) reads as follows:
Here do I swear, by mouth and hand,
Fealty and service to the Crown and Kingdom of Lochac;
To come and to go,
To do and to let be,
To strike and to spare,
To speak and to be silent,
In all matters that concern the Kingdom,
On my honour and the lawful command of the Crown;
In need or in plenty,
In peace or in war,
In living or in dying,
From this hour henceforth,
Until the King departs from his throne,
Death takes me,
Or the world ends.
So say I, (name).
King: And We for our part do swear fealty to you, (name), to protect and defend you and your household with all our power, until We depart from the Throne, death take Us, or the world ends. So say We, (name), King of Lochac.
Queen: So also say we, (name) Queen of Lochac.
The purpose of a meeting or Council, is twofold: to discuss issues of relevance to the Order and the Kingdom, and to discuss candidates for the Order. Meetings are usually scheduled for the Coronet events (and other large events such as Rowany Festival), although an extraordinary meeting can be assembled if there are sufficient Laurels at an event to discuss pressing or delicate issues, and thus expedite the "official" meeting.
Typically, the meeting is attended by the Companions of the Laurel present, and the current Royalty. The Principal of the Order takes notes of the discussions and later distributes a summary of the meeting to all members of the Order.
In the case of issue discussions, the meeting may talk about various issues affecting the Kingdom, the Peerage in general or the Order of the Laurel in particular. Unless the issue should be kept quiet for some reason, there is nothing confidential about these discussions. This is not to say you should come barrelling out of an issue meeting and whinge to your friends always use your discretion or consult another laurel if you are not sure.
In the case of candidate discussions, however, the deliberations MUST be kept absolutely confidential.
This is done because, although some candidates do not mind knowing they are being discussed, others become extremely disturbed by the idea. As there is no way of knowing how a candidate will react, the names of those on the Order's list of candidature are not made general knowledge outside the Order. This is probably the cardinal rule of a Laurel meeting.
Even if you don't say anything, resist the temptation to drop hints or even smile knowingly.
Security leaks can cause an enormous amount of damage to a candidate and to the Order's reputation. Of course, this does not give anyone the right to engage in sniping or character assassination of candidates. Don't do it yourself, and if anyone else does it pull them up on it immediately.
Occasionally the Order will find it necessary to "counsel" a candidate (in the Knights' meetings, this is known as the "help list", to actively help a candidate toward elevation). In this case, the Order will decide what is to be said, how it is to be said, and will delegate a Companion to do it. Never, ever take this task upon yourself: you probably don't know the full story and you are likely to do far more harm than good.
Because the Companions of the Laurel are a diverse group of strong-willed, artistic people with strong opinions, there are times when either an issue or a candidate will result in discussions of some heat. Some newcomers to the Council may find this intimidating or distressing. In most instances, this is simply a case of strong-willed people expressing passionate opinions and rarely (if ever) contains real personal enmity. In the past, the chairperson of a Laurels' Meeting has described it as "trying to herd fifteen cats going in nineteen different directions".
For the most part, the members of the Order are people who respect each other's skills and opinions. They are dedicated to doing their job: seeing that the Order and the Kingdom grow in the right way, uphold the ideals of the Society and bring the greatest possible benefit to all the people of the Kingdom.
Oh yeah, and the newest Laurel brings the chocolate.
Laurel/Apprentice and Laurel/Journeyman relationships will vary from person to person. Some have this relationship based on trust and friendship, some base it on a pre-existing student-teacher relationship.
Some Laurels choose to take on apprentices. This is not necessary. If you do have an ongoing teaching relationship going, you don't have to formalise it. You may choose to continue encouraging their development as it is. If you are interested in taking on an apprentice, it is a good idea to wait until you feel comfortable with your new role. It's also good to have a chat with another Laurel or Peer in this sort of relationship to find what is expected in this role.
From the SCA Organisational Handbook, Corpora, Section VII.A, Personal Awards and Titles, Patents of Arms.
1. General Requirements: Candidates for any order conferring a Patent of Arms must meet the following minimum criteria. Additional requirements may be set by law and custom of the kingdoms as deemed appropriate and necessary by the Crown.
b. The Order of the Laurel. Members of the Order of the Laurel may choose to swear fealty, but are not required to do so.
1) Specific requirements:
The duties of the Members of the Order include:
You have the right to wear a medallion or pendant displaying the laurel wreath. This is the symbol of the Order.
You have the right to swear fealty to the Crown and Kingdom of Lochac, and receive fealty from the Crowns of Lochac.
A brief explanation of how Peerages are awarded in the West Kingdom, and an overview of the general qualifications for Peerage.
First Edition - October, AS XXIX (1994)
This handout was written by Vikontessa Tatiana Nikolaevna Tumanova, Mistress of the Laurel, and Earl Kevin Perigrynne, Knight of the SCA and Master of the Pelican. With thanks for the assistance of: Viscount Garth of Windhaven, Knight of the SCA; Count William the Lucky, Knight of the SCA, Master of the Pelican, Master of the Laurel; Master Hirsch von Henford of the Order of the Laurel, Master of the Pelican; Mistress Aldith Angharad St. George of the Order of the Laurel; Countess Juana Isabella de Montoya y Ramirez, Mistress of the Laurel; Sir Khalid Al-Jaarad, Knight of the SCA, Master of the Laurel, Master of the Pelican; Master Whelan of Yulewood of the Order of the Pelican
Its intended audience is the non-peer who has been attending SCA events for at least one year. The viewpoint expressed within is that of the authors; it is not official policy of the Kingdom of the West as published in the Kingdom By-laws nor is it meant to express, confine, or criticize the personal policy of the Crown of the West.
The Crown creates all peers in the Kingdom of th West. It is the sole prerogative of the Crown to elevate peers. By Corpora, the Crown must consult with the peerage Order in advance of Their Majesties creating a new peer (with the exception of Royal peers), but that is the extent of the Law in the Kingdom of the West. No peerage Order can dictate to the Crown; the duty of the Peerage is to advise only.
