2 December 1984, A.S. XIX

Unto the members of the College of Arms,

from Baldwin of Erebor, Laurel King of Arms.

My lords and ladies,

Enclosed herewith are the acceptances and returns for the Laurel meeting of November 11. The letters of intent processed at this meeting were for the West (8/5), Middle (8/9), Atenveldt (8/11), and Caid (8/22). There were a total of 104 items approved and 15 returned, for an 87% approval rate.


The next Laurel meeting is scheduled for December 16. The letters to be processed at this meeting are Ansteorra (7/24), East (9/9), Caid (9/12), West (9/13), Middle (9/25), and Meridies (9/26). If I have received enough letters of comment on it, the Ansteorra letter of 9/27 will also be processed at this meeting.

The January meeting is scheduled tentatively for the 6th, with a fall­back date of the 20th. The letters to be processed at this meeting are Atenveldt (10/2), Atenveldt (10/3), East (10/9), Calontir (10/9), East (10/22), Caid (10/24), Middle (10/25), West (10/26), and Laurel (11/6). (I have not yet received the Middle Kingdom letter of 10/28 or the forms for the Atenveldt letters of 10/2 and 10/3.) Please try to get your comments to me by December 22, if possible.

The following meeting will be on February 3. The letters scheduled for this meeting are Ansteorra (11/1), Middle (11/1), Meridies (11/1), Caid (11/8), West (11/11), Atenveldt (10/15), and Atlantia (11/15). Letters of comment for this meeting should be in the mail to me by January 26.

Mailing list

Mark Lasie of Westminster is now Aten Herald. Virgule Herald has a new area code, 718. The remainder of his phone number is unchanged. Please remove Mistress Eriod of Eire from the mailing list.


Principal heralds: if you find you've made an error in a letter of intent one serious enough to prevent the other members of the College of Arms from being able to comment accurately on a submission (the most common such error seems to be specifying the wrong tincture or omitting one altogether) ­­ you should try to include a letter of correction in your next mailing. This should be a separate letter, not part of a letter of intent or comment. The problem is that most of your compatriots won't get around to reading an LoI until just before the meeting at which it will be processed, a month after the submission with the error in it was due to be acted on. A separate letter is more noticeable, and it can be acted on independently of its fellows.

When the documentation for a name is intended to show names similar to the one being submitted, this fact should be clearly stated in the letter of intent. A citation from a book, without further explanation, is assumed to be a claim that the documentation supports the name exactly.

If part of a name is made up, this fact should also be noted. It is unfair to the heralds who are attempting to catch grammar and translation errors not to warn them that the next word they see won't be in any of their dictionaries.

When a charge is blazoned as proper, its tinctures should be mentioned in the LoI. This gives the College an opportunity to evaluate the submission for both contrast and conflict.

There is nothing wrong, by the way, with mentioning something in the letter of intent that was omitted from the blazon because it is "default" or "standard," or with mentioning how you know this fact. While this is less important now than it was before the days of miniature emblazons, it may still make your blazon clearer, and it is a way of sharing information with other (possibly less­experienced) heralds.


In his July and August letters, Master Wilhelm von Schlüssel presented a number of issues for comment by the College of Arms. I reviewed these with my staff at the November meeting, and reached the following conclusions.

A. Badges for alternate personas. At the present time, the College of Arms will permit someone to register a badge to be used as a device for an alternate persona. This means that the person may conceivably display, on a shield or a banner, an apparent device that is less than two full points different from the coat of another Society member. Two solutions were suggested: that we stop registering alternate personas altogether, or that we require two points of difference between the badge/device of an alternate persona and other SCA devices.

These proposals received very little support or comment. There does not appear to be any call for an immediate change to our present rules, although the matter should be considered as part of a more general review of the nature of badges in SCA heraldry.

B. Tinctureless badges and heralds' seals. Heralds, like other members of SCA­wide offices, are not permitted to register badges of office. A kingdom or principality herald may, however, register a tinctureless seal, which privilege is exclusive to the heralds. The question posed was: should this be changed, and if so, how?

