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On Fealty and Other Relationships in the SCA (or, Are Waffles Period?)

by Hector of the Black Height

An important part of any noble person's life in the Middle Ages was establishing and maintaining bonds of fealty. This was the back-bone of the political and economic machinery of the period, especially for the nobility. Times have changed, so fealty is now an historical oddity for the most part. The existence of the various Monarchies of the SCA allow us to recreate fealty within a vital setting.

Being in fealty implies there is a formal relationship between the individual and the Crown, whether direct or indirect. In the SCA, except for Knights, Princes, Landed Barons and Great Officers of State, no-one has to swear fealty to the Crown (see note 1). Other types of formal relationships (such as a being a member of the Society) pertain to an individual's dealings with the Society for Creative Anachronism Incorporated and the SCA's legal existence in the temporal state, for purposes of insurance, liability and so on. If you do not swear fealty it doesn't mean you are not or cannot become a member of the SCA or a citizen of the Middle Kingdom; you merely are not a vassal of the King of the Midrealm.

A Knight of the Society must by definition be in fealty. If a Knight is not in fealty, he or she is not an SCA Knight. Note that a Master-at-Arms or Mistress-at-Arms, a member of the other half of the Chivalry (see note 2) may be in fealty (just like any other member of the populace), but does not have to be. This is the only difference between Knights and Masters- and Mistresses-at-Arms (see note 3). A Knight wears a golden chain as token of the weight of his ongoing and constant fealty; a Master-at-Arms does not wear such a chain (see note 4).

Relationships are with a person, not an institution. I think this is the main reason why all those who must be in fealty renew their fealty after each Coronation to the new King and Queen, and why the Crown of the Middle responds "This we hear and shall never forget, nor fail to reward that which is given..." (see note 5). It also explains why fealty in the SCA is sworn to the present Crown only, and not to the Crown's heirs and successors as well (see note 6).

In the Middle Kingdom, there is a subtle but definite distinction drawn between the King and Queen as individuals and the institution of the Crown. When this distinction is linked with the swearing of fealty (as it is in this Kingdom), any emphasis on the institution tends to depersonalize the appearance of what is nevertheless a personal relationship. In the East Kingdom, for example, fealty is sworn by the individual subject to the King and Queen as individuals (which is why Eastern Coronations can take four hours, as the parade of Peers (see note 7) shuffling forward to swear individual fealty goes on and on). In the East there is no group swearing of oaths as there is in the Midrealm. Swearing en masse seems to make the act of swearing fealty anonymous; being made a vassal in this way seems very impersonal to me. While the individual who is swearing the oath may find significance in saying the words, to the King and Queen of the Middle the people before them are, for the most part, a sea of nameless faces. This anonymity appears to weaken the link between Crown and vassal, even if it may strengthen the bonds between the Kingdom as an organization and its populace.

During the reign of King Thaid (now known as Duke Tadashi) over the Midrealm, it was decided that the thrones, representing the permanence of the Crown as an institution, would be honoured even if the King and Queen were not occupying them. This both acknowledges the importance of the Crown as an institution (which one hopes lessens this Kingdom's vulnerability to personality conflicts -- see note 8) and camouflages the personal nature of fealty. For those who travel to other lands, it also explains why Midrealmers are sometimes called "the people who bow to furniture" by inhabitants of other Kingdoms which place more emphasis on the personal bond of fealty.

It is also interesting to note that in other Kingdoms -- Baron Aaron Swiftrunner cites Caid as an example -- the "feudal pyramid" that has been established allows someone lower in the pyramid to swear fealty to his feudal overlord and thus be bound by the overlord's fealty, through however many intermediaries, to the Crown. The King couldn't travel everywhere in his realm (see note 9) and even if he could, social and political distinctions would not have permitted the vast majority of the populace to approach the throne.

