Court in the Act

Unto his successor as Cordon Rouge, and to all those Sovereigns of Arms, Principal Heralds, Heralds, Pursuivants, Macers and others who express an interest in the ways of acting as a Court herald does Lord Alexander a la Fontayne, of the Orders of the Golden Tear and the Burly Griffin, Prosecutor Armorum and Cordon Rouge Herald, give warmest greetings.

Good gentles, as I prepare to step down as Cordon Rouge Herald, in service to Their Excellencies the Baron and Baroness of Politarchopolis in the glorious Kingdom of Lochac, I thought it may be prudent and useful to pass along such notes as I can compile on the errors I have made while acting as Herald to the Courts of Their Excellencies and Their Majesties.

There are many points that I may consider relevant to this pursuit, and I shall cover these as best as I can without straining your heart by my endless chatter, if you will but bear with me and follow.

In such texts as this, it is often the given form to refer to the noble holding court, whether it be Their Excellencies your Baron and Baroness, or Their Majesties your Sovereign King and Queen, by simple use of the term “hat”, in reference to the fine crowns and coronets which are the outstanding, upstanding emblem of such esteemed ranks. I deplore such usage in formal contexts as disrespectful, and avoid such usage in informal times so as to not allow the term into my vocabulary. This guide shall, therefore, be written as for a Royal Court of Their Sovereign Majesties, the King and Queen of Lochac, though it may apply equally to the Court of Their Excellencies the Baron and Baroness of Politarchopolis, or to other Courts, Royal or Baronial, throughout the Known World.

 

On Provisions and Equipment

When acting as a Court Herald, there are several items that you would be best served to have available to you. Some are more critical than others, and I would encourage you to find what works best for you.

First, you should have pen and paper. As a Court Herald, you are the keeper of the order of business, and will need to keep Their Majesties informed of the next item of business. If you can eliminate mundanity from this, all the better, as you will be holding it when standing by Their Majesties in Court. I, personally, use a tooled leather slip cover fitted on a mundane notebook, as from outside, all that is seen is the tooled leather cover, but within is a cheap and easily-replaceable book which I may fill as I wish. The pen is harder to cover, and I heartily recommend against a period dip pen or quill. For this, it is best to go with “unobtrusive”, and always bring a spare.

Second, you should have a book of ceremonies. There are two ways to go about this that I have seen. The first is to have a printed and bound copy, possibly even with attractive cover, which you can fill with page markers and carry in court. This approach is more artful, but has the downside that the whole book must be carried into court (which can be quite heavy), and is harder to update when ceremonies change or are added. The other path, which I have followed myself, is a modern ring binder, set with a cover which looks as close to leather as possible, filled with sheet protectors containing the ceremony pages. This approach is yet heavier, but as the individual ceremonies can be more easily removed and reinserted, only those ceremonies being used need be carried into court, and when ceremonies are introduced or rewritten, they can be replaced without rebinding a fine work. Your book of ceremonies should also include sufficient copies of the Lochac Court Herald’s Award Form (CHAF), the page which is sent to Canon Herald and the Pegasus editor to inform them of awards to be recorded and published. (For those outside Lochac, try to carry your Kingdom’s forms, rather than those of Lochac, for best results).

Third, the herald’s symbol, the tabard of office. A plain tabard of Vert, two straight trumpets in saltire, bells in chief, Or, is a good baseline, and quite recognisable. As Cordon Rouge Herald, it has been my pleasure to possess the Politarchopolis Baronial Court Tabard, crafted by Mistress Rowan herself of velvet and brocade, lined with satin. It is a work of art and beauty, and wonderful on a cold winter’s eve (the less said about holding court in the height of summer, the better). A tabard of the appropriate arms is the period solution, as befits your position. For court, much more than for other forms of voice heraldry, the tabard is not as essential. None could mistake the loud individual with a book standing up in court.

A note on the wearing of tabards: While in the Lochac College of Heralds, those with the rank of Pursuivant may wear their tabards athwart, colly-westonwards, or other fancy names for “sideways”, and this is a good way to survive a hot day with a heavy tabard, the education of the populace is somewhat lacking in this area. I have had more than one gentle attempt to correct my strange inability to put a tabard on properly, and yea, even one at Rowany Festival make the presumption of “fixing” it for me when I went to fetch water. Unless you have the patience to explain this every time, or the good luck or fortitude to reside in a group where this practice is known, wear your tabard in the approved and standard form.

Fourth, a tankard or goblet. Make sure it’s full, and make sure you empty it regularly. A dry herald is a croaky herald, and then the proclamations and court business cannot be heard.

