The King and Queen of Drachenwald have called for a Curia to take place in January at Twelfth Night Coronation. When a change to Kingdom Law is being considered, a Curia is an opportunity for the people of Drachenwald to comment on the proposed changes. At this curia, two changes are proposed. The previous post covered the proposal to change the Order of Precedence. The other, detailed here, proposes changes to the office of Signet. This post contains the background briefing of the Chancery proposal received by the Crown.
If you wish to comment on the proposals, you may do so by email to firstname.lastname@example.org as well as at the event itself.
Update Updated wording and additional paragraph on the Signet seal, 2019-11-24
A Commendation to the Most Gracious King and Queen of Dragounwold touching on the Chancery of this Noble Kingdom, and its Chief Officer, from Certain Scrivenours and Heralds.
It is an unhappy tradition in some parts of the Society to name the person in charge of organising the calligraphy, painting and illumination of diplomata for kingdoms and principalities the “clerk of the signet”. This is to a great extent because scribal artists have been administered as subordinate officials.
This is unfortunate because it names the officer after a lowly official in the English chancellery system (the clerks of the signet copied bills of the privy signet as an intermediate stage in the preparation of letters patent), which minimises the work done by the officer and by the scribes, painters and illuminators who contribute so much of their time and effort.
Kingdoms and principalities in our Society give varying titles to their chief administrators of scribal work. Some are signet clerks or just ‘signet’, but many have heraldic (or quasi-heraldic) titles or are called Chief Scribe. These titles generally reflect that the scribes are or have been subordinate to colleges of heralds. Yet none of these gives due prominence to the work of a kingdom’s or principality’s scribes; and all ignore the work of painters, illuminators and limners who work to create gorgeous artwork but who are not strictly scribes.
Drachenwald Law 5 currently establishes the Kingdom Signet Clerk (who is a Great Officer).
That the Crown appoint the Kingdom Signet Clerk to be Cancellarius Coronae Dracosylvaniae (or Cancellaria), Crown Chancellor of Drachenwald; and that Drachenwald Law be revised in due course to unite the two offices.
The appropriate mediaeval title for the officer who manages a king’s or prince’s paperwork is the Latin cancellarius which becomes in English the Chancellor, in German the Kanzler, in Irish the soinsilér, in Bulgarian the канцлер, in Swedish the kansler, in Finnish the kansleri, in Icelandic the kanslari and in Hungarian the kancellár. The office itself is in English the Chancellery or Chancery with comparable translations in other European languages. The Chancellors of mediaeval kingdoms and principalities were entrusted with the royal or principal seal, and were senior officials (churchmen in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, laymen in the Early Modern period). The title was used in some form in almost every land that is now Drachenwald.
Naming the chief officer for state papers the “Crown Chancellor”, “Royal Chancellor” or “Lord/Lady Chancellor” firmly sets the officer among the grandly named kingdom officers: the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Earl Marshal et cetera. The purse in which the Great Seal was kept by the Lord Chancellor of England (and his colleagues in Scotland, Ireland and on the Continent) makes a splendid and practical token of office. The Writ of Summons which appointed English bishops to the post would make an excellent exemplar for appointing new incumbents to the post.
Mediaeval European kings and princes, regardless of country or time period, used the term Chancellor for the chiefs of their scribes and the holders of their seals.
- The position of Chancellor of France and Keeper of the Seals was first filled by St Remigius, then Rémy, Bishop of Rheims, in service to Clovis.
- The Carolingian Holy Roman Emperors appointed archchancellors (in Latin archicancellarius), a post which continued through the history of the Holy Roman Empire. As the post became firmly welded to certain bishoprics the position of Court Chancellor (in German Hofkanzler) arose in the late 15th and in the 16th Century to balance the power of the Erkanzler, who was always the Archbishop of Mainz.
- The Chancellor of England and Keeper of the Great Seal, was a position first filled after the Norman Conquest in 1068 by Herfast, later Bishop of Elmham, later Bishop of Thetford.
- The King’s Chancellor of Sweden was an office known from the 13th Century, and elevated to the post of rikskansler in the 16th Century.
- Scotland had a Lord Chancellor from 1124.
- Ireland had its own Lord High Chancellor from 1186.
- Poland had a kanclerz koronni or Crown Chancellor from the 14th Century, divided into the offices of Great Chancellor and Deputy Chancellor in the 15th Century. Before that each Polish prince had his own principal kanclerz.
- It would not be an exaggeration to say that every ruling prince in Europe had a chancellor looking after the paperwork. In many cases the chancellor of the crown was also responsible for certain royal courts.
