Court Heraldry: A Checklist for Success

by Hagar the Black

The most important part of heralding any court, kingdom or baronial, is
proper planning. You need to know what is going to go on at court, and in
what order, so that the court proceedings will flow smoothly, with a minimum
of effort for all concerned.

This is a checklist of steps that you as the court herald can take to
help insure that court will run smoothly. While there is no 'one true way'
to herald a court, this should serve as a basic guideline for the things
that you need to think about and plan for in preparing for court.

Before the event:

  • If you are fortunate enough to know in advance that you will be
    heralding court at an event (especially if it is a large event such as
    Twelfth Night), you may want to get in touch with the Crown* ahead of time
    and find out what their plans are. If they already know what their court
    business is going to be, then you can offer to make a list of it and work
    up a preliminary order in advance of the event, which can save both you
    and them time on the day of the event. *(For the purposes of this
    document, the terms 'crown', 'monarchs', 'royalty', etc. will be used to
    refer to the people holding the court, whether they be King and Queen or
    Baron and Baroness.)
  • If you will be heralding a court, or think you might be heralding a
    court at an event you will be going to, make sure that you take a notebook
    or covered clipboard, something to write with, your herald's tabard, and
    appropriate clothing (see below).

The day of the event:

  • Check in with the Crown early in the day. Even if they already know
    that you are going to be their court herald, it lets them know that you
    are on site and at their disposal. Tell them where you can be found during
    the day (where your encampment, table setting, etc. is), and see if they
    know yet what the schedule for court is, and when they want to get
    together with you to set up court. If they don't yet know what the
    schedule is going to be, don't worry about it, but check back with them
    occasionally so that when they do decide to start working on court they
    will know where to find you.
  • When you know that the time to start preparing for court is near, make
    whatever clothing changes you might be planning to make before you start
    any of the preparations -- you won't have time later. Most important is to
    wear comfortable shoes! If you wonder why this is an important thing to
    mention, try standing in one place for an hour (or longer) without
    fidgeting. Now, any questions?

1 1/2 hours before court:

(the time may vary depending on the size of the event and the court)

  • Get together with the Crown and get the list of their business for
    court (if you had not previously done so). This includes all awards,
    proclamations, etc. You need to make sure and cover the following
    details:
    1. For any awards being given out, are the scrolls (promissories),
      tokens, etc. taken care of? Have the scrolls all been signed? By both
      of the Monarchs? You should also check the wording of the scrolls that
      you will be reading to make sure that the texts are correct. The
      scribes should have taken care of this, but you should double check.
      Also, make sure that you can read the writing on the scroll.
    2. For any proclamations, etc., find out if they will be making the
      proclamation themselves or whether they want you to do it. You should
      always offer, perhaps even suggest (if you know that your voice is
      more up to the task than theirs), but never insist.
    3. For anybody whose name is being read for any reason, make sure
      that you know how to pronounce it correctly. If neither you or the
      Crown is sure of how to pronounce it, get somebody to find out
      (surreptitiously, of course). Remember that nothing takes away from
      the special moment of getting an award like having your name
      mangled!
    4. Find out if there will be anyone else holding court:
      1. If this is a baronial court and the King and/or Queen are
        there, do they wish to hold court?
      2. If this is a kingdom court, will the local baron and/or
        baroness be holding court within the royal court?

      If so, you will need to contact them and see if arrangements
      for their court need to be made.

