[Bards] badge discussion

Jay Rudin rudin at ev1.net
Mon Nov 13 21:41:10 PST 2006

Leaving aside the opinions (I'll get to them later) some technical heraldic 
issues have been raised.  Here are the technical answers.  I'm trying to 
restrict myself to historical and rules discussion, but it ain't easy.

>> ... I did a search of badges registered for use by bards in the
>> Known World, and it appears that no badges are registered for
>> bardic communities in general.  They are associated with either a
>> college, guild, or companionate.  So if we want to "properly" use a
>> badge, we should have some identified body as such.
> (After typing the following, I realized I should add this: I'm not
> yelling, I'm just asking. *smile*)
> No offense, Alden, but this is one of the things that I truly don't
> understand about "herald-think": everything's got to have a
> precedent. So... how did the first one get registered? There was no
> precedent then. ;-)

The first arms and badges got registered because great nobles had used 
unregistered armory for generations, before England ever had a College of 

The first ones got registered to groups by way of identifying the specific 
status of that clearly defined and chartered group.  The right for a group 
to have arms was always associated with a Royal Charter of some form.  This 
is not an SCA precedent -- it's fundamental to what armory actually means.

> And if the second (or third (or twenty-third)) occurrence was built
> on a precedent, then it was a precedent that we, who've played in the
> SCA over the years, *created ourselves*.

In fact, it's not an SCA precedent at all.  For the last one thousand years, 
there has been no badge that wasn't associated with a specific individual or 
corporate body.  There is no badge all English drapers can use; the Draper's 
Guild (formally, the Master and Wardens and Brethren and Sisters of the 
Guild or Fraternity of the Blessed Mary the Virgin of the Mystery of Drapers 
of the City of London) has the exclusive right to "three sunbeams issuing 
from three flaming clouds crowned with three Imperial crowns of gold on a 
shield of azure".

> So... what's to stop us from
> creating other, differing precedents? Do we suddenly become unable to
> create original things or have original thoughts after we've done so
> once?

No -- we can do any number of unmedieval things.  But the SCA College of 
Arms has a mandate for, among other things, "studying historical heraldic 

> Are we / must we be bound by a particular precedent? Can we not do
> something (literally) unprecedented, such as change the "for use of"
> qualifier to "the populace" or some such? Is that not an
> "identifiable body as such"?

No, of course not.  A piece of armory must have a clear, unambiguous owner. 
A badge can be owned by the kingdom, and the kingdom could allow its use by 
all bards, but the identifiable owning group would be Ansteorra.  It would 
be ahistorical, but certainly legal.

> For that matter, there *is* a precedent for armory registered "for
> use of the populace" (whatever the wording actually is): the Kingdom
> ensign. Almost every kingdom has an example of this. :-)

Including England, which has the Union Jack, and Ansteorra, which has the 
Ansteorran star within an Orle.  There is, however, no precedent, throughout 
the Middle Ages and Renaissance, for a badge for the unincorporated bards, 
or any other subset of the kingdom that has no formal, chartered corporate 

>> However, we don't have Heraldic Police going out telling people
>> what they can and can't display, so it's unlikely anyone will raise
>> a stink if we use the badge, except for maybe people from the old
>> college who are adamant about the badge being used only by the
>> Queen's College of Bards of Ansteorra.

You are correct that there is no heraldic police that can stop you from 
using a badge you have no legal right to.  It remains a badge that you have 
no legal right to.

Ansteorra's College of Heralds does, however, have a Militant Arm, who are 
supposed to point out improper usage.  If a large number of bards started 
using armory they have no right to, it would be publicly commented on.

> Willow? Robin? Simone? Anyone else? Do you have an opinion about this?

My opinions will come later.  Right now I'm just dealing with the technical 
heraldic facts..

> If I had my 'druthers, I would like to get the registered badge
> approved for use by the "loose association of bards" (i.e., approved
> for use by anyone who wants to use it) -- which wasn't one of the
> options you listed. But short of that I would just as soon use it
> anyway (i.e. option "3").

Badges are not registered only as long as the owner stays active.  Badges 
are not registered only as long as the group remains in royal favor.  Badges 
are registered permanently.  That badge remains registered to the Queen's 
College of Bards.

Nobody else can use it, decide what use it should have, etc.  The Queen's 
College made it clear by its usage that any titled bard could use it, 
whether a member of the College or not, and I would consider that usage to 
be grandfathered.  But nobody else can use it at present.  As an active 
member or the College from its inception until its end, including a year as 
its Principal, I will not use that badge personally, because at present, I 
have no personal right to do so.  (Until Steppes Warlord, I may use it as 
the Steppes Bard, but when I'm not a titled bard, I can't use it.)

Presumably, the remaining members of that defunct College, myself included, 
could petition that it be re-assigned to all former members, or by a new 
college, or by all bards, or by all left-handed red-haired bards who sing in 
A-flat.  But if such a petition had signatures from people who were never in 
that college, it would probably be considered invalid.

> It's *great* armory. It's simple, it's pretty, it concisely conveys a
> very clear meaning (Ansteorran Blackstar + Irish harp, obviously has
> something to do with bards in Ansteorra), and it already has some
> recognition within the kingdom as "something to do with bards in
> Ansteorra". I doubt that there are more than a handful of people who
> would automatically identify it with the Queen's College of Bards.

This fact is immaterial.  Very few people would recognize "Gules, a cross 
formy within seven plates in annulo, all within a bordure argent", which 
belongs to Aulus Allemanius Draconis, the founding Baron Steppes.  The 
current baron and baroness of the Steppes cannot rightfully claim the right 
to use it, simply because an earlier baron did and he no longer uses it.  It 
still belongs to him, and any other use is illegal.  You are correct that 
there are no heraldic police that could stop them from doing so, but there 
is a Militant Arm who would point out, loudly and forcefully, that the usage 
is in fact illegal.  Of course, the current Baron of the Steppes, who is a 
member of the Militant Arm, would never dream of using armory he has no 
right to.

> In any case, I'd like to use that armory *regardless* of whether we
> formally create a new political entity within the kingdom (a college
> of bards, by whatever name).

Unfortunately, what armory you can use is not decided by whether you would 
like to use it, but by who it's registered to.

>> So now it's time for some more discussion on which direction we
>> would like to go.

Who is "we"?  The badge belongs to the Queen's College of Bards.  It is no 
more appropriate for people who are not members of that body to discuss what 
"we" should do with that badge than for me to discuss what "we" should do 
with "Per pale sable and argent, a dragon counterchanged" (Alden Drake) or 
"Quarterly ermine and azure, in bend two crosses formy gules" (Michael 

> Besides, I see no reason for such a political entity -- if it ever
> gets created -- to need its own armory

What does "need" have to do with it?  People and groups register armory 
because they want it, not because they need it.

> (although I recognize that
> there are heralds who absolutely live for creating new armory, and
> who would find my thought to be heresy at best *grin*).

There are also heralds who live to re-enact the Middle Ages and Renaissance, 
and to do research, who know that such a body would in fact have armory.

The only heretical part is the idea that a submission requires proof of 

> But I *do* see the value in displaying some kind of identifiable
> armory *right now*, at every event any of us attend.

Step one to doing this is to register armory for that purpose, not to find 
armory registered for some other purpose and use it improperly.

Robin of Gilwell / Jay Rudin
Militant Arm of the Ansteorran College of Heralds 

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