Please Draw Nigh…
Court Heraldry 103
Court Preparation and the Dais
For the first installment of this series, The Court Herald, please visit http://www.innofthetyger.com/courtheraldry101
For the second installment of this series, Arranging and Running Courts, please visit http://www.innofthetyger.com/courtheraldry102
Preparing for Court
Business has been collected, the docket has been approved by the Crown… now what? In addition to collecting business and running court, the court herald is also expected to help the Court and Guard arrange the dais – the physical space in which court will be held – according to the Order of Precedence, tradition, and which parties are in attendance, and to be ready to handle anything that may arise just before, during, and after court.
It’s dangerous out there, here take this…
A good court herald is much like a Stage Manager and prepared for everything. As such they have an arsenal of tools that are needed to perform during court. Below is a list of the most common items that are used in every court.
- Court Book / Book of Ceremonies – Unless one has every ceremony and oath memorized and can prompt the Crown for their every speaking part, make sure to have the Book of Ceremonies. This is the script which all players will follow. If a second book is available, it is highly recommended. This will allow for both parties of the Crown to have their own prompter, as needed.
- Tabard – A must have while on duty. This garment designates a herald as an agent of the Crown and signifies that a herald is “on duty”. It also acts as advertisement for the populace to find answers, announcements, or ask for business. In Caid, how the tabard is worn is also an indicator of the herald’s rank – situated properly = Herald or Herald Extraordinary, athwart (sideways) = Pursuivant or Macer.
- Docket – Bring multiple printed copies of the docket. These can be useful in any applications: one copy can be used as a draft while collecting further business, one copy can be given to a back of court herald, one copy can be given the the Chief of Court to follow along, one copy can be given to an assisting herald in case they forgot to print (or had printing issues, etc), one copy can be given to the Crown if requested.
- Drinking Vessel – It is imperative to stay hydrated as a herald. For a two hour court, a herald can go through up to a gallon of water, if hydrating properly. Vocal cords need lubrication to properly function, and exhalation expels moisture. Make sure to have at least one drinking vessel handy, and ask a friend or a court member to keep it filled.
- Pen / Pencil – Writing utensils are a must have. Invariably one will need to write something down, or cross something off a list. It is recommended to have a few handy – of various types – in case any need to be loaned out. A calligraphy pen is recommended as part of the set, in case scrolls need to be signed.
- Note Cards / Post-Its – These are handy in many instances – maybe a new item of business needs to be introduced mid court, maybe a presenter needs to list out the items being presented, maybe The Crown or an announcer wishes to brainstorm their talking points before speaking.
- Cough Drops – These are highly recommended to have, especially if one is a sole herald or will be speaking at length. A good cough drop will sooth inflammation in the throat and help provide some protection against dehydration of the mouth and vocal cords.
- Sunscreen – Even under a canopy, one is susceptible to the effects of the sun. Please wear it, and reapply often! Skin Cancer is no joke.
- Water, water, and more water. Did I mention water? – In addition to all of the reasons already mentioned above, wearing a tabard can be a sweaty endeavor.
- Sunglasses – Unless absolutely necessary, sunglasses should be removed before the start of court. Removing this mundane item helps aid in the ambiance of a medieval court – especially for pictures.
- Tissues – These are highly recommended to help for allergies, emotional/moving moments, or even to clean up a small spill.
PRO TIP: These items are not all encompassing. There are other tools a herald may need for court, which will depend on their relationship with their sovereign, with the Court and Guard, with other heralds, and with their other officers. Every court herald’s toolbox should contain at least these items.
Scrolls and Medallions
During Caidan ceremonies, a recipient is given a scroll often accompanied by a medallion. Not all awards have both of these items, and some have other components, but these items will all need to be arranged prior to court. Setting up the dais is an excellent opportunity to go over the Order of Business with the Chamberlain and Court and Guard Chiefs, so that all parties know what to expect and when.
Completed Scrolls can be promissories or commissioned and sealed scrolls for the awards that will be handed out in court. These are collected from the Court Scribe, Chamberlain, or Chief of Court and should be arranged in the Order of Business on the docket.
During court, the herald usually reads off the scroll and hands them to the Crown for distribution to the recipient during the ceremony, but the hand off can be done by a Court attendant while the herald reads the promissory text from the ceremony text.
The award medallions are usually arranged by the Chief of Court or the Chamberlain, and handed by them to the Crown for distribution to the recipient. In some cases, this duty may fall to the herald. These are usually hung, in order, on the back of the thrones.
Other components that may need to be wrangled are coronets, scarves, copes, or belts or spurs. These can also include non award items like presentations, tokens of gratitude, Charters, props for theatre schtick, etc. These should likewise be arranged per the Order of Business laid out on the docket so that when needed they are readily available. Having a table dedicated for these items is often useful.
PROTIP: Before setting up the dais, it is helpful to know how the space will be used. For an extended look at Court Heraldry in action, or how to run a court, please check out the course Court Heraldry 102.
Below contains a short summary of how to set up the thrones on the dais based on the articles penned by Thegn Cormac Mór, Arranging the Dais For Court and How Order of Precedence Works, which are far more elegantly detailed. Instead of reinventing the wheel, please go read both for a full explanation on each topic.
When setting up the Dais, the two biggest factors will be the physical space and who needs to be present. The next factor is determining who is the host. All of these come into play when deciding what and who go where.
The event staff will have set aside a space designated for court, and while it is usually the purview of the Court and Guard to place the needed infrastructure for court (Thrones, tables, rugs, kneeling pillows, etc), as herald you should be present to advise that it is done in a manner that accounts for the needs of court, which vary from event to event. Also, this is a great time to determine the performative space – how it aids or hampers your ability to do your job.
