On Being a Kingdom External Submissions Herald

by Daniel de Lincoln

April 2002

Each kingdom has an external submissions herald--that is, someone responsible for taking heraldic submissions from the kingdom and passing them up to be considered by the SCA-wide College of Arms (CoA) and to be ruled on by Laurel Sovereign of Arms (Laurel). The principal herald might do it, or it might be partly or fully delegated. The external submissions herald may have minions to help.

For submissions, I believe the basic duty of a kingdom College of Heralds (CoH) should be to make Laurel's decision-making as easy as they can. The CoH ought to return obviously unregisterable items but leave judgment calls to Laurel. On items sent up, the CoH should gather the evidence the CoA needs (or as much as they have, at least) and present it in a usable form.

An external submissions herald often must rule on in-kingdom submissions. They must present submissions in an external Letter of Intent (LoI) to the SCA-wide College of Arms. They must send packets of forms and documentation to Laurel. They must issue Letters of Correction as needed, and Letters of Response (LoRs) if a commenter raises an issue that needs to be addressed about their LoIs. They will have to write reports and may have to track money. They may have other duties, such as writing to submitters their letters of notification based on Laurel Letters of Acceptance and Return (LoARs), maintaining the kingdom submission files, or doing commentary on the CoA level. They must be timely and efficient in all this.

Below, I try to cover the requirements for all these, and also my own opinions. (What, me opinionated?) I was the external submissions herald for Ansteorra. Like a pint-size Polonius, I just think that I know what a good one ought to do.

I hope that some of the points are useful for commenters in general.

A Charge Overall

One basic rule: if you're unsure or worried about something, for Heaven's sake ask for help! Other kingdom heralds are an obvious resource, but don't forget Laurel. The last few Laurel Sovereigns of Arms have loved to talk at length. I think it's a job requirement. Believe me, they'd much rather fix a problem at once than let it fester, especially since the submissions heralds are among the most critical people Laurel has to deal with. If Laurel's too busy at the moment, or if they think they shouldn't get involved yet, they'll surely tell you how to get help. Please don't hesitate to ask, even just for general feedback.


You'd better get a staff for your various purposes, to help avoid your burnout and to help you be wise. Realize that a fair chunk of them will drop away or be useless, so don't worry about over-recruiting. I heard that once in A. S. VI an SCA officer was once blessed with too much good help, but I think it's just a myth, like Heraldic Heaven where nobody wants to be Rhiannon the Wanderer. Note that you can give office tasks like filing and mailing to a non-herald, and that widens the labor pool muchly.

You'd better have access to a decent heraldic library. Even if your kingdom has in-kingdom commentary, some of it will be incomplete. Buying a library is most convenient. If you can't afford it, you can ask kingdom to spring for one, but then it's an officer's library that you must pass on to your successor or be ritually reviled forever. Local libraries can help, especially university libraries. They may have a much larger budget than you. However, they may not have the good sources, and they may not be open when you're typing furiously at 1 A. M. on the penultimate night of the month and you suddenly realize the best documentation you have on a submission is "Name Your Carpathian Kitten".

Especially get the Rules for Submission (RfS), the CoA Administrative Handbook, and the Glossary of Terms. Free Trumpet Press West has paper copies. They're on the World Wide Web (WWW) under the Laurel Web site at http://www.sca.org/heraldry/. It's convenient to have e-copies because you can search them and you can cut-and-paste. READ THEM. CONSULT THEM. QUOTE THEM. Especially read and note Admin Handbook sections IV and on. They have your duties and standards.

You should also get the Laurel precedents at least since Alison. Older ones are less useful--back then they had different RfS and less knowledge. Most precedents are Webbed, and it's ever so nice to do e-searches on them. Known World Heraldic Symposium Proceedings have valuable stuff.

A short book list that works for most everything is in [Da'ud98]. A fuller list is [Borek98]. I was able to go with an almost-complete subset of Da'ud's list, but I had a good internal commentary system.

