Request for comment from the Laurel and Wreath Sovereigns of Arms

The SCA's Lauren and Wreath Sovereigns of Arms are requesting comments from the membership on proposed changes to the rules for reserved heraldic charges.

Greetings unto the members of the Society for Creative Anachronism from Tanczos Istvan, Wreath Sovereign of Arms.

First, I would like to thank everyone for the immense amounts of input that I received from members of the SCA regarding the question of whether or not Laurel Wreaths should continue to be required for SCA group armory and, at the same time, whether or not members of the Order of the Laurel could use Laurel Wreaths in their personal heraldry.

The answer to those questions, based on consensus of the commentary received, was "yes" and "no" respectively. Further details can be found in the section "From Wreath: On Wreaths" in the cover letter to the November 2008 Letter of Acceptance and Return ("LoAR"), which can be found at http://heraldry.sca.org/heraldry/loar/2008/11/08-11cl.html

The discussion of those questions prompted further questions, and we again find it appropriate that all members of the SCA be asked for their input. These are the new questions that are being asked. They are items #2 and #3 from the "Letter of Pends and Discussion", which can be found at http://oscar.sca.org/index.php?action=100&loi=528:

  1. From Wreath: Unrestricting Chains and Pelicans

    In the discussion of Laurel Wreaths for Laurels, many commenters and several Companions of the Order of the Laurel mentioned that restricting charges in the shield for the use of members of a particular order is not a period heraldic practice. This is correct.

    It is not a common SCA practice, either. There are roughly 2000 members of the Order of Chivalry. Approximately 30 of them have registered a closed loop of chain in their armory. There are probably a like number of members of the Order of the Pelican. Exactly one of them has registered a pelican in its piety as part of his armory.

    Period practice would have the charge indicating membership in the order depicted as part of the achievement around the shield, not as a charge on the shield. A chain, or a laurel wreath, would be placed around the outside of the shield, as is seen in achievements of members of the Order of the Garter throughout its whole history. This can be seen in the modern display, as well: http://www.royalinsight.gov.uk/files/images/MTnew_public_honours_garteri... depicts former British Prime Minister Sir John Major, processing in the Garter service at Windsor Castle; http://www.familynamesonline.com/imgs/shields/queeneaoa.jpg depicts the achievement of the sovereign of the UK. Note that the garter is around the shield, not part of it.

    With this in mind, we ask what the populace and the members of the peerage orders would think of removing the restriction on closed loops of chain and pelicans in their piety? We note that the use of these items as regalia would still be reserved, and we are not minded to release the tinctureless registrations of the badges. The only difference is that any member of the SCA could use these charges in their arms.

    We note that some kingdoms also register and record full achievements. The SCA College of Arms does not register or restrict achievements at this time: restrictions on achievements are left to the individual kingdoms. We would expect that those kingdoms would continue to restrict closed loops of chain and pelicans in their piety in achievements to the members of those Orders.

  2. From Wreath: Charges for Laurels

    SCA Corpora states that all of the peerages are and must remain equal. We note that this policy is intended to mean in rank, but we feel that keeping them equivalent in privilege is also important. Royal peers, Pelicans, and Chivalry all may register symbols of their rank in their armory. Since Laurels can not use laurel wreaths, there is nothing for Laurels to incorporate into their armory. If this situation is to be remedied by the addition of a reserved charge for Laurels, as opposed to removing restricted charges for individuals of the other peerages (as discussed above), we need to have something to represent the members of the Order in armory.

    In the previous discussion, several people suggested a "laurel chaplet", the same as a wreath, but closed at the top. This suggestion shows a misunderstanding of the terms 'wreath' and 'chaplet'. The presence or absence of a gap at the top is not the difference.

    In mundane blazon, a wreath is what we most commonly think of as a torse - Parker, in A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry, says it is the "twisted band composed of two strips of gold or silver lace and silk by which the crest is joined to the helmet; though some wreaths of the fifteenth century were of four tinctures. It is sometimes, but improperly, called a roll, at others a torse." Chaplets are, by the same source, "a garland of leaves with four flowers amongst them, at equal distances...it is more usual to designate the material of which the chaplet is composed. It may be of roses (and this, perhaps, is the most frequent) or of flowers generally, or it may be of leaves, and often of laurel leaves."

    In Society blazon, the twisted band of cloth is blazoned a torse, while wreath refers to a full circle or near-circle of foliage; chaplet is frequently a synonym for wreath, though we note early precedents (oft-disregarded), ruling that chaplet of roses refers to the garland with four roses in cross, as described by Parker.

    We request suggestions as to what charge could be used to represent Laurels if charges continue to be reserved for the peerages. The limitations are that it must be a period charge, and it must be a charge that has never been registered in the SCA. While this second requirement may seem insurmountable, Baron Bruce Draconarius has been making a study of just this subject, and we have asked him to provide the fruits of his labors for these suggestions.

    One thing I do feel the need to apologize for: I neglected to ask members of the Order of the Laurel if they truly wanted a reserved charge for their personal armory, usable only by the members of the Order. Many members who have commented in the two weeks since the LoAR was published have expressed a strong sentiment towards leaving things the way they are: let the Knights and Pelicans have their symbols, don't bother creating one for the Laurel. If this is your viewpoint, please express your support for it; that option is still open.

Once again, our questions are:

  1. What is your opinion on of removing the restriction on closed loops of chain and pelicans in their piety, or should they be entirely restricted so that they can no longer be registered by anyone?
  2. Should another charge be added that would be restricted to the Order of the Laurel?
  3. If you think there should be a charge restricted to the Order of the Laurel, what do you think that charge should be?

Please forward this call for discussion to any groups you feel may be interested, especially the Peerage lists. All replies intended for formal consideration should be sent to wreath@heraldry.sca.org by Thursday, April 30, 2009. Any email sent to that address will be posted as commentary on the OSCAR system, where readership is limited to the College of Arms.

NOTE: DO NOT [send comments to comments@sca.org, as they] will NOT reach the Laurel Office. Please make sure you [send comments to] to wreath@heraldry.sca.org.

Thank you all once again for your input,

Istvan Wreath

This announcement is an official informational release by the Society for Creative Anachronism , Inc. Permission is granted to reproduce this announcement in its entirety in newsletters, websites and electronic mailing lists.


Publisher's note: SCAtoday.net made a slight alteration to the paragraph about sending comments, to reflect the fact that an email reply-to address is not applicable to a posting on a web site. No change was made to the substance of Istvan's letter. In keeping with standard editorial practice, the altered text is enclosed in square brackets. An introductory paragraph about reply logistics by Patrick Anderson (SCA President), which was not part of the announcement proper, was also removed from this posting because it is not applicable to the web medium.