About Courtly Manners, Personas and All That…

topic posted Mon, August 29, 2005 - 9:15 AM by  Ðarter
OK, I am relatively new to the SCA and local events. I have slowly (well, OK, rapidly what with all the photography and message boards I do) been becoming more immersed in the “Dream.” Now I really have no real SCAdian name, they call me “Darter” which is actually my Internet nickname. I have no heraldry, and doubt I ever will since I do not fight. I’m not part of any household though Pentwyvern has adopted me and lets me camp with them at Pennsic. I occasionally make local barony meetings but not knowing anyone I tend to sit quietly in the back.

The really BIG thing I do not have that seems to be essential is a “persona.” Basically I show up to events as me and walk around taking photos. My garb is getting better as time goes by and I find I am just as comfortable in a fancy late period cavalier get up as I am in an early period simple shirt/pants (Pennsic Generic) combo. I often dress according to where I am going to be visiting. For instance what I wore to the Blue Feather Ball when they purchased me to shoot the event (tights, thigh-high boots, silk shirt and doublet w/ slashed sleeves) would NOT be what I would wear when I head out to Tuchux camp. Is the changing of periods and garb types frowned upon? Do I need to come up with a set persona or can I keep being a chameleon and blending in on the environment in which I shoot?

Also, being that I am beginning to interact more with the Royalty, just HOW am I supposed to act. I know in history I am supposed to drop to my knees or something or get the ax but just what am I supposed to do? Is there some resource of court etiquette for “newbies?” I mean, I never know how to address a Baron let alone the King. In fact, I have just had an email exchange with good King Malcolm and I had no idea it was he until he said so… then I was concerned I had maybe breached etiquette by being familiar.

Then there is the speech. I hear a lot of colloquial forms used by some people when they talk to each other but I really do not know how to speak so I tend to be quieter.

Over all though, I really enjoy my experiences with the SCA and my local Barony. I just want to learn the right way of doing things so that I might interact better.
posted by:
  • Ok....... I'm certainly no expert, but I'll do my best.

    I know a lot of people that have what they call "alternate" personas. I know also many people who have switched personas after several years, finding that what they started out with isn't what held their attention.

    I personally, have a persona with quite a bit of available versatility. I am the daughter of a Hungarian Courtesan and the Falconer for the French Royal Court. I chose a time period where the clothing would be relatively easy for me to learn to make for myself and has enough versatility to get away with a lot of different things.

    I would love to learn falconry. But, I know I won't have the time necessary for many years to even try. So, what I *Do* do is work with the raptor center here in WV and help them with rehab, triage, transport and hacking out birds or releasing them back to the wild. It is more rewarding than I could ever have immagined.

    There are a great many things I want to learn to do. I have a lot of aspirations.......and with any luck, at least one will be realized someday.
    • i hate this new "debugging" they did....

      part two:

      Royalty: If they are wearing their coronets, or are at an official function visiting AS royalty.... it is always nice to bow or curtsey (depending) upon their entry or when they come within say....... 5-10 feet of where you are if it's not crowded.
      Court garb or sunday best is always preferred in court. But don't feel badly if you see a royal on the street, they stop to chat and you're in your generic stuff. Always be courteous. If they are embarassed by it, they will tell you. "Her Majesty" at first, then "ma'am" (even through today in Britain.) "His Majesty" and then "sir" I believe is proper when they address you. Just be polite. Remember the manners that no one teaches anyone anymore... stand when they enter a room. etc.
      • *insert loud explative here*

        There's a really good beginner's book that is called: "The Known World Handbook" which covers recognition of different crowns, the right way to address them, simple clothing construction... etc. It doesn't cover everything by any means, but it's a good start. You can get it sometimes from the local seneschal because lots of groups will order in bulk for newcomers, and you can get it from corporate.

        Like I said, I'm certainly no expert, but...... anything I can help with, let me know.

  • manners/persona.. etc. ( got long)

    Mon, August 29, 2005 - 10:26 AM
    A very brief overview on manners: be polite. insert period here. Ettiquette is a bit tricksier, as it follows the SCA's traditions as well as personae. For me, I follow an early 14th C Scotsman's ettiquette, after I was civilized, of course, by the good King's court. When I address royalty, he is "My Liege" as I am a Knight in fealty. In all situations, however, you can never go wrong with the generic "My Lord" or "My Lady".. that is always proper.

    If you'd like the details:

    King and Queen: Your Majesty, or Their Royal Majesties.
    Prince and Princess: Your Highness, or Their Royal Highnesses
    Duke and Duchess: Your Grace, or Their Graces
    Count(Earl) and Countess; Baron and Baroness; Viscount and Viscountess: Your Excellency, or their Excellencies
    Grant-level Award of Arms: Your Lordship/Ladyship or The Honorable Lord/Lady
    Award of Arms: My Lord or My Lady..
    Knight: Sir (or some female knights use "Dame)
    Master at Arms, Laurels and Pelicans: Master/Mistress..

    Again.. and remember because this is important: "My Lord or My Lady is ALWAYS appropriate." For the most part, there isn't anyone who will get bent out of shape about polite and friendly conversation. (there are some.. but then that's what showers were invented for.)