Other items that can be useful include a herald’s staff (though they can be difficult to wield when also operating your schedule book, ceremony scripts, drink, and cramped into the area behind the thrones), and good, comfortable shoes, as you shall spend quite a bit of time on your feet in this endeavour.

 

On Preparations

The preparations for Court start quite some time before the first call is made to the populace, and involve a number of steps that need to be completed for the smoothest operation of Their Majesties’ business.

First, you should always, I say again always, attend to the privy before Court begins. You stand in full view of the populace, and the noted dance of desperation is somewhat lacking in dignity. You should also attend to the opposite part of the cycle. Be well hydrated, and unlikely to expire from starvation mid-sentence.

Also, do not partake of any delicious alcoholic beverages that may be offered to you in the day’s events before a Court. While you may feel the need to steady your nerves, strong drink is a mocker, and you shall need your wits about you.

It can be a good idea to not undertake field heraldry on the same day as you wish to act as a Court Herald, particularly if the day is hot, the field is large, and the tourney is long. If you can find an alternate to take the field heraldry duties from you, or at least to share the load, then your voice will be in finer form for the Court.

You will need to know the order of business that Their Majesties wish to undertake in business. Sometimes, They will have a schedule prepared to give you, sometimes a list of business that you may help Them organise. Find some time to discuss this with Their Majesties in a quiet, private place well in advance of court, and remember your discretion: the business of court is often secret until it occurs, lest a grand surprise be ruined. As Herald, you will be privy to information not yet (or not at all) for public discussion.

The first public item in preparing for a Court is the Call for Business. With Their Majesties’ permission, you should stand in a visible, audible location, adorned with your tabard, and carrying your notebook, and announce to those present “All those having business in the Court of Their Majesties, please see me immediately!” or words to that effect. If any members of the populace have business for Court, they will inform you of what it is, and you may assure them to carry their request for business to Their Majesties. If the good gentle is unable or unwilling to tell you what their business is, then your options are to politely decline to schedule it, or if required, to have an unknown item on the list you bring to Their Majesties. There may also be “humorous” items of business (oft stretching the definitions of several of those terms) which may be presented to you. For example, a member of the Peerage of Lochac, whose name and Order shall go unrecorded here, has several times taken great delight in informing me, after a call for business in court, that he has no business being in court. Such notions will usually go unrecorded, unless Their Majesties wish to make a humorous example to break up a section of court that may be somewhat slower.

Once this list has been gathered, and a “last call” for business has been made, return to Their Majesties, and when Their Royal schedule permits, discuss the additions that their populace would ask to make to the court schedule. Their Majesties will accept or deny each item, and if accepted, inform you of where best it may be placed in your schedule. Any “secret” items may be discussed, and if Their Majesties see fit, will be included. For any items rejected from the court business, ask Their Majesties’ permission to politely inform the good gentle involved as to why their item may not be brought up in court, and possibly suggest a better time in which it may be done (the reason for the rejection may be as simple as a full court schedule being trimmed for the comfort of the populace).

No business may be placed on the schedule of court business without Their Majesties’ express permission. It is permitted (nay, even oft encouraged) to surprise the populace in court. It is sometimes the case (as with my induction to the Order of the Golden Tear) that an item will not be transferred to the Herald’s copy of the schedule, and for the Herald to be greatly surprised. But it is never to be the case that Their Majesties are surprised by the scheduling of court (though you have but poor control over the antics of the populace).

If at all possible, examine the place where Court is to be held in advance. You should look at the lighting (shall you be able to read your schedule and award proclamations?), the space (will you be surrounded by thirty guards, champions and attendance in a space big enough for ten?), and the acoustics (can you be heard by the populace without deafening Their Majesties?). You should also decide (consulting with Their Majesties if They have any preference) where you should stand. There are two schools of thought on this: that you should stand to one side of the array of court, so as to be most visible to the populace, or that you should stand behind and between Their Majesties’ thrones, so as to be most accessible to Them. I am firmly of the latter opinion. As the keeper of the schedule of business, it is important that you be able to communicate discreetly with Their Majesties about the next item.

It may also be your role to liaise with the stewards of the event, or the kitchen if Court will be held between courses at feast. This is at Their Majesties’ discretion; They may prefer to determine such things Themselves. Determining the ideal time to hold Court at a feast is a tricky matter, but there are a few simple guides for when is best. First, unless it is a very brief (id est, no more than two short items of business) opening court, it should not be held before the first course; a hungry populace is an impatient populace. Next, if the kitchen requires slightly more time to finish preparing a course, they may find it of use to have the populace entertained for a time, and what could be finer than to sit at the Court of Their Majesties? Conversely, if Their Majesties wish to hold Court immediately before a course is served, it may be best to wait until afterwards, lest the food grow cold while it waits (if the food is well-portable, Their Majesties may even deign to invite people to bring their fare to Court). Finally, it should not be so late in the evening that the populace are beginning to depart (or beginning to lose the ability to walk, from the jollity of their celebrations).