Mistress Nicolaa de Bracton has pointed out that, in period, "the vassal of my vassal is not my vassal". In other words, a King could not walk up to the vassal of a noble in direct fealty to the King and say "Since I am your over-lord, I order you to do this." The King would get away with ordering around anyone he wanted due to his wealth and power. However, the King could order his vassal to order his vassals to act. That's how feudal armies were collected. Swearing to the Crown through a feudal overlord is not authentic. It does personalize what now is an impersonal process, and I believe that medieval feudalism was both a dynamic and a personal relationship.

By Kingdom Law, a Landed Baron and/or Landed Baroness are the Crown's representative in a specific Barony. While the Crown is represented by the Baron and Baroness locally and the Baron and Baroness are expected to represent their Barony's interests in dealings with the Crown, there is no suggestion in Middle Kingdom Law that a landed Baron and Baroness must be in fealty, nor is there any direction for a Baron and Baroness to accept fealty on behalf of the Crown.

At present in the Midrealm, swearing fealty through a feudal overlord is not done, except by those Knights and Squires who believe the Knight's fealty binds his or her Squires (see note 10). This is more an issue for the Knight's and Squire's consideration than for the Crown's. One Squire will swear his own fealty to the Crown when the opportunity presents itself (see note 11) while another will not, being bound to her Knight and considering herself thus bound to the Crown. Both are Squires; both wear the same silver chain as token of fealty. Go figure.

After examining the way the Midrealm sets up what some would allege to be feudal relationships, I think it's evident that the Middle Kingdom is not truly a feudal society. While we have a hierarchy of ranks (see note 12), as far as relationships go we have what can best be described as a "feudal Eggo waffle" in lieu of a feudal pyramid. In this case imagine:

the populace as a whole is a large, flat, round waffle,

those Knights who bring their Squires' fealty with them are a very small pat of butter on top of the waffle (see note 13); and

the Crown is the maple syrup on top of everything.

While this metaphor is more than slightly absurd, it portrays in graphic terms my belief that our society is a broad population base with, in most cases, a single feudal level set over us, the Crown, therefore, is assumed to be well up the body of the pyramid to begin with (see note 14). Still, a pyramid's a pyramid and an Eggo is an Eggo, and a rose is a rose is a rose, but let's keep Royal Consorts out of this discussion.

Enough about flowers and breakfast foods. Corpora acknowledges the existence of fealty in the Society (in the sections on Peerages) but goes no further than mere acknowledgement. This is explicitly meant to leave broad scope for each Kingdom to interpret, develop and maintain its own version of fealty (according to the index of the SCA Organizational Handbook, which includes Corpora). Kingdom Law goes a little farther in acknowledging the existence of fealty. Midrealm Law sets out the text of certain oaths but does not attempt to define, describe or limit a vassal's fealty.

Fealty as a word carries a great deal of baggage with it. We all have certain preconceptions of what "being in fealty" or "swearing fealty" means. One person's set of preconceptions won't necessarily match another's. Fealty, in its most idealized sense, and living up to the obligations of such a pure form of fealty are at the heart of the Arthurian myths of chivalry (see note 15). As a result I believe that fealty is a very important, though indistinct, part of what makes the SCA the SCA. The power of this mythic institution is acknowledged in both Corpora and Middle Kingdom Law, which is why the specifics of fealty in the Society are left vague. Like so many other things in, around and about the SCA, you can't really define how ideal, "true" fealty works (or is supposed to work) but everyone recognizes it.

All relationships within the SCA other than fealty are considered informal by the Society. The nature of any such informal relationship is subject to negotiation between the parties concerned. Any recognized student of a Peer (Squire to a Knight or Master at Arms, Apprentice to a Laurel, Protégé to a Pelican) has entered a relationship with that Peer (i.e. you can't be a Knight's Squire without having a relationship of some sort with that Knight). While the details of these relationships will vary from case to case, the existence of such relationships is acknowledged universally in the Society. Such relationships are based upon personal service given by the student in exchange for teaching by the Peer, but terms and conditions for these contracts (for an agreement regarding services rendered and received is a contract) vary, subject to the mutual agreement of the parties involved. The universal constant is that Peers are expected to teach and they will develop ongoing relationships of some form or other with students as part of that teaching relationship. It is up to both student and teacher to set forth their expectations when they negotiate their contract.

