Calontir, Chivalry, consort, consort Tournament, Courtesy, Crown Tournament, embroidery, Ideals of the Society, Queen's Prize Tournament, reenactment, SCA, SCA events, SCA experience, SCA War, social problems, Society for Creative Anachronism
I love Crown Tournaments, they’re possibly my favorite events on the Kingdom Calendar. The pageantry, the ceremony, the ritual, the displays of chivalry, and the festivities are thrilling. (Not to mention the clothing! While I respect all time periods, I must confess that I get extra tingles when I see a Crown list dominated by reenactors from the One True Century!)
Crown Tournaments are, in a sense, the SCA on display: the representation of what we mean by chivalry on the field and off, and, more importantly, of something not many people are able to grasp…
Inspiration, in the modern sense, differs from the way in which we view it in our pseudo-Victorian embodiment of medieval ideals. In the mundane world, an artist might be inspired by a sunset or a millenial might be inspired by Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand; however, in the SCA, inspiration is not an unintentional result, but the opposite. It is the act of breathing into another so that they are strengthened and emboldened in their task, upon their path, and/or in their life.
(I know it sounds a little silly, but our hobby was made up at a college party in the sixties, so…)
Typically, we think of inspiration in the SCA as something restricted to fighters and consorts, primarily in Crown. Some even dismiss it as a formality of etiquette, but those of us who have been on either side, either the inspirer or the inspired, know that it’s more than that. In my relationship, for example, my lord husband and I escort each other into court when one of us is called, rather than him simply escorting me as the lady, because we support and encourage each other in all our endeavors.
I would not be entirely honest, though, if I did not admit that I feel the power of inspiration the most strongly when Günther is on the field and I am standing to the side watching him fight. I love that feeling! Objectively, I’ve always found him to be an enjoyable fighter to watch: he’s 6’2” (maybe 6’3”) and he always uses the full range of movement his long limbs afford him. As a former dancer, the physical spectacle has always intrigued me. More personally, however, is the amazing connection we discovered when we started treating every tournament like a consort tournament.
In 2014, Günther had gone a long period without fighting and the tension from work and life was surrounding him like a cloud. The Barony we live in had organized a “practice tournament” for a regular meeting to teach fighters to engage more in the spectacle of fighting (ie, fall down when you die!) and, for the first time in our relationship, I assumed the full authority and responsibility of being his Lady. Two days before the scheduled tournament, I stood in front of him and said:
“There is a tournament at fighter practice. I want you to carry my favor and win the tournament for me.”
This statement may seem bossy and pushy when read in black and white or heard by someone outside the SCA, but sometimes a wife has to help her husband snap out of the haze he’s in and refind himself. In this instance, it worked. —He went to fighter practice, fought in the tournament even though he didn’t have time to warm up, and he lasted until the semi-finals. (It was a little more impressive the following year when he went to Chieftain’s and made it to semi-finals cold, but that’s another story.) More importantly, he was my Huscarl again.
During that tournament, Günther and I also discovered a remarkable connection that happened when he was on the field. He loved fighting for me and knowing that I was watching him intently which invigorated him. For my own part, I found that I could read when he would win the bout as well as gauge when he had reached his limit. Sometimes, I even felt as though I could will him through a tough bout. After that, fighting became, not only something in which I supported him, but a couple’s activity. —And was it fun!
Most couples do not approach fighting the way we did because, to most people, inspirational fighting is something left for Crown tournament or Rose Tournaments. For my own part, the heavy fighting events rarely have classes that appeal to me and most of my friends end up chatting along the sidelines watching the fighters anyway, consequently it never took away from my SCA experience to step up to the list field and blow a kiss when my beloved dutifully saluted me before every bout. Other people, even fellow SCAdians, may think we’re a little sappy, but you love what you love. I also think that perhaps we seem sappy because it’s not common to engage in inspirational fighting, to have their beloved or a chivalrous friend endeavor to win a tournament or a bout truly in their honor.
I have heard talk of a push to hold more non-Crown and non-Rose consort tournaments at events and I hope that comes to fruition. Many women, myself included, can’t help but feel a twinge of longing when they watch the parade of consorts at Crown Tournament, or see the Ladies of the Rose with their champions. I also think that having more consort tournaments would open the experience of being a consort up to more men and create a more rounded experience of martial chivalry and mutual support. (Moreover, it would also help to emphasize that there is more to chivalry than martial comportment if we had “inspired” Arts and Sciences competitions and encouraged giving favors to those in service whom we wish to see press further, but that’s also another article.)
The one problem I have with Crown Tournaments, is that, obviously, not everyone gets to experience them. I never have and it is likely that I never will since Günther has lost interest in fighting in the light of the studies around CTE; however, I was lucky enough to participate in one consort tournament with him two years ago. Personally, I think everyone should experience a consort tournament, at least once: they are, after all, central to all the pageantry and courtliness of the middle ages.