By custom, the Crown calls each of the three peerage Orders (the Chivalry, the Pelicans, and the Laurels) to meet in council at each Crown Tournament and Coronation. The Crown may also call a peerage meeting at other events, should Their Majesties so desire. Each Order has a Principal (or Clerk or Secretary) of the Order who will take notes of the meeting and maintain lists of candidates' names, both on behalf of the Crown and for any members of the Order who may have been unable to attend the latest council. The Clerk of the Order will also act as chair of the council meeting if the Crown declines to take on that role.
The purpose of a peerage meeting, or council, is to advise the Crown of subjects whose accomplishments merit consideration for candidacy in the Order, to discuss the qualities of those who are brought up as candidates, and, occasionally, to discuss any other topic on which the Crown desires advice or about which the Order feels concerned. The Crown will solicit the Order for names of candidates, or Their Majesties may bring up a name Themselves. The Order, assembled in council, is asked if this person has reached the proper point for consideration. If the consensus is positive and it is the decision of the Crown, the person named is placed upon the candidates' list, also known as the "Long Term", or "Watch" list. If the candidate was not already under discreet examination, the entire Order is now aware of the candidate and will start keeping an eye out for this person. If the consensus is negative and it is the decision of the Crown, the person's name is not added to the list of candidates. There may be several reasons for this, the most common being that the person is not yet ready (it does not mean that the person's name might not be brought up again at some later date -- this is frequently the case).
Names of candidates are considered to be confidential. This is done to prevent candidates from becoming nervous at the thought that the Order is scrutinizing their every move and then talking about them, also to avoid embarrassing those who may be examined and found wanting. Some candidates do not mind knowing they are being discussed; others become extremely disturbed by the idea. As there is no way of knowing which way a candidate will react, the names of those on the Order's list of candidates are not made general knowledge outside the Order. If the candidate is associated with a peer, either formally (as squire to a Knight or Master of Arms, apprentice to a Laurel, or protégé to a Pelican) or informally (such as being a friend or relative), that peer is usually expected to know the candidate's feelings on the subject and will make those feelings known to the rest of the Order.
Candidate Discussions which take place in the peerage council are always held to be confidential. It would impossible to speak frankly about a candidate, if who said what were to be broadcast publicly. It can be difficult for a peer to speak out against a candidate, but the Crown depends upon the peerage for frank and truthful counsel.
Each candidate on the Watch list is considered briefly, to see if they are ready for detailed discussion, warrant further observation, or should be dropped from consideration at this time. If the consensus is positive and it is the decision of the Crown, the candidate's name is advanced to the "Short Term", or "Discussion" list.
After the Watch list has been considered, each of the names on the Discussion list is brought up in turn. The peers will speak about the candidate's virtues and shortcomings (almost everybody has at least one shortcoming!) while the Crown attends to the discussion. Traditionally, the Crown seeks to determine the consensus of the Order, including those who may not have been moved to speak (being in agreement with someone who has already spoken). The Crown will then make the decision to elevate the candidate or not, return the candidate's name to the Watch list, or decide that more discussion is called for and retain the candidate's name on the Discussion list for next time. (Typically, candidates will be on the Discussion list for at least 3-4 meetings and frequently longer. This ensures more complete review, considering that not all members of an Order will attend any one meeting.) Discussion will then begin with the next candidate, and so on down the list.
The Crown will now ask the peers if there are any new names to be added to the Watch list for next time. Time permitting, there may be some issue which is of importance to the Order which will then be brought up and discussed.
If the candidate is to be elevated to the peerage, the Crown will ask who wishes to be the Crown's representative to the candidate. At the direction of Their Majesties, the volunteer (or volunteers) will seek out the candidate after the peerage meeting has ended and either propose membership in the Order to the candidate, or instruct the candidate to come to the Crown (not at court), that Their Majesties may make the proposition personally. The Crown will also ask who wishes to act as spokesman for the candidate at the peerage ceremony, to announce to all at court the ways in which the candidate has shown those qualities that distinguish a Peer of the Realm. Sometimes there is a single spokesman, sometimes there are many who fight for the privilege and therefore several spokesmen may be appointed. It may be known to the spokesman that the candidate would not wish to be told of their elevation in advance, but would prefer to be "surprised," and will so inform the Order. "Surprise" ceremonies are usually avoided, unless it is fairly certain knowledge that this particular individual really, really wants a surprise. The Crown may then elect to "surprise" the candidate, and may instruct the Order not to speak of the decision to elevate the candidate prior to the candidate being called into court, in order to keep the surprise.
Now it is time for the candidate to make his/her decision to accept membership in the Order. The candidate may decline and nothing more will be said. Should the candidate accept, the spokesman or the Crown will ask the candidate to consider undertaking a fealty relationship. Fealty is a very personal choice, and there are many individual views of its meaning. No member of any peerage Order undertakes the oath of fealty lightly, although only the Order of Chivalry makes an outward differentiation (the white baldric and title of "Master") of those members of the Order who chose not to swear fealty. The spokesman or Clerk of the Order will inform the candidate of the options available for the peerage ceremony, settle upon the date of the peerage ceremony and relay that information to the Crown. Arrangements may be made for a vigil, if such is the candidate's wish. If the candidate is not being elevated that day, the candidate may choose to share the news of his/her upcoming elevation with selected friends.
Regalia (medallions, chains of fealty, white belt/baldric, cloak of estate, etc.) for the new peer is usually provided by the Crown from the Kingdom regalia chest. Typically a peer who is particularly close to the candidate will offer an item of regalia to be passed to the candidate during the ceremony.
The usual way is that somebody sees what you do and the word gets back to the Order. A peer may notice you, a fellow member of the populace may see what you do, or perhaps even the King or Queen personally may take notice of you. The peer will speak about you at the next peerage meeting, or may mention your name to a fellow peer if what you do should be considered by a different Order; the interested friend may write a letter of recommendation to the Crown; the King or Queen may bring your name up before the assembled peers.
