Planning a Peerage Ceremony

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Introduction

You've been informed by the Crown that your friend, vassal, or significant other is going to be elevated to the peerage - great news! But now you have to take care of the ceremony. What do you have to do? What gets taken care of for you? This article will briefly describe the elements of the elevation and help you understand what you need to take care of.

"To be opened in case of peerage..."

At a certain point in one's SCA career, it can be useful to think about creating a set of instructions for others to use should the Crown chose to elevate them to the peerage. This candidate might document these preferences long before being considered for a peerage, and let people know what he or she would like for the ceremony so their friends don't need to ask and spoil the surprise (assuming they prefer to be surprised).

If you know that your friend, vassal, or significant other has such a letter, by all means use it. Consider having one for yourself, just in case.

To writ, or not to writ

A practice seeing increasing use in the East Kingdom is the issuance of a writ. A writ is where the Crown calls someone into court and says "We plan to offer you a peerage at a future event." A writ allows for an element of surprise for the recipient, while still allowing him or her to express preferences for the occasion. (A writ also makes sure the recipient shows up to the event for the peerage ceremony.) Writs are not mandatory or even customary. Some people prefer them, and some Crowns prefer to issue them. You can discuss a writ with the Royal Scheduler when work out the best path forward. When the Crown issues a writ, it gets a lot easier to plan the ceremony since you can ask the recipient questions.

Overview of the ceremony

There are several elements of the peerage ceremony that need to be managed.

  1. Letting friends know
  2. The speakers from the various peerage orders
  3. The scroll
  4. The regalia (the medallion and other items)
  5. The vigil

Letting friends know

This is pretty straightforward. Let the recipient's friends and family know. The Crown tells only one person close to the recipient, and does not usually inform the Order. Do not assume the recipient's friends, spouse, or peer knows about the elevation just because you do. Get the word out. If the recipient is a squire, apprentice, protege, provost, or other vassal of a peer, and you are not that peer, start with talking to that peer. He or she will likely know many details and will have a strong interest in being involved.

The Speakers

Traditionally, a representative from each of the peerage orders speaks for the recipient. This means having one member each of the Order of the Chivalry, the Order of the Laurel, the Order of the Pelican, the Order of Defense, and the Order of the Rose.

It's up to you to arrange the speakers - they won't show up by themselves or be provided by the Orders. A recipient usually has strong preferences regarding his or her speakers. Contact each of the speakers and ask them if they will speak for the recipient. Most peers are usually happy and honored to have the chance to speak for someone.

At the time of this writing, the Order of Defense is still fairly new, and is not large. It's possible that the recipient may not know a Master of Defense. That's OK. Even when the Order of Defense had only a few initial members, it spoke for a lot of people. Members of the Order of Defense are happy to arrange a speaker for someone. You can look at the Order of Defense page to see members of the order. If you are having difficulty contacting one, contact the Kingdom Rapier Marshal who can help put you in touch with someone from the Order.

In some kingdoms, there may be a speaker from the populace. This additional element has been used only rarely in the East. Given that there are already five speakers with the addition of the Order of Defense, and given that each speaker rarely speaks for less than two minutes, that is already at least ten minutes worth of speaking in addition to from the rest of the ceremony. If there are multiple peerages in a court, this time adds up fast. As such, it is better to avoid having a speaker from the populace unless the recipient feels very strongly about it.

It may be help to remind your speakers of the commitment as the event date approaches. In some cases, you may want back-up speakers ready in case someone doesn't make it in time (for example, at chaotic events like Pennsic).

The Scroll

This is one thing you don't have to do. The Tyger Clerk of the Signet handles the creation of scrolls for all awards. The Signet will assign an available scribe to create the scroll. That said, if the recipient has preferences regarding the scribe or wordsmith, contact the Signet Office to make those preferences known. Do not ask a friend to create the scroll directly; this can result in having two scrolls show up, which can create ill will all around. The Signet Office will take your preference into account when assigning the scroll.

If a writ is being issued, the Signet Office also assigns the creation of the writ.

The Regalia

Friends or household (or both) usually provide regalia for a peerage recipient. Some households have legacy medallions or other items that get passed on from one peer to the next. You and the recipient's household, friends, and peer should arrange for appropriate regalia.

Here is what each Order member typically receives:

  • Chivalry: A white belt/baldric, chain, often spurs. Sometimes a sword.
  • Laurel: A medallion. Sometimes a laurel wreath and/or cloak
  • Pelican: A medallion. Sometimes a cloak and/or a cap of maintenance
  • Defense: A white collar and a glove. Sometimes a cloak.

The Order of the Rose is different in many ways. The recipient knows of the occasion well in advance and the ceremony is typically planned by people who have a strong grasp of the ceremonies and preparation. As such, it is less likely that someone reading this article needs advice on how to prepare such a ceremony.

The Vigil

Most initial peerages today are preceded by a vigil. This is a period after the recipient is told about the impending elevation but before it happens, when the recipient has the opportunity to reflect on it, receive advice, and generally make sure he or she feels ready for it. Occasional vigils can run as long as weeks, but most are usually a few hours long: the Royalty most often sends the recipient off to vigil in the morning and the recipient is elevated in the afternoon. Someone receiving their second peerage typically does not have a vigil but there are exceptions.

Vigils are often pretty significant projects; you should recruit some help to work on it. If the candidate is in a household, the household will usually want to help out. Sometimes, the candidate's household will have strong vigil traditions -- if so, it is usually best to go with this.

Well in advance of the event, you should start working with the Event Steward to figure out where the vigil will take place. Vigils typically have a main space that has somewhere for the recipient and at least a couple of people to visit them at any given time; it also helps to have an anteroom for those who are waiting to visit. It's often best to do this inside, but many good vigils have been held using pavilions set up outside the main event area.

Make sure you arrange for appropriate furniture. Typically, this will include nice chairs for a few people, but some recipients have personae that are more suited to floor cushions. Rugs, wall hangings and candlelight can make even the most mundane room feel much more atmospheric.

Figure out who will be allowed to visit with the candidate. This varies from vigil to vigil, and is often subject to household traditions. Some people prefer that the vigil be open to anyone who wants to come visit, some want vigils only open to peers, and some prefer a vigil that's only open to the Order the candidate is being inducted in to.