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.