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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.
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:
- When the Court starts, it is proper to stand, to show your respect. There are
of course circumstances that may preclude your standing, such as physical problems.
Court may start in two ways:
- A Processional -- When this happens, the Royalty processes in, with their
"Royal Households" (attendants or "members of the court"), possibly the herald,
possibly a bard, and so on. A Herald usually announces the Royalty. When they
reach a point about 10 feet from where you are standing, it is considered proper to
bow. Once they have passed, you may straighten back up. If there are several sets of
Royalty, then you should bow for each set. Do not sit until you have given leave "to
make yourselves comfortable." Normally the herald will ask the Royalty at some
point early in court. (This is very much like the military phrase, "At ease.")
- Royalty "in Place" -- The heralds often call this "Teleporting", as the
Royalty are all in place when court starts. The Herald will cry something such as
"All pay heed to the court of ..." -- at which point it is proper to stand,
again, sitting when you are given leave.
- Sometimes, during ceremonial courts (for example, Coronations or Investitures),
you may need to stand again and bow as the Heirs are brought forward. You may also
need to do this if some Royalty arrive late and are then announced into court.
- Remember that during court, you are witnessing official business (no matter
how silly some of it may get). If you must talk to someone (except for a short comment),
it is a good idea to leave court, as others may wish to hear the business going on in court.
If you are talking, they may not be able to hear what is happening. Courtesy is very important
to the ambience of the SCA. You should be paying attention to the Royalty, as it is Their court.
- If you get called into court:
- If you are called forward with someone else, you might wish to wait for
that person to come forward with you. Particularly if you know the person ...
- Proper respect is shown by bowing or courtesying before the thrones (10 to
20 feet back). Come forward before the thrones, and kneel on the cushions --
it's what they're there for.
- Listen to Their Majesties (or Their Highnesses) as they talk, or the herald talks,
politely. Usually when you're called into court, it is to receive an award.
- If you are male, it is considered proper to thank Their Majesties by shaking
His Majesty's hand (if offered), and kissing Her Majesty's hand (if offered).
If you are female, His Majesty may kiss your hand, and Her Majesty may give a
hug. This varies from one set of Royalty to another.
- When you leave court, it is proper to bow or courtesy, walk to about 10 to 20
feet from the Thrones, and bow or courtesy again.
- When awards are given, the recipients get cheered ("For Lord/Lady
, Hip Hip! ...").
(Note: this does not mean you should clap your hands ... that's not really a period
form of appreciation for what is happening.)
- When presentations are made, bear with them. Many times the presenters do not
speak loudly, or well, and many people get stage-fright.
- When court is closed, words to the effect of "There being no further business
before this court" will be announced by the herald. At that time you should stand. The
herald will give some closing cheers in which you are invited to participate ("Long
Live the King! ..."). If the Royalty processes out, you should bow as stated earlier
in this paper. If the Royalty chooses not to process, you may then leave and "go about
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.
- Coronation/Investiture Courts
- Coronation of the King and Queen (or Investiture of the Prince and Princess)
- Creation of a Duke and/or Duchess; Count and/or Countess; Viscount and/or Viscountess
- Elevation of a subject to the Peerage (Chivalry (Knights and Masters at Arms), Laurel or Pelican)
- Awards (see the Herald's Handbook for a list of awards that may be given by the Crown and Coronets)
- Presentations of Baronial Reports/Taxes
- Personal/Branch Presentations
- Calls to war
- Law changes
- Miscellaneous announcements, Arts and Sciences Competitions, Archery Competition results, etc.
For people making presentations there are some guidelines to keep in mind:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
~ finis ~
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