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Heraldic Authority In the Earliest Bylaws of the SCA

The Society for Creative Anachronism started as a party in 1966 and was named as a joke, but over the subsequent years elaborated a set of governing policies which today control an international not-for-profit organization with over a hundred thousand participants.

It’s interesting to look back at the early practices of the organization to see the seeds that grew into the structure we know today, and so I was pleased to discover a copy of the earliest bylaws archived on the web site of Master Justin du Coeur, a former historian of the East Kingdom.

Below, I have copied a few sections that describe the role of heralds in the Society. While this write-up shares many commonalities with the modern operation of the College of Arms, there are also many points at which it differs, and it would be fascinating to find additional material that might allow us to further trace the evolution of this aspect of our game.

Original Bylaws (1969)

V. 8. King of Arms: The King of Arms shall be the head of the College of Heralds. It shall be his responsibility to direct the use of arms and other heraldic devices within the Society, and he shall maintain a record of all such arms as are submitted to him, complete with an history of such members as do submit said arms and devices, and the reasons for the use, style, granting, etc., of such arms and devices. he shall keep an history of the Society, and he shall maintain communications with the Heralds of all the Kingdoms, directing them on matters of Heraldry, on the keeping of court records, on the nature of protocol, on such problems as may be brought before him by them, and on court ceremony. Courts of Chivalry come under his jurisdiction, and he shall be empowered to plead causes with the Board of Directors on behalf of the various kinds and classes of members.

Corpora, Volume One (1971)

Entry Number Four

In order to clarify certain confusions, and to solidify certain procedures, as well as to distribute the equivalent factors of power and work more evenly, the BoD of the SCA, hereby defines some of the practice and structure with regard to Heraldry within the SCA.

A: The head of the College of Heralds of the SCA is the King of Arms of the Society. For further definitions of his duties, powers, and responsibilities, see the By-Laws of the Society.

B: By direction of the King of Arms, and with the approval of the BoD of the Society, the College of Heralds is henceforth divided into two parts; to wit, the College of Heralds and the College of Arms.

C: The College of Heralds shall consist of the King of Arms, the Chief Herald of each of the various Kingdoms, and all other Heralds who may function as Heralds throughout the Society: at the discretion of the King of Arms, of the Kings of the various Kingdoms, and of the Chief Heralds of the various Kingdoms, and of the BoD of the SCA.

D: The College of Arms shall consist of the King of Arms and the Chief Herald of each of the various Kingdoms.

E: The Chief Herald of each Kingdom may appoint assistants to help him with the work of the College of Arms; subject to the approval of the King of Arms, etc.

F: The King of Arms of the Society, with regard to his functioning as the head of the College of Arms, and with regard to his other functions, shall be known by the specific nominative “Laurel King of Arms.”

G: The Chief Heralds of the various Kingdoms shall be known by the following specific nominatives, such names being chosen on the basis of tradition in the various Kingdoms.

  • (1) The Chief Herald of the Kingdom of the West shall be called the Clarion Herald (of the West).
  • (2) The Chief Herald of the Kingdom of the East shall be called the Mural Herald (of the East).
  • (3) The Chief Herald of the Kingdom in the Middle shall be called the Dragon Herald.
  • (4) The Chief Herald of the Kingdom of Atenveldt shall be called the Aten Herald.

H: The order of precedence in presentation, in ceremony, and in council shall be as follows: The Laurel King of Arms, The Clarion Herald, The Mural Herald, The Dragon Herald, and the Aten Herald.

I: Other nominatives and chairs of the College may be added at such time as new Kings may ascend new thrones.

J: The duties of the Laurel King of Arms with regard to the College of Arms are as follows:

  • (1) He shall preside over all meetings of the College of Arms, although he may delegate this responsibility at such times as he may see fit.
  • (2) He shall maintain records of arms and devices in such manner as is defined in the By-Laws of the Society.
  • (3) He shall peruse all arms and devices submitted to him through the College for registration, and he shall give final approval or disapproval as to their qualification. His word on the matter shall be considered final.
  • (4) He shall give notification of approval or disapproval of arms and devices submitted to him, and he shall see that the arms and devices which he approves are placed in his files, thereby going on record with the Society as unique and original.

K: The duties of the Chief Herald of each of the various Kingdoms, with regard to the College of Arms, are as follows:

  • (1) He shall peruse all arms and devices which are to be submitted to the College of Arms of the Society as may originate in the Kingdom of which he is the Chief Herald. He shall screen such prospective arms and devices as to their acceptability to the College, as well as to their suitability with regard to the Society’s aims and concerns, and he shall accept for submission to the College those whic he feels will be approved: and he shall reject those which he feels will not be accepted, notifying the petitioner at the time of rejection of the reasons for rejection; and advising the petitioner of such steps as may be taken to make the arms or device in question acceptable, if that is possible.
  • (2) He shall submit such arms and devices as have survived his scrutiny to the College of Arms, such submission to take the following form: He shall submit to Lord Laurel King of Arms a fully emblazoned and blazoned copy of the arms or device, this to be done on the proper forms; which have already been defined and executed elsewhere. He shall then submit to the other members of the College (the Chief Heralds of the other Kingdoms) a copy of the blazon of said arms or device.
  • (3) He shall peruse and scrutinize such blazons as are submitted to him by the other members of the College, bringing to bear his full knowledge upon the matter. If the individual blazon thus submitted meets with his approval, he shall do nothing. But if the individual blazon does not meet with his approval he shall put down in writing his reasons for so disapproving, along with any evidence he may feel necessary for substantiation, and he shall send these to the Lord Laurel King no more than thirty days from the postmark date of the material submitted to him.

L: The Chief Herald of each Kingdom shall be so appointed by his King, but with the approval of the Laurel King of Arms. Such approval or disapproval shall be based solely on the competence of the above-mentioned Chief Herald to perform his duties as defined with regard to the College of Arms, but subject, as are all matters pertaining to the SCA, to the discretion of the BoD of the SCA.

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