Finally, before Court, you should take some time to review your book of ceremonies, if any ceremonies are required. If using a bound book, you should mark those pages you will require, or if using a ring binder, withdraw those ceremonies that you will need, placing them in the order that Their Majesties’ schedule of business requires. If there are many ceremonies, needed, especially if it includes peerage ceremonies (which go on for several pages), you should consider leaving them in your binder, or possibly arranging for an assistant to hold those ceremonies not being immediately used (which is a good way to expose trainee heralds to the notion of being “up the front” in Court, without them having to have a speaking role).

 

On the Business In Court

Once all is prepared, and the time has come for Court to commence, you should take your place. Their Majesties may begin Court seated, or They may process in, as They desire. Usually, you will begin Court at your place behind or beside the thrones, but it may be Their Majesties wish for the entire entourage to process with Them, in which case, as in all cases, you should follow Their Majesties’ will.

You should ensure that you have water available to you in Court, either on a table, or being held by an assistant or one of Their Majesties’ other retainers.

The opening of Court is well-scripted and prepared, and may be found in your book of ceremonies. It should be read in a loud, clear voice, so as to summon the populace most readily. It may be noted that, while the opening of Court bids the populace to draw nigh, there is a tendency for the populace to leave a long respectful distance between themselves and Their Majesties, such that you may need to bid them to draw “nigh-er”, lest Their Majesties strain Their voice in the effort to be heard over the distance.

Once Court is begun, you shall proceed through Their Majesties’ business as They have arranged the schedule. Your functions during Court largely fall into three categories.

First is that of the schedule keeper. You should make sure that Their Majesties know what is scheduled to happen next in Their Court at all times. You should also ensure that the gap between items of business is as short as possible. It should flow. It should, to dip into the modern parlance for a moment, be “snappy”. In a long court, the part most painful to the populace is not long list of items of business, rather the dull wait in between each one as people are summoned. As part of this function, there may be occasional members of the populace who wish to add “one more thing” at the end of Court. If it was not worth adding to the schedule before Court, then (barring any special dispensation by Their Majesties) it is not worth adding to the schedule during Court.

If a gentle is called into Court who is not present, then you may suggest to Their Majesties that another item of business be undertaken while they are summoned. There may, indeed, grow a list of those “being summoned” while other business is being handled. If they have not arrived before the end of Court, then at Their Majesties’ discretion, you may either end Court, or have some small entertainment to fill the gap (in Politarchopolis, we are blessed with a fine Barony of singers).

The second function of a Court Herald is as the loud voice of the Crown. When a member of the populace is to be summoned to court, they should be summoned clearly and audibly. When there are cheers to be lead, there should be no doubt as to their recipient or their time. Award proclamations should be read proudly, and with vigour.

The third function of a Court Herald follows on from the second. Each award given has a proclamation to be read to the populace, that all may know the quality of the good gentle being upheld as an example to them. Leave no doubt in the populace’s mind as to Their Majesties’ intent with this award, make every word earnest. More shall be discussed on this later, On Awards.

If you are called before Their Majesties, then fear not, as actions injurious to a herald are generally discouraged when they must return to complete the Court. If you are called personally, then your tabard should be removed, and left in the care of one of Their Majesties’ attendants, along with your papers. If you are called on business of the College of Heralds, then you should retain your tabard. Present yourself quickly and politely, and graciously comport yourself through the business Their Majesties choose to involve you in. If a proclamation needs reading, you may trust one of Their Majesties’ retainers, or even They Themselves, to read it for you. I have yet to be asked to read a proclamation as regards myself.

Once all items of business have been fulfilled, with Their Majesties’ permission, you may declare the end of Court, and lead the populace in the cheers as may be found in the closing of Court script. Be prepared, of course, for the populace to add their own cheers to the end. Notable ones common in our Barony include calls of “The King!”, “The Queen!”, and the name of our fine Barony, along with the members of the two robust and varied Colleges adding their voices for Aldhelm and Andronicus. I have yet to add my voice for the College of Heralds, though sore tempted some days (serving as I have, as the Seneschal of the College of St Aldhelm, Aldhelm has always had my cheer).

