Saturday, December 20, 2014

AoA for Fiora of Darton

I'm experimenting with some more texts with notary attestations.  In this case, Their Majesties had authorized the Baron and Baroness of Bhakail to give out the AoA on their behalf, so it seemed a fitting time for the use of an attesting official.   This particular text was jotted out on fairly short notice, as a favor to the scribe.   I based it off of a charter of Adelaide, Countess of Turin and Savoy (1083, April 22).   And adding penalty language to texts is always fun -- you can find our fairly quickly who is really listening to the scroll   ;-)

On Saturday, the 13th of December, in the forty-ninth year of the Society, in the Barony of Bhakail, in the presence of the Baron and Baroness thereof and of many other good persons of the Kingdom of the East, Edward and Thyra, King and Queen of the East, did cause the following to be read, declared and proclaimed:

Let it be known that Fiora of Darton is a good, honored and noble lady whose manifold good works are deserving of reward.  Therefore, we do by these present letters award her Arms in a form meet, just and fitting for one of her worth: ________________________________  So that this our decree shall be protected as valid and inviolate we do further set as a punishment that if anyone shall presume to violate or corrupt the rights of the aforesaid Fiora as set forth herein, then they should pay to the aforesaid Fiora a penalty in the amount of one thousand good coins of silver.

Signed by the hands of Edward Rex and Thyra Regina, who requested that this award and charter be made as above.  I, Chrestienne la pescheresse, was present and wrote this document.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Writ for the Laurel

So, last weekend this Thing happened to me.  I have been given a Writ by Their Majesties of the East to appear before their Court on January 31, 2015 to answer whether I will accept the Order of the Laurel.

My quite spectacular scroll was calligraphed by Mistress Eleanor Catlyng ( +Lisa Goldthwaite) with words by Lord Martyn de Haliwell ( +TJ DeLuca) from a 16th century Scots text.   Martyn writes about his work on my text here:

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Adapting Medieval Legal Documents for SCA Award Texts

By popular demand, I am putting my class notes up into the Blog.  They are notes, so they are less detailed than the actual class, but I think they will be helpful nonetheless.

Why Legal Documents?

Legal documents are among the easiest period documents to adapt for SCA purposes, because
legal documents tend to have the same essential parts as an award text:

  • The Who: who is issuing/authoring/signing this document? To whom is the document addressed?
  • The What: what is the intended purpose of this document?
  • The Why: why is this document being written?
  • The Act: what the document does; and
  •  The Affirmation of the Act.
When dealing with an SCA award text, 
  • The Who = which Crown or Coronet is bestowing the award, and to whom?
  • The What = what award is being given;
  • The Why = why is the award being given; and
  • The Act = an SCA “scroll” serves as validation and confirmation that the award was given.

The greatest amount of work involved in adapting a period text is the research. One you find a text appropriate to the recipient’s place and time, the actual adaptation is the easy part.

Making More Medieval Language

Medieval writers loved to work in units of three.  A simple structure that will make a text sound more medieval uses the Rule of Three:

     Wherefore, [statement of the Crown’s authority]

     Wherefore, [virtues of the person being awarded]

      Therefore, [we award X to person]

Using three-word phrases will make language sound more medieval:

Instead of, “We award [person] arms”

Use: “We hereby give, endow and award [person] arms”

Example: Elizabeth I’s charter to Walter Raleigh

Knowe yee that of our especial grace, certaine science, and meere motion . . . 

. . . to haue, horde, occupie and enjoy to him, his heires and assignee for euer. . .

. . . And for asmuch as upon the finding out, discovering, or inhabiting of such remote lands, countreis, and territories as aforesaid . . .


