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Re: Query re: A&S/heraldry comp at Pointless
Poster: Mark Schuldenfrei <schuldy@abel.MATH.HARVARD.EDU>
Greetings from Tibor.
Mostly, I'm going to try and teach. This isn't a place for a wrestling match
between two respectable gentlemen, such as Hervus and (I hope) myself.
Please, feel free to read this whole letter. It's mostly about period
heraldry, and SCA heraldry, and the similarities and differences. I think we
can all learn from it. (I learned a lot writing it, and reading sources, which
I cite below).
Let's get the personal out of the way.
I wrote to Herveus.
> You are a good, and noble man. You are also a man with a hammer... (:-)
> When you start an advisory posting by reminding people that you are
> Principal Herald, I presume you choose to have them consider your words
> as speaking for the Societal or Kingdom Heraldic offices.
You infer correctly.
Then you really ought to cite the regulations that support your assertions. To
the best of my knowledge, there are none, and I'd like to know if I am wrong.
Let me be direct: Heraldry is inheritable property that conveys personal
When the learned dispute the details of heraldic history, the finest of
magnifying glasses may sometimes be called for. (:-) But not in this case.
Pictures began to be born during tournament as identifying marks, or so it is
believed. It was an attractive idea. And, like attractive ideas in the
Society, it began to be imitated. It became a popular thing, and a sign of
cachet. Customs developed over time, like inheritance, patterns of
inheritance, display of common lines of descent, and so forth. Sometimes those
customs became rules that were enforcable, and sometimes not.
Also like our Society, it also began to be regulated. With varying regulations,
and varying degrees of regulation (and success of regulations). In some cases,
the Crown would "gift" people with arms, generally in addition to territories
to hold and administer. Those lands and arms would sometimes become linked in
the eyes of the people. Sometimes only arms, or territory would be granted.
Sometimes arms would be granted for services to the Crown: see the discussion
of Henry the Fifths grant that Pedro mentioned.
In some times and places, the Crown would tax these items of prestige, sending
people around to see who displayed arms, and tax them for it. In this case,
there was no pretense of registration before or after the tax: sometimes people
denied they had armory, in order to duck the tax.
Only toward the end of period, and only in some times and places, did actual
restrictions on the rights of others to bear armory identical to that which had
been granted specifically by the Crown come about. Most english speaking SCA
heralds know about the cases of Scrope v. Grosvenor, and even Scrope v.
Carminow. One which was won, and one which was lost. At that time and place,
there was a special court established for ruling on these things.
Compare this to earlier works, like Sassoferrato, who not only permited the
assumption of arms, but permitted assumption of arms identical to that which
others held. This is not the only such suggestion, just the earliest that I
know of. (For a nice description of the real history, see the web page at
Note that in the SCA, there is no such promise of uniqueness made anywhere
(except in Laurel's special list, if you chose to place your arms within it)
and that no one, anywhere, is empowered to run a court like those in period.
In fact, except for roughly the last 50 years of English history, heralds had
no right to grant arms, and no right to regulate them. As far as I know. (That
others had some rights to regulate, I will cheerfully acknowledge.)
Did arms become inheritable and convey personal identity? Yes, and to a
limited point. Was "that the way it was in period"? Not clear, and not
absolutely true. And for the vast majority of period (time and geography) not
at all by heralds.
Is this the way it is in the Society? Even less true.
This calls for uniqueness within an heraldic jurisdiction, as
defined by that jurisdiction.
OK. What is an heraldic jurisdiction?
It is an area of land, within which a herald holds absolute authority. It is
also a defined set of arms and armory within which identical arms (whatever
that means) are not allowed.
The SCA has one herald, in charge of all of it's arms and armory, and it's
decisions in that area. Indisputably true, if a laughably poor a model of an
real period system, where multiple jurisdictions were found within single
But, what authority does that chief herald have, and what limits are there on
that power? For even in period, heralds had limits on their powers, and were
quite jealous about their rights. (See the cases in England where there were
disputes over the powers and authorities of heralds.)
Certainly *not* amongst those rights was the right to control heraldic display.
That right was granted to certain courts, or certain officers. In period.
What rights, within the Society, do heralds have to regulate display? Not a
single one. Go look it up. (http://www.sca.org/laws/corpora.hbk.html)
I repeat: Heralds do not have any rights at all to control armorial display in
the Society. No one does: whether they should or not is another question.
