Mount Pleasant, SC 29465
31 December, 1989
Unto the members of the College of Arms and any others who may read this missive, greetings from Alisoun MacCoul of Elphane, Laurel Queen of Arms!
As you know, the November session was the first one held under the "dual processing" mandated by the Board. The originally scheduled session was held on Saturday and Sunday, November 25 and 26, and considered all submissions under the "old" rules. On the following weekend, all submissions were again considered in a second meeting using only the "new" rules. After a brief break to complete and distribute the December draft of the Administrative Handbook, the results of the two meetings (many Post-It notes!) were collated and the letter of acceptance and return written. The following weekend a separate session will be held to consider the same submissions under the "new" rules. The results of the two meetings will then be collated and the letter of acceptance and return prepared for publication using the guidelines set up by the Board. The letters that will be considered using this procedure include An Tir (3/8), An Tir (6/15), Atlantia (8/1), East (8/5), Caid (8/6), West (8/6), Atenveldt (8/8), Ansteorra (8/20), Middle (8/29), Atenveldt (8/31), Meridies (8/31) and Calontir (8/31). For a complete explanation of the coding systems used to denote the results under each set of rules and the acceptance percentages derived therefrom, please see the appropriate sections of this letter.
As many of you already know, the climactic irregularities which have plagued the Laurel Office since its move to the sunny (????!!!!) South continued on Christmas weekend. In other words, on the day scheduled for the Laurel meeting Charleston was blessed with blizzard conditions including temperatures in the low twenties, thirty mile per hour winds and eight inches of snow for the first White Christmas since 1943 and more snow than had previously been recorded in the area. (We are really expecting a delegation of neighbours suggesting politely that the weird series of disasters started hitting the Low Country the month and that it would be a public service if we relocated before the earthquake fault could become active or the locusts come in to further deforestate the area!)
As a prudent response to these conditions, the Laurel meeting was postponed until New Year's weekend with the primary consideration of submissions being conducted on Saturday, December 30. Time considerations preventing a complete parallel consideration of the submissions scheduled for December, the "new rule" considerations will be completed over the next week or so with publication of the letter as soon thereafter as feasible, given the mandated schedule for publication of the next draft of the Administrative Handbook. Considered at the meeting were letters from Trimaris (9/5), East (9/10), East (9/11), West (9/17), Ansteorra (9/21), Outlands (9/23), Caid (9/25), Meridies (9/25) and Calontir (9/30).
The January Laurel meeting is now scheduled for Sunday, January 21. To be considered at that time are the letters from An Tir (6/15), An Tir (9/15), East (10/16), Caid (10/18), Ansteorra (10/21), Meridies (10/26) and Calontir (10/30).
The February meeting is currently scheduled for Sunday, February 11. (There is a small chance that this may be postponed due to construction to fix the hole in the roof and other Hugo damage...) Letters to be considered in February include Caid (11/12), Trimaris (11/15), Meridies (11/20), Ansteorra (11/27), West (11/28), Calontir (11/30), and Middle (11/30).
A complete revised roster of the College of Arms is attached to this letter. Please examine it carefully and revise your mailing lists accordingly.
In particular, note that Dragon has asked you to add to your mailing lists Talan Gwynek, Pale Herald of the Middle and Dragon's designated successor (Brian Scott, 2323 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118 (216) 687-4688). There is also a new Lincoln Herald in the Middle Kingdom: Irene von Schmetterling (Wendy Chadwick, 9519 South Carls Drive, Plainfield, IL 60544; 708-544-6059). A new Polaris Herald has also been inaugurated: Richard Morgan of Cumberland (Richard Darnell, 5840 East River Road, Apt. 202, Fridley, MN 55432; 612-574-9669. Dathi Thorfinnsson should be added to your rosters as Aegis Herald (David Houston, 6 Westlake Lane, Apt. 102, Saint Catherine's Ontario L2N 5B3 CANADA; 416-935-1356). Finally, there is a new address for the Oaken Herald: Rurik Vlamidimirovich Zhilnikov (Albert Landeck, 226 East Blake, Columbus OH 43202; 614-262-1685). None of these heralds will be commenting at this time.
