Preparing For Court
(On Being a Court Herald)
Hirsch von Henford, OL, OP


(The following outline is based on papers in the West Kingdom Herald’s Handbook, and my own experience, and from previous classes taught on this subject. This is the "after Spring Collegium, 2003" version, updates from earlier ones based on actual class sessions. The handbook articles specifically in question are (these are both Adobe Acrobat files ... see elsewhere on the herald's website for details on this):

  1. What Is Court?

    1. Court is where official business of the Kingdom or Principality is conducted. Granted that some “official” business may be done outside of court, but the stuff that needs to be witnessed by the populace is done in court.

    2. What Kind of Courts are there? In the West Kingdom there are several types of court, listed below with a small amount of explanation ...:

      1. Standard – This is the most common type of court, one where the Royalty (King and Queen, Prince and Princess or Baron and Baroness) preside over court, present awards, announcements may be made, presentations may be given, etc. If there are more than a few items of business, it is generally a good idea to have a backup herald, and possibly a “Consort’s Side” herald (Queen/Princess ...) with a copy of the ceremony book.

      2. Invocation – This is the Invocation of the Lists, and is a special form of court which has one function – to get the fighters ready for the lists, have them swear an oath, and pair off the fighters for the first round of the tournament. This is not an easy court to do, and requires a herald who is good at names, or who has a thick skin when he or she gets yelled at for "butchering" names. It usually requires other heralds to hold flags as part of the pairing off ...

      3. Coronation/Investiture – The Coronation of a King and Queen or the Investiture of a Prince and Princess is a fairly involved court, with a combination of awards (usually to outgoing court members and folk who helped during the reign), a lot of fealty oaths, and so on. It is generally a good idea to have a backup herald, and a “Consort’s Side” herald (Queen/Princess ...) with a copy of the ceremony book.

      4. Law Changes – Law changes must be read in court. However, if the current Royalty have a LOT of law changes, sometimes a special court is held, so that the rest of the populace who don’t wish to listen to a lot of law changes can do other things. A herald who does this really is just reading and reading and reading ... This usually only needs a single herald.

      5. Presentation – Some Royalty prefer presentations be done outside of normal court, and will hold a presentation court. This usually only needs a single (patient) herald.

    3. What Kind of Business can there be in Court? The following is fairly standard business that may be seen in Court:

      1. Coronation/Investiture – usually as a court of its own, but this is a vital part of what we do.

      2. Awards – One of the coolest part of being a court herald is getting to watch the faces of award recipients ...

      3. Other Ceremonies, such as Change of Office, Fealty, Creation of a Barony, and so on ... – Normally these ceremonies will be in the ceremony book, although there are occasions when the Royalty may wish to do something ... unusual.

      4. Presentations – These will be discussed later, but there is only one presentation that is official, and that is the report required of a Barony at specific events (each Barony has a specific event every two years they are supposed to report to the King and Queen ... see Kingdom Law). Otherwise, all other presentations are not official, and the Royalty can accept them or not, can allow them in court or not, etc.

      5. Announcements – These may be officer announcements, autocrat announcements, announcements about events, etc.

      6. War Challenges(sort of a subset of Announcements) - These usually include a lot of schtick in order to get folk really hyped up and interested in the war. The big thing is to remind the folk doing these to not drag them out.

      7. Other – There may be other items, but most fall into the categories given.

  2. Before Court

    1. Arrange for Backup/Queen’s (or Princess or ...)-Side Heralds. This can be done by asking Banner (at a Kingdom event), and/or the Herald in Charge of the event who is interested. If you have someone in mind already, so much the better. Make sure your backup is someone you can trust to step-in if something happens and it becomes necessary.

    2. Taking Court Business

      1. Go to the Royalty before court, and find out what awards They wish to give, and what other business They may have. Check to see if They have worked out having Promissories done with the Royal Scribe.

      2. Make sure an announcement goes out that court business is being taken, at least an hour and a half (preferably more) before court, and include WHO is taking it, and WHERE it is being taken.

        1. When taking court business (whether it is you or someone else), make sure that the person you are taking it from knows that unless it is "official" business, it may not make it into court.

          1. Presentations do not always make it into court business -- a lot depends on the Royalty (and They are asked to actively discourage presentations most of the time). Hint loudly that presentations should be short (as short as possible) – 2 minutes is a long time in court, 5 minutes is too long, anything longer than that is way too long.

