Thursday, September 8, 2011

A story from An Tir Crown

Ariel de Courtenay shared this.

It is long, but I think it's important.

It is the account of last Saturday's An Tir Crown Tournament where three same-gender couples attempted to enter.

The king and queen supported them and knew in advance.


A report on the presentation at Crown by Ariel…to the best of my memory, this is how it happened…

After various strategy conversations the night before with Their Majesties to clear up the final details, it was decided that the three same gender couples would simply march in the processional in the order of our precedence. As a nice twist, I am Bolverk’s squire and have the right to march with her, and Eduardo and Bolverk are close enough in An Tir precedence that no one happened to be entering Crown between them so, without any pretense, all three couples were already in line together.

The morning of the tournament, Bolverk, Eduardo and I, along with our consorts, went through the formalities of lining up at the kingdom list table, memberships and authorization cards in hand, to sign up for the tournament. Her Ladyship Janae, mistress of the lists of An Tir, smiled solemnly and demurred that she had been instructed that we must all appeal to Their Majesties. We thanked her, and went our way to armor up.

Eleven o’clock came around, and flying our new silk banners, we lined up in the hot sun. I went up and down the line giving out silk pennons reading “Inspirational Equality” to those wanting to fly them, and many, especially among the Royal Retinue, were already wearing the bright silk arm bands we had passed out earlier. As a surprise bonus, my new student Ogier showed up just in time to be my banner bearer, adding gravity to our delegation.

Although I usually enjoy speaking to a crowd, I was ridiculously nervous about this presentation, and as we waited in line, I repeated over to myself what I needed to say. I’m not sure why the sudden attack of nerves, but I guess it was because it felt both so important and so exposed—and Bolverk certainly didn’t help by insisting that we mix it up and let her go last (I knew she had something up her sleeve as usual, so I didn’t protest, but I think at that point, anything would have made me feel discombobulated…)

After not too long a wait, our group arrives at the front, and because of Bolverk’s rearranging, Eduardo is first. The heralds announce the names and Eduardo strides forward with Giovanni on his arm. In ringing tones he cries, “Your Majesty, as a Pelican of your counsel, I ask your permission to fight in your Crown tournament for the one who truly inspires me… for Giovanni……for my husband…for the father of my children…” (He chokes up at this point, pausing to regain his composure, and I look up to see the queen’s eyes brim over with tears…‘is she crying for us?’ I think…). Eduardo gathers himself to finish: “…I ask permission to fight for the one who makes all my contributions in the SCA possible.”

His Majesty Thorin looks over at Queen Dagmar (who, according to plan, should be the one to answer, but She is too stricken to speak) and so Thorin addresses Himself to the assembled, “Maestro Eduardo, I regret that until such time as the laws of Corpora allow the entry of same gender couples into Crown lists, I must refuse you entry into My crown lists, though it truly grieves Me to do so.”

“Then do we have Your support to appeal this issue to the Board of Directors?” asks Eduardo. “You have Our full permission and support,” affirms the king.

Eduardo and Giovanni bow and take their leave, and after a moment of silence, a smattering of hesitant applause turns into a warm ovation. We have everyone’s attention now. The gathered populace quiets and waits to see what comes next.

Heart pounding, I hear the heralds announce my name and then Sarah’s. The corner of my mind notices that someone has added “Defender of the West” to Sarah’s announcement. This is a title she was granted at An Tir/West War by Their Majesties of the West for being one of the responders to a serious aid call. (Sarah used to be a paramedic.) Who knew this and added it? I feel supported by unseen hands.

We step forward and Sarah and I kneel before Their Majesties. It flashes through my mind again how grateful I feel to my girlfriend—here she is, only in her second tourney season, having ventured into the society almost entirely out of support for me, joining me here on this crazy journey—a journey which has now brought us to the point of kneeling before Their Majesties’ assembled court and populace to make a petition we know will be refused. What a way to meet the SCA!

“Your Majesties,” I say, rising, “As a Laurel of Your counsel, I ask Your permission to enter Your Crown lists” (I can’t look at Her Majesty or I will cry, so I turn and speak also to the crowd) “I presented myself to Your mistress of lists this morning and was refused. The lists asked me to direct my appeal to You. And I so I ask: may I fight for the one who truly inspires me?” I kneel again by Sarah’s side, having repeated the ritualized words each petitioner will say.

His majesty, for His part, repeats the respectful refusal He gave moments ago to Eduardo. I speak again to ask for Royal support to appeal to the Board. Again, His Majesty grants it, and in our turn, Sarah and I bow and step aside, joining Eduardo and Giovanni behind the already proclaimed entrants. This time, as we walk out of court, the applause is immediate and it is my turn to blink back tears.

The heralds finally announce Lady Bolverk (don’t ever say “Sir” or she’ll bite your head off) and with her, Mistress Bronwen, order of the Pelican. Bolverk bows and presents herself to the Crown, flinging wide her arms in her typical dramatic style.

“Your Majesties,” she begins, “today I do not fight inspired by my usual carnal desires,” (she waits for the roar of laughter to die down), “No, today, I am inspired by a higher ideal—by the tireless work of a great woman in our Kingdom, by Bronwen, the Kingdom scribe who created for me a most inspiring knight’s scroll, and a woman I am proud to call friend…And so, your Majesties, As a Knight of Your counsel, I ask for permission to do something very unusual in Your Tournament….Today I ask you:” (she draws out the pause for even greater dramatic effect) “…May a Muslim fight for a Christian?”

It is a masterstroke! The crowd is delighted. What better way to underline the arbitrary nature of the rules! What better way to slyly question how, in these Current Middle Ages, some identities are given weight while others are not. What better way to tumble the whole solemn moment on its head. I knew she was up to something! (In this flourish, I hear also the hand of her husband Master Gerhard—a playwright and political commentator of renown here in An Tir).

After the laughter and clapping finally subsides, the King smiles His private smile, looks again to Her Majesty who, smiling now through her tears, nods again, and for the third time, His Majesty repeats the refusal and reiterates The Royal support for appeal to the Board. The assembled populace applauds once more.

When at last the clapping dies down, Bolverk, always one to have the last word, bobs a quick bow and says, “Uh, ok…So if we’re not in the tournament, where do we stand?”


  1. Wow. Done with grace and class on all sides. And it's inspiring to see Lady Bolverk, who started her journey in Eoforwic many, many years ago when women were barely even allowed to fight, still fighting the good fight.

  2. ::tears welling:: beautifully and gracefully done. Vivant!