1.  Salutations by the Crown:

By the Quene Right worshipful fader in god / our Right trusty and right welbeloued / We grete you wele. (Signet of Queen Margaret: Letter concerning a case in Chancery, 1446)

Edward, by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Aquitaine, to all those that these present letters shall hear or see, greeting. (Confirmation of the Charters, 1297)

Edward by the grace of God etc. to the reverend father in Christ William, by the same grace archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England, greeting. (The Statute of Laborers; 1351)

Charles the Fourth, by favour of the divine mercy emperor of the Romans, always august, and king of Bohemia; as a perpetual memorial of this matter. (Golden Bull of the Emperor Charles IV, 1356)

We, Rupert the elder, by the grace of God Count Palatine of the Rhine, elector of the Holy Empire and duke of Bavaria (The Foundation of the University of Heidelberg, 1386)

Louis, the divine power ordaining, august emperor. (The Ordinance of Louis the Pius, 817)

Don Ferdinand and Dona Isabella, by the grace of God king and queen of Castile, etc. (Compact between Spain and Portugal, signed by the Catholic Sovereigns at Madrid, May 7, 1495)

ELIZABETH by the Grace of God of England, Fraunce and Ireland Queene, defender of the faith, &c. (Charter to Sir Walter Raleigh, 1584)

2.  Identify The Addressees:

     A.  Public Announcements:

To all people to whome these presents shall come, greeting. (Charter to Sir Walter Raleigh, 1584)

[T]o all those that these present letters shall hear or see, greeting. (Confirmation of the Charters, 1297)

Mary, by the grace of God, queen of Scots, gives greeting to those, all and singly, to whose notice this letter comes (Charter declaring the Earl of Arran the second person in the land, March 1543)

     B.  Individual Addressee:

Bishop Adrian, servant of the servants of God, sends to his dearest son in Christ, the illustrious king of the English, greeting and apostolic benediction. (The Bull of Pope Adrian IV Empowering Henry II to Conquer Ireland. A.D. 1155)

By the kyng: Ryght trusty and right welbeloued Cosin (Letter to Richard, Duke of York, 1436)

John by the grace of God king of Scots, to his beloved and faithful Alexander de Argyll and his bailies of Lochawe, greeting (First Roll of Parliament of Scotland, 1293)

     C.  Groups of Addressees:

Henry, by the grace of God King of England and duke of Normandy, to the archbishop of Canterbury, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justices, sheriffs and all his loyal subjects, French or English, throughout England, greetings. (Charter for the City of London, 1131)

Ralph earl of Chester to all his barons, constables, bailiffs, officers, liege-men and friends, French and English, both present and future, greetings. (Charter of the Earl of Chester to Coventry, c. 1199-1204)

Eleanor, by the grace of God, humble queen of England, duchess of Normandy and Aquitaine, and countess of Anjou, to the archbishops, bishops, counts, vicounts, barons, seneschals, provosts, justiciaries, bailiffs, all in the present and future to whom these letters will come, greetings. (Charter to Oleron, 1199)

3.  Why Is The Crown Doing What It Is Doing?

Although deeds of the Crown may remain valid from the actual act of performing such deeds, and those things which are lawfully endowed to our subjects by exercise of our will cannot be wrested away by any act of force; it is, however, the duty of our imperial authority to set such deeds, donations and endowments into writing, lest there can be any doubt of the transaction. (Charter establishing the Duchy of Austria, 1156)

Whenever our faithful subjects propose things that are in harmony with the motive of justice and pertain to the good weal of the Kingdom, not only should they not be denied with stubborn mind, but they should be granted laudably with ready heart and benevolent mind. (Letter of Matilda of Tuscany, c 1072-76)

Since human memory is short and does not suffice for a crowd of things, the authority of those who preceded our age, the divine emperors and kings, has decreed that those things were to be written down which the progress of fleeting time generally removes from the knowledge of men. (The Gelnhausen Charter; April 13, 1180)

Forasmuch as after long, great and intolerable pains and labours taken by us since our arrival within our realm, for government thereof and keeping of the lieges of the same in quietness, we have not only been vexed in our spirit, body and senses thereby, but also at length are altogether so wearied thereof that our ability and strength of body is no longer able to endure the same. (Charter appointing James, Earl of Moray regent of Scotland, 1567)

4.  What Is the Crown Doing?

Know that we have granted and confirmed in perpetuity by this our present charter to all our beloved and faithful people of Oleron and their heirs, that they may act as they will legally and securely in perpetuity in giving their girls and widows in marriage and marrying their boys, and having stewardship of their girls and widows and boys, without opposition from us and our heirs. (Charter of
Eleanor of Aquitaine to Oleron, 1199)