Things to consider:
- Who needs to be included, and how many thrones will be needed?
- Who sits where?
- Is there space for all of the thrones that need to be present?
- Is there a place for heralds to stand and be accessible to the Crown?
- Is there a place for attendants to stand and both be accessible to the Crown and leave space for movement?
- Is there a place for the guard to stand and not be fully blocking the audience’s view?
- Is there a central aisle for processions?
- Is there a side aisle for ease of exiting? Is there space for two?
- Is there space for presentation or preparation tables?
- Is there sufficient space between the Thones and the first row of the audience?
- How is the lighting? Does the angle of the sun inconvenience any participant – “performer” or “audience” alike? Can the set up be changed to minimize any discomfort?
- How are the acoustics? Do they naturally enhance or diminish noise?
- Is there a space at the back of court for processions to line up without interrupting court, and close enough to hear what is happening?
- Is there sufficient space for a back of court herald to be required?
- Does this herald have a place to stand where they can easily observe the dais for visual cues to hand off business?
Each of these questions should have an answer. As you become more familiar with the process, more questions and more answers will arise. The best place to start is with the first two listed above: who sits where, and is there space for all of them?
Who has come to play?
Typically the “performers” (those participating in court and needing space on the dais) in court can be categorized into the following groups:
- Sovereigns – The heads of state for the Kingdom, also referred to as The Crown.
- Heirs – The winners of Crown Tournament and incoming Sovereigns.
- Baronages – The Territorial heads of state for a Barony.
- Visiting Royalty – Sovereigns or Territorial leaders from another Kingdom. This can be the Crown, Principality heads, Baronage, or any of their heirs.
- Honored Guests – The Crown may, at their prerogative, invite anyone to sit court with them. This can include anyone from their own populace to a visiting Peer to a newcomer. These attendees would be anyone who will be seated during court but does not fall into any other category.
- Heralds – Court heralds for various territorial groups. These attendees are not seated on the dais, but will require space allotment.
- Attendants – The Chamberlain, Court and Guard, Seneschal, Champions, messengers, and other event staff. These attendees are not seated on the dais, but will require space allotment.
- Supplicants – Those who are called up to the Dais for any reason – to give an announcement, to receive an award, etc. They are temporary performers who are not seated on the dais, but will require space allotment during their business in court.
The Order of Precedence
Of the groups of performers listed above, only the first five are applicable to the Order of Precedence for court.
The Order of Precedence is a list ranking entities from highest to lowest rank. For the purposes of the SCA, the precedence is based on the relative value of rank and the date is was received – higher ranks have higher precedence, and between two equal ranks, the one granted first will bear a higher precedence.
For the purposes of setting up the seating order on the dais, the precedence will be based on the rank of the performers’ territorial standing – that is, which territory is being represented and by whom. A Kingdom will have higher precedence than a Principality, a Principality has higher precedence than a Barony, and a Barony has higher precedence over Cantons, Shires, Colleges, and Strongholds. The territorial heads of state for each of these areas will have precedence over their respective heirs. Within each territorial group, each territory also has a specific precedence based on their founding dates (i.e. The Kingdom of the West out ranks the Kingdom of Caid which outranks the Kingdom of Avacal). However, each territory has highest precedence among its groups within its own lands – Caid has precedence over the West when an event is hosted in Caidan borders.
After the default Order of Precedence is established for those in attendance, the second important piece of the puzzle comes in – who is hosting? The hosting territory gets moved up to the top of the list.
The Seating Chart
Order of Precedence in hand, the thrones can be placed starting with the highest ranked (remember this is taking the host boost into consideration) placed in the center of the dais. The next highest is placed to the premier thrones’ right (audience’s left), and the third highest to the premier thrones’ left (audience’s right). These placements are alternated until the entire list of those on the dais are placed. The thrones can be arranged in a straight line, or a gentle curve with the highest ranked at the apex of the arch. In-between each sets of thrones, there should be sufficient space for a herald to stand, or an attendant to pass. Adding a small table for drinks or small decorations between each sets of thrones is optional, and a nice addition when the space allows. There should also be placed a table (or few, depending on the need) behind the throne line for the Court and Guard to use for staging items for court business or other creature comforts needed to run court.
If you find that there is not enough space to fit the entire panel of “performers”, there are some options. The first is to arrange some of the end thrones perpendicular to the main line of thrones towards the audience (essentially making a three sided box), or moving all of those of a certain rank and below to the front row(s) of the audience.
Also, if you find that the Order of Precedence is uneven (some territories only have one representative, or the needed space for each is skewed heavily to one side, etc), the whole line of thrones can be shifted to bring visual symmetry.
PRO TIP: The Order of Precedence for seating Royalty is a guideline, and not hard and fast rules. If it makes for a more aesthetic arrangement, if The Crown wants a different arrangement, or if tradition dictates it you can cheat the placements to fit.
For a more detailed look at some of the nuances in placement, including a visual aid, again please read Thegn Cormac’s articles on the OP and Setting the Dais linked above.
Lastly, when preparing for court self care is extremely important in this role. In order to make others look their best, you first need to feel confident. With all of the bustle around preparing and running a court, make sure to take a minute to breathe and center yourself. Use the facilities and have a snack, get a cup of coffee or tea (or whatever is your preference).
PROTIP: An assisting herald (or trusted friend) can be a great boon. They can keep your water refilled, hand you scrolls, make sure you eat, run errands mid-court, and generally make your life easier so that you can focus on your performance.
© 2021 Stephanie Rendt-Scott. All rights reserved. Limited publication rights may be granted upon written request to the author.