    As King..the individual sets the tone for familiarity. For instance, I will sign this missive simply "Malcolm." I'm not being official or speaking as Crown. However, if I *am* speaking in an official capacity, as an authority on a subject or to bring courtly officiousness to bear, I'd sign "Malcolm, Rex Aethelmearc... (Malcolm, King of Aethelmearc.)" As LH noted with her commentary, that's the "typwritten" version of wearing the Crown.

    Part of the show or mysticism of the SCA are the stations. Station is period.. actually life was dictated by Station. Before becoming King, I viewed it as my job to add to the "flavor" of the world by treating my King and Queen as I would have treated my Sovereigns were I truly the Knight to a 14thC King. It adds to the atmosphere around me. As Royalty, it is my job to "be King.".. to give the Royalty a living, breathing presence.

    As a new person to the SCA.. don't be overwhelmed by the details. Enjoy the feel of the world, and allow yourself to be caught up in the nobility. How do *you* think you should treat those with whom you interact? Define nobility on your terms..and live it. This Pennsic War I had the honor of seeing many different versions of that..from the Samurai Toshio to a Mercenary friend. Rude is rude no matter how you coat it, and keeping interactions polite is the real key to it all.

    As to garb, there are no hard and fast rules to personae and clothes. I chose a solid timeframe because that is the period in history that I am enamored of. My Lady Tessa is a 4th Century Vandel.. (corner her sometime and she'll blast you with details on that culture).. but she wore mostly 14thC garb during our Reign. However, I'll gladly wear garb that is Cavalier or Roman.. so feel comfortable in what you are. Find your interests and wallow in them.

    This particular subject can feel daunting.. but don't let it. Most of us are friendly sorts. The Knowne World handbook is a good starting point, but the best is just experience. I like to think that we're a warm and welcoming Kingdom.. and I know this Barony is as well. If there's anything we can do to help you feel more comfortable, please ask.. I'll be happy to help where I can.

    • Re: manners/persona.. etc. ( got long)

      Mon, August 29, 2005 - 11:56 AM
      Great explanation by Malcolm of courtesy practices! : )

      Darter, don't feel bad...I've been involved in the SCA for 9 years now, and my garb is still a little of this, a little of that. This is partly because of my ecclectic musical interests, though...I started out thinking of maybe a Rom/gypsy-type persona, but since I love playing Celtic music and love that culture too, I ended up submitting (and having passed) a name that was Welsh.

      OK, no biggie...but now, since I seem to spend more time than ever playing dumbek (and having apprenticed to Daveed in that capacity), I'm really wanting to explore a Turkish persona. But dammit...everyone knows me as Muirgen, and that's not exactly Turkish. So I'm in a bit of a quandry myself here!!!

      Now I'm starting to collect garb that I feel more comfortable drumming in, and which I'd call "middle-eastern generic" garb. But we should all keep in mind that this hobby evolves for each of us in different ways...I'm a little ADD, I think, and I need to keep mixing it up to keep it fresh, new, and interesting for myself.

      I've heard that some SCAdians develop alternate personas, but also that the practice may be frowned by others in the society. Any opinions out there? Personally, I'm no long as someone is "making an attempt" I don't get bent out of shape about it.
      • Re: manners/persona.. etc. ( got long)

        Mon, August 29, 2005 - 12:49 PM
        The main thing in my opinion is follow the golden rule, threat other as you wish to be treated. (Or is that a golden rule? :) ) I think it's true in the SCA as much as it (should) be true in real life.
        When I first started going to SCA events, if I saw someone with a crown on, I went the other direction or crossed the street. Not to be rude, you see, but I was DEATHLY afraid of offending them by committing a faux pas. I still feel that way sometimes, several years later, but alot less so. Common couresty & good old fasioned manners go along way even if you don't know the proper way to address a duke from a nobody. Most people (thankfully!) are nice and won't strike you down dead.
        You end up learning what is right for you. This goes for your persona also. I am techincally a 1550 English lady , but I end up dressing Viking alot. Not that I don't like my persona, but I personally love to have all sorts of clothes from different time periods. (I think I might have caught the ADD from Barb...) If it's cold, I might do viking with nice wool apron dress, if it's 12th night, I might do Italian Ren. It's all up to you. I like the idea of having alternate personas. Though right now, one other name is all I can handle. :)

        • Re: manners/persona.. etc. ( got long)

          Mon, August 29, 2005 - 10:14 PM
          One of the best resources is They even have a handy page for newcomers and a link to the 'Corpora' which are the official rules and much less complicated than some would have you believe. I also keep bookmarked.

          You can play as little or as much as you wish. Choose a single persona or have more than one, there are no set rules for this. You don't have to be a member of a household, though it can be helpful. You don't have to be fighter to gain status, even if you're a male. There are other routes such as the arts and sciences (research and implementation of research), and through service (volunteering to assist, be an autocrat (run an event) be an officer, etc.).

          Don't let the possibilty of making mistakes hold you back. We learn best by making them and most people in the SCA are gracious to gently guide you in the right direction.

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