And therefore we decree by this law, to be forever valid, that he who is elected emperor concordantly or by the majority of the electors, shall, in consequence of the election alone, be considered and regarded by all as the true and lawful emperor; and that he ought to be obeyed by all the subjects of the empire, and that he shall have, and shall be considered and firmly asserted by all to have and
to hold, the imperial administration and jurisdiction and the plenitude of the imperial power. (Law Licit Juris of the Frankfort Diet, 1338)

[W]e have made, named, appointed, constituted and ordained, and, by these our letters, name, appoint, make, constitute and ordain our said dearest brother James, earl of Moray, regent to our said dearest son, realm and lieges aforesaid, during his minority and less age and until he be of the age of seventeen years complete . . . (Charter appointing James, Earl of Moray regent of Scotland, 1567)

5.  Threats Against Those Who Disobey (not usually included later in period, but fun to read)

Concerning this case we wish and by our authority we confirm that if any insolent or rebellious person with reckless boldness will attempt to violate or infringe this our sound command through any contrivance or presume to come against us and this venerable place and will not fully observe all that was said above, he will stand to pay one hundred pounds of gold in the name of punishment, half to our estate, half to that venerable place where the offense was committed, and moreover he will suffer the disturbance of our indignation, and punishment of most severe vengeance. (Letter of Matilda of Tuscany, c 1072-76)

Moreover, whatever persons shall presume to assert or say any thing contrary to these declarations, decrees or definitions, or any one of them or to countenance those who assert or say anything; or to obey their mandates or letters or precepts: we deprive them from now on, and decree them to be deprived by the law and by the act and itself, of all the fiefs which they hold from the empire, of all
the favours, jurisdictions, privileges and immunities granted to them by us or our predecessors. Moreover, we decree that they have committed the crime of high treason and are subject to all the penalties inflicted on those committing the crime of high treason. (Law Licit Juris of the Frankfort Diet, 1338)

6.  Conclusions

In testimony of this we have arranged for our great seal to be appended to the present document, signed by our said dearest kinsman and guardian, with the consent and authority as mentioned. At Edinburgh on 13 February in the year of the Lord 1546 [1547], and in the fifth year of our reign (Confirmation of Treaty by Mary Queen of Scots)

That this our grant, or confirmation, have perpetual authority and full strength, we have had this charter marked with our seal. Dated at Les Andelys, in the year of the incarnation of the Word, 1199 (Charter of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Oleron, 1199)

And so that this our gift may continue firm and unimpaired in future times, we have reinforced it with the protection of our seal and the subscription of witnesses. With these witnesses: [list of witnesses]. Dated at Le Vaudreuil by the hand of Roger, our chaplain, in the 1199th year of the incarnation of the Word (Charter of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Andreas of Chauvigny)

For the rest, in order that this our imperial decree may, for all ages, remain valid and unshaken, we have ordered the present charter to be written and to be sealed with the impress of our seal, suitable witnesses to be called in whose names are as follows: Pilgrim, patriarch of Aquileija, etc. (Charter establishing the Duchy of Austria)

Also, this act being produced in our parliament, we shall cause the same to be ratified, allowed and approved by the three estates thereof in all points. Given under our great seal and subscribed by us and the said lords of our secret council at our palace of Holyroodhouse, 19 March 1566 [1567], and of our reign the 25th year. (Charter of Mary, Queen of Scots)

Doing The Research: Good Places To Start

The Internet Medieval Sourcebook from Fordham University ( This site contains links to a huge number of texts of various kinds, including secular legal documents, cannon law documents, chronicles and fiction. Nearly all of the documents have been translated into modern English but some are available in the original text and language as well.

The Avalon Project website from Yale Law School ( The documents are all in modern English translation.

A collection of primary source material relating specifically to urban life in the medieval era. The documents are all in modern English translation.

Epistolæ: Medieval Women's Letters from the 4th Р13th Centuries
( In many instances, the site provides both a
modern translation and a transcription of the Latin (usually) original.

Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707 ( The site
provides modern English and transcriptions of the original manuscripts in Latin, Scots nd
occasionally French.

Anthology of Chancery English (
Primary source documents with no modern translation, but the Middle English is generally readable with practice.