While the SCA acknowledges that households (see note 16) will form within its framework, the scope and structure of households are not officially defined by the Society. Relationships in a household (or between households) can take virtually whatever form the parties involved agree to, subject to two restrictions (discussed below); note the emphasis on mutual consent. Different houses have different standards or operate on different principles. It can be embarrassing to assume all houses are working along the same lines or are moving in the same directions. Family ties (recognized by modern civil law) have no official impact on SCA "play" relationships, though marriage and parenthood are acknowledged by most SCAdians while playing the game (spouses and children tend to belong to the same SCA household, anyway). SCAdian "family ties" such as blood- or sword-brotherhood, squire-brotherhood and "fostering" of young people are like household relationships for official purposes.

Note that by SCA and Kingdom Law no-one can enter into an inherently degrading relationship such as slavery; no one may use the structure or activities of the SCA to assume such a position of domination (or degradation). No SCA house or guild may exist to promote or practice assassination, as such behaviour is not chivalrous. These are the only restrictions placed on households in the Society.

So what?

Contracts or no, titles or no, your friends are still your friends and you play with and party with those groups of people you choose to associate with and who will accept you. You offer service or don't, and deliver the service offered or don't, as it suits you.

If you don't swear fealty and have no intention of swearing fealty, you can still attend events, hold local and Baronial offices, go to Pennsic, fight in most tournaments and wars and generally be a SCAdian. You don't have to be in fealty to fight in Coronet Tourney; you merely have to acknowledge before you enter the List that if you win the day you will swear fealty to the Crown.

If you are a person who does swear fealty to the Crown you get to do all the same things someone who is not in fealty can do, but you also can call the King and Queen "My Liege" (which implies being a vassal). Depending upon the sumptuary laws of the Kingdom you are in, you may be able to wear an unadorned silver chain as a token of the weight of fealty; whoopee.

All other obligations in any SCA relationship are up to each individual's own sense of honour. If someone has entered into fealty, it seems reasonable to assume that the individual in question would offer service to his or her Crown on the Crown's request (help at an event site, participation at a War or payment of a "tax" in the form of service directed). Is failure to offer such service, if requested and if practical for you to provide, violation of fealty? I believe so, in the strict sense of the definition. If someone violates an oath of fealty, what happens? Not much; I'm sure people let the Crown down all the time. Strictly speaking, if the King and Queen got upset about this, the offender could be banished by the Crown from its presence, which means the banished person can't attend Court and is obliged to stay out of the King's and Queen's sight at events. In most cases that's about it for punitive measures available to the Crown for a violation of fealty (see note 17). It's not much, except for the knowledge that, by failing to live up to your fealty, you've failed to uphold your own personal honour (see note 18).

In order to be a King (which implies being a Crown Prince first), a Prince of a Principality, a Landed Baron, a Knight or a Great Officer of State you will be expected to swear fealty. In the Midrealm, for all this list except a Knight (to the best of my understanding), if for good cause you are unable to swear fealty (i.e. you're a Quaker and cannot in good conscience swear an oath to a temporal ruler -- see note 19), you may otherwise affirm in Court your loyalty to the Crown in a manner acceptable to Crown and yourself, the individual concerned. It isn't an oath of fealty, but it is a public declaration of an honourable personal relationship with the Crown including a willingness to serve, which might as well be fealty for our purposes.

Within any other relationship (such as in a household), the duties, responsibilities and prerogatives are established by the parties concerned. Such an agreement is enforced only by those parties, and such relationships have only one sanction, which is the abrogation of the relationship. Unless the household is violating SCA by-laws by its very existence (for example, a house made up of bigots dedicated to practising racism at SCA events), my understanding is that the Society will not interfere with the operations of any household.