WWW access helps. You don't have to send Laurel photocopies of Laurel's own web pages. Those are the only Web pages blessed by Laurel. Those pages are any with a URL that begins http://www.sca.org/heraldry/. The main Laurel web page has a link to the most recent Ordinary and Armorial, to the RfS and Admin Handbook, to old LoARs, to Laurel precedents, and to a lot of other helpful pages. The main page also has a link to the Academy of Saint Gabriel, who has a lot of valuable name articles. E-mail: there are the SCA Heralds', S. Gabriel, and kingdom heraldic mailing lists. Those can keep your skills sharp and give you pointers to info.

There are specialized experts in the CoA and the SCA. FOr example, for Welsh and some other Celt types, Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn; Arabic, Da'ud ibn Auda; Russian, Paul Wickenden of Thanet; Jewish, Jaelle of Armida; several cultures, Talan Gwynek; et cetera. If you don't have evidence to hand and WWW pages don't help, try to find experts before your kingdom rules on the submission. If you don't know who to contact or how, you ask Laurel or an e-mail list.

May Rule on In-Kingdom Submissions

Some kingdoms have the principal herald do internal and external submissions. I think that way lies madness. OK, not madness, but too much work for one person. A triumvirate works well for Ansteorra: internal submissions; external submissions; a principal herald to politic, set policy, look at issues, gather reports, et cetera. (There are many other jobs, of course, mostly beyond the scope of this little article.)

In most kingdoms, the person who puts out the LoI also rules on the submissions that go on it. This is not a requirement; for example, Ansteorra has the internal submissions herald (Asterisk) make the rulings.

Just find a division of labor that works for everyone, but beware of Scylla and Charybdis. Too many people: if one person stops in an assembly line, the whole process stops. Too few people: one person may get overloaded, especially at the end of the month.

Higher kingdom heralds should learn how to do each others' jobs in case of a sudden attack of real life. For example, in Ansteorra the internal and external submissions heralds cross-trained. We had an agreement that if one had to take a month or two off the other could and would take over.

Some kingdoms publish a written Internal Letter of Intent (ILoI). Some of them publish the results. Ansteorra does both. There are several advantages. For one, there's a larger pool of talent; Ansteorra has very valuable commenters a thousand miles away. It also ups the chances of submissions passing at Laurel.

Ansteorra has an officer to collate the commentary, and Asterisk adds the final results and publishes it in the heraldic newsletter. When the annotated commentary started getting published, both the quality and quantity of commentary and submissions went up. It helps train submission officer replacements when they can read what's involved. If the locals read it, it ups the quality of their submissions. Asterisk also holds a monthly meeting at various events around the kingdom to rule on the month's submissions. This provides the final sanity check and judgment calls. It's also an educational tool and a way to drum up enthusiasm.

Yes, it seems faster and less work to have no ILoI and just have heralds meet to rule on submissions. However, some may not be able to make it because of circumstances (work, events) or because they live too far from the heraldic hotbeds of activity (the Carolinas, Alaska, et cetera). They get left out of the educational and advising process, and that makes it less likely that a new heraldic hotspot will develop in the boonies. I've listed other advantages of an ILoI above. That's why I suggest having ILoIs and published results.

But ultimately your kingdom has to find a structure that works best for you.

As for how to rule: You really shouldn't return something unless you can point to the specific rule or precedent that forbids it. For one thing, you could be wrong and you don't want to wrong the submitter. For another, someone has to write the submitter, and if you point to a rule you give the client an idea of how to fix it. For another, it's really embarrassing when they appeal and the LoAR has "Laurel is at a loss to understand how the kingdom College of Heralds could believe that ...".

If you're routinely getting a 100% registration success rate at Laurel, I'd say you're being too strict, almost certainly returning things that Laurel would register. Then again, if your batting average is usually too low, you're probably not filtering out the returnables you should be catching. It's an imperfect balancing act. On the whole, I think it's better to err on the side of forgiveness, and when in doubt pass it to Laurel. One of the ancient war-cries of the CoA is "'Tis a judgment for Laurel, I'm afraid".