There were too few responses to this question to warrant any changes, although there does appear to be some support for the suggestion that we disallow tinctureless seals altogether. I see no need to do so at this time.

C. Submission of mon. The suggestion has been made that Japanese mon be submitted on the shape traditional in that culture, a square with the corners cut off, in order to eliminate confusion between an enclosing annulet and a bordure.

Opinions were more or less evenly divided on this question. Comments in favor tended to be on the order of "sure, why not?"; those opposed to the idea objected to the loss of distinction between "device" and "badge" on miniature emblazons (a convenience when one is checking conflicts), the added complexity of "yet another set of forms," and the special treatment of non­European heraldry. A couple of the comments noted, to quote Mistress Catherine Winifred, "that many of us know only a minimum about the correct usage of and rules regarding mon," and called for the dissemination of more and better information within the College itself.

I'd like to add the following observations to those made by the College partly because they have some bearing on the present issue, and partly as food for thought:

1) The problem cited is not confined to Japanese heraldry. An orle or bordure in a European submission may be confused with an annulet (if the submission is on a roundel) or a mascle (if it is on a lozenge). Quite frankly, I feel there is a great deal of merit in the suggestion that all submissions (or at least all devices) be drawn on a square. This would also make the many wedge­shaped charges and divisions more distinguishable, since it would clearly define the corners of the shield.

2) At the October board meeting, the board of directors reaffirmed the geographical and temporal scope of the Society as being "pre­17th century western Europe." "Those attending SCA events or functions in late­period, Eastern­culture, or very­early­period garb and persona, should be treated as visitors from another culture or time who are guests at a medieval or Renaissance court in pre­1600 Europe." (BoD minutes, 14 Oct 83, p. 12)

As much as I enjoy things Japanese, I do not feel it is in the best interests of SCA heraldry, nor is it consistent with official SCA policy, for us to regard mon as being on equal footing with European coats of arms. For all the time we have spent discussing it, the nature of SCA heraldry is still as much a matter of conjecture and opinion as it is established fact. We cannot sustain two parallel systems of heraldry. This is what I see being urged upon us, and I suspect this is the leading cause of the confusion alluded to in the comments on this proposal. I believe we would be better off concentrating on the similarities than the differences, finding ways to assimilate charges and design principles into a predominately European system, not establishing alternative procedures for Japanese personas.

It is my conclusion that the objections to this proposal outweigh the possible advantages.

D. Viscomital coronets. At the present time, there are SCA­wide ducal and comital* coronets, but there is no "standard" viscomital coronet, either as a physical entity or as an heraldic convention. The question is: should there be one?


* "Of or pertaining to a count or earl."

It is clearly too late to establish a standard physical coronet for viscounts and viscountesses. Only tradition can establish such a standard, and each principality has evolved its own traditions. The most we could hope to do in this area is to compile a list of the traditions in each area as a simple aid to understanding (clearly labeled "this is just to give you an idea of what people have done, and anyone who thinks it's an attempt to impose a standard is a ninny" ­­ or words to that effect).

There is, I must confess, a certain appeal in the idea of creating an "heraldic" viscomital coronet, if only for the sake of symmetry. The problem of selecting an appropriate design is a thorny one, however, and the practical application for such a charge is limited. Why? Because the only restriction placed on royal peers (and the rules do not state this explicitly) is that you can't have a coronet of strawberry leaves in your arms unless you're a duke or duchess, and you can't have an embattled coronet unless you're an earl or countess. Other than that, a royal peer may have any kind of crown (yes, I said crown) he or she wishes. This is what the rules say, and, according to the Ordinary, this is precisely what people have been doing.

E. Baronial coronets. At the present time, crowns and coronets are restricted to kingdoms, principalities, and royal peers. The question is: should barons (court or territorial) also be permitted to bear a crown or coronet in their arms?

This issue drew more comments than all the others combined. After reading through the comments and discussing them with my staff, I found four points that stuck in my mind:

1) Elmet Herald's argument that "If you can wear the hat, you can bear the hat," although emotionally satisfying, is at heart too ambiguous for serious consideration. The College of Arms does not define what a person may wear ­- this is a matter for local sumptuary custom, which varies from one region to another. In some areas of the known world, an armiger (or non­armiger) may wear a metallic headrail that would be regarded as a coronet in other areas. We cannot base the acceptability of a charge on something as vague as standards of dress.