    5. Make sure that both monarchs have been consulted about business
      for court. If only one sits down with you to give you the list of
      their business, you may want to check with the other one to make sure
      that they don't have some bit of business that didn't make it onto the
      list. The royalty should be in communication with each other so that
      this wouldn't be necessary, but this isn't always the case.
    6. Ask if they will have any opening words to say at the beginning of
      court (words of welcome, etc.). You don't have to know what they will
      be, this is just so you will remember to leave a spot on the agenda
      for them to do it.
  • When you have the Crown's business, thank them and tell them that you
    will get back together with them when you have collected business from the
    populace. Now review the Court's business to get an estimate of how long
    you think it will take in relation to how long you have for court. If you
    are short on time, you may need to ask that less pressing business from
    the populace be handled at another time.
  • Make an announcement (or have one made) that you are taking business
    for court from the populace. Make sure that this announcement is made to
    all parts of the site; people in the kitchen are just a likely to have
    business for court, but much less likely to hear an announcement. Choose a
    location that people can come to you that is conspicuous (so that people
    can find you easily), but not where you, or the line of people waiting to
    talk to you, will be in the way. If you have not already done so, put on
    your herald's tabard so that you can be easily recognized.
  • When taking items of business from the populace, keep the following
    things in mind:
    1. Find out exactly what each item of business is: if
      it is a presentation, find out what is being presented; if it is an
      announcement, find out what is being announced, etc. You are not being
      nosey -- it is your job. If people are reluctant to give you a full
      explanation, politely but firmly tell them that you must know the
      exact nature of the business in order to put it on the court agenda.
      Explain that this is to save the Crown, the populace, and/or the
      presenter from the embarrassment of an inappropriate presentation in
      court, as has occasionally happened in the past. If you are at all
      unsure about whether something is appropriate or not, check with a
      more experienced herald, or have the presenter clear it directly with
      the royalty before adding it to the court agenda.
    2. An exception to the above rule is made in the case of
      such people as kingdom officers or the autocrat. If they tell you that
      they, in their official capacity, have business before the crown, that
      is sufficient.
    3. If a presentation is being made, make sure that the
      people making the presentation understand that anything given to the
      crown in court is considered to be regalia (and thus belonging to the
      kingdom), whereas personal gifts should be given at some other time,
      such as when the royalty are sitting in state. This is the general
      rule for kingdom courts, although exceptions have been known to be
      made. Customs may vary in individual baronies.
    4. If there is anything that sounds like it will take a long
      time, you may want to suggest that it should be shortened or done at
      another time entirely, depending on how tight your schedule is.
      Anything that is a performance of any kind (i.e. a song, poem, skit,
      etc.) should be cleared directly with the crown before putting it on
      the court agenda, since such things can take a lot of time and are
      almost always better done outside of court.
    5. Make sure you know exactly who is to be called up, and
      how they wished to be announced. For example, if the Kingdom Seneschal
      wishes to make an announcement, does he wish to be called up as "The
      Kingdom Seneschal", or by his name and title. Also, make sure that you
      know the correct pronunciation of all names. Write them down
      phonetically so that you will be able to pronounce them later -- how
      they are really spelled doesn't matter.
    6. If an announcement is being made, ask if the person wants
      to come up and make the announcement themselves, or to have you make
      it for them. If the person wants to make the announcement themselves,
      remind them of the need to make themselves heard to the entire hall.
      If they don't have a strong voice, you may wish to encourage them to
      let you make the announcement.
  • Five minutes before you are through collecting court business from the
    populace, make another announcement that is a 'last call' for business.
    This won't stop people from running up to you with business later, but
    it's a start.
  • When you have collected all of the populace's court business, go back
    and find the royalty and ask to sit down with them and order the business
    for court. Some royalty will want to be very involved with this process,
    and others will ask you to do it yourself and then present it to them for
    their approval. In either case, these are some general guidelines for
    setting up the order of court:
    1. If the royalty wishes to address the populace, this should always
      be the first item of business, unless they have specified
      otherwise.
    2. After the 'words of the crown' (if any), the next item(s) should
      always be any envoys or ambassadors who have requested an
      audience.
    3. Once these two requirements have been met, in general, court
      should build from lesser matters at the beginning to greater matters
      toward the end. Thus, you should try and schedule lesser awards and
      simpler presentations toward the beginning of court and greater awards
      and more elaborate presentations towards the end (and any peerages
      should always come last, unless the crown specifically directs you
      otherwise).
    4. Court should have an interesting mixture of activities in order to
      keep people's interest. Don't put all the awards in one place and all
      the presentations in another -- mix them in together. Not only does
      this make the court more interesting, but it also makes the flow of
      people in and out of court easier.
    5. If there is more than one of an award being given out, find out if
      there is a particular order or grouping that the royalty wishes to
      use. While it is generally desirable to call only one person at a time
      up to receive an award, there are times when two or more people will
      be called up at once to receive the same award (such as a lord and
      lady who are a couple).
    6. The royalty will probably want to know something about what the
      items of business from the populace are. If a presentation is to be a
      surprise, you can describe it in general terms, such as: "The Barony
      of XYZ has a presentation." If they want to know more, you can say
      something like: "They wish it to be a surprise for Your Majesties, but
      I have checked it out and it is an appropriate presentation for
      court." (You did remember to do that, didn't you?). If they still
      insist on knowing what the presentation is, you must tell them, even
      if the surprise will be spoiled. Remember that these are guidelines
      only, and that ultimately the royalty has the final say. Here again,
      you can suggest, you can remind, but only they can insist!
  • Take care of any other last minute details with the royalty, which
    might include such things as:
    1. Find out if they will be processing in, or will begin
      court seated. Also, find out if they will be recessing out at the end
      of court.
    2. If there are any 'scripted' parts to court (e.g. an award
      ceremony), in which the royalty has a part, make sure that they know
      what their parts are and that they have a chance to review them.
    3. If you at all unsure of any name pronunciations,
      especially those of the monarchs themselves, or anything else about
      the monarchs' wishes for court, now is the time to ask.
    4. Find out how long you have until court (important!)
  • If you did not do so while arranging court with the royalty, write up
    the final agenda that you will use to conduct court. This may consist of
    rewriting the entire agenda, or merely writing numbers by the items in the
    order that they will be used. What method you use will depend on your
    personal preference and the size of the court. However, it is important
    that someone else be able to read and understand your agenda, in case they
    should have to assist you.
  • 12. By now, someone will probably have come running up to you with
    some piece of business that they just have to get on the court agenda, and
    they didn't hear the announcement, and, and...
  • Evaluate the business that they have just like the ones you had
    before. If it really is something that needs to be done in court in spite
    of its late arrival (and how much it needs to be done may depend on how
    full your agenda already is), then add it to the agenda in an appropriate
    place, making sure to tell the royalty about it before court. If there are
    any questions, have them talk directly to the royalty.