Anyone may recommend anyone else for a peerage; you don't have to be a peer yourself. You may make a verbal recommendation to a peer; better yet, write a letter to Their Majesties or the Clerk of the Order (their addresses may be found in the back of the West Kingdom newsletter, The Page).
The reasons for a candidate's name being dropped from consideration can be many. Some of the more common reasons are:
In all of these cases, the candidate's name may be brought up again at a later date. Skills may be brought up to standard, comportment may be smoothed out, new Royalty may be more inclined to favour a candidate; the only thing that can keep a deserving person's name off the candidate list is their own wilful misbehaviour.
Some members of the populace erroneously believe that being the "enemy" of an individual peer, or being part of a household or group with stated views may prejudice their chances of becoming a candidate for the peerage. Due to the nature of the peerage council, this is rarely a reason for a candidate being rejected. While peers are human and may harbour prejudice (just or unjust), no candidate can be permanently barred from the peerage by a peer or small coalition of peers, unless that is the decision of the Crown Itself. As Kings and Queens come and go, such a state of mind is very temporary, indeed, in the Kingdom of the West. A peer may be able to place a barrier in the way of a candidate, but it is generally accepted that a blunt "no" voice against a candidate will not hold up more than two or three times. If a peer is suspected of wilfully blocking a candidate's progress, the peer will be invited by the council to state the reason for the objection. If the objection is based solely on personal dislike or a single negative incident, it will not be long before this becomes apparent to the rest of the council and to the Crown. That peer's advice on that particular candidate will soon be disregarded, unless the reason for the dislike can be traced to some lack in the general qualifications for the peerage Order, rather than a personal bias on the part of a peer, or a group of peers.
There are three paths open to those who would aspire to the peerage of the West; each way depends upon your affinity to practice one or more of the following arts: Combat (Order of the Chivalry), Service (Order of the Pelican), or Creativity (Order of the Laurel). Each of the Orders has its own criteria for selecting candidates, as will be explained in a bit more detail in the following pages. It takes time to acquire the abilities and skills that each of the Orders looks for in a candidate: be patient -- you are not going to satisfy the requirements for a peerage overnight! You begin with the first requirement, which is set by SCA law and is common to all three Orders:
Comportment As A Peer. This is the first standard which a candidate must measure up to, and it is the first element of consideration for all three Orders. To become a Peer of the Realm, you must prove by your demeanour that you are worthy to join their number. You do this by treating all who approach you with courtesy, chivalry, and honour. You must know and practice parts of period culture outside of your specific area of expertise, and you must also be aware of what a peerage is and have a proper value for the Order you may be invited to join. None of the three noble Orders is likely to recommend to the Crown a candidate who speaks contemptuously of that Order.
HOW DO I BECOME A CANDIDATE FOR A LAUREL?
The Order of the Laurel recognizes those who practice medieval arts and sciences. To be considered for the Laurel, you need to research the medieval period, find an area you're interested in, and start practicing (and enjoying!) your chosen art or science. There are four things that the Order of the Laurel considers when looking for a candidate for induction into their Order:
Skill Level. Potential candidates for the Laurel don't have to be an ultimate master at what they do, but should have mastered the essential elements of their chosen field of endeavour. Laurels look for the medieval element in the candidate's finished works, in addition to a high level of consistency. Each individual art and science has its own standards and criteria for judging when a candidate has reached the appropriate level of skill (this forum is too limited to start listing them here), but it is generally accepted that the candidate's work should be of exceptional quality and should be carefully crafted (or presented) with sufficient attention to detail. If you wish to know more about the standard of quality particular to your chosen art or science, address your questions to a Laurel who is a Master in your area of interest (Laurels are usually very pleased to be asked about their specialty and may hold forth on the subject for hours with very little prompting). Knowledge. Laurel candidates must know how to document their area of expertise, as only arts and sciences which have been documented as medieval are acceptable (it doesn't do you a bit of good to be outstanding in some form of art or science which wasn't medieval). They should be familiar with the historical background which produced their art or science and the cultural surround in which their skill was practiced. A Laurel must know how to track down primary sources of information -- although you do not necessarily have to do ground-breaking research yourself, you should be aware of where to go to look for factual and dependable data. Candidates for the Laurel are judged on what sources they cite to others concerning their chosen field, the manner in which this knowledge is communicated, and whether the potential peer is passing along accurate information. Body of Work. It's not enough to have talent -- everyone in the Kingdom who's ever been given an Arts award has that. The candidate has to make something with his or her skills, and be able to do so more than just once. You must manifest your talent so others in the Kingdom can see it, admire it, and be inspired to emulate you -- which means you must work at what you do; practicing, learning, and refining. Only thus will our Kingdom be enriched, uplifted, and beautified. Fostering Your Skill. You should be willing to share what you know and make some attempt to pass it on. It doesn't do anyone any good if you know everything there is to know about your craft, then refuse to show anybody else how to do it or share your sources of information. A candidate does not have to teach classes or publish articles, but should be approachable by anyone who asks for information or assistance.
Once you have satisfied all of the above qualifications, someone will notice and bring your name to the Order of the Laurel. If you are apprenticed to a Laurel, your Laurel may be your advocate to the Laurel council, or there may be a Laurel in your local group who has been keeping an eye on your progress. You do not have to be an apprentice to become a Laurel. You do not have to have a local or Kingdom Arts award to become a Laurel, nor do you even have to have an Award of Arms. While none of those things hurt, having them is not a guarantee that you will be given a Laurel, either.