Fealty was, in period, a two-way contract. In purely fiscal, concrete terms, the vassal provided goods and services as negotiated -- even if the negotiations were somewhat one-sided -- and the overlord provided protection. In the SCA there is no such tangible token of the Crown's relationship with the vassal. The Crown serves the entire populace, regardless of fealty; the subject bound in fealty is making a public declaration of his or her intention to offer service to the Crown ("to serve where serve I might" in the Midrealm oath -- see note 20). SCA fealty, in this interpretation, is a voluntary vote of confidence in the Crown cast by a subject: it is also an ill-defined promise of service by the subject to the Crown.

Looking at fealty in this light, it becomes apparent that swearing fealty in the Middle Kingdom today is a one-way arrangement where the vassal gives and the Crown takes on behalf of the Kingdom and the Society (see note 21). If this analysis is valid (ignoring the Crown's service to the Kingdom as a whole, which is meant to be impartial -- see note 22), why do people bother to swear fealty at all? Part of the reason is tied up with the romantic baggage mentioned above. A more direct reason may be that fealty is a form of relationship which is very uncommon today, and people swear fealty to do something different with their lives and relationships in the Society.

Relationships in the SCA are an opportunity to explore and experiment with ethics and codes of conduct very different from modern ones. The role of personal honour is not a virtue emphasized in modern society. Honour is paramount in all SCA relationships, regardless of the persona or period of history being recreated by either party. How an individual defines or perceives honour will indicate how that individual exercises his service or displays his loyalty. In many respects this makes these relationships very romantic and idealistic. It also makes them very individual; one person's ideals are not necessarily another's (see note 23).

Relationships among groups of people often reflect a specific cultural (see note 24) or social bias. There are Viking houses of people who behave towards each other (see note 25) in the way Vikings would have, for example. This sort of relationship can be set up to reflect any period of time or cultural background. From this interest in exploring cultural bias come such groups we play with as the Dark Horde, the Rozakii and (to offer a comprehensive view of the Pennsic War, which isn't really an SCA event any more but reflects much SCA culture) the Tuchux. It doesn't mean that a Hordie would be recognized as being a Mongol in the 13th Century (see note 26), nor does it mean a Tuchuk would be recognized anywhere in terrestrial history by anyone unfamiliar with misinterpreted pulp science-fiction. It does mean a Hordie will recognize and be comfortable with another Hordie, which is what those two people care about in the end. The same goes for two Tuchux, two Rozakii or two members of any other house in the SCA. This emphasis on historical bias does not acknowledge that we as individuals have our own biases that will be reflected in those persons with whom we associate. Also, it does not reflect the fact that the SCA is a Society with its own distinctive culture. Household affiliations will reflect the dynamics of that SCA culture as well as the historical culture being recreated.

From an individual perspective, relationships are a frame within which we display our own behaviour. This behaviour is meant to offer evidence of how we "play the game" and reveals the underlying premises upon which an individual's version of the SCA is built. There are households of warriors "grim-sworn to die" on the field at Pennsic, households of party animals and households of authenticity fanatics. There are even households of folks who simply enjoy being together and don't get uptight about whether or not being in the same house means they are required to avenge each others' deaths, wear black clothing, call the head of the house "Mom" or whatever.

The same flexibility in relationships extends to fealty. If you dislike the King or don't agree with the way he does things are you going to give him your fealty? For some people the answer is yes; the person is less significant than the office and the institution. In these cases fealty is probably an affirmation of commitment to the Kingdom, the Society or, for the less jaded among us, "The Dream"(Ô ). For some people the answer is no, because they think that particular King is a thud-puck and a better one will be along in a few months, all being well. Either answer is valid for that person and neither is right or wrong.

Another way the SCA displays flexibility is in its attitude towards personal relationships. A member of the SCA doesn't have to swear fealty or belong to any household. On the other hand, you can belong to as many households as you want. I do not know of any rule or regulation which forbids a SCAdian to swear fealty to more than one Crown, though my impression is that, if apprised of it, the Royalty concerned would discourage such a situation as a potential conflict of honour and loyalty.

