Monday, September 5, 2011

Court as a baseball game

This is the handout from my court class, which I taught for the first time at Pennsic this year. Feel free to reprint with credit to Master Liam St. Liam, Kingdom of the East.

How To Watch Court: A Guide In Nine Innings
A Class Taught at Pennsic XL
By Master Liam St. Liam, Shire of Glenn Linn, Kingdom of the East

Baseball is a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball. You catch the ball.
Sometimes, you win. Sometimes, you lose. Sometimes, it’s rain

From the movie “Bull Durham”

Court is a simple thing. You watch the court. You cheer the court. You follow the king out.
Sometimes, it’s long. Sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes, you’re the deer n the headlights

From “Stuff Master Liam says

Pre-game Warmups: Just like some of the warmup part happens in the locker room, so too does the warmup for court happen in the Royal Room and other places.

Most folks in the audience never think about this, but if you are a scribe and you have a scroll for court, one of the first things you do at an event is to find the royal room and get your scroll to the heralds who are running the event. (At a major court, it might go to the Tyger Clerk of the Signet or one of her deputies). These folks are usually in the royal room.

This, by the way is why you sometimes do not see your herald friends a lot during an event. They may be in the royal room helping to get the docket ready and get out whatever awards are ready to go out. There has been a lot of activity prior to this, including the pollings, letters of recommendation and arranging for people to be at an event.

As you get ready to walk to court, the activity level picks up. The king and queen come in and sign the scrolls, then smile and make last-minute changes to the docket, mainly to see the royal herald squawk like a chicken.

Meanwhile, the royal guard is setting up the stage with the royal thrones. Depending on the event, there may be a set of thrones for the prince and princess, a well. If the event is in a barony, the king and queen will invite the baron and/or baroness to sit in the court, so you might have six chairs up there all together.

This is where you come in and find a seat that lets you view the action, assuming any are left. Sometimes, the front row is reserved, but not always. From here on, the focus is on court. It is impossible to stress just how important it is to focus and not make small talk.

National Anthem: “Make way! Make way for Their Majesties Darius and Alethea, king and queen of our lands. Make way for Prince . . .” Well, you get the idea.

At this point, you stand, bow when the royals pass and sit when they say, “Please, take what comfort you may.”

 “Now batting for the Durham Bulls, the catcher Crash Davis. . . “

Throwing out the first pitch: And the herald says, “This opens the court of Their Majesties, King Darius and Alethea. Their Majesties would have before them . . . “

First Viking: Rider. Well-fed on a light mount. Perfume.
Second Viking: A woman?
First Viking: A herald.

From the movie “The 13th Warrior”

The starting lineup: (Who are all those people behind the thrones?”)

While the only people sitting will be the royalty and the baron/baroness, there can be 20 or more people standing behind them. These include the heralds and the back heralds. Heralds usually take turns, especially during a longer court, and the back heralds get the scrolls and awards read. The royals’ retinue is there. They keep the royals fed and watered. Then there’s the Queen’s Guard, people the queen has chosen to guard her. Finally, there are the kingdom champions, who have earned their place there by winning a tournament.

Cheer, cheer, cheer for the home team: We don’t usually use applause, but often there will be time for vivats or huzzahs or other happy noises. However, court is not the time to catch up on the latest gossip. Watch quietly so others can here. Yes, I mean you, in the back, with the coronet.

Early innings: The royal herald is, for all intents and purposes, the umpire. He keeps the game moving, and if he’s very good, you barely notice him.

There is an ebb and flow to court. Early on, the royals usually start with some Awards of Arms, the basic “You are a player-character and your friends think enough of you to ask us to give you an award.”

What long-time court-goers forget is that this is often the only award someone gets, so it’s important for the herald and the royals to make it special.. Usually what happens is the king and queen speak to the person, then say something to the effect of, “So We thought we would do this.”

In a clear and resonant voice, the herald reads the scroll so even the folks in the back can hear it. He/she has pre-read and is usually working from a typed version. He/she has practiced the award recipient’s name and does not confuse the king with the queen.