The Chivalry recognizes accomplishment among those who practice Armoured SCA combat -- light weapons (archery, slings, throwing weapons) and period fencing are not included. To be considered for the Chivalry, you need to make, borrow, or buy the required equipment, begin fighting, and develop your skill at arms until the Chivalry takes notice. Frequent participation in tournaments (challenges, melees, lists) and wars, as well as practice sessions, is necessary so that the Chivalry and the other fighters of the Kingdom recognize and get to know you and your abilities. There are three things, in addition to Comportment as a Peer, that the Chivalry considers when looking for a candidate for induction into their Order:
Prowess. A potential peer's competence in combat can be viewed as the main hallmark of the Chivalry candidate. Until a fighter has convinced enough members of the Chivalry that his or her skill is deserving of respect, they will not be proposed as a candidate. The general standard applied is that a member of the Chivalry, when encountering a potential candidate, is forced to fight up to their own level of skill or risk probable defeat. It is not necessary for the candidate to attain a particular round in the Crown or Coronet lists. Consistent elimination in the early rounds is often an indicator of insufficient development, but doing well, or even winning a Crown or Coronet lists is not a guarantee that the Order will consider the candidate's skill sufficient, either. Besides consistent success in combat, a number of other benchmarks are also considered, amongst which are: a lack of glaringly obvious technique flaws or defensive vulnerabilities; possession of a varied repertoire of offensive and defensive techniques, the ability to control those techniques so they are applied effectively and safely; and the flexibility to adapt to the challenge presented by varying opponents and weapons mixes. Comportment On The Field. In addition to general comportment as a peer off the field, the Chivalry place great stress on the way in which a fighter behaves when he or she is fighting. To be considered for the Chivalry a fighter must know, understand, and follow the laws and customs that govern armoured combat in the West Kingdom. Additionally, the fighter's reputation for honour on the field cannot be doubted; a fighter known to be unable to maintain an even temper, unable to accept both defeat and victory gracefully, to take an unfair advantage of their opponent, or to consistently fail to count good blows will not be considered a candidate for the Chivalry. Fostering the Art of Combat. One of the hallmarks of a fighter who has gotten good enough for consideration for the Chivalry is that they have learned enough to begin to pass it on to those of less experience and skill. Accordingly, members of the Chivalry pay close attention to the conduct of unbelted fighters at practice sessions; experienced unbelteds who not only spar with but pass along advice on offensive, defensive and tactical techniques to their opponents are noticed and noted by the Chivalry. Also scrutinized and noted is whether they are passing on workable and safe techniques and whether they are able to successfully communicate them to their sparring partners.
Once you have satisfied all of the above qualifications, one or more of the Chivalry will bring your name up in the Chivalry Council. If you are a squire or fighting student of a member of the Chivalry, your knight or teacher may be your advocate in the council, or there may be a knight or master of arms in your local group who has been keeping an eye on your progress. You do not have to be a squire or student of a member of the Chivalry to become one of the Chivalry. You do not have to have won a tournament, received any fighting award, or have an award of arms, either.
One of the peculiarities of the Order of Chivalry is that when it is offered to a candidate, there is more than just the choice of accepting or declining the honour, there is the choice of which branch of the Order you wish to belong to if you accept. Choosing Knighthood means you are willing and able to swear an oath of fealty to the Crown and Kingdom of the West and assume the duties and obligations a fealty relationship entails. Choosing to become a Master of Arms means that you are unwilling or unable to swear such an oath and assume the related duties and obligations of fealty. In practice, the two are equals in rank and precedence, and since masters are subject to the same Kingdom laws and obligations to comport themselves as peers as well as having strong senses of duty to the Kingdom, their actions and behaviour are usually indistinguishable from those of knights.
The Order of the Pelican recognizes service to the Kingdom and its branches. This means that to become a candidate you must take on an SCA job (or three or ten). There are two typical routes by which one gets a job: Administration -- holding one, or more, or a succession of branch and/or Kingdom offices, and Projects -- taking on the task of seeing something that needs to be done through to completion; most Pelicans have done both. While general helpfulness and support is nice, the Pelican candidate will be someone who has taken on personal responsibility to serve their Kingdom. In addition to Comportment as a Peer, there are four things that the Order of the Pelican considers when looking for a candidate for induction into the Order:
Success. If Prowess in the Chivalry and Skill in the Laurel are those peerages' main criteria, success in accomplishing the jobs that keep the Kingdom running is the criterion that Pelicans apply. Because the range of tasks one can choose to do to serve the Kingdom is so wide and variable, there are only general guidelines for defining success, among which are: Improvement -- did the office flourish while the candidate held it, did it provide better service than it did before they took it on, did the job they did make things better?; Innovation -- did the candidate come up with new and better ways to get things done?; Organization -- did the candidate reduce chaos, streamline procedures, reduce hassles, codify standards?; Completion -- were things done on time, within budget, and meet objectives?; Vision -- did the candidate see an opportunity where others only complained of problems?; and Initiative -- did the candidate volunteer, did they take on jobs because they needed to be done without being asked, did they exhibit leadership? Comportment In Authority. If the Chivalry emphasize comportment in combat, the Pelicans emphasize comportment while wielding authority and assuming responsibility. Key factors for a Pelican candidate are diplomacy -- the ability to get the cooperation of those they serve and those they organize peacefully and courteously, and reliability -- the ability to meet obligations, both those that generally apply to their jobs and those that they specifically commit to meeting. Persons that exhibit arrogance, abuse of power, lack of courtesy, inability to communicate, procrastination, failure to deliver on their promises or a tendency to take on more than they can really accomplish are unlikely to become successful Pelican candidates. Body of Service. It's not enough to manifest organizational ability once in a while; most SCA members do that. You have to show a true vocation for service to the Kingdom, by repeatedly taking on jobs that need doing and/or assuming various and more responsible offices successfully over time. Not length of service but the cumulative magnitude of the positive impact of your efforts have had what counts: years of routine office holding won't do the trick, nor will a single flashy success. You must serve the Kingdom to the best of your ability for a significant time; only thus will the words "You have greatly enriched Our Realm" be true. Fostering the Art of Service. Because the administrative ability required in Pelicans rests heavily upon an individual's sense of personal responsibility, it is difficult to assume a relationship such as that of squire or apprentice, but you should always be willing to encourage service in others by sharing what you know. This might include everything from a willingness to discuss the reasons for serving to helping someone become more organized and plan better, teaching the subject matter of a particular office which you have held, or simply passing on the tricks and pointing out the pitfalls of a particular job.
