The rhythms and ceremonies of court are part of what makes the SCA different from other clubs. This roundup about being the herald in charge assumes you’ve been to a couple of events which included court, and decided, ‘this bit looks like fun’. Download the Drachenwald Book of Ceremonies, version 3, Jan 2017, AS 51
What does court do for us?
Court is communication
Court is the chance for the royals to speak with the people of their kingdom. Changes to law are announced at court, as are decisions of Curia (the head officers and public servants of the kingdom). Heralds lend their voices to make those messages clear, along with the many other pieces of news we share.
While SCA court is a modern construct, we can learn about how medieval monarchs held court, and emulate them: for example, with seating arrangements which follow period practice.
Court is ceremony
- A special occasion: it’s almost always someone’s first court, or their first award, and you always remember your first
- A framework to show off our monarchs at their best
- A place where we build traditions, that make us feel like a community
- An important part of the Society’s non-modern world, different from other clubs
Court is amateur theatre
- Participatory: everyone is invited to take part
- Partly scripted (through the book of ceremonies), but a lot of improvisation: the key to improv is to always agree with the speaker
- Balanced between solemnity and fun
- Structured around predictable elements (announcements, awards, gifts)
- The royals’ show: the herald is the ‘straight man’ who supports the stars, and the ‘fall guy’ who takes the blame
Court is (medieval) entertainment
We don’t feel complete unless we’ve had a good cry, or a good laugh!
What makes ‘bad’ court?
- Pace and timing problems: there’s a time and place for everything (including joke gifts, and personal presentations)…but everything in its place.
- Audibility: noone can enjoy a special occasion they cannot hear
The herald in court
The herald is part of what makes court happen – as facilitator, not star.
- Voice of the crown: a privilege, one that the Crown doesn’t bestow lightly
- Master of ceremonies: like at a wedding, your job is to make the special couple look good, organize the evening, and keep speakers on track
- Royalty promoter: the Crown is always right. It’s not your show, it’s theirs
Getting started as court herald
Offer your help, ideally in advance of an event – either to the court herald, or to their Highnesses or Majesties. Good court takes preparation from all people involved.
Assist the herald in charge
- Read scrolls
- Learn to pronounce names
- Learn the familiar phrases and ceremonies of your kingdom, principality or barony
Organize and prepare court
- Bring a copy of the book of ceremonies, mark pages, read through quietly in advance.
- Call for business during the day - always confirm this step with royals before starting.
- Meet with royals to organize the order of business (incoming and outgoing) - never surprise the boss!
- Read through the scrolls and ensure you can read everything in the lighting available - find lighting if needed.
- Suggest graceful ways to handle requests that will take up more time than you have available (defer til feast, arrange time for royals to sit in state).
- Be aware of the time: the day will fly, and court preparation takes longer than you expect.
- Keep royals aware of the time: their day is flying past too.
- Be prepared to run errands, find people, get answers, fetch and carry.
- Wear comfy shoes, and bring your own glass of water, notebook and pencil, and a watch.
- After the event, write up your report before you forget the details. Copies go to the royals, the chronicler, the kingdom herald and the signet.
Learn about period practices
- Records of oaths, rituals and contracts are available on the Internet, as libraries and universities digitize their collections.
- Read Shakespeare, Chaucer, Langland, the Sagas, or whatever author is available for the time period you like. Learn more about the ‘feel’ for language of another era.