At that point, one of the royals will take the person by the hand, spin them around and say “I introduce to you for the first time, Lord Herger The Joyous.” As the person bows and leaves, the herald will say, “For Lord Herger . . .” and (depending on the kingdom lead the crowd in three “Vivats” or Huzzahs” or something else. (Note to Easterners and others: “Vivat” is the singular. If you are cheering a group, it’s “vivant.”

The royals may give some other awards, and they may have other business. People might have presentations, or they might want to swear fealty to the royals, or something else. Some will offer a token to those attending their first event or for another reason.

An experienced umpire, I mean Court herald, pointed out the following: "Peerage ceremonies also differ hugely. Some are pretty much a standard liturgy where things rarely deviate from the standard script; some are a standard liturgy With Symbolism (see: Calontir) and some tend to have unique ceremonies for every single new Peer, sometimes with as many as 12 people speaking. That is true here in Ealdormere.

Middle innings: Court, by the way, can be anywhere from five to 10 items to pushing 50 at a major event such as Birka, Mudthaw or 12th Night. This is where things hit their stride. The king and queen may call up the event steward or people who ran tournaments that day. They might announce winners and give prizes.

Note: If the event is a royal championship (champion of arms, rapier champions, Arts & Science champions, etc.), this often takes place as the very first item of business. The outgoing champions are called up, hand over their items of office, and then the new champions receive theirs and take their place behind the king.

Usually at this point, you will hear orders called up to court. “Their Majesties will have before Them Their Order of the Silver Crescent.” Sometimes they will do this after a person has been called up. (See: “Deer in the headlights.” In the East, there are five orders of high merit, which are polling orders. Someone recommends a person, the royals seek commentary and then the royals decide. There are orders for heavy weapons, rapier, service, arts & science and archery. No, overachievers, no one has all five at this time.

Often, the royals will give more than one, then either allow the companions to hug their new members at the front of the hall or send them to the back.

This may also be the time the royals give court baroncies or other awards.

Sometimes, the king or queen will get up and give a speech about something because He or She can. ;)

Late Innings: This is where the special awards come out, especially the peerages. There are three peerages in the SCA – the Order of the Chivalry for fighting, the Order of the Laurel for arts & sciences and the Order of the Pelican for service. The candidate has been polled based on their skill at one of those three areas, their teaching and work for the Society and their “peer-like qualities.” They have likely had a vigil at which people came and advised them, then stepped out of the vigil tent and ate tasty snacks.

During a peerage ceremony, the royals will ask for a member of each of the three peerages, plus a Lady of the Rose (former queen) to speak for the candidate. Then the person will receive the regalia of the order and get a scroll. The order will have been called up.

Post-game show: “There being no further business, this ends the court of King Darius and Queen Alethea . . .”

They process out, you bow when they go by, and that’s it. You may want to congratulate folks and ooh and ahh at their scrolls. You will notice the guards and others taking down the thrones. Ya know, maybe the event staff needs help putting the chairs away or getting the hall ready for the first or dancing . . .

John Kinsella: “Is this heaven?”
Ray Kinsella: “It's Iowa.”

From the movie “Field of Dreams”

Master Liam St. Liam
Bill Toscano on facebook and Google+


  1. Great post Liam. I think the next thing we might need is a drinking game for court. Especially the ones that last 3-4 hours.


  2. One thing that you might want to note is that baseba...I mean, Court will look slightly different in each Kingdom you attend. Different cheers, different Orders, and some Royalty like to mess with you and completely swap around the order of business and do one of the big awards first. Peerage ceremonies also differ hugely. Some are pretty much a standard liturgy where things rarely deviate from the standard script; some are a standard liturgy With Symbolism (see: Calontir) and some tend to have unique ceremonies for every single new Peer, sometimes with as many as 12 people speaking (Ealdormere does this).

    In Ealdormere, we also do our Baronial courts as part of the main court action--usually right after Royal Court opens, TRM then allow Their Excellencies (if they're in their home barony) to do their court.

    As for drinking games, that's definitely been done. There was a whole gang doing Court Bingo with shots at Ealdormere court at Pennsic. Someone finished their card right about the time Finnvarr got called up for his special recognition.

  3. Mercedes, I specifically clicked through to mention drinking games. There are challenges for awards, vivats, and (depending on the Crown) how many times the King flips his hair. :P