One side note: Anyone can appeal anything, and it must be judged by a higher level. If kingdom returns a submission and the client appeals, kingdom CANNOT return the appeal. It MUST be sent to Laurel. When you get an appeal, re-read Admin Handbook IV.E in full. An appeal often means that the submitter is upset enough about a ruling to make an issue of it. Be sure to give them their just due. Help them with their appeal case if it has problems (if it's incomplete or not reasoned well). Unfortunately, appeals usually do have problems.

Present Submissions on an LoI

Name documentation is the bulk of an LoI, so I'll explain things in the context of names. I'll mention other items below.

There is a great article called "How to Document a Name (to within an inch of its life)" [Tang94]. Some heralds may opine that it's "scary". I don't agree. It was the single most clear and illuminating SCA article I've ever read. It doesn't just say how to document a name in far more useful detail than I can give here. It's also pervaded by a rational approach to the topic, implying how to reason about and judge names. I strongly advise getting this article, reading it, re-reading it, and cherishing it. It sets a fine goal to strive for.

Another fine article is [Da'ud98]. The article title is "The Commentary Process", but almost everything applies just the same to LoIs. Also very good is [Alison94], "The Art of Effective Commentary". They both have much good advice on what to say and what not to say.

My approach was "Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the [pertinent] truth".

You have to get the truth before you can tell it. There are several sources: your library resources (as mentioned above), any internal commenters (ditto), and what the submitter and their herald tells you.

Get written proof of claims from heralds and clients. If you have a copy of their source, you may be able to tell if they misunderstood something. Anyway, you need it to send to Laurel. The motto on the Laurel seal of office is "Semper Litteris Mandate", "always get it in writing". The very first rule, RfS I.1, says "In all cases, the burden of proving compatibility [with period style] shall lie on the individual making the submission or that individual's duly constituted representatives.".

Now, you can't always follow that rule. The submitter may want a name from a culture you don't have sources for, and their source may be dicey. For example, our only English-language sources for some non-Western cultures are modern baby name books and suchlike. If so, and if it looks at least possible, I think it best to be kind to the submitter. You can put it on the LoI with something like "I can neither document it nor shoot it down. I ask for the CoA's help.". That shows the College that you're clueful enough to know that there's a problem.

However, please make some effort to verify and research claims before crying for help. I referred to a large set of sources under "Preparation" above. If you cry for help on a common name, you may lose cluefulness points.

Other evidence clients can and must provide. One common case is a branch sending up their branch name and/or branch arms without a populace support petition. If they do, call their seneschal or herald, quote Admin Handbook IV.C.5 at them, and tell them that if they don't forward a petition pronto their items have to be returned. (Ideally, the petition states clearly that it's a petition for name and/or armory, and give the exact name and/or the blazon and emblazon, as appropriate.) Another common case is someone using RfS II.4, the Legal Names allowance. If they don't send in a copy of ID, they can't use II.4; it has to be documented normally or be returned. (There are other requirements for II.4. One is that the allowance is only for the exact spelling of their legal name element.) About the only claim we currently don't require written proof for is a person claiming grandfathering (RfS II.5, VII.8, precedent) from a spouse or immediate blood kin.

As for your own letters: Don't lie, either explicitly or by omission. CoA Commenters check claims and often catch them.

I can't speak for others, but one thing that really torques me off is falsehood on an LoI. Don't say that "Buffy is on page 56 of Withycombe (3rd ed)". She isn't. (She's currently on the UPN network at 8 P. M. Eastern on Tuesdays in the US.)

Lying by omission doesn't get you any brownie points either. (OK, nothing gets you brownie points. Laurel banned them in the 12 December 1975 Cover Letter; see Karina precedents under "Brownie Points". Still.) It's true that "Miranda is in Withycombe, p. 221". However, Withycombe actually wrote, "Apparently invented by Shakespeare for the heroine of The Tempest", so Miranda has been returned by Laurel since March 1994. In any event, without knowing what Withycombe wrote--Is it even a given name? Is it period?--this statement is almost useless.