            Rule of thumb: do not surprise the royalty. Presentations may be disallowed if the Royalty do not know what it is in advance. The Royalty always have a say as to whether or not to allow presentations, either all or specific ones in court.

          2. Announcements – when taking announcements for court, ask if they want to do the announcement, or if they should have the herald do it. The reason? Some folk do not have good voices, or get nervous (stage fright) in front of audiences, etc. In order for the populace to hear the announcement, it may be better for the herald to do it (this has the added bonus of ensuring that it doesn’t drag out ...).

      3. 45 minutes hour before court, have a “final call for business” announcement (arrange this with the herald in charge of duty shouts, at Kingdom events this is Greencloak). Otherwise, those folk not paying attention earlier will not get their business to you until a minute before court. (See below ... )

      4. Go back to the Royalty. Keep this an open dialog.

    3. Organizing Court Business -- always work with your backup (and Queen's side herald) when possible.

      1. Check for items that need blazons (peerages, grants, etc.) in the ceremony -- if you don’t have them handy, find an Armorial and get that information. Send your backup if you are too busy.

      2. Court should build toward a climax of some sort, if possible. If there is at least one peerage, then plan on this being the last, or nearly last piece of business.

      3. Keep it interesting. If you have 15 announcements, scatter the announcements among other items of business, like awards.

      4. Methods of arranging court:

        1. Use the form provided both in this handout and on the Herald’s Website – this is recommended for a beginning court herald.

        2. Write a list, in order that you want court to be in.

        3. Write a list as above, but don’t worry about the order. Put NUMBERS IN THE LEFT MARGIN – you can then handle things on the fly as needed.

        4. Use index cards, with one item on a card, and shuffle it into a sequence that you think will work.

      5. Write the current Date (including the SCA year) and Names of ALL Royalty in court in a place that they are easily seen/accessible. In the process of shuffling books and paper and everything else, it is possible to forget and mess up names, no matter how experienced you are. For royalty you are not 100% sure how to pronounce the names of, write the names phonetically ...

      6. ALWAYS Review the court business with The Royalty. They hate surprises most of the time, and have final veto power over presentations, and arrangement of court. See if the royalty have any last minute additions. Rearrange the court if needed.

        1. Find out if the Royalty are starting court by sitting in state (sometimes called “teleporting”) or if They plan on processing into court. This makes a difference for which opening you use to start court.

    4. Final Preparations

      1. Check for all props (tabard, ceremony books, scrolls, promissories, etc.). Get together with your backup herald. If you have a Queen-side (or Princess or ...) herald, make sure that they know what order awards will be in, so that they can have the ceremony book ready.

      2. READ ANY CEREMONIES TO BE USED IN ADVANCE, EVEN IF YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH THEM. This refreshes your memory if you are familiar with the ceremonies, and prepares you if you are not. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have, or how often you’ve seen or heard or even been a herald for a specific ceremony ...

      3. TALK TO THE ROYALTY (again, and again ...)

        1. Remind the Royalty to visit the privy.

        2. Visit the privy yourself.

  3. During Court

    1. Use the standard opening for court – see attached handout, unless you are very sure of what you are doing, or the Royalty have specific requests.

    2. What happens if an officer or someone comes up to you just before court (or worse, during) and asks about having a piece of business added? ASK THE ROYALTY! It’s THEIR court after all.

    3. Drink water. Make sure your backup has a lot of it available before hand, particularly if it is to be a long court.

    4. Take deep breaths, and stay calm. In some cases you may want/need to remind the Royalty to do the same, particularly if a Coronation or Investiture court, or a peerage ceremony, any of which can be quite emotional.

    5. Check your business to make sure you are on the right item ...

    6. If someone is not there ... keep court moving. What often happens is an award recipient is not at court. They may be at the event, but for whatever reason are not at court itself. A runner may be sent off to their camp, etc. There are multiple ways of handling this:

      1. Ask for a representative – only do this if it is apparent they are not on site for the event, although if you have a large list of awards, you may automatically state “Let <name> or a representative come before Their Majesties ...”

      2. If it is known they are on site, and someone goes to get them – move on to the next item of business, or read an announcement, etc. When you know that they are now available, check with The Royalty, and when They are ready, call the person into court ...

      3. If it is apparent that the award recipient is not on site the Royalty may decide (unless it’s their last court) to hold off and grant the award at a later date – you should check with Them.

