‘Court’ is a general term in the SCA for a formal assembly presided over by one of our ceremonial leaders – whether that’s the Baron and Baroness, or the King and Queen. They are an occasion for official proclamations, investiture of new officers or ceremonial leaders, and recognition of members of the populace with awards or other congratulations. Court is where we engage most deeply with medieval pageantry and ceremony, and where we talk about the things that matter most to us.
What happens at a court?
A herald (official announcer) will call out that everyone should gather together for the court. Generally, everyone will leave a clear area for a couple of metres around the thrones at the front, along with a center aisle. It’s customary to stand when the people wearing the crowns (whether that’s the Baron and Baroness or the King and Queen) process in, and – if they’re the King or Queen – bow or curtsey when they pass.. The herald will then instruct everyone to ‘make themselves comfortable’, at which point you’re welcome to sit.
Various items of official business will take place, and people will be called up to receive awards. For each award, the herald will name the recipient and describe the award and its purpose. The recipient will approach the thrones, bow, and kneel, and the Crown (or the B&B) may say something about why they are deserving of the award. Different award ceremonies vary in length and complexity (with peerage ceremonies being the most elaborate), but they all end with three cheers.
When the official business is completed, the herald will call for everyone to rise, conduct some final cheers, and then dismiss the populace.
How should I behave during court?
Just as you would during any other ceremony, watch and listen quietly. It’s okay to quietly ask for an explanation if you’re confused, but any long conversations should wait until after court is over. Put your phone on silent, and do your best not to block anyone’s vision or movement to and from the thrones. Stand when the people around you stand, sit when they sit, and cheer when they cheer!
What if I get called up in court?
This is unlikely to happen before you’ve had a chance to watch what other people do, but here’s a quick guide:
- Quickly put your things down and approach the thrones
- When you’re a metre or two away, bow or curtsey, before approaching the final distance
- Kneel on the cushion provided and listen to what’s being said. It’s okay to say thank you, or answer questions, or even comment a little, but if you’re unsure, it’s better to just listen. (If you’re unable to kneel for health reasons, just say so quietly and you’ll either be brought a chair or given permission to stand.)
- When the herald calls for three cheers, stand, bow or curtsey, and back away from the thrones
- Once you’re a metre or two away, bow or curtsey again, and then you can turn and go back to your seat