Ra-Peerage

armorThere is a lot of stuff going around SCA circles with regards to a vote by The Board of Directors to create a “fourth peerage” for rapier fighters. I have many “thinks” and “feels” with regards to this situation but every time someone has asked me about it (or asked on various social media forums) I have not been able to give as complete an answer as I possible could.

So I am taking the time to finally do that here. There are a number of points so I am going to try and break this down as much as possible.  And I will apologize up front for how long this post is.  There are a lot of things to talk about.

1 – Who am I to have any “thinks” and “feels” on this topic?

In the SCA I have been a Laurel since 1999. I have been fighting as a rapier fighter since about 2003. I achieved the rank of Guildmaster of Fence about 2007. I became a Pelican in 2013. I have been fighting heavy for less than a year.

So, I am already a Peer, and I have one of the top two ranks currently available to rapier fighters in The West Kingdom, the other being The Western White Scarf. The basic difference between these two ranks is that Guildmaster is for teaching and historical knowledge, White Scarf is more for prowess, though both incorporate aspects of the other.

2 – Fourth or Fifth Peerage?

Technically we already have a fourth peerage, the Royal Peers. This peerage is given to those people who have sat a throne. I have mixed feelings about this and it is probably going to sound very harsh of me. It is not as harsh as it sounds, please trust me on that.

While I acknowledge that it requires a great deal of effort on the part of those people to serve as royalty, the amount of work that it takes to get there in the first place is not what I would consider significant on the part of at least one of those individuals, usually the lady, though not always. The effort expended by the fighter, usually the lord, is already recognized/recognizable by The Order of Chivalry.

It is possible therefore, for individuals to be made “royal peers” who do nothing to get there, do nothing once they are there, and sadly continued to do nothing after they leave, but now they are “peers of the realm.”

Yes, there are plenty of people who have taken their “royal peerage” and made something of it. I would argue that what they have done is made themselves worthy of one of the three other peerages. Royal Peer unto itself is, for me, a hollow peerage.

The distinction is made that there are “royal” peers and there are “merit” peers. I think that is an accurate distinction to make.

So you will not catch me calling it a “fourth” or “fifth” peerage. It is something else, though what as yet, I do not know.

3 – How are the Peerages defined in Corpora?

One can not discuss the issues of how something might fit within an existing peerage order if one does not know exactly how those orders are defined. While we all generally know, it is actually within a specific bit of language that a large part of the issue resides. So, for your enlightenment I give you the definitions of the peerage orders as per Corpora.

Note that I have specifically highlighted one passage which is the root of much of the discussion with regards to where a ‘rapier peerage’ might reside.

Patent Orders

The following institutions are established for all kingdoms in the Society. A Patent of Arms may be conferred only upon a person being admitted into one of these orders. Each candidate for a patent order must satisfy the general requirements listed above in A.1., as well as the specific requirements listed here.

a. The Chivalry:

(i) The Chivalry consists of two equal parts: Knighthood and Mastery of Arms. No one may belong to both parts of the order at one time. When a member is admitted to the Chivalry by the Sovereign, the choice of which part of the order to join is made by the new member. The candidate must be considered the equal of his or her prospective peers with the basic weapons of tournament combat. To become a Knight, the candidate must swear fealty to the Crown of his or her kingdom during the knighting ceremony. Masters of Arms may choose to swear fealty, but are not required to do so.

(ii) The duties of the Chivalry 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) To enrich the kingdom by sharing his or her knowledge and skills.

(d) To support and uphold the Crown of his or her kingdom.

(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 Chivalry.

(g) To bestow the Accolade of Knighthood upon a candidate for the Order of Knighthood, by sole right as both Sovereign and knight, or acting directly for a Sovereign who is not a knight.

b. The Order of the Laurel:

(i) Members of the Order of the Laurel may choose to swear fealty, but are not required to do so. The candidate must have attained the standard of excellence in skill and/or knowledge equal to that of his or her prospective peers in some area of the Arts or Sciences. 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.

(ii) The duties of the members of the order are as follows:

(a) To set an example of courtesy and chivalrous conduct.

(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 advise the Crown on the advancement of candidates for the Laurel.

c. The Order of the Pelican.

(i) Members of the Order of the Pelican may choose to swear fealty, but are not required to do so. The candidate must have attained the standard of service to the Society or any of its branches equal to that of his or her prospective peers, which is above and beyond that normally expected of members of the Society.