2) A crown is a symbol of sovereignty, which is why it occurs in the arms of a kingdom or principality. The crown in the arms of a royal peer is an allusion to this symbol. Baronies are not permitted to have crowns in their arms (they are not considered sovereign), so it would be inappropriate for a territorial baron to do so.

3) Unlike a royal peer, a territorial baron does not retain his rank indefinitely. The right to bear an armorial crown is thus revocable, while the arms containing them are not. A court baron retains his rank, but this rank is even less associated with a position of sovereignty than is that of a territorial baron, so by the above analogy, it would also be inappropriate for a court baron to bear a crown.

4) Period examples of crowns in the arms of barons and non­peers are of no help. We are dealing here with a perquisite of rank, as it is practiced in the Society, not with a question of period usage. The practice is, as has been pointed out, discriminatory ("serving to distinguish"). So is the right to be addressed by a special title ("Duchess , "Baron", "Lady"), to wear a coronet, or to walk in front of somebody else in procession. Such is the nature of class societies (like those in medieval Europe).

The most telling arguments in favor of allowing barons (of any type) to bear armorial coronets are those that either presuppose a change in the medieval structure of the SCA or assume a different symbolic meaning for the crown in SCA heraldry. The former is beyond our power to do; our bailiwick is heraldry, not politics. The latter is a matter of interpretation, although I believe a study of Society custom will bear it out.

The weight of opinion in the College of Arms is against allowing barons to bear coronets in their arms. I concur.

Addenda and corrigenda

Some days you just can't win. Not only was my original explanation of the grammatical change to the name of Giovanni dei Fiori in error (28 Sep 84, p. 1), but as Crescent Herald has just told me, so was the correction. (7 Nov 84, p. 2) So, on the theory that third time's a charm: In Italian, degli precedes a masculine noun beginning with "s­consonant", "z", or a vowel, and dei goes before a masculine noun beginning with a consonant. (Alberto Tedeschi and Carlo Rossi Fantohetti. Mondadori's Pocket Italian­English English­Italian Dictionary, pages xv­xvi. Two volumes in one. Pocket Books, 1956.)

Brigantia Herald has requested a point count for the submission of Arval Benicoeur, "Per saltire Or and sable, a Maltese cross counterchanged," which was returned for conflict with MOORE, "Per saltire gules and Or, a Maltese cross counterchanged." (p. 17). The change in tincture of half the field is a clear minor point. (Rule XIII.B.I.c) The tinctures of the field have also been interchanged, which is a minor point, but this is the second change to the field tincture, and is thus demoted. This gives us "more than a minor but less than a major" for the field. A similar point count can be made for the cross. Had these changes been from different categories, we could have treated them as additive, yielding more than a point, which is sufficient difference from mundane arms. But all the changes are to tincture, and the tincture of the cross is derived directly from the field, so these are clearly not from separate categories. I therefore elected to allow a full point for the combined differences in tincture.

My discussion of the return for Marian Greenleaf (p. 18) was not only unhelpful, it was downright misleading. The coat consisted of a mound drawn in imitation of the arms of NILINGER of Bavaria, with two fleurs­de­lys issuing toward chief and one toward base forming the line of partition. Woodward refers to the Hilinger division as trèflé, and describes it as "a curious example of the trefoil in conjunction with a partition line." (plate XXIX, fig. 9, and pp. 320­321) Brigantia suggested a blazon of "a point flory counter flory," which was objected to by most of the heralds commenting on the submission. None of them offered an acceptable alternative blazon, nor was I able to concoct one myself. I finally concluded that the submission, although visually simple, employed a line of partition that was not conducive to simple blazon, and that it was therefore "too complex for use in SCA heraldry."

Et cetera

There were a couple of other matters I had intended to bring up this month, but they can wait. This letter has gone on long enough already.

Please believe me to be,

Your servant,

Baldwin of Erebor

Laurel King of Arms