15 minutes before court:

  • If there is going to be another person helping you with court, such as
    a scribe or another herald to keep track of the award scrolls and hand
    them to you at the proper time, make sure that you get together with them
    and that they understand the agenda. Make sure that any award scrolls are
    in the order that they will be given out so that you can get to them
    easily when they are called for during court. Once again, make sure that
    you (and your assistant) can pronounce all of the names. Make sure that
    you have a cup of something (non-alcoholic) to drink situated behind the
    thrones where you will be able to get to it during court.
  • Go back to the royalty and let them know that you are ready for court
    to begin. If they did not arrange the order of court with you, have them
    look over the order that you have come up with and approve it. Make sure
    that if you have been given any new items of business since you showed
    them the agenda, that you inform the monarchs of them now. Ask if they
    want an announcement made to assemble the populace for court, or how long
    it will be until court.

When court is ready to begin:

  • If the royalty are processing in, wait until they signal that they are
    ready, and then instruct the populace to rise. As the royalty starts down
    the aisle, announce them to the populace. If there are others who are
    processing (other dignitaries, not the royalty's attendants), wait until
    the royalty have arrived at the thrones and are standing facing the
    populace, and then announce the next dignitaries. Repeat until all who are
    processing have been announced and come into court. Be careful not to
    announce the next processor(s) if the monarchs are still greeting the last
    ones. When all who are processing have done so, the royalty will take
    their seats. -- or -- If the monarchs are beginning court
    already seated, instruct the populace to rise.
  • Open court with an announcement such as: "Now pay heed to this, the
    court of _________ and _________, King and Queen of Drachenwald", or "Here
    begins the court of __________ and __________, Baron and Baroness of
    __________", or something similar.
  • If they have not given their permission before now, ask (quietly) if
    the populace has the monarchs' leave to be seated, and when they give
    permission, announce it to the populace.