The problem with multiple, concurrent relationships is that at specific times (such as at War) one tie or another has to take precedence. It's very hard to fight on both sides of a battle at once, for example. This is an entirely authentic historical dilemma, of course (see note 27). In SCA terms, certain compromises can be arranged (another example of the individual negotiation essential to any of these relationships -- see note 28) but eventually a decision will have to be reached.

Again, so what? You as an individual can arrange whatever network of inter-personal bonds you wish. This network can confuse those trying to figure out what you do and why you do it in order to play with you more effectively. It can also confuse you in your role as the individual who has to try to live up to your word. In a Society that is built at least in part upon honour, living up to your word is a rather important task. I think life is tricky enough without having to trip over the web of alliances you set up for yourself.

Fealty in the Middle Ages was a matter of life-and-death importance. Fealty in the SCA is now much like honour, an abstract concept. Fealty is, of course, linked inextricably with personal honour also. Our actions within the panorama of the SCA are the tangible representation of these abstracts (see note 29). The only person affected directly by these abstracts is you. Indirectly, your behaviour and attitudes impact upon everyone who tries to interact with you in the Society, for good or for ill. I believe that your satisfaction with the game you play and the enjoyment of those around you is dictated ultimately by how you display these abstract concepts in your daily life as a SCAdian. Please note that I did not try to identify which abstracts you may choose to convey; I think the most important point is that, once you make a choice (for example, on whether or not to swear fealty), stick to it and act with consistency, honesty and conviction. In other words, I suggest you try to act with honour in all your personal relationships. Such is the mark of gentle station, courteous manner and chivalry, and in my estimation the recreation and exploration of these things in an historical setting is what sets the SCA apart from the other activities in our lives.

Looking ahead a year or two, I would assume that, as the population of the Middle Kingdom continues to grow and the number of active groups increases, the Crown will find it impossible to attend all the event commitments which will present themselves (see note 30). In such a situation we may see the Crown forced to delegate more of the responsibility for accepting fealty to individuals holding what are in truth feudal positions. In this case the Kingdom will be nudged by circumstance into what I believe is a more authentic, feudal approach to the Crown's ties to the populace. It will be interesting to discover what will result. Will fealty to the Crown become even less personal than it is now, or will the renewal of lower levels of fealty add interest and vitality to what now is little more than an empty formality? I believe circumstance will force the Crown's hand, which will add perspective to our recreation of what were, no doubt, historical problems for the Royalty of the times we study.

NOTES to this essay:

Note 1: According to Middle Kingdom law, only the Prince and Princess of a Principality, a Great Officer of State and a Knight must swear fealty. However, I have never seen a Landed Baron, Landed Baroness, Crown Prince or Crown Princess who was not expected to swear fealty.

Note 2: Remember, chivalry is a virtue all should strive to attain; Chivalry are Knights and Masters at Arms. The Chivalry should be paragons of chivalry.

Note 3: Corpora states that an individual may be a Knight or a Master at Arms; you cannot be both at the same time.

Note 4: There is some debate in learned circles about the colour of chain worn by a Master-at-Arms who places himself in fealty. Some say his chain is silver, as he is not a Knight; others say he is a member of the Order of Chivalry and Peers of that Order in fealty wear gold chains. These arcane questions are best left to heralds and philosophers.

Note 5: They also say those particular words because Tolkein wrote them in the Lord of the Rings, which is neither here nor there. I confess I'd love to know what Tolkein's source was, though.

Note 6: As is the case in Canadian law and procedure, where oaths of office and citizenship proclaim one's allegiance to the present Queen, her heirs and successors.

Note 7: This is a genuinely feudal distinction; Eastrealm Peers are given the opportunity to swear personal fealty in Court, while the remainder of the populace are not.

Note 8: No doubt one root cause for the Midrealm's aversion to emphasizing the personality of the King is the disastrous reign of Michael of Boarshaven. The Lives of the Midrealm Kings identifies Michael's reign as the cause of the reform of Midrealm Law and increased influence of the Curia. Just as in the Middle Ages, increased influence exercised by the nobility and civil service tends to limit the direct influence of the Crown on the populace.