Once you have satisfied all of the above qualifications, be patient; keep on serving and succeeding and eventually a member of the Order will recommend you. The nature of excellent service is primarily evidenced by the absence of disturbance/controversy/disaster; it takes time for people to notice that there are usually no ripples on your ponds.
A Royal Peerage is a title given by the Crown in recognition of the successful completion of one or more reigns as King or Queen. The royal titles are Viscount, Viscountess, Count, Countess, Duke, and Duchess (various synonyms, especially for Count, are sometimes used, and some choose to have their title translated into another language).
In order to become royalty, you must become a fighter or persuade a fighter of the opposite gender to fight for you, and the fighter must enter a Coronet/Crown lists and win it. You must fulfil all of the obligations, duties, and responsibilities of the Coronet or the Crown, and see your reign through to completion; you may then be advanced to a royal title by those who follow you on the thrones. As the Kingdom thrones are attained only through combat, only fighters and their consorts have the opportunity to be awarded a royal peerage. (A courtesy title may be bestowed by a royal peer upon their present consort. The title lasts as long as their relationship and is not permanent.)
Don't be afraid to approach any peer and ask your questions. No one ever joined the SCA as a peer; everyone had to work their way up and earn their titles and awards. Most peers (if they're not right in the middle of doing something) are perfectly happy to answer questions concerning their speciality, or to point you to someone who can. The Clerks of the Orders are listed in the back of The Page; if you're too shy to ask a peer questions in person or there are no peers in your local area, write a letter to the Clerk of the appropriate Order.
PACKET FOR A NEW MEMBER OF THE ORDER OF THE LAUREL
You've been asked to join the Order of the Laurel (or you were "surprised" and are already a member). What does it all mean? What does being a peer mean? What rights do you have that you didn't have before? What responsibilities?
This handout is designed to help answer these questions.
DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES - Being a member of an order of Peerage means that people are supposed to look up to you as an example of what the SCA is all about: chivalry, honour, courtesy, and the furtherance of your art. Here is what the SCA Organizational Handbook (Corpora, page 33, section VII.A. Personal Awards and Titles, Patents of Arms) has to say about members of the Orders of Peerage:
a. General Requirements: Candidates for any order conferring a Patent of Arms must meet the following minimum criteria. Additional requirements may be set by law and custom of the kingdoms as deemed appropriate and necessary by the Crown.
That's what Corpora says about you BEFORE you are asked to become a peer. Let's take a look at the duties they expect once you BECOME one. The following is from the Organizational Handbook, Corpora, VII.A.4.a.2.b.:
Now, let's take a look at what the West Kingdom Laurel Ceremony has to say:
Will you now give Us your word that you will henceforth comport
yourself as befits a Peer of Our Realm, as you most surely have until
now, and that you will attempt in all your endeavours to be a noble
example to Our people?
I will. (or equivalent speech)
Will you promise further to treat all with Courtesy, and to
uphold the Laws and traditions of Our Kingdom?
I will. (or equivalent speech)"
These are the words that pertain to your future duties and responsibilities as a peer. Now that you understand them, and have agreed to them, let us move on to your rights and privileges as a new peer.
WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS?
First, you have a change in status in the SCA. You are now (or will soon be) a member of the PEERAGE. One definition of a PEER goes like this:
[ME, fr. OF per, fr. per, adj., equal. fr.]
1: one that is of equal standing with another: EQUAL 2
archaic: COMPANION 3 a: a member of one of the five
ranks (as duke, marquess, earl, viscount, or baron) of the British
peerage. b: NOBLE. (This is from "Webster's New Collegiate
Second, your actual rights and privileges are:
It doesn't sound like all that much when you sit down and read it, does it? However, think of the honour being given you. Think of the members of the Order. They wish to make you one of their own, a COMPANION (see the dictionary definition above). Elevation to the peerage is an honour, and it is being presented to you by the Crowns of the West and the current members of the Order.
THE LAUREL CEREMONY
What are your options when it comes to the ceremony? The first thing to understand is that while you are joining the Order of Laurel, you are not marrying the Order. This means that while there are certain options available to you, you are not allowed to completely rewrite the ceremony. (If you have questions, please talk to the heralds ...)
NOTE: If you would like a copy of the ceremony, please contact the Heralds.
This is one of the most controversial topics involved with Peerage. Most peers in the Kingdom of the West opt to swear fealty. However, you should consider it carefully. Fealty should never be taken lightly. Swearing fealty means that you are making a commitment to the Crowns of the West, and that they are making a return commitment to you. Below is the fealty oath used by the Kingdom of the West, when investing a new member to the Order of the Laurel -- read it carefully. If you have any questions, discuss it with members of the Order:
"To your Liege and before your peers, repeat after me:
Here do I swear
by mouth and hand
fealty and service
to the Crown and Kingdom of the West
to speak and to be silent
to come and to go
to strike and to spare
to do and to let be
in such matters as concern the Kingdom
on my honour
and the lawful commands of the Crown
in need or in plenty
in peace or in war
in living or in dying
from this hour henceforth
until the King depart from His Throne
or death take me
or the world end
so say I (name).
And this do We hear,
nor fail to remember,
and We for Our part do swear fealty to you,
to protect and defend you
and all your household,
with all Our power,
until We depart from Our Throne,
or death take Us,
or the world end.
So say We, (name), King of the West.
Queen: So also say We, , Queen of the West."
The general consensus (although there are those that would debate this) is that once you have sworn fealty to the Crowns of the West, you are constantly in fealty. This means that the oaths of fealty presented during a Coronation ceremony are simply a re-affirmation of your fealty. Consider the concept as swearing fealty "to the Crown and Kingdom of the West", rather than swearing fealty to an individual King and Queen. This is just ONE way of looking at it. The West Kingdom Herald's Handbook has an article that discusses the concepts of fealty, which may help you come to a decision.