The whole truth I recommend is something like "Melisent is a given name dated in that spelling to 1201 under Millicent in Withycombe (3rd ed), p. 220".

You'd better tell us how we can look up your claims. Tell the source, and add the edition. If it's in a source in Appendix H of the Admin Handbook--you did get it and read it and know what I'm talking about, right?--you don't have to bother giving the full title, author, et cetera. But beware of surnames where there's more than one book for that surname, like Morgan or Dauzat. Also distinguish Reaney and Wilson (newest edition) from Reaney (older). The header name (like "under Millicent") is extremely important if the source has it, especially with a source like Reaney and Wilson with a hellacious number of headers per page. Also, some sources have various editions; often the page number varies but the header names don't. Give both page number and header, please. Give the exact spelling and its date, if possible. If not, say what you do know and what you infer from it. Tell what it's said to be: a given name, a patronymic, a nickname, what have you. Did I mention the importance of giving exact spellings and their dates? For a WWW page, give the full URL and the date you accessed it.

Tangwystyl writes "Say what you know; say what you don't know; say what you think". If you don't know some items above, say that it's undated, or you don't know if the spelling was normalized to the standard modern form, or whatever. If you're making an inference, say so.

My rule was "when in doubt, over-document". Yes, I had uncommonly wordy LoIs, doubtless the dread of the CoA. I felt it was far better to give extra evidence of doubtful relevance, than to suppress some crucial bit of evidence. Sometimes there was debate internally and both sides had some support (e.g., it was a judgment call). I presented both cases as best I could, but I said which one the kingdom college agreed with and why. As I implied above, I didn't make the rulings on the submissions. I made a deal with the principal herald that I was allowed to disagree in the LoI with the decisions of our college. Nevertheless, I tried to present all the pertinent and useful evidence as fairly as I could.

However, I wrote "pertinent and useful evidence". Do try to learn when you can safely leave things off. If the submitter gives you "documentation" from "The MacAlister Family History", and a commenter points to a dated period spelling in Black's Surnames of Scotland, just use the latter. As a general rule of thumb, if you can find the spelling dated to period in an Appendix H source, you can often just use that and go to the other sources only to fill in gaps. Nota bene: that's just a guideline. Just because a name appears in a book from Appendix H doesn't mean it's period. They have lots of non-period names in them. Some names are normalized or modernized, sometimes with a date that misleads you into thinking the spelling is period. Always check what your documentation actually says.

I've talked about name documentation, but sometimes armory has documentation too. For example, if it's the first registration of the charge in the SCA, you have to document it to period. Admin Handbook section V has most of these cases. There may be other documents, like a letter of permission to conflict, a letter giving or accepting a transfer, proof of entitlement, or whatnot. These documents have to be mentioned in the LoI.

You should start and add to a checklist of all the details you have to do for an LoI. I didn't. I suffered for it. These are the items I can think of. When you find a new problem, you would add to the list. I found it best to do multiple passes over the LoI and check only one thing at a time.

By "history", I mean previous submissions by the same client. Laurel and the CoA may want to hear about them before they rule on the current one. Say if it's a new submission or a resubmission to Laurel. Note: to Laurel. Nobody much cares about how many times it's bounced around inside your kingdom, just whether Laurel's seen it before. Be sure to mention it if you changed the name spelling in kingdom, from what, and why. Tell if a use is grandfathered.

If their name is already registered, say when it was registered and via what kingdom: that kingdom might have pertinent info in their files. Use the exact registered spelling down to the accents. (You can also check the Armorial and Admin Handbook section I to make sure they're under their limit of registrable items, but that's rarely a problem.) If it's a resub to Laurel, say what the previous item was, when it was submitted, when it was returned, and briefly why it was returned.

Packets of Forms

I won't bother copying Admin Handbook V.C, which says what you have to do. I will quote Laurel from the April 1997 LoAR Cover Letter:

  1. The SCA name on the forms must match the SCA name on the LoI, and furthermore must be the submitter's registered name, if there is one, unless it is a change / appeal.
  2. There must be a blazon on the armory forms, which matches the blazon on the LoI.
  3. You must fasten all the paperwork for each submission together using either paper clips or staples.