    7. Remember that you are there to assist the Royalty, not to be the center of the show.

    8. If you make a mistake, keep going! Apologize if it’s particularly bad. If you are experienced enough, you might try to make a joke out of it, but be careful ... But, keep court moving. The flow is vital.

    9. Misc. Tips:

      1. If you are herald for court and are called forward for an award: Yes, this does happen – sometimes the royalty like to surprise their herald(s). This is nice, but ... you need to try to remember – while you are accepting the award, you are not the voice of the crown – this means you need to take the tabard off for the ceremony, and put it back on after. The same goes for those times when you, as herald, may need to come forward for a Fealty oath, or something of that nature, unless you are specifically doing so as a herald (Principality or Vesper).

      2. Humor can be a good thing, but ... it had better be funny. "Court does not really require a constant flood of comedy. Also, it is worth remembering that the Crown and populace may be much less appreciative of puns than an audience composed solely of one’s fellow Heralds might have been." (This is a direct quote from William the Lucky’s article On Court in the Herald’s Handbook.) Your job is not that of "stand-up comedian" or jester, but to run the court – humor should not be intrusive.

      3. Don’t forget the cheers for award recipients. Many times heralds get caught up in preparing for the next piece of business and forget the cheers. In addition, the cheers are useful for filling time while they exit court (see 4. below).

      4. Let the current folk in court leave before calling the next ... Be cautious about this - you want court to flow properly, but you don't want a person to be trampled by a Baronial Presentation coming into court, either. In some cases, as someone is partway out of court, you can call the next person(s) in, in some cases you probably should wait until the current person(s) is(are) all the way out of court.

      5. If someone makes a presentation you should let the populace know what it is – most of the time the presenter cannot be heard, and the populace cannot see what was presented.

    10. At the End of Court

      1. Check with the Royalty before closing court! Often, although not always, the Royalty may wish to speak to the populace extemporaneously. You should probably use such words as "Pay Heed to the Words of the Crown" or something of that nature, and step back ...

      2. Use the Standard Closing for Court – There is a phrase that should be used:
             "There being no further business before this court ..."
        Or words to that effect. This is to make it clear to the populace that there is nothing else happening in court. This requirement came about due to heralds sometimes asking the populace "Is there any further business ...?" and someone actually deciding that they had some! There are standard cheers that should be used, see the attached handout, which is also available in the Ceremony Book part of the Heralds website.

  4. After Court

    1. Just when you think it’s over -- you need to fill out a list of all awards presented in that court, and have the Royalty sign it. You sign it. (There’s a standard form for this ...) If the Banner Herald is present, get it to Banner. If not, get it to the Royal Chamberlain. If not, take it home, make photocopies of it, and send them to the Royal Chamberlain (address is in The Page).

      Court Herald Award List Form A

      Once you have done this, you should drop an email to the Banner Clerk, who is listed in on the West Kingdom Herald's website (contacts page), letting her (or him) know that you mailed the list, if you were able to get appropriate signatures, and so on, so that someone in the "chain of command" of the College of Arms knows the status of your report.

    2. If you are an inexperienced court herald, or moderately experienced court herald, talk to the senior heralds, in particular Banner, who watched court. They can give you advice for handling situations that came up during your court. Talk to the Royalty if you can. They may have some insights that can help.

  5. Where Can I Find the Forms And Ceremonies?

    For forms, you can go to the West Kingdom Herald’s Website:
          http://heralds.westkingdom.org
    And more specifically:
          http://heralds.westkingdom.org/CourtHeraldry.htm
    Court Organization Form:
          http://heralds.westkingdom.org/Forms/CourtForm.pdf A
    Award List Form:
          http://heralds.westkingdom.org/Forms/AwardListForm.pdf A
    Ceremonies:
          http://heralds.westkingdom.org/Ceremony/index.htm
    Cheet Sheets for Opening/Closing Court:
          http://heralds.westkingdom.org/Ceremony/CoverPages.pdf A
              (Scroll down a few pages, they’re the last part of this ...)


Some links to articles in the Ceremony Book that are useful other than those listed above:
Starting and Ending Court A
The Ceremony Book itself (You can download individual ceremonies, or whole sections based on region -- Kingdom, Principalities, Appendices ...)


Class Handouts Herald's Main Page


A -- Items with a red 'A' by them require the use of Adobe Acrobat Reader (freeware), downloadable from: Acrobat
-- Items that show this image by them are ones that are links to other websites ...
-- Items with a checkmark by them are pages you have visited ...