How to Organize a Court:
On the Practical Conduct of Court
Date Written: August, 1986
Last Updated: Summer, 2016
Author: Eilis O'Boirne

Policy Level: Informational, some WK Policy
Intended Audience: Court Heralds
Abstract: Explicit but informational instruction on how to organize a court as the herald who will be doing it.

(The following are notes on the mechanical details which must be attended to, rather than a philosophical treatise. I will speak primarily of Kingdom Courts, as these tend to be most complex, but the information herein will also apply to Principality and Baronial Courts, with appropriate changes.)

CONGRRATULATIONS!!! You’ve been asked by Their Majesties, or appointed by Vesper, to conduct a Court. The first step is to find out when the Court you are responsible for is scheduled to be held. The answer may be precise (10:00 a.m. Sunday) or it may be vague (“After the Peerage meetings”). Either way, it is now your responsibility to be ready for the Court whenever Their Majesties are.

Speak to Vesper and arrange a Second, or “back-up” herald, for the Court. Depending on your experience, this will be either one of the more-skilled Court heralds or a trainee. The functions of this Second will be gone into later in detail. Arrange with your Second to meet with you approximately one hour before Court. If you are not familiar with the Kingdom ceremony book, ask one of the Senior Heralds to go over it with you, and at least read through any ceremonies you may be asked for.

One hour before Court is scheduled, put on a tabard and go (with a notebook or clipboard, and with your Second, also in regalia) to Their Majesties, and confirm that there has been no significant change in the time set for Court. At this time, you can ask Their Majesties if they have any business for Court, and obtain the promissories for any awards they will be granting. (If Their Majesties have not had the promissories done in advance, this will give the Scribes time to prepare them.) You should also ask whether various of the conventions used for Court (which are covered below) will apply. Write any Royal business in your notebook, and put the promissories in a safe place. Thank Their Majesties, and tell them that you will return to review the collected business with them later.

Send your Second around the field to announce that you are taking Court business in a fixed location. The herald's pavilion is generally best, as it is usually very busy around the Royal pavilion. Go to your chosen location and stand or sit in a place where you are visible. When people come to you with business for Court, make sure that you get enough information that Their Majesties can decide whether they wish the item to be included in Court. Write legibly enough that someone else can read the information if necessary. Inform the people who bring business about the Court conventions being used that day, and further inform them that any business scheduled for Court may be cut or altered at Their Majesties’ whim.

One half hour before Court is to begin, have your Second go around again with a final call for business. At this time, you should check with Vesper or the senior Herald available as to whether there are scrolls which are to be distributed at this Court. You should make sure you have all the “props” you need: Kingdom tabard, a respectable tabard for your Second, the promissories, the Kingdom ceremony book, an Armorial if there are any Peerages, etc. Collect your Second, your “props”, and a large glass of water, and go to Their Majesties.

Review the business you have collected with Their Majesties, cutting and altering it as They command. Add any further business as They may have, and ask whether They have any requests as to the ordering of Court or the grouping of business. Thank Them and go to a quiet place with your Second. You are going to do something that will make the difference between a smooth and impressive Court and a flop -- you are going to order the business for Court. (This paper will not address the question of what business should come when, as that is a question of philosophy.)

There are several mechanical ways to order business. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and you should choose the one which works best for you.

  1. You can write each piece of business on an index card, and shuffle them into a pleasing pattern. This system offers great flexibility, but if you drop the cards you are in trouble.
  2. You can rewrite the business from the “collection notes” to a new sheet, arranging it in what you feel is the best order and writing in the wording you want to use. This is probably the best method for the inexperienced herald, but it tends to create a certain inflexibility and unwillingness to deal with changes.
  3. You can rewrite, in fuller form, the business from the “collection notes”, grouped into categories: Announcements, Presentations, Competitions, Awards, etc. You can then select from these categories as appropriate, judging the mood of the Royalty and the populace. This may be the best method for moderately-experienced Court heralds, as it gives both organization and flexibility.
  4. You can take the “collection notes” and write numbers and notes in the margin, ordering the Court in your head. This works only if you know what you are doing, but it offers maximum flexibility and can produce spectacular courts.

Whatever method you use, it is not a bad idea to draw a pencil line through each piece of business as it is completed. This provides a check that you have done everything, and stops you from inadvertently making the same announcement twice.

After the close of Court, ask Their Majesties if they have any comments on the conduct of Court, and thank them for allowing you to be of service. Make sure you have a legible listing of all the business form court that actually occurred (items added that weren't on your list, items on your list that didn't happen, etc.), so that when you get home, you can enter them into the Court Report online, so the recognitions can become official.

If you are an experienced Court herald, your Second is there to be an extra pair of hands, and to learn how to conduct a Court suitable to the dignity of Their Majesties. If you are an inexperienced Court herald, your Second is there to give you the benefit of his experience, and to stiffen your jelly-like spine. In both cases, the Second is there to take over in emergencies, and to do all he can to make the Court flow smoothly.

The major duties of a Second are:

  1. To receive gracefully anything handed to him (or flung at him) by the Court herald.
  2. To shuffle books and papers in a non-obtrusive manner.
  3. To be ready to step in and take over if the Court herald’s voice vanishes or the Court herald is suddenly called forward to receive an honor from the Crown.

Other duties depend on the length of the Court, the business being conducted, and the identity of the Court herald and Their Majesties. Some Royalty do not like “rotating heralds”, so the Second can not be brought in to do some of the announcements and awards. Other Court heralds will ask their Seconds to be “Queen's herald”, and to stand by Her Majesty with the ceremony book and herald any “Queen’s business”. “Active participation” by a Second is not a right, but a privilege.

Since a Second must be ready to step in and take over the conduct of Court on no notice, you must be aware of everything that has been planned for Court, and you should make sure you can read the Court herald's writing and that you understand how the Court has been ordered. You must stay aware of everything that happens, including unexpected reorganizations which sometimes happen. If you must step in, the transition should be as smooth as possible.

Check with the Royalty involved to see which of these are in effect at any given Court. For some Reigns, there are “blanket” conventions, and Vesper should inform you of those, but it is always courteous to confirm these with Their Majesties.

  1. There will be no announcements taking place for events in upcoming weeks, except for those where there has been some drastic change to published information. (or) Event announcements are acceptable, but they will all be made by their heralds. (or) It is acceptable for those who wish to make their own event announcements to do so. (A corollary to this is that, even if it is acceptable for people to make their own announcements, an announcement by the herald may be more audible.)
  2. There will be no presentations in Court, except to the Regalia. (or) Personal presentations to Their Majesties will be acceptable, if they are suitable. (No funny T-shirts.)
  3. The herald will make all the Officers’ announcements. (or) Officers may make their own announcements.

The “harsher” forms of these conventions have come into use in an attempt to make Courts more audible and less boring. They also make the timing easier to control.

Wear comfortable shoes. Sounds really obvious, doesn’t it? Try standing in one place for an hour without fidgeting. Now go put on the comfortable shoes.

Dress appropriately. The Kingdom tabard is vivid, and looks best over solid-colored, simple clothing. It is also very warm. Your best bet may be a simple undertunic -- as long as it isn’t transparent.

Make sure you have water available. Your Second can be made responsible for keeping the glass filled from a jug you have secreted in the Royal pavilion, and for handing it to you when there is a break in the Court.