The On-Line Reference Book for Medieval Studies (

The On-Line Medieval and Classical Library (

The Works of Queen Elizabeth I (
Good for getting a feel for Renaissance language

How to tell which saint’s day it is: 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Guthfrith's Silver Rapier

Guthfrith Yrlingsson, the new Baron of Ruantallan, is an excellent fencer.  He is so good, in fact, that had you bet me money before last Saturday that he was a member of the Silver Rapier already, I would have taken that bet.  As it turned out, we discovered he wasn't when someone else in Ruantallan was inducted into that Order.   TRMs immediately corrected that oversight.

Since this was an immediate award, there was no scroll at the time.   A scribe asked that I put together some fitting language for Guthfrith's backlog.   Here it is.  It's a little earlier than Guthfrith's persona (the source text is c. 1330), but I liked the rhythm of some of the language and adjusted the rest of it to be consistent with later practices.   I also changed the archaic "bailies" to "bailiffs" because I'm fairly sure that most people don't know what a "bailie" is.

Edward, by right of arms King of the East, and Thyra, by agency of the same right the Queen, to our archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, sheriffs, provosts, ministers and all our bailiffs and faithful men, greetings.  Know that we have heard good, honest and true report of the prowess, valor, nobility, skill and excellence in the art of the rapier displayed by our good and faithful Guthfrith Yrlingsson; and desiring in consideration of the foregoing to honour the person of the same Guthfrith; we do therefore of our lawful authority give, grant and by the present charter confirm unto the same Guthfrith membership in perpetuity in our Order of the Silver Rapier, with all of the same rights, privileges, liberties, royalties and  all other things which pertain or may pertain to the said Order, without any reservation.  In testimony of which we have set our signs manual to this present charter at Ruantallan upon November 28 in the forty-ninth year of the Society.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A bit of perfectly period schtick

+Thyra Eiriksdottir wanted to do "something" for Jonathan Rankin O'Rose, a fencer from Ruantallan who does a pirate/privateer persona.  As with her vendetta against the pineapple, she decided to unleash me on the problem.  Because +Thyra Eiriksdottir enables me.  :-)

I searched around for interesting letter of marque language and decided that letters of marque were not particularly fun or interesting.  Besides, everyone who does a sea-going persona has a letter of marque.  What I hit on instead was the writ given by King Henry VII of England to John Cabot and his sons to conduct exploration in North America.  John Cabot and his sons eventually "discovered" Newfoundland and, not incidentally, Nova Scotia.   What could be more perfect for a Ruantallan seafarer than a license to discover Nova Scotia?  Plus, it's a document from Henry VII, which is around the time that His Majesty plays.

Beyond the research that got me to this letter, there wasn't a whole ton of creativity involved.  I decided what parts could be deleted without doing harm to the intent of the letter and the rhythm of the schtick.  Also, the terms "writ" and "letters patent" have meanings in the SCA, so I had to take those words out where I found them.   And, of course, reference to lands "unknown to all Christians" was going to sound awful to modern ears, so out that came.

Here is the resulting "License" issued to Jonathan Rankin O'Rose this weekend, in all of its glory.  I read it in Court myself and made sure to play it as schticky fun so that the audience wouldn't doze off.  I think it worked -- the recipient was laughing so hard at the end his whole face was scarlet.

