Proposed Order of Defense   12 comments

We are now at the stage of the rapier peerage where the language for the changes to Corpora has been made public for further comments. Honestly, this feels like it is a done deal, but given the time spent getting here, it is worthy of our attention and consideration. This is a Big Deal, and, to repeat myself on the topic: “Wooooohhhhhooooooooo!”

Everything herein is speculative, of course, but speculating on future events is an entertaining endeavor. I might be wildly mistaken on how things actually play out, but that’s the risk we all take when thinking about what might be. Whatever happens is going to turn out fine in the end.

Glossary, page 9.
[• Peerage: Collectively, the members of the Order of Chivalry, the Order of the Laurel, and the Order of the Pelican, are referred to as the Peerage. A member of any of these Orders is a Peer.]
• Peerage: Collectively, the members of the Order of Chivalry, the Order of the Laurel, and the Order of the Pelican, and the Order of Defense are referred to as the Peerage. A member of any of these Orders is a Peer.
The thing of note here is the name of the peerage, from Order of the Masters of Defense. I actually prefer the truncated name, as before one might be correctly styled a Master of the Masters of Defense, which begins to sound like a character from Catch-22.
A. Patents of Arms
2. Order of Precedence Within the Peerage
[The Crown may establish the order of precedence within the peerage according to the laws and customs of the kingdom. However, the Chivalry, the Laurel, and the Pelican, and Defense are of equal precedence and must be considered as one group.]
The Crown may establish the order of precedence within the peerage according to the laws and customs of the kingdom. However, the orders of the Chivalry, the Laurel, and the Pelican, and Defense are of equal precedence and must be considered as one group.

This is a simply change to include the Order, but read it over a few times. Say it out loud. That is pretty fantastic.

4. Patent Orders:
d. The Order of Defense:
(i) Members of the Order of Defense may choose to swear fealty, but are not required to do so. The candidate must be considered the equal of his or her prospective peers with the basic weapons of rapier and/or cut-and-thrust combat. The candidate must have applied this skill and/or knowledge for the instruction of members and service to the kingdom to an extent above and beyond that normally expected of members of the Society.

This is where things become most interesting, as we begin to get a direct sense of what the Order of Defense entails. I have no doubt that the actual practice will be much more complex, but the description provided in Corpora will serve as the guiding light.

First, the fealty option is standard. Only the Order of Chivalry adopts different titles and regalia depending on whether or not one has taken an oath of fealty. I would guess that most Masters of Defense will opt to swear fealty, and that most places will culturally encourage that. A lot of people do not realize that they can customize their fealty oath (I had about 15 minutes of notice to write mine; when fealty was presented as an optional thing, I froze up for a moment, stunned that I could have gone without it. It had always been a foregone conclusion in my mind, but I didn’t know that they weren’t all the same like our Academie oaths.), so you can make it what it needs to be for you.

Second, it addresses the skill level needed to be elevated. “Equal” is actually pretty clear (eventually), in that it is not too difficult to answer whether or not someone is of approximately the same skill as you: you fight them a whole bunch and look at the results. More goes into “equal” than just that, but it is also a irrefutable starting point. If you lose to someone 70% of the time, you are not their equal. Styles and matchups create some leeway in the 60-40 to 40-60 range, but much more than that is a skill discrepancy or some other deficit in most cases.
This item will be a bit odd at first as the initial group made will not have any prospective peers to be the equal of, but realistically I would say that each kingdom probably has between 10-15 fighters who really stand out, and maybe half of those are the consistent tournament winners and high performers. Many try to discount the importance of tournament success as an indicator of skill, but it seems odd to make the statement, “Lord/Lady XYZ is one of the very best fencers we have, but also never makes it past the quarterfinals and also only sometimes gets that far.” That fencer might be quite good, but is far from “the very best” by any authentic definition of “best”.
I strongly suspect that the initial group elevated in most kingdoms will be those of that top 10-15 who are already peers, because they will have to poll for future peers and that guarantees legitimacy in those pollings. It stands to reason that it will be established peers who advise the Crown on who will be the first Masters of Defense to sit vigil.