CEREMONY CHECKLIST - NEW MEMBER OF THE ORDER OF THE LAUREL
Name of Candidate:
By Frederick of Holland & Eilis O'Boirne (August, XXI)
We have written this article at the request of Lord Reynardine of Tara. It is a brief introduction to fealty, loyalty, and obedience, as they are understood by the authors to be practiced in the West Kingdom of the Society for Creative Anachronism. We are Duke Frederick of Holland, MSCA, OP, and Mistress Eilis O'Boirne, OP. Please be aware that the opinions given here are our own, and do not represent any official policy of the Kingdom of the West, nor necessarily the opinions of a majority of the people in the Kingdom. Further, opinions on these subjects differ even more between Kingdoms than they do in any one Kingdom, so this paper should be read only as reflecting some of the attitudes held in the West. We would like to thank Sir William the Lucky and Mistress Hilary of Serendip for constructive criticism and judicious editing.
In the Old Middle Ages, fealty was a contract between lord and vassal, based on concrete benefits for both parties, and with very specific terms and limitations. The vassal, say a knight or baron, would receive a fief, most often a piece of land. In return, he would promise to fight for his overlord (bringing along a certain number of men and horses for a specified time period), or to perform some other service, or to pay an annual rent, either in coin or in produce. These contracts were often very specific, promising so much aid for a battle against Lord Thus-and-So, and less aid for a battle against Lord This-and-That, but more aid if Lord This-and-That was the one who provoked the quarrel.
Fealty was a cornerstone of the feudal system, influencing both economic and social life, and it shaped the ideals of the period. Oaths of fealty, and their consequences, were an important part of the history and literature from which we drew our inspiration in creating the Current Middle Ages. Therefore, fealty naturally occurred in our re-creation. For us, however, it is an emotional rather than an economic force. We could not re-create it in its original form - our Kings have very few manors to give to their supporters.
The eventual result of twenty years of experience, evaluation, adaptation, and re-evaluation (mostly subconscious) is a system in which Peers and Great Officers swear fealty to the Crown, and the Crown returns the fealty. The oaths are lovely, and impressive, and fill a real emotional and ceremonial need. However, the meaning of words which feel "proper" but which bind each side to nothing. Others feel that the oaths are much more serious, and that they do bind both sides to commitments of loyalty, obedience, and mutual service. When you speak of fealty in the Society, make sure that you are your audience are both thinking of the same thing. If you do not, unnecessary misunderstandings may develop.
The foundation oath of our system is the one sworn by each Sovereign at his Coronation. In it, he swears to protect the Kingdom, and all who dwell in it, to the best of his ability. This is the Society version of the mythos which binds a King to his land. It is the fulfilment of this oath which differences the true King from the tyrant and keeps the power of the Crown from being abused. Further, the King is bound to obey this oath by custom and tradition, which are, in the West, far more binding than the limits set down either by the oath or in Law. The practical limit on the abuse of Royal Power is peer pressure, for in this Kingdom there is a large, active, and vocal group of Peers, drawn from all the Peerage Orders, who have strong opinions and are not shy about expressing them. If these people feel that a King is choosing an unwise course, they will not hesitate to inform him of this fact -- although they will generally do so in private and avoid making a scene in Court. Whether the King chooses to take the advice offered is his decision, but he should consider it carefully. If nothing else, he must consider whether he wants to live with the consequences after he leaves the Throne. (The final protection from a bad King is the fact that one can always choose to take a brief vacation from the Society -- until a new King is chosen.)
It is the King's Oath that makes it not only unnecessary but actually inappropriate for those members of the populace who are not Peers to swear fealty to the King. If they do so, the King promises protection (as he as already promised in the Crown oath), in return for a promise of personal loyalty and obedience. He gives nothing he has not already given, and takes back substantially more than he had before. Fealty is a mutual contract, and when something is given, something should be returned. It is, however, both fitting and proper for the populace to offer homage -- a formal statement of their respect for the King and for the Crown. In a ceremony of homage, the King is promised nothing, but is offered honour by his people. He gives back nothing but his thanks. There are no lasting bonds formed; the ceremony simply acknowledges those which already exist.
It is proper for the Peers to enter into fealty, as they have received a fief of sorts. They have been given titles, and the right to wear certain badges of rank, and public recognition of their accomplishments. If they choose to swear fealty, they are given, in addition, the right to call upon the King, and upon the bond of fealty when they need to. In return, the King gets the knowledge that these Peers will support him, to the best of their not-inconsiderable ability, whenever he needs to call on them. Since the words of the oath are vague, the limits to these bonds are set, again, but custom and tradition. As a general rule in the Society, the overlord should invoke fealty gently. The vassals should invoke in formally, and only if truly necessary. It is proper for the King to remind his knights that they should fight in an upcoming War, but it would be improper for him to invoke their oaths and insist that they attend even if it would create difficulties for them. It would be inappropriate for a knight to use his fealty to ask his King's support in a private quarrel, unless his honour as a knight had been questioned, and even then he should endeavour to solve the problem himself, and only call on his overlord in an extreme case.
The only persons ever obliged to swear personal fealty (that is, fealty sworn in one's own person, not as Crown) are those members of the Order of Chivalry who elected to be named Knights. Whether they are obliged to renew this oath at each Coronation is a subject of debate, with some claiming that, if it is possible, a knight should swear to each new King, and others maintaining that a knight is in fealty to the Crown and Kingdom, and does not need to renew his fealty to each individual King (although he should unless there is cause). There are arguments to support each of these points of view. There is no "official" correct position in the West.
For all other Peers, entering personal fealty is optional. This is also true for the Great Officers and ceremonial heads of territorial groups. The oath sworn by the Officers and territorial Barons is for fealty in their Offices, not personal fealty. In other words, while acting ex officio, they are bound by their Oaths, but they are not so bound while acting in a personal capacity. (They should be very careful to keep the two separate -- but that's another article.) In fact, those Officers who are not comfortable swearing personal fealty may state explicitly, in the oath, "In my Office, I so swear."
