As of May 1st it will have been a year since the creation of the Society’s first Masters of Defense. Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope interviewed Duchess Dorinda Courtenay, Master Quinn Kerr, Mistress Illadore de Bedegrayne, and Master Iago Benitez to get their thoughts on the order one year on.
How do you think the creation of the Order of Defense has influenced the rapier community and the Society as a whole? What, if anything, has changed since it was implemented?
Dorinda: There is a sense of joy that is difficult to describe. People still fence and teach and serve, just like before, but the sting of being “ancillary” has greatly faded.
Quinn: I didn’t really expect changes, and didn’t know what it would do, so I was surprised at the impact across the board. Fencers have become more eager, and have been pushing their limits more.
Iago: It’s also been refreshing for long-time fencers. This group includes people who never had a peerage before and it’s really special.
Illadore: There’s been a lot of excitement – for instance, at Gulf Wars’ Opening Ceremony, the MODs and some vigilants from across the SCA gathered and there was a whole lot of love for the order. We feel so much more a part of the SCA now. As Dorinda noted, fencing used to be called an “ancillary” activity, but now it feels more like an integral part of the Society. MOD vigils have become huge affairs involving whole Kingdoms, which is glorious to see.
What has been the biggest challenge for you since becoming an Master of Defense (MOD)?
Illadore: Living up to expectations – both the Society’s expectations as a whole and my own. But on a more practical level, finding white livery collars is hard. There don’t seem to be merchants making them, and there’s a lot of variability of design across the Society. I ordered my personal collar custom-made from Billy and Charlie’s.
Dorinda: The most difficult thing about being a MoD is living up to it. (I swear I did not copy Illadore’s paper!)
How well are the MODs throughout the Society connected? Are they in agreement about what the traditions should be around the order? How have you seen traditions vary across Kingdoms? For instance, Master Urho Walterrinen seems to have single-handedly created a tradition here for pie on the MOD’s receiving a Writ or going on vigil….
Illadore: (Laughs) Yes, we have pie in Æthelmearc thanks to Urho. I’ve also been trying to make a tradition of MODs wearing white garters, which I’m helping along by knitting them for new members. The first vigilants for the MOD gathered on a private Facebook group to discuss what our traditions should be. There were a lot of strong personalities but no consensus on some things, like what to call our students or what symbols we should use to distinguish them. Although the order is pretty well established at this point, the MODs still talk both within and between Kingdoms.
Dorinda: The MoD’s have been connected since the second writs were announced. We talk often online, and meet at major interkingdom events. No, we do not agree on all traditions (such as what to call students or what to have them wear), but we are united in wanting this Order to be something worthy of the fencing community and the Crowns who elevated us.
How has your elevation influenced your relationship with any cadets you have? Have you “promoted” them to a different role?
Illadore: I am still in discussions with my cadets about what they want from me and what they want our relationship to be. I also don’t think its “promoted” – I think it’s a sign of what kind of relationship you have with that person, just like a red belt signifies that relationship between a knight and a squire. For regalia, some have used blue or red collars for their students. I call my students Scholars, and they wear red collars.
Dorinda: Through careful planning (ahem) I arranged to have no students at the time I was elevated to the Order. Problem solved. If I do take a student, I am leaning towards a blue collar and calling them a Scholar, but that could change.
What do you think the implementation of the MOD by the Crowns was done well, both in AEthelmearc and across the SCA? What could have been done better?
Dorinda: I think the Crowns of the Known World have done a marvelous job in elevating the people who have made the fencing community what it is today. They have done so in a measured way that has allowed each Kingdom to develop its traditions, and to honor each candidate in an appropriate way. The only thing I would hope people remember is that “They are not done.” Some people wonder why this person or that has not been elevated yet. The key word is “yet.” Many kingdoms have unrecognized MoDs, but the order in which they are elevated is not what is important. Be patient, and their day will come.
Quinn: Our royalty have been excellent. They’ve understood that the first dozen or so members of the order would have a tremendous impact and have been choosing carefully.
Iago: They were smart in the people they chose to elevate, making sure that the first few were spread geographically throughout the Kingdom so they were accessible to most of the fencing populace.
Illadore: The BoD was smart to limit the Crowns to making three MODs before consulting with the order, too. Knowing that the order supports you makes the new MODs’ elevations better. In the West, they polled all of the White Scarves to see who that order thought the first three MODs should be and in what order they should be elevated. That the White Scarves chose me as Principal actually meant more to me than the elevation itself. In 2014 the Western White Scarves met in expectation that the BoD would create the MOD, and voted not to advise the Crown on who should be elevated unless they were ordered to do so – which they were.
How has the relationship between the MOD and the White Scarves developed? Has the Order of the White Scarf changed since the creation of the MOD? Some Kingdoms actually closed their White Scarf orders, though Æthelmearc did not.
Dorinda: Perhaps the White Scarves should answer this. All I will say is that the White Scarves have not backed down from their tradition of leading the fencing community and serving her needs and the needs of those who have joined us recently. I believe the MoDs and the White Scarves are working as a team to keep the community growing and thriving.