I recommend plastic-coated metal paper clips. Laurel filing grunts better get a tetanus booster before going to work, given all the rusty paper clips they handle. The rust stains the paper, too.

If there's extra sheets of documentation or other evidence, do staple one copy of a form to one set of its supporting evidence. Do NOT staple two forms together. They're separate copies of forms because they have to go to different places.

Admin Handbook V.B.2.d says the LoI's just a summary of the evidence you have in hand. For example, if the LoI claims that pages 17-19 of Fred's Big Book-o-Names says that Buffy is dated to 1211, you'd better possess and send in photocopies of the title page, publication info page, and pages 17-19. Similarly, if the LoI claims that the client is using the Legal Name allowance, send in a copy of their driver's license or other ID. Likewise, if the LoI claims that the client has permission to conflict, or the branch sent in a populace support petition, or whatnot, send copies. If you don't, Laurel will howl the other motto, "Non scriptum, non est!" ("If it's not written, it doesn't exist!"), and return the submission.

The only things you don't have to copy and send: anything out of sources in Admin Handbook Appendix H; anything from Laurel's own WWW pages. If the submitters send them, please pull them from the Laurel packet before mailing, and you may save postage and file space.

Letters of Correction, Letters of Response

Even if you're not doing commentary, you need to monitor LoARs and commentary about your LoIs, and put out corrections and responses as needed. Some specific things you might have to do: correct typos; add to or correct your documentation; raise questions about others' comments; rebut or support others' arguments with other evidence or with reasoning. You can add polite comments, like thanking someone for giving evidence that saves one of your submissions, or "calling the blow" if someone shoots one down.

Try for a quick response. The principled reason is that it gives people more time to comment on your reply. (There's also the slim chance that, if it's fast enough, Laurel might be forgiving and not pend an affected submission for another four-month commentary period.)

Also monitor responses so you can learn and improve. Months of detailed commentary on your letters is a warning. It means you're not giving all the information needed, so the CoA has to cover for you. Note the sorts of comments you get, find patterns of problems, and learn. Certainly at first you'll get lots of comments--everyone has to learn. Everyone makes some mistakes. But believe me, people who don't improve do get noticed by the CoA.

Reports and Money

At least one person can and will demand reports of you. Find out who they are and what they want. (Duh.) You probably should report Laurel registrations and returns for your kingdom in the kingdom newsletter. It's good public relations, and it also helps cover for notification letter problems. If your kingdom has a heraldic newsletter, reporting Laurel actions there is also useful. The kingdom heraldic e-mail list is also a useful place.

Many kingdoms have a separate bank account for their College of Heralds (CoH). This is not required. The Ansteorran College just uses the kingdom treasurer. I put the kingdom treasurer on my mailing list, and told them to always check the next-to-last paragraph for the amount of the check for Laurel fees. That saved me from forgetting to arrange for payment. It was much safer and easier for us. On the other hand, checks tended to be cut slower.

If your CoH does have a bank account, doubtless there is a Society treasurer's handbook, a kingdom one, and kingdom classes. Follow the rules. This is very important for money. Also, please be efficient in depositing money. One pet peeve of mine is that SCA folks take forever to cash checks.

Oh, and write the LoI date(s) on the check that's paying for them!

You ought to record and report all expenses. Do this even if you don't file for reimbursement. Your successor might have to. In any event, kingdom will want to know how much the office costs.

If you have books or other supplies of value, I suggest taking inventory at office transitions, done by the outgoing and incoming officers together.

Letters of Notification

Admin Handbook V.A.2 requires letters to individual submitters to tell them the results of their submission. I think the submissions herald usually gets this task, but there's nothing to say it can't be delegated to another herald.

Please be tactful about a return. You should always quote the entire text of the return. You should probably add more, explaining it with less jargon. You should give suggestions on how to fix the problems if possible--but note that if they can't fix every cause for return, it'll just get shot down again upon resubmission. You should offer them any help you can give. (All that's why an experienced herald ought to write the return letters.)