Having more consort tournaments (or even adapting tournament procedures in general so that if a fighter is inspired by another, it is noted on the name card given to the heralds) would only serve to add to the ambience, add to the sense of medieval romance, and, most importantly, add to the fun.
Alright, now that I have most of you nodding and agreeing with me (because come on, what’s the harm of more consort tourneys?), I am going to mightily annoy some people reading this, but right is right and it’s time someone said this…
IN A PROCESSION OF PAIRS, THE PLACE OF THE HIGHEST RANKING PERSON IN THE COUPLE SHOULD BE RESPECTED, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THAT PERSON IS THE CONSORT OR THE COMBATANT.
Why that concept is so difficult to grasp is, frankly, beyond me, yet Crown Tournament after Crown Tournament I have watched in sheer frustration as the processional is ranked according to the combatant, with no regard to the rank of (read: contributions to the society made by) the consort.
Personally, I believe that this is an issue because no one has seen fit to question it outside of a quiet word here and there. For instance, if a consort in Crown were to raise the concerns I’m raising, people are likely to think ill of her (or him) for not simply being grateful to be along for the ride. As I mentioned before, I have never been and will likely never be a Consort in Crown, ergo I have nothing to gain in this.
Why is it wrong to arrange the Order of Precedence by the Rank of the Fighters?
First of all, when one looks at it purely from the perspective of authenticity and etiquette, this practice violates both of historical and current views on precedence. In the Middle Ages, a widow (death being the primary means of ending a marriage) maintained her title and status. For example, Mary Tudor, a Queen Dowager of France, maintained her status and styling directly beneath whomever was unfortunate enough to be her sister in law (ie wife a living King of England), despite the fact that she had remarried Charles Brandon, a Duke.
Modernly, the same holds true in regards to Precedence. Although the Princess Royal has been married twice to non-royals and neither of her husbands accepted a peerage, she has maintained both her rank and place in the Order of Precedence, as has Princess Eugenie, Mrs Jack Brooksbank.
Secondly, (and I’m afraid there really isn’t a way to soften this statement) the practice is fighter-centric. In most instances, not only is the Order of Precedence usually arranged by the rank of the fighter, but the fighter’s rank is only considered in regards to his or her fighting awards. For example, you will often see a combatant who became a Laurel or Pelican before becoming a member of the Order of Chivalry or a Laurel or Pelican who became a peer before the other non-royal peers on the list be placed after a newly minted Knight. This practice is strictly against corpora (Section VIII, subsection A, sub-sub section 2.) which clearly states that the four Orders of Peerage shall be considered equal and the members must be ranked as an equal group. (In other words, Laurels are not beneath Knights, etc.)
This arranging the Order of Precedence solely upon the combatants fighting awards communicates that fighting awards (that is fighting itself) are more valued than the making of clothes, furniture, armor, et al or the toil to make events happen and keep the SCA together. –This is not in keeping with the attitude of our Kingdom, which makes the fighter-centric structure of Crown Tournament glaringly out of place.
Now, I absolutely love fighting and I love fighters. I was sad when my lord husband announced to me that he was hanging up his great-sword because I know how much that great sword meant to him. I lamented when the Pole-Arm of Doom saw its last war, I delight in Günther’s stories from battlefields and melees, and I love watching a good bout. (That’s why I go to events like Crown Tournament and Toys for Tots.) I will probably laugh at anyone who should say that I’m anti-fighter; however, you will be hard pressed to convince me that the act of fighting contributes more to our society than other activities.
As for consorts in Crown Tournament, the message sent to them by discounting their rank (which often comes from non-fighting awards) is that their contribution to the society not of consequence, regardless of any lip service to the contrary.
I’m married to Günther, so I understand some absent mindedness. He loves the hat I made him, but often leaves it in a pile of socks at the back of the closet or forgets its existence on the floor of his car. Again, he tells me that he loves the hat and his smile when he remembers to wear it is proof, but it grows difficult to believe him when I see the hat forgotten more often than not. Sometimes, actions speak louder than words.
Speaking of Günther (who has fought in Crown twice to my nil), this is one issue upon which we do not agree. He has argued to me that a consort is simply proud of his or her combatant and willing to take his place in the Order of Precedence. That said, I think if we asked a Duke who was fighting for someone with an Award of Arms to give up their place as a Royal Peer, Facebook would go crazy, which should, frankly, be our litmus test. The work wrought by a Ruler by Right of Arms and Ruler by Right of Inspiration is the same and the contributions of all activities in the Society are equal, shouldn’t we treat them with the same level of respect?
In summation, the contributions of non-fighters bear equal import within our society, corpora dictates that all awards after royal peerages be ranked on the same footing, by historical and contemporary standards, the highest ranking person within the couple dictates the precedence of the couple in procession, and, most importantly, we wouldn’t ask a combatant to take a lower place in the Order of Precedence due to the rank of their Consort.