Fiona Averylle of Maidenhead, Targe Herald of the Middle Kingdom, has asked to be removed from the mailing list as mundane pressures do not allow her to comment as she would wish at this time.
Finally, Ioseph of Locksley has been removed from the mailing list for failure to comment.
ON THE NOVEMBER MEETING
The November submissions were historic in several senses. The most obvious one is that this was the first set of submissions to be processed formally using the new rules for submission under the mandate for "parallel processing" issued at the October Board meeting.
However, even had this not been the case, this would have been an unusual set of submissions and a difficult session for Laurel and her staff. Due to administrative postponement of two letters of intent and the extraordinary size of a number of the letters of intent scheduled for this session, this batch of submissions set a new record for the number of submission elements considered in a single month: excluding corrective actions and generation of holding names, 525 separate actions arose from these submissions. (One member of Laurel staff noted that this meeting summarized the higher expectations for the Laurel Office and College of Arms on the part of the populace and the Board: under the method of counting submission numbers at the time of the Great Heraldicon, we considered 359 items at the November meeting, over a third of the number considered at that gathering.
Apart from the overall number and diversity of submissions (twelve letters from eleven Kingdoms), this session also created a new record for the number and density of substantive appeals placed before the College. Several of these appeals addressed fundamental issues including the possibility of "situation ethics" for style and conflict in cases involving variant regional styles for heraldry and nomenclature where conflicts would be judged not by an external set of general guidelines such as the current rules for submission but rather by the degree to which charges, tinctures, etc. would be considered distinct and permissible in the regional tradition in question. Others raised issues of administrative propriety, heraldic ethics and the nature of standing precedent that sent Laurel staff prowling for hours amongst crumbling submission records and correspondence of the Laurel files.
This was also the first time in the recollection of Laurel that submissions made under one set of rules were considered under two complete and different sets of rules under a mandate from either the College or the Board. (Previous grace periods tended to be rather more limited or, in the case of previous rules decrees, to have involved consolidations of previous precedent or have a lead-time o several months before enforcement.)
At the same time, the level of commentary for many letters in this session was below the norm, partly due to mundane and Society conflicts (commentary on Administrative Handbook, office changeovers, etc.). One entire pool of commentors who have been a mainstay of conflict checking for the College in recent years "sat out" the conflict-checking for this session to clear their own backlog. While several individuals stepped in to try and fill this gap, their concern was primarily with calling conflicts under the new rules, not the old so that more conflict-checking than usual fell to the Laurel staff. If any gross oversights have occurred, we will apologise and take complete responsibility.
ON THE PROCEDURES USED IN PRODUCING THIS LETTER
To guarantee equitable examination of the submissions and allow a fair statistical analysis, we held two completely separate meetings to consider the submissions. Over Thanksgiving weekend, the submissions were all considered under the "old" rules alone and the results on the usual yellow Post-It notes. On the following weekend, all the submissions were considered again, using only the "new" rules and the results noted on cherry Post-It notes.
Once the basic consideration was complete, the process of coordinating the decisions and writing the letter with discussion of the decisions could begin. All submissions which passed under both sets of rules passed absolutely with notations made in most cases where the "count" under which an armorial item passed differed between the rules. All submissions returned under both sets of rules were returned with notation as to the reasons for return under both sets of rules.
Where the result would differ depending on the set of rules concerned, the submissions were appropriately coded and annotated. If a name element passed under either set of rules, it passed under the "grace period". Likewise, if an armorial item passed under either "old" or "new" style rules, it passed. Under the Board mandate, if an item passed under the "old" conflict rules, but not under the "new", it passed (only two items fell under this heading). If an item passed under the "new" conflict rules, but not under the "old", it was pended until such time as there is a final determination of the rules for conflict.
Holding names, blazon and spelling corrections and administratively pended items were treated as usual and, for statistical purposes, excluded from the tallies.