By what moral right and authority do heralds have the obligation to regulate
display? We have a lot of custom, but much of that custom is not based upon
history, nor is it based upon useful internal custom. (In fact, I'd argue that
the heralds have exceeded their written authority so many times that we ought
not be trusted... except for your humble narrator. :-)
There is another possible meaning of heraldic jurisdiction: the list of arms
that must be clear of conflict. The SCA is only mostly an independent and
single heraldic jurisdiction: for Laurel has the right and power to protect
arms from outside the Society. This is actually a very period thing to do, in
protecting significant armory from outside the realm was historically done.
So, when Herveus opines:
In period, heraldic jurisdictions were
manifold and relatively small. In the SCA, there is one heraldic
jurisdiction, presently considered independent of other extant or extinct
jurisdictions. (My opinions on this development are irrelevant) Armorial
bearings registered by the College of Arms of the SCA are personal
property of the registrant, which can be conveyed via inheritance.
Displaying the arms registered to another is usurpation of their property,
and as such is actionable. The grievance process laid out by Mistress
Hilary of Serendip provides excellent guidance for steps to take to
resolve a grievance.
This is, pretty much, an overstatement of what rights and powers the SCA
College of Arms has, or grants. It doesn't fit well with history, and it
doesn't fit at all with the rules, and it is kind of odd.
The rules for grievance proceedings are designed for heading off appeals to
authority, and for having authority handle grievances. In this case, though,
there is no appropriate authority in the SCA for this kind of thing. We don't
Which is why I so delighted in the notion of having all sides agree on a fun
and period way of addressing these situations. Instead of falsely invoking an
authority that isn't really there, as Neried and Triton Herald have done.
Mostly, I want to assure people that "There Is No Reason To Be Upset".
Usurpation and assumption of arms happened in the past, it happens now, and it
is no big deal. Don't get crazy if someone "wears your motley". (Thanks,
That is the staus quo. Refusing to acknowledge it does not make it
With love and respect, Herveus... you are *w*a*y* out there, and bring no
respect to your office if you act this way. You and I would both urge people
to enjoy period, by learning about period arms, and creating arms that suit
them. And to not create confusion and annoyance by usurpation of arms.
But you are, without doubt, overstating what we can do officially, or what is
the learned dicta about what people should do. Chill, guy, and have some fun!
The only cse in which I stated that display would be inappropriate is
the case of a return for conflict. The submitter, by submitting, has
asked the College of Arms for its corporate opinion, and it has said
"No, because that device is too similar to protected armory, under the
standards in effect at the time of the ruling." If the intent was to
use the armory regardless, why bother going through the process?
Because you can learn a lot.
I notice you are ducking the whole issue of "what is a conflict, anyway". In
the SCA, it is quite possible to register two sets of arms that are not
technically in conflict, but which people would confuse. Contrariwise, it is
possible to fin dconflict between two sets of arms that don't appear at all
alike to the untrained eye.
And, arms are rejected for other reasons than conflict... Your basic points
are not bad, but you really ought not overstate quite so well.
Gentles: If the College of Arms returns arms for conflict, there stands to be
a decent reason for it. Or, it may be utter bunkum, and an artifact of our
rules. The rules are a very nice approximation of period, understandable, and
uniform. They can also return ridiculous results. Use your heads.
> Not so, my learned friend. Or, as is my rallying cry, "Remember Carminow!"
> Armory eventually became a special class of property, but it was only
> unique within limited areas, it was not always unique to an individual, and
> it was not always heritable, strictly speaking.
Yes, I remember Carminow. He was from a different heraldic jurisdiction.
The general characteristics remain despite exceptions.
And, it was demonstrated to the court that both families had used the arms for
long enough that the court was unprepared to overrule. See also Lovell v.
Morley and Grey v. Hastings as cited in the an article from the Heraldry
Society in 1967, at http://www.kwtelecom.com/heraldry/lawarms.html by Norfolk
Herald at Arms.
Things just aren't the way you are protraying them. Sigh. They are more
complicated, and more ambigious than you portay them. Sigh Again.
> When you oversimplify like that, you rob people of the chance to learn what
> really happened. I've spent more years unlearning "truths the Society
> taught me" than I like.
Yet your positions oversimplify at least as badly.
I don't think so. Can you (in private mail) explain to me what I missed? Or
in public, if it is of a general interest.
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