Unto the Kingdom, greetings from Kameshima Silver Buccle! With the recent announcement by our Eastern neighbors regarding the precedence of some of their awards, there have been a lot of questions raised about exactly what precedence is, and how it is applied in certain technical situations. Never fear, your Friendly Neighborhood Kingdom Herald is here with the answers!
What exactly is precedence, anyway?
Remember that the SCA attempts to recreate a Western European style medieval society. In that time, we were a much more class-oriented society than we are now, so people were defined a lot more by their rank in society. Now, in the SCA we assume that everyone is at least a minor noble so that nobody has to be a peasant, but we’ve defined three general “ranks” of precedence:
- An Award of Arms (or “AoA”) is the first rank, and allows you to use the title of “Lord” or “Lady.” Most people will receive their Award of Arms by itself. However, if you are made a member of the Order of the Golden Alce, Golden Stirrup, Keystone or Sycamore, membership in those orders conveys an Award of Arms if you don’t already have one. For this reason, those four awards are known as “AoA-level orders.”
- A Grant of Arms (“GoA”) is the second rank, and allows you to use the titles of “Honorable Lord/Lady” or “Lordship/Ladyship.” Some Kingdoms will give lots of what are called “naked Grants” — how scandalous! — which means the recipient is given a Grant of Arms without membership in one of the “Grant-level orders.” In Æthelmearc, however, that is relatively rare; most people receive their GoA along with membership in one of the Grant-level orders: the Fleur d’Æthelmearc, the Gage, the Golden Lance of Æthelmearc, the Millrind, the Scarlet Battery, the Scarlet Guard, the White Horn, and the White Scarf of Æthelmearc. Landed Barons and Baronesses are also given Grants of Arms, if they don’t already have them, when they are invested.
A Patent of Arms (“PoA”) is the third and highest rank, and is reserved for members of the Peerage Orders (Knights, Laurels, Masters at Arms, Masters of Defense, Pelicans, and the Royal Peers). Each of these Orders has its own titles that go along with it.
It can’t be that easy.
Well… it’s not. Within each rank, there are further levels. Each Kingdom has the right to rank these slightly differently, but in Æthelmearc, here’s the much more detailed breakdown, from highest to lowest:
- Dukes and Duchesses
- Counts, Earls and Countesses
- Viscounts and Viscountesses
- Other Peerages (Knights, Laurels, Masters at Arms, Masters of Defense, Pelicans)
- Those with Patents of Arms but no Patent-level Orders (there are none that I know of, but it could happen)
- Ladies of the Rose and Garnet
- Landed Barons and Baronesses
- Former Landed Barons and Baronesses
- Grant-level Orders (see above)
- Those with Grants of Arms but no Grant-level Orders
- Court Barons and Baronesses
- AoA-level Orders (see above)
- Those with Awards of Arms but no AoA-level Orders
- Those with “non-armigerous awards” (awards that have no precedence attached to them)
- Those who have not yet received any awards
What category am I in, and where do I fit within it?
You’re in whatever category corresponds to the highest award you’ve gotten in the SCA. If you have an AoA and nothing else, you’re in category 13. If the next thing you get is a Millrind, you’ve jumped up to category 9. If you then get a Sycamore, you’re… still in category 9.
The people in each category are ranked by seniority, based on the first time you got into that category. So, if you got your first Grant-level award 5 years ago, you’d be above someone who got their first Grant-level award 2 years ago, but below someone who got theirs 10 years ago. The number of Grant-level awards you have doesn’t matter. If you have 2 and I have 1, but I got my 1 before you got either of yours, I still outrank you.
Peerages, and even Royal Peerages, work the same way. No matter how many times someone serves as monarch, for example, once they’re a Duke or Duchess, that’s where they’ll be in the Order of Precedence (or “OP”). If I’ve been King five times, and you’ve been King twice, but you became a Duke before I did, you outrank me, period, end of story. Similarly, no matter how many different Peerages someone has, it’s just the date of the first one that counts.