THE CODING SYSTEM USED IN THIS LETTER
To facilitate analysis of the letter and the rulings made on individual items, each item (name element, armorial element, etc.) has been assigned a code according to the nature of the action taken. (To avoid statistical anomalies, purely cross-referencing entries have not been coded.)
Actions taken involved the "old" and "new" rules have been assigned numeric codes with administrative actions being letter-coded (we ran out of single-digit numbers!). The appropriate codes for each item appear clearly marked in the left margin next to the discussion of the items in question. The codes used are as follows:
0 Name element passed under both sets of rules.
1 Armorial element passed under both sets of rules.
2 Name element returned under both sets of rules.
3 Armorial element returned under both sets of rules.
4 Name element passed under old rules, but not under new.
5 Name element passed under new rules, but not under old.
6. Armorial element passed under old style rules, but not new.
7 Armorial element passed under new style rules, but not old.
8 Armorial element passed under old conflict rules, but not new.
9 Armorial element passed under new conflict rules, but not old.
H Holding name formed.
CA Corrective action (blazon correction, spelling correction, etc.).
AP Administrative pend (lack of forms, incorrect blazon on LOI, etc.).
In examining the codings, please bear in mind that the decisions on each submission were made completely separately and, where judgement calls were required, Laurel has made the best call possible based on the information on hand for the set of rules being used at that session. As always, in some cases conflict calls were close and required pulling files for comparison. As far as possible, we have tried to maintain the consideration process on a normal keel, attempting to shut out the "weight of appeal" (as one judicial friend calls it) involved in knowing that these decisions are likely to be examined more than usually minutely. If we have failed or have overanalyzed point counts and arguments on submissions, we apologise: the length of this letter was due in large part to its complexity and the need for "counting" twice.
ON THE RESULTS OF THE PARALLEL PROCESSING
Following the procedures outlined above, the results of the meeting were as follows:
Passed under both sets of rules: 414 (203 name, 211 armorial)
Returned under both sets of rules: 67 (25 name, 42 armorial)
Passed under old rules, but not new: 5 (0 name, 3 armorial style, 2 armorial conflict)
Passed under new rules, but not old: 34 (15 name, 7 armorial style, 12 armorial conflict)
Holding names formed: 7
Corrective Actions: 2
Administrative Pends: 5
Excluding the holding names, corrective actions and administrative pends, 525 separate actions were taken. For a better comparison, in calculating the acceptance rate under the two sets of rules, we excluded these administrative categories. We then divided the total number of acceptances by the number of items (525). Using this formula, the acceptance rate under the old rules would have been 79.81%. The acceptance rate under the new rules would have been 85.33%.
To look at the situation another way, we compared the total number of passed and returned items under each set of rules by adding the submissions which would have been returned under both rules to the separate numbers for each set of rules. (This is analogous to the "back of the head" processing that Laurel staff did last spring.)
For this meeting, under the new rules 448 items have been accepted as opposed to 419 under the old rules (106.92%). Under the new rules 72 items would have been returned as opposed to 101 under the old rules (71.29%). This comes close to the 28% to 33% figure of submissions returned under the old rules but passed under the new that both Badger and Laurel had been coming up with in informal processing last spring.
It has been noted by several commentors and should probably be noted here that all the submissions considered for this session were (or should have been) considered for conflict and style under the old rules. Therefore, a significant subset of submissions which would have passed under the new rules will have been returned at Kingdom level for conflict. This will be particularly true in the case of simple designs involving addition of tertiaries, counterchanges, low contrast fields, etc.
In all fairness, it should also be noted that a subset of the College which has been responsible for a significant proportion of the Society conflicts called over the past few years "sat out" this session. Those who attempted to fill in the gap were conscious of the lack of commentary under the new rules available to Laurel and focused primarily on that area so that it is strongly possible that the number of submissions which would have conflicted under the old rules and not the new would have been greater if it had been a "normal" month for conflict-checking.