Note 9: Given the size of the Middle Kingdom, this is another point which Monarchs then and now have in common.

Note 10: Note that "Squire" is a position in a Knight's house. It is not a rank, it's a job. Not all Squires are better fighters than non-Squires. A Squire does not even have to be a fighter, if the Knight believes he or she has something to teach that person off the List field. Not all the Society's Knights were Squires before receiving the accolade.

Note 11: There is nothing in Kingdom Law which directs that a Squire must be in fealty to the Crown. If the Squire is not bound by her Knight's fealty and then decides not to swear personal fealty, if the Squire still a Squire? I suppose that's up to the Knight after discussing the situation with the Squire, which in itself would be a form of negotiation.

Note 12: Ranks which convey no power or authority, except for the Crown which is, according to Corpora, the chief executive of one of fifteen (soon to be sixteen!) regional organizations in the SCA.

Note 13: Their Squires are the bit of waffle immediately below the pat of butter, which is a very small portion of the entire waffle.

Note 14: The feudal pyramid was also linked inextricably with the concept of the great chain of being, where everyone and everything had its place in a rigid hierarchical society. The pinnacle of the pyramid, above the King, was God (or the Pope and then God, depending on whose version of the pyramid you were looking at). As the SCA is constituted so as to specifically omit religion from our activities, with no pinnacle the pyramid flattens immediately (though not necessarily to an Eggo waffle). This flattening effect of course also reflects the fact that we are subjects by choice. Unlike the medieval vassal, we have the option of "voting with our feet", which changes everything.

Note 15: As well, part of the tension of Mallory's Morte d'Arthur arises from the contradiction inherent in Lancelot, the perfect Knight (and thus the perfect feudal vassal) who has seduced his overlord's wife.

Note 16: Different kingdoms develop different types of household. In the Midrealm, houses are often headed by Peers as part of their prerogative to take dependants and teach them, though many other people have set up houses also. In the Midrealm it's customary that when a member of a house becomes a Peer of the Realm, he or she then sets up a house separate from the new Peer's original house. In the East, Peers often stay in their original house while taking on dependants of their own. As a result, Eastern "super-houses" like Haus Von Halstern have developed, with a great deal of political power.

Note 17: If the violation of fealty was part of another, serious offense against chivalry or the common good, it is conceivable that a Court of Chivalry could be called by the Earl Marshal. This has never happened in the Middle Kingdom. For details on Courts of Chivalry, please refer to Article XII of the Laws of the Middle Kingdom.

Note 18: Which leads to a new thesis for cynics; the driving force behind SCA fealty may be guilt. For more optimistic folks, this might read the driving force behind SCA fealty is a desire to improve.

Note 19: Herein lies another matter for personal interpretation. Is the person swearing an oath of fealty or is the persona? Is there a difference between the SCA persona and the modern person in matters of conscience? Some people say yes, others say no. How you answer this question will probably say a great deal about how you approach SCA relationships. It also suggests where you draw the line between reality and fantasy in your SCA activities, but that's another essay entirely.

Note 20: As was pointed out by Baron Aaron Swiftrunner, this places the onus on the vassal to find ways to serve. The vassal is offering his service, swearing to take the initiative in that service; there should be no need to wait for explicit or implicit direction from the Crown. This too is a power and freedom unavailable to most of medieval society.

Note 21: In many ways this isolates the Crown more than the populace. While the individual vassal only needs to worry about his loyalty to the Crown, the King and Queen are scrambling to keep up with all the people doing things for them or giving them gifts. In a situation like this, the Crown has little choice but to settle back, away from the familiar faces in the front row at Court, and be available for all their vassals to use as a focus for their efforts.

Note 22: Can you imagine the fuss if the Crown only gave out awards to people in fealty? It would be a very authentic approach for the Crown to take, and the insurrection that resulted would have a very authentic cause.