Court:

  • Conduct the court according to the agenda that you have prepared.
    Remember though, that if the royalty decides to insert some new item, or
    delete an item, or reorder things entirely, they have the right to do so,
    and it is up to you to cope with it as best you can. This is why having a
    well organized agenda is essential in order to adapt to such changes.
  • Announce each person (or group) that is being called into court loudly
    and clearly. Be looking up at the populace, not down at your notes when
    you do so. Not only does this help you to project better, but it keeps you
    from yelling in the monarchs' ear! As you scan the populace, if you do not
    see any activity that would indicate that the person was on their way,
    announce the name again. If there is still no response, and the person is
    being called up for an award, ask the monarchs if they wish a
    representative called forward; if so, ask for a representative, if not, go
    on to the next item. If the called person shows up later, let the royalty
    know and then call them forward at the next available opportunity.
  • For presentations: After the presentation has been made, announce to
    the populace what has been presented (however, be careful not to step on
    the conversation between the royalty and the presenter(s)). You may wish
    to use a little poetic license in your description of the presentation,
    for example: "A gift of fruit of the vine" sounds better than "They gave
    them a bottle of wine" (just don't get carried away and get
    'cutesy').
  • For awards: No matter how many awards are being given, each one is
    very important to the person who is receiving it -- treat each one
    accordingly. Read an Award of Arms scroll with the same reverence that you
    would read a peerage scroll. Remember that for many people, an Award of
    Arms is the only award that they will ever receive, so you should never
    spoil their moment by treating it as 'just another Award of Arms'.
  • Award Scrolls: As each award is approaching on the agenda, let the
    person who is handling the scrolls know who's scroll you are about to
    need, so that they will have it ready (or if you are handling them
    yourself, get it ready). There will usually be an opportunity to do this
    sometime during the preceding item of business.
  • Cheers: For each person who receives an award, you lead the populace
    in cheers. Remember not to do this until the award has actually been
    conferred, and until the monarchs are through speaking. For things other
    than awards, you may need to check with the royalty to see if they want
    cheers done; especially for presentations -- some monarchs want cheers for
    every presentation, some for only certain ones, and some not at all. If
    you are not sure, ask.
  • When each item of business has been completed, and the person(s)
    involved are withdrawing, you should go ahead and announce the next item.
    This help keep court from dragging on unnecessarily. Make sure that you do
    not make an announcement that no one will be able to hear because the hall
    is still buzzing loudly from the last thing that happened. Wait until you
    will be able to be heard, then go on with court.
  • Pay attention to the royalty. Especially, watch and listen for them to
    say something to you; they may not turn their heads toward you before they
    do. Most often this will be to ask you what is coming up next, or how much
    of court is left.

When you are through with court business:

  • When all of the items of business on the agenda are complete, inform
    the royalty, and ask them if they have any further business, even if they
    had told you previously that they would have none. This gives them the
    chance to say any last minute things to the populace that they may have
    thought of. It also saves you from the potential embarrassment of
    announcing that there is no further business, only to have the royalty
    interrupt you to say that there is.
  • When the monarchs are finished, announce that there is no further
    business before the court and instruct the populace to rise. If the
    royalty is processing out, wait while they do so. Finally, announce to the
    populace that they "have Their Majesties' (or Excellencies') leave to
    depart and go about their business", or something similar.

Later:

  • Check back with the royalty to make sure that there were no problems
    with the way that you handled court, so that you will know better next
    time (don't be upset by any criticism -- learn from it!). This is
    especially true if it is the first time you have heralded for these
    monarchs.
  • Make sure that someone has kept track of the awards that were given,
    so that a list can be sent to the Acorn (or the baronial newsletter).
    Sometimes the royalty themselves will do this, sometimes they will have
    someone else doing it. If not, it becomes your job!
  • As I said before, these are merely guidelines for what you
    need to do and think about in heralding a court -- there is no one true
    way to do it. Each court, and each set of royalty will have different
    requirements, but this checklist should give you a good idea of what the
    basic elements and procedures are for heralding court at either the
    kingdom or baronial level.

© Richard Coleman. (Originally printed in the Atlantian Herald's
Handbook)

Reprinted here with the gracious permission of the author.