    By Edward the King.  By Thyra the Queen. Greeting: Be it known and made manifest that we have given and granted as by these presents we give and grant, for us and our heirs, to our well beloved Jonathan Rankin O'Rose full and free authority, faculty and power to sail to all parts, regions and coasts of the eastern, western, southern and northern seas, under our banners, flags and ensigns, with five ships or vessels of whatsoever burden and quality they may be, and with so many and such mariners and men as he may wish to take with him in the said ships, to find, discover and investigate whatsoever islands, countries, regions or provinces, in whatsoever part of the world placed, which before this time were unknown to Easterners. We have also granted to him, and have given licence to set up our aforesaid banners and ensigns in any town, city, castle, island or mainland whatsoever, newly found by him.
    And that the before-mentioned Jonathan may conquer, occupy and possess whatsoever such towns, castles, cities and islands by him thus discovered as our vassal and governor lieutenant therein, acquiring for us the dominion, title and jurisdiction of the same towns, castles, cities, islands and mainlands so discovered; in such a way nevertheless that of all the fruits, profits, emoluments, commodities, gains and revenues accruing from this voyage, the said Jonathan shall be bound and under obligation for his every voyage, as often as he shall arrive at our port of Ruantallan, at which his is bound and holden only to arrive, all necessary charges and expenses incurred by him having been deducted, to pay to us, either in goods or money, the fifth part of the whole capital gained, we giving and granting to the said Jonathan that he shall be free and exempt from all payment of customs on all and singular the goods and merchandise that he may bring back with them from those places thus newly discovered.
   And further we have given and granted to the said Jonathan that all mainlands, islands, towns, cities, castles and other places whatsoever discovered by him, however numerous they may happen to be, may not be frequented or visited by any other subjects of ours whatsoever without the licence of the aforesaid Jonathan, on pain of the loss as well of the ships or vessels daring to sail to these places discovered, as of all goods whatsoever. And we further will and strictly command all and singular our subjects as well by land as by sea that they shall render good assistance to the aforesaid Jonathan, and that they shall give him all their favour and help as well in fitting out the ships or vessels as in buying stores and provisions with their money and in providing the other things which they must take with them on the said voyage.
    In witness whereof, we set our signs manual and cause this our grant and charter to be announced in open Court upon 29 November in the forty-ninth year of the Society in our Barony of Ruantallan.

Award of Arms for Rozalin Vella

My frequent co-conspirator +Naomi F. Anderson asked me to make a text appropriate to go with a scroll based on a 16th century fencing manual.   None of us knew the lady, so it's a little vague on the details of her merit.  But it sure sounded nice.

Edward, by right of arms King of the East, and Thyra our Queen, to all and sundry our judges and ministers of law, lieges and subjects whom it concerns to whose knowledge these our letters shall come, greetings.  Know that, in our parliament, with the three estates of our realm present, having viewed and understood the common profit and the advantage to our crown from recognizing those good and notable subjects whose labors have enriched our lands of Ruantallan, and having examined and discussed many and varied other causes and reasonable precedents for the acknowledgement and recognition of the same, we did award and by these our present letters do award unto our subject Rozalin Vella the right to bear such Arms as are just, fitting and proper for a person of her nobility and honored labors, to wit: _______________________________

And we do further will and command the said Rozalin shall bear such Arms henceforward freely, tranquilly, fully, wholly, honorably, well and in peace, without impediment, revocation or obstacle whatsoever. At Ruantallan, upon 29 November, in the forty-ninth year of the Society.

It's based on a couple of 16th century Scottish sources because I've been hip deep in Scots of late.

Award Mad Libs (or something like it)

I often face an interesting conundrum when writing award texts: people equate "long" with "love."   I have done period-appropriate short texts and gotten the "you don't love me" reaction, which I find odd and perplexing.  There are cultures and eras where a lengthy text is not appropriate.  Anglo-Saxon, for instance.  When working in Middle and Early Modern English, my length averages 250 words.  I certainly can do more, but I don't have a problem if a scribe tells me s/he needs less.  The request for only 140 characters was a little difficult, but even that I managed.

I'm throwing out here some fill-in-the-blank type texts for those scribes who want to sound more period but don't want to deal with lots of words.

Sample 1:  By _____ the King and ____ the Queen.  To our faithful [recipient], right trusty and well-beloved we greet you well.   Know that your actions, deeds and labors on behalf of the realm find great favor in our sight. Therefore, as symbol and token of your merit, we do by these present letters award you Arms in the form following: [blazon].  Done upon [date] in [place].

Sample 2:  _______, King of the East, and _____ his Queen, to all to whom the present letters shall come, greetings and every good thing.  Let it be known to all that our subject [recipient] is of good and noble character, and has distinguished him/herself by good works in ___________________________.  That these good works be not forgotten, we do now Award unto the said [recipient's first name] such Arms as are just fitting and proper: [blazon].  Enacted at [place] upon [date].

Sample 3:  We, _____ and _____, King and Queen of the East, by advice and good deliberation of our council, find it meet to endow our servant [recipient] with such rewards as are just, fitting and proper for one of his/her nobility, bearing and good works.  Thus we do by these present letters award the said [recipient] Arms.  So ordered by our hand and signs manual upon [date] in [place].

Feel free to use and abuse these, just give me appropriate author credit if you use more than 50% of the text.