All the relationships discussed above are "public" fealties. Oaths of this kind may be accepted only by the Crown, or by a Baron, or other designated representative, in the name of the Crown. They should not be demanded by, or offered to, Barons of other heads of branches as part of their office. In fact, such oaths have been specifically disallowed in the West.
Of the "private" oaths of fealty, the most common is that sometimes sworn between a knight and a squire. In this oath, the knight will promise to instruct the squire in fighting and the ways of chivalry, usually in return for some degree of personal service on the part of the squire. The relationship must be clearly understood by both parties, and the conditions clearly set forth, as the terms are much less clearly defined by custom, and thus are more liable to abuse. In many knight-squire pairings, the bonds are indistinguishable from those of simple friendship and those developed by training together. However in others there may be a strong master-servant aspect ("Squire! More beer!"), which reflects some of the older medieval models. This might seem to run counter to the courtesy which we are all supposed to show in our dealings with each other. However, it is acceptable, even appropriate, in these relationships, provided that it has been agreed upon by both parties. It would not be an acceptable expression of the bond between the King and one of his knights. Theirs is a more formal relationship, a contract between two who are essentially equals. It should be called upon only for higher purposes.
Occasionally all the members of a household will enter into joint oaths of fealty, or will sear fealty to the head of the household. This sort of bond is even more dangerous than that between a knight and his squire, as it is even less well defined by custom and tradition. Although it is not met with often, it is very open to abuse, especially since the members of a household usually interact a great deal of the time on an informal basis. Fealty in the SCA is more appropriate to a formal relationship, and is not truly needed within households. If the members of a household feel the need for mutual promises, it would be more appropriate for them to swear mutual support and friendship, until such time as they part.
Although all these oaths bind only within the Society, it is sometimes difficult to determine exactly where the Society ends and mundane life begins. In general, the extension of an oath of fealty to mundane life, or to informal SCA situations like fighter practices, is entirely voluntary. However, if one takes the Society seriously, this extension (like the extension of courtesy and chivalry to all) comes naturally. The difficulty is that courtesy and chivalry don't get you in trouble outside the Society, but attempting to maintain or enforce a bond of fealty may.
A word which might be considered at this time is "glamour". In its old sense, glamour meant magic, a spell or enchantment. In its modern sense, it means alluring charm. Fealty is a "glamorous" relationships in both senses of the word. It is a relationship filled the possibility of danger, but with a great potential for adding a dimension to our lives which is missing in the mundane world. It should be entered into only after the consequences have been thought out, and should not be taken lightly.
Even to those who are not all that serious about participation in the Society, loyalty to Crown and Kingdom should never be an issue. It is one of the binding forces which holds us together. This loyalty can be expressed in various ways. It starts with simply dressing for events, and acting in a manner which maintains the illusion for those around -- not necessarily fancy or formal, but in keeping with the surroundings. Beyond this minimum, which occupies very little time, some people feel that it is among their responsibilities to travel as much as they can to far parts of the Kingdom. There they do what they can to enhance the Society for those who do not live where they can attend an event every weekend and pursue SCA activities three evenings a week if they so choose. Others express their loyalty by putting in many hours a week, every week, event or not, on the semi-mundane tasks which are necessary to allow the Society to function. There are some who feel that they should attend all Crown events and Courts, to bear witness to the business of the Kingdom.
Another common way of expressing loyalty is the vocal boasting and boosting of your group. This sort of vocal loyalty gets its best expression in the declarations of War, and rhetoric can run high on both sides, and flow on for hours. But since, by a gentlemen's agreement, all parties know that neither side will be converted, no one's feelings should be hurt.
These are all valid expressions of loyalty to the Crown, and each serves to enrich the lives of us all. However, it is worth noting that, by common consent, "patriotic fervour" is not emphasized at Kingdom level by subjects of the West, especially when they are dealing with subjects of other Kingdoms. There are several reasons for this. One is that, since the SCA started in the West, other Kingdoms perceive that there is a "Western monolith" which is out to control the Society, and any boasting on our part would be taken badly. Another is the strong tradition in the West toward humility, which is sometimes actually a form of reverse snobbery. ("I'm just a simple country knight...")
It is possible to have loyalty to the Kingdom, a local branch, a household, an office -- all at the same time. It is possible for some of these loyalties come into conflict, and that is when we have to decide which ties are most binding. This problem is not new -- it was a common one in the Old Middle Ages. The decision as to which loyalty should be given priority at a given time can be different in different cases. But if the conflict is between two ties of fealty -- for instance, between a knight's fealty to his King and to his squire -- then whichever of the ties cannot be honoured should be released in a formal manner, not simply ignored or broken. A release from fealty may be honourably sought, but breaking an oath damages the fabric of our Society.
For all of us, foremost among all our loyalties should be our loyalty to the ideals of the Society and of the medieval culture we emulate. Although not all of us dream the same Dream, for each of us there is a reason some aspiration to courtesy, chivalry, and prowess, and to a more honourable society than we know in the mundane world. If we remain loyal to this aspiration, all our actions contribute to the realization of the Current Middle Ages. If we fail in this, all other loyalty loses value.
The question of obedience is a somewhat more difficult subject for most of us. Obedience to the Crown is a vital part of our re-creation, but even the obedience owed the Crown in the Old Middle Ages did not include giving up the right to ask questions. Such questions could get you labelled either as a trusted advisor of the King or as a potential rebel. It all depended on how you asked the questions. This is also true in the Current Middle Ages -- the difference is that the label may change every four months.
"The King's word is Law" does not mean "The King is always right", although it does mean that the King has the last word. Every subject has the right -- and the duty -- to question the decisions of the Crown, if the subject feels that the decisions are not correct. However, the questions should be put at the appropriate time, and in the appropriate form. A question put at formal Court, and phrased "Are you out of your mind, you ninny?" has much less chance of being answered than one asked privately, which begins "Your Majesty, have you considered the following points?" Further, the public question is bad theatre as well as being rude, while the private question is both politic and polite.