Third, we get a final sentence with two main ideas and a clarifying clause: it says that a Master of Defense must have applied their skill with and/or knowledge of fencing weapons for instruction or service above and beyond what is normally expected for Society members. I read that to mean that a Master of Defense has an expert level of skill and knowledge, and uses that expertise to make others better and to benefit the kingdom. It is noteworthy that the language specifies that the service to the kingdom must be related to their fencing skill and knowledge. It is also noteworthy that it must be done in a way that exceeds normal expectations; while it certainly warrants discussion, I would think of this as someone who is especially active and involved in growing and improving rapier even when compared to other White Scarves (or equivalent).

(2) The duties of the members of the order are as follows:
(a) To set an example of courtesy and chivalrous conduct on and off the field of honor.
(b) To respect the Crown of the kingdom; to support and uphold the laws of the kingdom and Corpora.
(c) If in fealty, to support and uphold the Crown of his or her kingdom.
(d) To enrich the kingdom by sharing his or her knowledge and skills.
(e) To enhance the renown and defend the honor of the peer’s Lady or Lord.
(f) To advise the Crown on the advancement of candidates for the Order of Defense
(The section on royal peerage becomes section e, etc.)

Nothing here is unusual or outlandish. Ultimately, several of the peerage requirements condense (as I see it; more experienced peers may have a different view) down to the imperative to be someone who makes the experience of the Society better for others by virtue of his or her presence and involvement. That final line about advising is typical for any polling order, and nearly everyone under consideration for a peerage has probably entered into another polling order beforehand.

D. Titles
4. The titles listed here are considered standard, and may be used by those who have earned or been granted the appropriate rank or award within the Society. The College of Arms publishes a more extensive list of titles and alternative forms, which may also be used freely by qualified persons. In addition, the College of Arms has full approval authority over new alternative titles, which must be added to their list before being released for use in the Society.
Members of the Orders of the Laurel, the Pelican, and Mastery of Arms.]
Members of the Orders of the Laurel, the Pelican, Mastery of Arms, and Defense.

This is more straightforward incorporation.

IX. Society Combat
[C. Rapier Fighting in the Society
The Board acknowledges rapier combat as an ancillary activity of the Society when properly supervised by the Marshals and when approved by individual kingdoms. Rapier combat may take place within a kingdom only by rules established by the Marshallate of that kingdom and after the approval of those rules by the Marshal of the Society. The Marshal of the Society will maintain guidelines for rapier combat within the Society. Rapier combat, not having been part of formal tournament combat in the Middle Ages, shall not be a part of formal tournament lists for royal ranks and armigerous titles. ]

THIS. IS. HUGE. This, as much and maybe more than anything, is wonderful: the removal of the passage about rapier as an ancillary activity means that fencing is an integral part of the organization in the same way that researching the Middle Ages is integral. If you learn the history of fencing in various kingdoms, you can see why this matters.

C. Royal Lists
Only Chivalric (rattan) combat shall be used for formal tournament lists for royal ranks.
[This last might need some explanation. The current Section IX.C is a holdover from a Governing and Policy decision from October 1979, when the Board decided that rapier combat would be allowed in the SCA as an ancillary activity. Rapier combat is no longer considered an ancillary activity and has not been for many years. Also, the duties of the Society Earl Marshal are properly defined in section VI.D. So this section is reduced to a single clear, unambiguous rule.]

No kings and queens from fencing tournaments. No one was expecting rapier crowns, and I doubt too many are willing to die on that hill. Rapiers don’t really fit the Arthurian image of royalty that we have, so I’ve no argument to make against this.

There we have it. I think the language works as is, and I like the focus the language gives to aspects specifically rapier-related. As I see it, all we have left to ask is: “If I want to be this, what do I need to do to get there?”

Posted November 15, 2014 by Dante di Pietro in Musings

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