 

On the Business After Court

After Their Majesties have vacated Court, you will need to attend to your final duties for Court.

Your ceremonies book will need to be reassembled (if using a ring binder), and stored safely. Your tabard, too, will need to be removed, as it is only to be worn while conducting official business (if you are particularly chilled, then you may choose to keep it on until all matters are dealt with).

Any awards given will need to be recorded, and the Lochac Court Herald’s Award Form includes many details, along with places for signatures from both of Their Majesties, along with the signature of the herald. You should offer your pen to Their Majesties for this, as They should not be required by you to provide such things Themselves.

Once all business of court is concluded, ask Their Majesties if They have further business for you as Their herald, or if you may begin with the consumption of such fermented and brewed beverages as you are able to acquire.

 

On Awards

During Court, you will usually be required to read the proclamations for awards to the populace, by the word and hand of Their Majesties. There are grades of awards, from the simplest non-armigerous awards to the lofty peerages of the realm, and it can be tempting to place your emphasis on those loftier awards at the expense of those lower in precedence. This is to be avoided.

The most commonly granted is the Award of Arms, that declaration that this new Lord or Lady is, in the eyes of the Crown, “one of us”. It can be tempting, with so many given, to regard each Award of Arms as “just another AoA”, especially in a long court. This is something I deplore. The Award of Arms is the first award given to most members of the populace, and in many cases, may be the only one. Whether given after two months fervent activity, or for ten years of quiet service so unremitting that all assume the good gentle has already been granted one years before, the Award of Arms is a special moment. When reading proclamations, or when cheering from the populace, I rank the Award of Arms alongside the Orders of the Laurel, the Pelican, and the Chivalry. My great joy at the first Royal Court for which I had the honour and pleasure of acting as herald was in the proclamation of the Award of Arms of a personal friend.

It can also be tempting, when scheduling, to group large numbers of Awards of Arms together, and to have them after other awards. This should be avoided, to ensure that each new armiger is given the attention they deserve at this important moment. Likewise, if there is a large award, such as a peerage, they should be placed before it, or well after, so as not to be overshadowed. If possible, if a gentle to be given their Award of Arms is to be called into Court on other business that day, then it can be best to conclude that business, and then deny them permission to depart. My own Award of Arms came after being presented with a tassel for victory in the rapier tourney that day (awarded for a positive attitude, and certainly not for any skill at that time, as I won not a single bout), and Her Majesty bid me with a gesture to remain kneeling. This delivery was, I must say, most memorable, and I aspire to be able to pass such experiences on to those who come after me.

 

On The Voice and Demeanour

There are a number of personae that can be presented by the herald while undertaking the business of Court, each somewhat unique to the herald in question. I endeavour to present a strong, commanding presence for the Crown, aided by wide shoulders, a fine beard, and a bass-baritone voice. My predecessor as Cordon Rouge Herald presented a rather maternal feel from her place in Court, a role which suited her to perfection. I have seen members of the Order of the Laurel present a refined bestowal of knowledge in Court, and those who have gone onto be invited to the Order of the Pelican presenting a jolly and friendly (if occasionally smug, where appropriate) face.

As you gain experience as a Court Herald, you will find your own voice, and the demeanour which you find most suitable to Court and Their Majesties. Remember, though, that you are not Their Jester, unless so ordered to become. Court is a serious matter, and should be treated as such.

 

On Making Mistakes

You will, I assure you, make mistakes in your time as a Court Herald. I certainly have done so, and shall illuminate you as to them in the hopes that you do not repeat them, and instead go on to make finer, grander mistakes.

My learning curve as a Court Herald was rather steeper than that which I hope to pass on to my successors. For example, the second Royal Court which I attended in my time in our Society, was also the first Royal Court for which I served as herald. I had served as such in a short Baronial court, where Their Excellencies announced Their successors, but then the time came for the Baronial Changeover, and I volunteered.

Now, my first Royal Court experience was in the reign of Their Majesties, Bran and Lilya, Righ and Bannrigh of Lochac. My second such experience was in the reign of Their Majesties, Edmund and Leonore, Rex and Regina of Lochac. I had never heard the Latin titles actually said, only seen them written, and my understanding of the pronunciation of classical or ecclesiastical Latin is not what it is today. I quite happily, in my loudest, clearest voice, announced Rex and Regina as part of an Award of Arms proclamation. I did not know why Their Majesties, Their Excellencies, and large portions of the populace cringed at this, which I barely noticed, so engaged in my proclamation was I.

After the Court, I was politely, if somewhat… laughingly, informed that the correct pronunciation for “Regina” should rhyme with the word “cantina” (for ecclesiastical Latin), and not with an intimate area of the female anatomy.