How can I see my awards and who’s around me?
Go to the Order of Precedence page of the Æthelmearc College of Heralds web site. Click the “Alphabetically” link on the left side to see everyone’s awards listed alphabetically by name, or the “Order of March” link to see everyone listed in Precedence order. Search for your name to find out where you rank!
This is also great when you’re thinking about writing a letter to the Royalty to recommend someone for an award. You can use this to check who already has an award, and who might have been overlooked! (“What do you mean, this person’s been playing for 15 years and don’t have an AoA?!”)
What about people from out of Kingdom? How do their awards equate?
Each Kingdom has their own AoA and/or Grant-level awards. (Some Kingdoms have one or the other; some, like us, have both.) All Kingdoms observe the same Peerages. So, if someone who became a Duke in, say, Atenveldt 40 years ago moved to Æthelmearc, their “spot” in the OP would still have those 40 years of seniority. A Grant of Arms in one Kingdom is just as good as a Grant of Arms in another, and all those with Grants of Arms are treated equally within a Kingdom.
That means it’s very important that, if you move to a new Kingdom, you should look on their Kingdom Heraldry web page, find their Deputy Herald for the Order of Precedence, and make sure they know that you’ve moved in and where they can find your current Precedence Listing.
(Remember what I said earlier, though, about different Kingdoms ranking the categories slightly differently. A Court Barony, for example, might be ranked higher or lower in another Kingdom than they are here!)
Each Kingdom’s awards, protocols, the reasons behind why they made the precedence and award decisions that they did, and so on, are a few fascinating facets of what we call Inter-Kingdom Anthropology, which is a fancy term for “being an SCA geek about more than one Kingdom.” Inter-Kingdom Anthropology, or IKA, is one of those things that people like heralds and historians love to dig into. If it’s something that interests you too, talk to your local herald or historian, or your Kingdom Herald or Historian, for more details.
OK, I’ve got the basics. Now tell me about what the East just did.
So the East Kingdom has the Orders of the Tygers Combatant, Silver Crescent, Maunch, Golden Rapier, Golden Lance of the East, and Sagittarius. Up until now, those were AoA-level Orders. However, recently, Their Majesties Brennan and Caoilfhionn — for those of you not familiar with Gaelic, by the way, that’s pronounced “KEE-linn” — decided to change East Kingdom law and make them Grant-level Orders instead. That’s the easy part.
The tricky part is this: “Furthermore, included in this change, the existing Companions of the aforesaid Orders shall be considered to have received a Grant of Arms retroactively to the date of the original induction into their first Order of High Merit.” That means that, if you got your first Grant-level award (let’s say your Maunch) 10 years ago, and you haven’t gotten anything higher since, your place in the Order of Precedence will now change to reflect the fact that you got a Grant of Arms 10 years ago.
This can affect other Kingdoms because of what I said earlier about a Grant of Arms in one Kingdom being just as good as a Grant of Arms in another. If you’re that person I just talked about who got your Maunch 10 years ago, but you live in Æthelmearc now, your precedence order in our OP can change because now you’re higher in precedence than all the young whippersnappers who got their Millrinds and Gages last week.
So who does this affect?
This affects only those people who:
- Has one or more of those Orders, and
- Had no Grant of Arms or Grant-level Orders before that, and
- Has no higher-precedence awards (that’s anything in categories 1-8 of my list up above) either before or since.According to our Precedence Deputy Herald (Golden Alce Herald), that’s about 75 people in the entire Kingdom of Æthelmearc. So, not a whole lot of people. But for those people, it’s very important! I have other questions…Great! We love questions! (Why is the sky blue? So it will have good contrast with the clouds, of course!) If you’re interested in learning about precedence, or other aspects of heraldry, you can contact any of the following people:
- Me! at email@example.com
- Baron Malcolm fitzWilliam, Keystone Herald (Education Deputy) at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Drotin Jorundr hinn Rotinn, Golden Alce Herald (Precedence Deputy) at email@example.com