(ii) The duties of the members of the order are as follows:

(a) To set an example of courtesy and chivalrous conduct.

(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.

4 – My definitions with regards to where and why a “rapier peerage” might go there.

It has been argued that a “rapier peerage” belongs in one of the other two orders, not in The Chivalry. For me the answer to that is “yes and no.” Our three peerages as they currently exist make sense for a reason, they cover it all. But they do so in a very specific sense that makes them “separate but equal.” That is an important phrase to remember.

    • Pelican
      • The Pelican is about service to the Kingdom. How does one achieve a “rapier” related service? Really only one way that I have seen (and which I believe was at least one of the factors in achieving my own Pelican), the support of the community of rapier fighters. So not for being a good fighter, but for serving the specific fighting community.
    • Laurel
      • The Laurel is about the Arts and Sciences of our historical period. How does one achieve a “rapier” related Laurel? In this case we have a growing abundance of historical material with regards to fighting styles, techniques, training, and education. Many of the historical masters provided information not just on skill at arms, but also on society and how to live ones life. A thorough understanding of these things, teaching these things, displaying a historically accurate skill in it’s context would be worthy of consideration in my opinion. I do know that there are other Laurel’s who disagree with that and their arguments are usually around “we don’t give a Laurel for ‘fights good’.” I don’t disagree with that. We, as Laurels, are not about Prowess on the field.
    • Knight/Master at Arms
      • Here. Here is where we build. The current definition and specifically due to the highlighted passage, limits the Order of Chivalry to “tournament combat.” It does not define “tournament combat”, by the way, but it is generally understood that the reference is to the tournament that gives us our Royals.

Okay. We generally recognize and frequently throw around the phrase “prowess upon the field”. We recognize that a Knight/Master at Arms is recognizable as such by virtue of his or her skills as a fighter.

Which begs the question, why are we limiting ourselves to only one form of fighting when there are so many in history to choose from? Because of that one phrase in the definition provided by Corpora.

Yes, we have invested a 50 year long set of values and emotions in to this definition, but it seems limiting in the extreme. Think about this because it is a point I will come back to.

5 – The Umbrella of Chivalry

One thought I have seen presented is the idea that the Order of Chivalry already has two groups within it; Knights and Masters at Arms. So why not more? Why not have “Master of Defense” for rapier fighters, as an example?

Typically the response is something along the lines of “well they aren’t a real Knight.” BULLSHIT. It’s a bogus argument at best and here is why.

As an historical organization we seem to be blinded to the fact that Knighthoods were given for a lot of reasons, not just combat. Admitting other ‘combat skills’ in to the Order of Chivalry as a matter of ‘prowess upon the field’ should not be considered such a stretch.

I can also remember a number of years back before I was a peer of any stripe the arguments that went around about how the three existing peerages where not being treated as equals and they really should have been. Where we are now those arguments are laughable. If you think that the three orders of peerage are not equal I’ve got a whole list of reasons I can go in to about why that is simply bad thinking. (I could use a lot harsher language but I’m not going to.) So arguing that “they aren’t real Knights” is, at best a fad that would pass once people started realizing how stupid an argument that actually is.

Having “separate but equal” groups under the Order of Chivalry might solve one of the other “non-problems” that people argue about as well: How are Knights supposed to be able to judge rapier fighters or anything else we might want to lump in?

If there are groups within the Order of Chivalry who have the necessary knowledge then they share that knowledge. In fact, that is precisely how we do things in the Order of The Laurel! I am not a costumer, yet as a Laurel I will eventually be asked to judge whether or not a costuming candidate is worthy of elevation. What do I do? Well, over the years I’ve learned a little bit (and remember that when I talk about cross trained fighters below), but basically I also just freaking defer to those who know and who I have decided I can trust.

Seed the Order. There are a number of people who could be the first ones elevated who have already demonstrated both knowledge and prowess. Look at that Chivalry definition again: the candidate must be considered the equal of his or her prospective peers. Hello? It’s right there.

6 – Cross trained fighters

I have already talked about the concept of cross trained fighters before, but briefly let me reiterate –

Fighting is fighting. Prowess is prowess. The only difference there should be in the fighting community is what tools you play with.

As a Rapier fighter I train hard, I work hard to develop skills which give me the chance to fight with a lot of people and have a damn good time doing it. I am not the best, but I’m pretty damn good at what I do and I have worked hard to get there. I teach all the time.