Maintaining the Files

The Admin Handbook requires keeping and filing a copy of every sheet of paper that flows thru a heraldic office: a copy of every name and device form (line drawing and colored), every page of documentation, every LoI, LoC, and LoR, every LoAR, every letter of notification, every piece of general correspondence, every bit of financial records, everything. You may or may not keep the files, though. In Ansteorra, the internal submissions herald keeps them.

If it deals with a submitter, do as Laurel does: keep manila files with the submitter's primary SCA name on the tab, and put new pieces of paper at the front (so you can find things by stratigraphy). File household name and armory forms in the file for the person who submitted it.

Don't get behind in your filing! If you have to, invite members of your local branch over for filing, pizza, and a cheesy medievaloid video. (See http://www.appletonstudios.com/movies1.htm, Da'ud-Bob ibn Briggs, for when bad medievaloid movies happen to good movie reviewers.) For that matter, that can be an incentive for your regular staff.

If a client previously submitted via another kingdom, you can ask those heralds for copies of their file. Also, please respond to such requests. For extra bonus points, you can scan other LoIs for clients who previously submitted via your kingdom and surprise their kingdom heralds with a copy of their file.

Other Duties

If you want to try being a commenter, you should definitely read [Da'ud98] and [Alison94].

In general, don't get behind on work. Yes, I know: easy to preach, not so easy to do. The Admin Handbook requires timeliness, and even hard deadlines for some things (an LoI at least once every two months, notifications of submitters within two months, et cetera).

Notice when the job is too much work. You might offload some of the work to a willing soul and make the load manageable. I mentioned the value of cross-training above.

In all SCA officer positions, the final duty is to notice when you need to leave the job and to try to find a replacement or three. "Heraldic black holes" are a recurring problem. They can mess things up for years. You must talk to your superiors (principal herald and/or Laurel) if you're having problems. There is no shame in asking for help and advice, and no shame in getting someone to replace you early. If all else utterly fails and you've turned into a heraldic black hole--and please look for the signs--at least be able to hand over all the forms, letters, and other records of your office to your successor or to your principal herald. "Accidentally on-purpose losing" them (Lord forbid!) will get an amazing number of people in the SCA making little voodoo dolls looking just like you. Forever. If all else fails, it's much better to hand over everything.

In all of this, have fun. If you don't, you probably won't stick with it. You might vent (orally, not in writing) to a close-mouthed friend about the latest atrocity that John Hogsed sent up. You can toss an occasional joke into the LoI, but not personal insults or mockery. Think about an April Fool's or Halloween Horror LoI. Consider parties or bardic circles with your fellow heralds.

A Final Note

The sine qua non is "observe good examples and learn". If that's the only thing you remember from this paper, you'll do OK. Forget that and you'll be in bad shape no matter what. Read the CoA rules. Read LoARs and LoIs and see how they do it. Read commentary on your letters. Ask Laurel, kingdom heralds, and people for feedback and help. Learn from all of it.

Appendix: Kingdom Strictness?

There's some difference of opinion on whether a kingdom can have stricter registration standards than Laurel.

Bruce Draconarius wrote about this in the June 1993 LoAR Cover Letter (CL). Unfortunately, I can't see a good place to trim it, so I'll quote it in toto:

I've recently received inquiries from a number of Society members--none of them heralds, and from various Kingdoms--asking questions like "when did the College of Arms start banning households?" or "how come So-and-So could register a badge when I can't?" They indicate to me that, in some places, "suggestions" about good style have become dictates.

This I find disturbing. While I know about (and usually encourage) diversity among the practices of the Known World, there are some things that should, for continuity's sake, remain constant. For the College of Arms, one such constant is in the Rules for Submission, including the Administrative Guidelines. These are equally applicable in all thirteen Kingdoms--if only because every submitter has the right to appeal to Laurel, over the heads of their Kingdom College.