Drachenwald already replicates two uses of the term: the Chancellor of the Exchequer; who in England was responsible for the paperwork in the royal Court of Exchequer; and the Chancellor of the University of Drachenwald, whose title reflects the great antiquity of the same title in the Middle Ages. The first Chancellor of the University of Paris was Petrus Comestor (Peter the Eater) who died about 1178. The first chancellor of the University of Oxford was the great Robert Grosseteste who was elected in the early 13th Century. The title is universal across Europe, and there appears to be no confusion in Drachenwald between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chancellor of the University.
The Signet itself is a small seal which was used in the English court as the Great Seal and the Privy Seal became part of the administration of the kingdoms under English control. The Signet was a way that kings could keep control of some decisions out of the hands of their nobles. The term came into regular use in 1367 as an alternate name for the ‘secret seal’, partly because the Latin name for the Privy Seal was ‘secretum’, which was confusing. The Clerks of the Signet, officers in the English court, were from 1385 a group of clerks (two to four men in minor clerical orders in the 14th and early 15th Centuries; laymen from the mid-15th and into the 16th Century) in charge of drawing up something called a Signet Letter. Signet Letters were given to Chancery or the Office of the Privy Seal, which created documents and sealed them with the Great Seal or the Privy Seal as appropriate. Diplomatic correspondence was also carried out through Signet Letters; but instructions to ambassadors were sealed with the Signet, the Privy Seal and the Great Seal (probably in order to signify that officials had approved the instructions). The Clerks of the Signet were not themselves entrusted with the Signet: that was kept by the king’s (or queen’s) secretary. Successive parliaments (the Merciless Parliament and the Good Parliament) objected to the way that kings (especially Richard II) used the Signet, and for long periods in the 15th Century the Signet appears not to have been used at all (though during the insanity of Henry VI the fours Clerks of the Signet were still paid). The Secretary (the official of the English court who kept the seal) was a member of the royal household who always accompanied the king, and from the middle of the 15th Century there were at least two secretaries which permitted the secretaries to function as ambassadors.
Society Law and Precedent
Not all kingdoms and principalities use the term ‘clerk of the signet’ for their chief officer of diplomata. In general, the title of chiefs of scribes seems to have been replicated from parent kingdoms, and some have descriptive titles (Kingdom Scribe), some have heraldic titles (e.g. Plume Pursuivant), some have academic/ecclesiastical titles (Chancellor or Provost of a College) and some have combinations of heraldic titles with the term “signet” (confer Topaz Signet). There is clearly no Society-wide practice for naming this office.
Nine do not use the term ‘signet’:
- The West, the first kingdom, has a Chancellor of Scribes.
- Atenveldt has a Kingdom Scribe.
- Meridies has Parchment Pursuivant.
- Caid has a Scribe Armarius.
- An Tir has Sable Sable, the Kingdom Scribe.
- The Outlands has a Kingdom Scribe.
- Artemisia has Sable Plume Pursuivant.
- Lochac has a Provost of Scribes (with a gorgeous College of Scribes web site).
- Avacal has a Scribe.
- The East Kingdom has a Tyger Clerk of the Signet.
- The Middle has a Kingdom Signet.
- Ansteorra has a Star Signet.
- Atlantia has a Clerk Signet.
- Calontir has Falcon Signet.
- Trimaris has Chart Signet (and a splendid web site).
- Aethelmearc has Sylvan Signet.
- Ealdormere has both Trillium Signet and a Lady Privy Seal.
- Northshield has Polaris Signet.
- Gleann Abhann has Topaz Signet.
Principalities title their chiefs of chancery as follows:
- Cynagua has a Sable Swan Scribe.
- The Mists has a Seawolf Scribe.
- Oertha has a Stellanordica Scribe.
- Summits has a Gryphon Scribe (who is a principality great officer).
- Tir Righ has a Chief Scribe (who is a principality great officer).
- Nordmark has a präntare (which is translated in the English version of Principality Law as ‘Signet clerk’).
- Insulae Draconis has the Insulae Draconis Signet clerk, who is a principality lesser officer.
Corpora mandate kingdom great officers which mirror Society officers, but do not mandate any others. Corpora mandate reporting and approval between Society officers and comparable kingdom officers, but leave blank any responsibility between the Society and kingdom officers without matching Society portfolios. The Governing Documents of the SCA Inc and proposed revisions are otherwise silent on the naming of kingdom great officers.
Kingdom law demands: 12.04 It should be the duty and responsibility of all members of the Kingdom of Drachenwald to maintain and increase Authenticity, the Spirit and the Willingness to create a Current Middle Ages. This seems to demand a positive duty to be guided by mediaeval exemplars. No current Drachenwald law would restrict appointing the chief officer for Drachenwald royal diplomata as Crown Chancellor.
Arianhwy (Wen), Drachenwald. Signet Clerk
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