Note 23: Nor do ideals transfer from country to country or place to place, or even across time. A SCAdian Viking's treatment of strangers (or close family) will differ from an Arabian Muslim's or a Japanese Samurai's. A certain degree of cultural sensitivity is required; in period a Scotsman would probably get very upset if his host carried a sword to the dinner table, while many (but not all) Samurai personas seem to carry their swords with them everywhere.

Note 24: It can be argued with some success that all SCA households reflect primarily the culture of the Society, embellished with historical trappings.

Note 25: And sometimes how they behave towards others. This is one of the major causes of friction between the SCA and the Tuchux at Pennsic. Among other sources of tension, the Tuchux play their game by a different set of rules and seem to expect all their interaction with SCAdians to be according to those rules. To be fair, the same statement applies to SCAdians in their dealings with Tuchux. But that's another topic.

Note 26: Not all members of the Horde have Mongol personae; it's hard to mistake a Viking for a Mongol. From my outsider's view, the Dark Horde is less about recreating a period of history and more about recreating a group ethic of acceptance, co-operation and trust. Again, I see this as more an exploration of the SCA culture or counter-culture than historical re-enactment.

Note 27: See Barbara Tuchmann's A Distant Mirror to discover how the seventh Count de Coucy handled his version of this conundrum in the 14th Century. This same problem recurred in 18th Century Scotland; according to John Prebble, several noble families had sons on both sides at the battle of Culloden in 1746.

Note 28: For example, a person with divided loyalties might fight two of the four major battles at Pennsic for one side and two for the other. In my opinion, this a very honourable approach to take, assuming all interested parties understand what is happening and why. If they don't, unhappiness can result.

Note 29: To quote the Anglican Catechism's definition of a sacrament, "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace". 

Note 30: Consider that in a six month reign (26 weekends) a future King and Queen may be expected to attend: their own Coronation; the Crown Tourney to select their heirs; the Coronation of those heirs at the end of the reign (the first three are required by Midrealm law); two Coronet Tourneys, one each for Ealdormere and Northshield; and two separate Principality Investitures. That's over a quarter of the reign committed before opening an event flyer, and doesn't count other fixtures on the calendar like one or more RUM sessions, the Kingdom Arts and Sciences competition, Their Majesties' Birthdays, Kingdom Twelfthnight, War (Estrella. Lilies, Gulf or Pennsic), War practices, Border Raids, Curia meetings, Peerage meetings, local events attended by Royalty from other Kingdoms and visits to neighbouring Kingdoms. Add on a couple of mundane family or work commitments and the Royal calendar fills very quickly.

Personal Relationships within the framework of the SCA




Nature of relationship





Formal, Compulsory

A function of a Knight's estate. Does not cross Kingdom borders.



Prince/Princess of a Principality/ Landed Baron/Baroness

Formal, Compulsory

A function of holding land in fief from the Crown. Cannot cross Kingdom borders. This is compulsory to all intents and purposes for a Landed Baron and Baroness. See relevant comments in the essay.



Great Officer of State

Formal, Compulsory

Part of holding a Great Office, especially membership in the King's Council ("Curia"). Cannot cross Kingdom borders.



Any other subject, including a Court Baron and Baroness, a Master- or Mistress-at-Arms or any other Peer

Formal, Voluntary

A personal relationship between subject and Crown. Should not cross Kingdom borders.

May be Fealty



Informal or Formal, Negotiated

The Squire may consider himself to be in fealty to the Crown through his Knight, though this is not historically incorrect. If this is not the case, the Squire may swear fealty like any other subject.


Master at Arms



Includes household membership. May cross Kingdom borders.



Apprentice or Protégé


Includes household membership. May cross Kingdom borders.

Contractual or Familial

One individual

Another individual or group


Usually a membership in an SCA house. May cross Kingdom borders.


One individual

Another individual


Widely recognized as "kin ties". May cross Kingdom borders.

Copyright 1996, 1998 Arthur McLean. All rights reserved.