Courtly Behavior
Collegium Occidentalis, February, AS XXIX (1995)
Master Hirsch von Henford, OL, OP

"Court: 1 a: the residence or establishment of a sovereign or similar dignitary b: a sovereign's formal assembly of his councilors and officers c: the sovereign and his officers and advisors who are the governing power d: the family and retinue of a sovereign e: a reception held by a sovereign." -- Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

What is Court? There are several definitions, but the SCA version doesn't completely fit with any of the definitions that you can find in a dictionary. In the SCA, Court combines the dictionary definition with its own unique features.

In the SCA, Court is usually a time when the Royalty gather together the members of Their Court (effectively the whole Kingdom, Principality or Barony, or those in attendance at an event), and handle matters of state, which include presentation of awards to deserving folk, and presentations from the populace to the Royalty. Occasionally other pieces of business come up (law changes, and such), but these are not as common.

Court Etiquette for Attendees

What is involved in being an "attendee" of court? Is it just being a member of an audience?

In general, the purpose of court is to process matters of state; consequently the purpose of the attendees is to bear witness. As such, you are there in an official capacity, even if all you do is watch what is happening, and then go home and tell your friends who weren't there about it.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are attending court:

What Kinds of Business Can You Expect?

There are a variety of types of business that can occur at court. The list below is a summary of the most common items of business that may appear in court.

Court Etiquette for Presenters

For people making presentations there are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  1. Keep it short. Court in the West Kingdom is already long with the usual list of business. The heralds ask that all presenters attempt to keep their presentations to five minutes or less (5 minutes is a LONG time when watching a presentation).

  2. Make sure that the person doing a presentation has a loud voice, and preferably is a good speaker -- otherwise the attendees at court cannot hear or understand the business presented in court. This makes court tedious and boring. If your voice is not loud, or you are uncomfortable with public speaking, it would behoove you to talk to the heralds. The Court Herald will, if asked, state your business for you. If you would prefer, you can have someone else (like the herald) speak for you.

  3. If there is a large group of people involved in your presentation (such as a Baronial presentation), gather your people in advance. If you can, you might try to find out from the herald doing court (although this person is often feeling quite harried just before court and may not be able to give you the information) when your business will occur in the order of the court, so that you can look for the business before yours and gather your people beforehand.

  4. Personal presentations should not be made in court. If you have a small present for Their Majesties, there are lots of times you can give it to them. Doing it in court makes court longer, and again, tedious for everyone. Some Royalty actually prefer that people come to them during the day at an event with presentations.

If you wish to see a listing of the various awards people may be given, or know more about how to address people, there are articles in the West Kingdom Herald's Handbook. Specific articles on protocol can be found at these links:

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