A short while ago, I noticed a set of banners hanging at an event. They were the Arms of Æthelmearc with a wreath of roses in place of the Laurel wreath. I was saddened since it meant that a piece of the history of Æthelmearc had not been passed on to whoever put so much work into the banners.
When Æthelmearc was in the process of becoming a Principality, various members of the region to become Æthelmearc – peers, heralds, officers, etc. – were meeting on a regular basis to make decisions on such things as the Laws, Awards and the Heraldry of the Principality. And one of the topics was whether or not we should have Arms for the Princess and (eventually) Queen.
Many Kingdoms do. The East Kingdom, our parent Kingdom, does.
So, why don’t we?
Well, there are several reasons. Let’s start with the historical reason. No Kingdom in period had arms differentiated for the Queen/Consort. The ruler bore the arms of the Kingdom. Countries such as England have had both male and female rulers, and there were no different arms for them based on their gender. As a side note, what we do in the SCA doesn’t follow historical precedence anyway since, quite often, the arms of the ruler of a kingdom were either the personal arms of the ruler’s family or were differentiated by elements of such. Historically, it is pretty much a mess anyway. But the point is that there is no historic precedence for consort arms.
It is also now policy of the Society Herald (the Laurel Sovereign of Arms) that Consort Arms are no longer allowed to be registered. Certainly, Kingdoms and Queens may use the kingdom arms differentiated with roses if so desired, but they are no longer registered at the Society level.
Second, as per our Laws, the Crown speaks with one voice. They work together, rule together, and have one voice in matters of State where the Crown makes the decisions. In fact, when the various awards were being created (another small history lesson), the discussion of the Courtesy Order came up. In the East Kingdom, the award for Courtesy is the Queen’s award to give (and it is called the Queen’s Order of Courtesy). When we were discussing the Æthelmearc courtesy award, our then Prince objected to making it the purview of the Princess or Queen only – he said that, after all, he was perfectly capable of recognizing courtesy too. I could certainly give further examples – the champions are named and chosen by custom, not law, which allows the Crown to make their own decisions on how they wish to choose, and title, their Champions. There is nothing that dictates which Champions are specifically the King’s and which the Queen’s except custom and the Crown.
Third, while it has not happened in Æthelmearc yet, it could happen someday – who bears the “Queen’s Arms” if we have a woman win crown in her own right? The assumption inherent in having a set of arms that are specific to the Queen is that the King is the true ruler of the Kingdom and bears the Kingdom Arms. The Queen is simply his consort. Therefore, would a Queen in her own right bear the arms of the kingdom and her King the “Queen’s Arms” (with the wreath of roses??).
The ultimate decision was to not have specific differentiated arms for the Princess/Queen of Æthelmearc.
When Æthelmearc presented their arms for consideration, the Principal Herald of the East objected, stating that we were required to have arms for our Princess. When the argument was presented to the Laurel Queen of Arms, the Society Herald, she determined that there was nothing written that dictated we needed Princess’ arms and therefore if we didn’t want them, we didn’t have to have them.
And thus it was that Æthelmearc, by tradition, does not have arms for her Queens. She bears the arms of the kingdom as the Crown of Æthelmearc.