ON THE ADMINISTRATIVE HANDBOOK
In mid-December the second draft of the Administrative Handbook was sent out to all those who are currently members of the College of Arms or subscribe to letters of acceptance and return. In accordance with the Board-mandated schedule, another draft will be presented to the Board at the January Board meeting.
At this point, commentary on this draft of the Administrative Handbook is rather thin, although we expect that some commentary will trail in over the next week or so and, insofar as this is feasible, we will take such commentary into account in reworking the draft.
Please note that there have been a number of complaints from members of the College of Arms that commentary on the first draft of the handbook listed in Laurel's cover letter on the second draft was not received by members of the College of Arms. There is a strong feeling on the part of some members that commentary which all members of the College did not receive (and therefore cannot respond to) should not be considered.
While any commenting member of the College of Arms who commented on the rules should have sent a copy of their commentary out to those who are on the mailing list, Laurel is reluctant to limit the possibilities of commentary to those who are actually on the mailing list of the College. Local heralds and even some retired heralds who have a legitimate interest in the rules and handbook (and in some cases have an "in the field" perspective that differs materially from those of commentors) in many cases do not have the logistic ability or finances to circulate even a short letter to all the members of the College. As those who comment are aware, copying correspondence to a mailing list of thirty or so people generally requires an up-to-date mailing list (in most cases computerised), access to photocopying and collation and the funds to pay for the reproduction and posting of commentary. (For this reason, even many commenting members of the College wait until a Kingdom mailing to send out their comments to the College, even though a letter of comment may be sent directly to Laurel.)
Many, indeed most, heralds below the Kingdom level do not have the financial and technical resources to circulate commentary in this manner. Therefore to say that no commentary that has not been sent to the entire mailing list of the College is essentially to say that no individual who is not a member of the mailing list or otherwise has access to the resources of the Kingdom heraldry has a right to comment. That is neither equitable nor productive for the discussion of documents that will be used as intensively (in some cases more intensively) by those below the Kingdom level as by those in the College.
While Laurel and her staff vastly prefer that all commentary be circulated as widely as possible (if nothing else, that prevents the sort of acrimony and accusations that marred this summer's rules discussion), we cannot ignore commentary that comes to us without such circulation, any more than we could ignore a conflict that was not noted in commentary but discovered in the course of a Laurel meeting!
HELP WANTED - PART ONE
In the course of discussion of the Administrative Handbook, it was suggested that the time has come to compile a definitive listing of famous people from Society whose non-registered names should be protected from conflict. Such a listing could be included as an appendix in the Armorial and Ordinary in the same manner as the listing of heraldic titles and order names which are currently included.
This is an entirely different type of task from the collation of registered items and one that should not fall on the shoulders of Morsulus (he already has enough to do!).
Therefore we are advertising for a deputy to coordinate a short-term project to produce a listing of unregistered but protectable Society names of famous people from Society history. Duties would include working with the Principal Heralds to gather proposed names with appropriate supporting information from each kingdom and circulate it for commentary by the College of Arms. (Typical supporting data would be information on the individual's Society career to indicate the basis for their fame and their lack of current activity.) It is anticipated that a final listing should be complete and ready for publication by the third quarter Board meeting (i.e., by expiry of Laurel's warrant). This would allow the listing to be included in the update of the Armorial and Ordinary usually generated in time for sale at Pennsic.
HELP WANTED - PART TWO
We recently advertised once again for people willing to work on researching the technical feasibility of archiving the Laurel files for safety and/or more convenient access. To date only one individual has indicated the slightest interest in participating in this project.
This is rather distressing in view of the importance of the task. At this point, we are not asking for volunteers to work on copying or annotating material from the Laurel files, merely those with some expertise in document management, particularly fiche and/or computer-based systems, who would be willing to work on a feasibility study.
The time involved in this would not be great. (It is precisely the sort of spare-time project that Laurel used to do in a couple of weekends, but really needs to delegate at this point!).
If you have the sort of expertise required and are willing to put it at the command of the College and the Society, please contact Laurel as soon as possible.