The Court was not disrupted particularly badly by this, even if it became somewhat more memorable than intended. This shows a key point in the making mistakes: Continue after the mistake, and do not allow it to disrupt your delivery of the next item of business. If this happens through blissful ignorance of the error, as it did for me, then that is fine. If you are aware of the error, do not dwell on it during Court (if you must, dwell on it with amusement when writing an article of advice for your successors).

Another error which I have committed was that an important item of business did not make it from Her Excellency’s schedule onto mine. Thus, it did not happen in court. You will note my above advice On Preparation, that you should always have Their Majesties or Their Excellencies check your schedule after it has been copied out, to ensure that nothing is missed. This incident is the single reason I still do this.

There have been numerous other occurrences where an item on the schedule has been inadvertently skipped. If this happens, then simply apologise to Their Majesties quietly, and reinsert the item as soon as possible. Do not get flustered, as only you have ready access to the schedule, and only yourself and Their Majesties have even seen the schedule. If you do not tell anyone that an error has been made, they will likely never know of it.

There has also been an occurrence where I acted as field herald for the Baronial Heavy Combat Championship, in the full sun of summer, in a tourney which a goodly half of the competitors were forced to withdraw from for the heat, without thinking to bring a hat. Being a Baronial Championship, there was a rather important Court that evening. I was lucky that my predecessor as Baronial Herald was available that day, and willingly stepped up to handle the Court for which I was unable to speak, and not well able to stand. Always, I say always, know who is capable of helping with your duties if you become unable. Better to have it ably handled by another than stumbled through by the unwell.

These are some of the errors which I have made and learned from in my few years at this joyous pursuit, I am sure that I shall make more, and look forward to learning from them also.

 

On the Voice of the Crown

When you speak as a herald, whether in Court, on the tourney field, or as an event herald, you speak with the Voice of the Crown. That is a mighty protection, but also a mighty responsibility.

As the Voice of the Crown, when making official announcements, you are protected from personal actions against you for what you might say. You have the power, when all is said and done, of referring anyone with an objection to Their Majesties if they wish to discuss it.

This is a two-edged sword. Many complaints aren’t considered worth bringing to Their Majesties’ attention, especially for small errors (though small errors are best apologised for, rather than referred to the Crown). The other side to this is, of course, that once you have told someone to speak to the Crown about their objection, they may do so.

When you speak in the Voice of the Crown, do not say anything that you do not wish Their Majesties to hear said in Their Voice.

An anecdote of this nature that has been passed to me dates to the time when Lochac was but a principality of the Kingdom of the West. At Rowany Festival, our largest event, a herald in obnoxious form and disagreeable mood was heard to remark repeatedly, and loudly, when objections were made, “You can’t do anything to me, I’m the Voice of the King!”. Now, as our largest event, Rowany Festival warranted occasional Royal visits from the distant West. This particular Festival, indeed, was so enhanced. After one too many of such outbursts from this herald, a voice in a fine, clear and above all, American accent, was heard to say behind him, “Are you sure about that?” Say nothing in the Voice of the Crown that you do not wish the Crown to hear said.

 

On Baronial Courts

Oftentimes, a Royal Court may have within it items of business that Their Excellencies, the Baron and Baroness of the group hosting the particular event, wish to undertake. This is usually conducted as a Baronial Court within the Royal Court.

As a Royal Court Herald for such things, this will be much as any other item of business which a member of the populace wishes to make an announcement, if usually somewhat longer.

As a Baronial Court Herald, this will operate much like any other Royal or Baronial Court, with the same preparations undertaken as necessary, though without the opening and closing court announcements.

You may be asked to undertake both the Royal and Baronial matters within a court, and this has often been the usual case in my experience, as the number of experienced Court Heralds has often been less than what we may desire. In this case, when changing from Royal to Baronial and back again, you should move to the appropriate position (if you are standing behind the thrones, rather than beside them).

However, it may be the case that Their Majesties, or Their Excellencies, see fit to have each court with a dedicated herald. If this is the case, then the process is simpler for transferring between the two Courts, and each herald will get a rest while the other is speaking. It is for this reason that I attempt to keep track of other potential Court Heralds in my vicinity, in case they may be needed.

 

I hope that these few, somewhat less short than I expected, notes are helpful to you in your time as a Court Herald, and I look forward to hearing your voice in the name of Their Majesties.

 

Copyright 2012 Bryan Jones (Lord Alexander a la Fontayne). Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and notified. Copies of any publications which include this article would be greatly appreciated.

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