Further, even with those who are bound to him in fealty, the King does not have the right to demand obedience in matters which are not within his lawful command. The exact phrase used in the West's oaths is "to obey the lawful commands of the King", and some matters lie beyond that bound. "We would like to use your pavilion to hold Court, as the Royal Pavilion has blown away" is very different from "My sister showed up unexpectedly and will be staying in your pavilion this weekend -- find another place to sleep." The first is a command phrased as a request, and is something needful for the Kingdom, and it should be accommodated if at all possible; the second is a bald command upon an unlawful issue. It would provoke resistance for the first error, and deserve it for the second.
In his Coronation Oath, each King promises "to uphold the Law of the Kingdom". This "Law" includes both the written law of the Kingdom and the body of custom and tradition on which it rests, and it is this "Law" which bars the King from making unlawful commands. Further, in the same Oath, the King swears "to speak and to be silent". The first part of this phrase refers to the King's duty to issue such commands as are needful, but the second binds him to listen to the counsel offered him.
In all these matters, there is a necessity to balance and match the needs and demands of the parties on both sides. Both overlord and vassal must consider the abilities of their partners, and must not demand that which cannot be given. This is simple courtesy, which is the bedrock of our Society and should govern all our actions.
(This article was originally written for Cockatrice, and was published in Edition 4 & 5, Autumn XX.)
This is an article from Cariadoc's Miscellany. The Miscellany is Copyright (c) by David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook, 1988, 1990, 1992. For copying details, see the Miscellany Introduction.
From time to time, in one kingdom or another, someone suggests that the peerages should get organized and do something. In my view, this is usually a bad idea. If the peerages were better organized they would be less useful; if they tried to get together and do things they would get less done. The purpose of this essay is to explain why.
To understand the shape of a key, one must first know what sort of lock it is intended to open, so I start with the problem to which the peerages are one of the solutions-the problem of getting things done in a large, decentralized, volunteer organization. Given the present size and structure of the Society, if everything happens through channels very little will happen. If people only engaged in artistic activities after being told to do so by their local MOA who had been told to tell them by the regional MOA who had been told to tell them by the Kingdom MOA who had been ... we would have very little in the way of period arts. The obvious solution is for most people, most of the time, to ignore the official structure and just go out and do things. That is how most of what we make-garb and armour, weapons and songs-gets made.
One difficulty with this is that the individual member of the Society may have no way of knowing which other members are reliable authorities. If someone announces that he is holding a workshop on medieval cooking in his kitchen next Sunday, how can those who attend tell whether he is an expert on the subject or just making it up as he goes along? If one of the local fighters offers to teach you how to fight, how do you know whether he is really competent or someone the other fighters all regard as a blundering blowhard?
One solution is formal organization. If you learn about cooking at a class at a Royal University or from a T.I. article, there is at least a presumption that the information is reasonably accurate. If you learn fighting from the local Knight Marshall, the odds are reasonably good that he knows something about both fighting and training and is regarded by the other fighters in the group as a responsible person.
This solution, however, brings us back to the difficulty of getting things done in a hierarchical, bureaucratic, "organized" way. It is all too easy for people in a formal organization to end up spending their time writing reports instead of teaching classes, or for a group to consume its time and energy and its members' mutual good will fighting over who has what office.
The peerages are a different solution. If the person who has announced that he is teaching a class in his kitchen has a Laurel, there is a presumption that the information presented is reasonably accurate. If the person who offers to teach you fighting has been knighted, there is a presumption that he knows how to fight, how to teach, and is a reasonably honourable person. In both cases it is only a presumption. Doubtless there are Laurels who are not careful to make sure what they teach is true before they teach it, just as there are villain knights-and mistakes in T.I. articles. But these are the exception not the rule.
The orders of peerage ought, I believe, to be viewed not as organizations with corporate responsibilities but as groups of individuals, each with the job of going out and doing good in his particular way. The function of the white belt or the Laurel medallion is merely to make it a little easier to do certain kinds of good, by certifying the bearer's competence.
This is, incidentally, a period conception of knighthood, although not the only period conception. Consider the knight errant of the romances, the figure on whom our image of the knight is chiefly based. He is not someone who has received orders from the Minister of Giant Killing to go out, kill a giant, and send back a report in triplicate. Rather he is someone wandering around the countryside looking for deeds that need to be done, deciding for himself which of them to do and how, and depending on his position as a knight, at most, to get him a certain amount of respect and attention. That, I think, is what peers should mostly do. Hence the title of this essay.
Peers are not the only ones doing it - any more than knights are the only people authorized to kill giants or rescue maidens. A kingdom, a Barony, a Shire flourishes or fades by the number of its people who see themselves as having the job of finding things that need doing and doing them. We are all - sovereigns, peers, and people alike - knights errant.
"A Kingdom's no more solid than a sound That must be built on air eternally, And to that labour must the King be bound" (Cariadoc)
On one occasion Amr, still Governor of Egypt, came to Damascus to visit (the Caliph) Mu'awaya, who was now grown old and feeble. His freed slave Wardan was with him. The two old men fell into talk.
"Prince of the True Believers," said Amr, "what pleasures keep their savour for thee nowadays?"
"Women?" said the Caliph. "No - I do not need women any more. To go fine? My skin's so used to stuffs the softest and richest, I cannot tell what's of the best any more. And eating - I have eaten delicate dishes so many that I can no longer tell what I like. No, I think I have no pleasure keener now than drinking cool in summer, and seeing my children and my grandchildren go about me. And thou, Amr, what's thy last remaining pleasure?"
"A bit of cultivable land," said the conqueror of Egypt, "enough to yield me some fruit, and a little profit over and above."
Then the Caliph turned to the freedman Wardan. "Thou, Wardan, said he, what would be thy last enjoyment?"
"A noble generous deed!" said he. "Some deed that would live in the memory of all remembering men, and earn for me in Eternity."
"The audience is concluded!" cried Mu'awaya, "that's enough for today! This slave here, Amr, is a better man than thou or I."
(Quoted by Eric Schroeder in Muhammad's People)