I have taken up Cut & Thrust fighting. A whole new realm of skills. I train hard. I work hard to develop skills which give me a chance to fight with even more people and I have a damn good time doing it. I’m not the best, but I’m working on being good at it. I teach it when I can because I’m good enough to do that.

I have taken up Heavy fighting. A whole new realm of skills. I haven’t been at it long but I can see the road ahead of me as I work hard to develop new skills which will give me a chance to fight with even more people and have a damn good time doing that too.

I may never get good enough as a heavy fighter to be a member of the Order of Chivalry as it now stands. Yet I would argue that as a cross trained fighter its entirely possible that I could be a good candidate for an Order of Chivalry that expands a bit to allow the idea that people who fight with something other than rattan can be considered worthy.

And I am not the only one.

So, if I can stretch and grow and learn multiple fighting styles, why can’t heavy fighters? Why can’t Knights? Why can’t the Order of The Chivalry choose to recognize that fighting is fighting and the only difference is the tools you use?

7 – BUT, BUT, BUT WHO FIGHTS FOR CROWN???

People who are qualified to fight as heavy fighters are the ones who fight for crown.

I’m not asking for there to be a rapier tournament crown list. Though if I am not mistaken the Barony of The Far West rotates it’s methods for who gets to be Baron by virtue of Heavy, Rapier, and Arts tournaments. So it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

But I’m not going there. I do still believe firmly that Crown and Coronet should be fought by Heavy Fighters. Why? Because that still is our culture plain and simple.

BUT!

But, we do allow our Royals to dictate (within certain limits) how our tournaments are to be fought or under what conditions. So maybe, someday, our culture will mature enough to get to a point where a Royal might say “in the third round fighters must fight Cut & Thrust”. In my view, as a cross trained fighter, that would be awesome.

Why? Because we would have achieved a culture that recognizes fighters are fighters, and it would only be about the tools you use. Because Knights who wanted to enter would have to have learned more than how to swing a stick and rapier fighters would have to have to wear armor. Because fighting with more than one form would be a normal thing and we’d all get to understand each other a hell of a lot better.

This is why cross trained fighters make so much more sense to me. Sure, specialize in rattan, or specialize in rapier, or specialize in C&T, whatever. You can’t be a master in all of it and no one would be asking you to. But you can be good at it all, you can enjoy it all, you can learn from it all.

And if you decide you don’t want to learn beyond your current limits? Fine, don’t enter the tourney. You have no rights in this case. You are not owed an opportunity to fight for Crown or Coronet. You are given a privilege. There are plenty of other reasons you already take in to account for why enter this tourney but not that tourney. Other reasons come in to play. This is just one more.

8 – You should tell the Board of Directors all of this!

I have.

9 – So what about all those other things; archery, equestrian, thrown weapons, etc?

Don’t see how those things don’t apply to all the arguments I’ve made here.

Admittedly some of them are easier to achieve cross training in than others. I doubt I will ever be in a position to be able to do anything of substance in the equestrian realm for example. But I can, and do on occasion, play on the archery field. And I am pretty darn excited about thrown weapons now that I’ve had some opportunities there.

Okay, maybe they all need to be lumped together just for the sake of structural concerns, but if they are then they still need to be under the Chivalry umbrella. They are combat skills. A Knight is supposed to know as much as they can about these skills, yes?

Go for it.

10 – So lets wrap this thing up.

Am I in favor of a rapier peerage? Honestly, despite all I have said above, I am not 100% sure. There are arguments for it being a separate peerage, there are arguments for it being incorporated into the existing peerages.

Both sides have value, though obviously I think there is more value in the idea of incorporating it.

My chosen path of cross trained fighter means that regardless of the outcome of the decision I am not particularly impacted by it. My chances of being a “Knight” of some fashion are more or less the same. Perhaps a bit quicker if they allow the rapier to be incorporated, but really, its going to go about the same for me.

And I am okay with that. I am happy that I am now learning to fight heavy. I am happy that I fight rapier and C&T. I am looking forward to adding combat archery to my list of skills as well as thrown weapons.

The BoD will make it’s call and at that point I will decide what I want to do next. My feelings about the structure of our existing peerages as well as my feelings about current fighter culture aren’t really going to change based on this decision.

All that might change for me is what I decide to do next.

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About santiagosgrimoire

Magician, Entertainer, Actor, Cook, Leather Worker, Artist and generally very busy.

Posted on November 14, 2014, in SCA, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. THANK YOU. I think that the Chivalry should be open to all fighting styles. That should happen. I hope the BoD agrees with you as well.

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