The uniform application of our Rules is self-evident in cases of disallowed practices. If a Kingdom College, for instance, were to decide on its own that sable on gules had sufficient contrast, and forward submissions based on that decision, they'd quickly find themselves corrected. Certainly, none of the forwarded submissions would be registered, as the Rules now stand. Problems where a Kingdom permits disallowed practices are self-correcting at the Laurel level.

In cases of allowed practices, however, the need for uniformity of the Rules is less evident. A Kingdom might decide on its own to forbid a poor (but legal) heraldic practice--say, forbid the use of compass stars or garden roses--and the effect at the Laurel level would be the same as if that Kingdom had begun a massive education program and convinced its populace not to follow that practice. Thus, no corrections would be possible at the Laurel level--until we start getting inquiries from submitters, as I have.

Everyone has a right to an opinion as to what the College should permit, or shouldn't permit. If your opinion's strong enough, you might try to persuade, convince, or gently discourage your submitters when they suggest something in poor-but-legal style. When a practice is permitted by the Administrative Guidelines, however, it's not the place of any individual Kingdom College to disallow it. If badges, household names, and alternate personae are permitted, they should be permitted to everyone, in every Kingdom. Those who disagree with any given practice are welcome to open debate within the SCA College of Arms--and in the meantime, exercise their salesmanship with their clients.

I have since heard other opinions, even from very senior heralds. One said that kingdoms can have stricter regulations in other areas (e. g., combat armor minima), so they should be able to be stricter in heraldry. Another said that if something inauthentic is registerable at best on a judgment call, the kingdom heralds have every right to return it. That is, the kingdom may strictly enforce the requirements for period style (e. g., RfS I.1) unless Laurel has specifically ruled the practice to be OK.

I disagree strongly with both views. My positive argument: There are two possible disagreements (or errors, I would say) for debatable items.

  1. Passed upward from kingdom but Laurel returns it.
  2. Returned at kingdom but Laurel would register it.

In case 1, the submitter has been given every chance at what they want, and has lost only a few months in the attempt.

In case 2, kingdom has, on its own, denied the client the privilege Laurel would give. Further, to get that privilege, the client has to know it can be appealed. Most don't know that. Some people don't get told even on return. Many fewer know how to do it properly according to Admin Handbook IV.E. Even if the client does it right, it costs him extra months and effort. Further, unless the submitter appeals, the CoA never sees the issue to give any evidence, and Laurel never sees it to rule on it.

I really dislike a policy of quietly taking away rights unless they say the magic words and do the mystical chicken dance.

My counter-argument to the two counter views above: other Society officers allow kingdoms to be stricter. If you appeal to the Society Marshal saying, "My armor meets SCA minima; I should be able to fight", you'll be turned down. To me, a key is that the Admin Handbook allows such appeals, and such cases have always been judged by Laurel's rules and not the kingdom's. If that were not the case, I might have different views.

I believe that it's the CoH's job to return the obvious unregisterable items and send the doubtful cases up, and that the Laurel CL text says that kingdoms can't deliberately be stricter than Laurel. (I discussed this with Baron Bruce, the CL author, and he agreed on both counts.) In my insufficiently humble opinion, deliberately being stricter would be a wrong to your client and against Laurel's ruling. Personally, I believe that if you're not willing to enforce the Laurel rules as written, giving even the Devil his due, you ought to get out of the submission-handling business.


The original version of this article appeared in the 1999 Known World Heraldic Symposium Proceedings. This is a slight update.

[Alison94] Alison MacDermot, "The Art of Effective Commentary", 1994 KWHS Proceedings, pp. 11-14.

[Borek98] Borek Vitalievich Volkov, "Building an Heraldic Library", 1998 KWHS Proceedings, pp. 57-66.

[Da'ud98] Da'ud ibn Auda, "The Commentary Process", 1998 KWHS Proceedings, pp. 53-56.

[Tang94] Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn, "How to Document a Name (to within an inch of its life)", 1994 KWHS Proceedings, pp. 49-57.

Back to Modar's Heraldry Page