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shires vs. baronies

Poster: Sherry Hintze <chhintze@bmd.clis.com>

I've been reading the recent thread on the advantages of maintainins Shire
status vs. the advantages of going Baronial with great interest, since I am
the Seneschal of a Shire which has recently been involved in such discussion.

First off, could someone help me clear up a question of Interkingdom
Antrhopology?  When I was in the Midrealm, I understood that Baronies were
made up of Cantons (and Ridings and Strongholds and Colleges) who felt they
would be better off acting in conjunction while Shires were (usually strong)
individual groups who felt they'd be better off solo.  Correct me if I'm
wrong, but in Atlantia, a Barony is a group OR collection of groups with a
Baron(ess).  (I was a lot more active in the Mid than I am able to be
nowadays, so I'm not always sure how things work in this Kingdom.  I'm not
dead sure that's how it works there, but that's how I understood it.)

As far as advantages VS disadvantages:

1) One possible advantage of going Barony is (potentially) more group
recognition and individual recognition at the Kingdom level.  It's only one
element, but it seems that a Barony might be harder to ignore than a Shire
of roughly equal strength and activity.  Of course, there's the possibility
that it's the very things the group does toward Baronial advancement that
get the group noticed and recognized.  (Recognition of individuals (awards),
as Miri pointed out, is only one element in group recognition, but it is one
of the more tangible ones and easy to notice in its absence.)  Baronial
awards go a long way toward making individuals feel recognized, too, in the
absence of Kingdom input.

2)  Another potential advantage of Baronial advancement is the element of
having a Baron(ess) for the group to rally around.  It's been my experience
in the SCA that a group can have all the meetings, committees, consensuses,
and so on that it wants, but that things only really happen when an
individual or a few individuals want them enough to make them happen.
Otherwise, it's easy to agree that an idea sounds okay and make vague plans
to get at it sometime and let it slide under the table.  The individual can
be the Seneschal, the Baron(ess), the head of a strong household, or a just
about anybody.  A Baron(ess) does have the added power to make Baronial
awards, thus giving the group a bit more incentive to be active and get
things done.
        There are a couple of potential drawbacks to the Baron(ess) thing,
though.  If two or more individuals want it badly enough, they can so
thoroughly divide the group that it takes years to recover, and may never
completely heal. 
        Also, I believe it was Malcolm MacMalcom who pointed out the
financial and temporal demands on Royalty.  A Baron(ess) is a lesser degree
of royalty, who must be willing/able to travel - within the Barony and
without - or the amount of representation and leadership s/he is going to be
able to give the group is nil.  If there is no individual with the
time/money/leadership qualities to take the job (yes, it is a job), then
Baronial advancement is a pointless exercise.

3) The potential advantage I see in aiming a Shire toward Baronial status is
the added push it gives members to get together and work together.  a group
has to be strong as a group before they can petition for Baronial status.
Regardless of when or whether that petition gets made, having that to work
toward gives the group a goal to rally around and a reason to get things
done.  It's not the only way to motivate a group and it's not necessarily
the one I would choose - but it's a worthy one to aim for.
        It's not necessary to go Barony just because you can, but having it
as an aiming point may get you to the point where you can.

4)  The biggest potential disadvantage I can see is the increase in
politics.  (Bad politics, that is.)  Who's going to be Baron(ess), and who
will have their ear?  Does the Baron(ess) know enough to steer through the
murk of Kingdom politics?  (Just from my experience with local stuff, there
may be compelling reasons to AVOID being recognized at Kingdom level!)

Just some things to consider - this thread has certainly given me a lot of
them!  Thanks to all who have taken the time to mail me privately, as well.
I am learning a lot, and I hope that in the end it will benefit my group.

In service,
Lady Katriona of NorthWoods
Seneschal, the Shire of Cathanar

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