Court Heraldry: A Checklist for Success
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Court Heraldry: A Checklist for Success

© Richard Coleman.

Originally printed in the Atlantian Herald's Handbook
(reprinted here with the gracious permission of the author.)

The most important part of heralding any court, kingdom or baronial, is proper planning. You need to know what is going to go on at court, and in what order, so that the court proceedings will flow smoothly, with a minimum of effort for all concerned.

This is a checklist of steps that you as the court herald can take to help insure that court will run smoothly. While there is no 'one true way' to herald a court, this should serve as a basic guideline for the things that you need to think about and plan for in preparing for court.

Before the event:

1. If you are fortunate enough to know in advance that you will be heralding court at an event (especially if it is a large event such as Twelfth Night), you may want to get in touch with the Crown* ahead of time and find out what their plans are. If they already know what their court business is going to be, then you can offer to make a list of it and work up a preliminary order in advance of the event, which can save both you and them time on the day of the event.

2. If you will be heralding a court, or think you might be heralding a court at an event you will be going to, make sure that you take a notebook or covered clipboard, something to write with, your herald's tabard, and appropriate clothing (see below).

*(For the purposes of this document, the terms 'crown', 'monarchs', 'royalty', etc. will be used to refer to the people holding the court, whether they be King and Queen or Baron and Baroness.)

The day of the event:

3. Check in with the Crown early in the day. Even if they already know that you are going to be their court herald, it lets them know that you are on site and at their disposal. Tell them where you can be found during the day (where your encampment, table setting, etc. is), and see if they know yet what the schedule for court is, and when they want to get together with you to set up court. If they don't yet know what the schedule is going to be, don't worry about it, but check back with them occasionally so that when they do decide to start working on court they will know where to find you.

4. When you know that the time to start preparing for court is near, make whatever clothing changes you might be planning to make before you start any of the preparations -- you won't have time later. Most important is to wear comfortable shoes! If you wonder why this is an important thing to mention, try standing in one place for an hour (or longer) without fidgeting. Now, any questions?

1 1/2 hours before court: (the time may vary depending on the size of the event and the court)

5. Get together with the Crown and get the list of their business for court (if you had not previously done so). This includes all awards, proclamations, etc. You need to make sure and cover the following details:

  1. For any awards being given out, are the scrolls (promissories), tokens, etc. taken care of? Have the scrolls all been signed? By both of the Monarchs? You should also check the wording of the scrolls that you will be reading to make sure that the texts are correct. The scribes should have taken care of this, but you should double check. Also, make sure that you can read the writing on the scroll.
  2. For any proclamations, etc., find out if they will be making the proclamation themselves or whether they want you to do it. You should always offer, perhaps even suggest (if you know that your voice is more up to the task than theirs), but never insist.
  3. For anybody whose name is being read for any reason, make sure that you know how to pronounce it correctly. If neither you or the Crown is sure of how to pronounce it, get somebody to find out (surreptitiously, of course). Remember that nothing takes away from the special moment of getting an award like having your name mangled!
  4. Find out if there will be anyone else holding court:
    1. If this is a baronial court and the King and/or Queen are there, do they wish to hold court?
    2. If this is a kingdom court, will the local baron and/or baroness be holding court within the royal court?
    If so, you will need to contact them and see if arrangements for their court need to be made.
  5. Make sure that both monarchs have been consulted about business for court. If only one sits down with you to give you the list of their business, you may want to check with the other one to make sure that they don't have some bit of business that didn't make it onto the list. The royalty should be in communication with each other so that this wouldn't be necessary, but this isn't always the case.
  6. Ask if they will have any opening words to say at the beginning of court (words of welcome, etc.). You don't have to know what they will be, this is just so you will remember to leave a spot on the agenda for them to do it.

6. When you have the Crown's business, thank them and tell them that you will get back together with them when you have collected business from the populace. Now review the Court's business to get an estimate of how long you think it will take in relation to how long you have for court. If you are short on time, you may need to ask that less pressing business from the populace be handled at another time.

7. Make an announcement (or have one made) that you are taking business for court from the populace. Make sure that this announcement is made to all parts of the site; people in the kitchen are just a likely to have business for court, but much less likely to hear an announcement. Choose a location that people can come to you that is conspicuous (so that people can find you easily), but not where you, or the line of people waiting to talk to you, will be in the way. If you have not already done so, put on your herald's tabard so that you can be easily recognized.

When taking items of business from the populace, keep the following things in mind:

  1. Find out exactly what each item of business is: if it is a presentation, find out what is being presented; if it is an announcement, find out what is being announced, etc. You are not being nosey -- it is your job. If people are reluctant to give you a full explanation, politely but firmly tell them that you must know the exact nature of the business in order to put it on the court agenda. Explain that this is to save the Crown, the populace, and/or the presenter from the embarrassment of an inappropriate presentation in court, as has occasionally happened in the past. If you are at all unsure about whether something is appropriate or not, check with a more experienced herald, or have the presenter clear it directly with the royalty before adding it to the court agenda.
  2. An exception to the above rule is made in the case of such people as kingdom officers or the autocrat. If they tell you that they, in their official capacity, have business before the crown, that is sufficient.
  3. If a presentation is being made, make sure that the people making the presentation understand that anything given to the crown in court is considered to be regalia (and thus belonging to the kingdom), whereas personal gifts should be given at some other time, such as when the royalty are sitting in state. This is the general rule for kingdom courts, although exceptions have been known to be made. Customs may vary in individual baronies.
  4. If there is anything that sounds like it will take a long time, you may want to suggest that it should be shortened or done at another time entirely, depending on how tight your schedule is. Anything that is a performance of any kind (i.e. a song, poem, skit, etc.) should be cleared directly with the crown before putting it on the court agenda, since such things can take a lot of time and are almost always better done outside of court.
  5. Make sure you know exactly who is to be called up, and how they wished to be announced. For example, if the Kingdom Seneschal wishes to make an announcement, does he wish to be called up as "The Kingdom Seneschal", or by his name and title. Also, make sure that you know the correct pronunciation of all names. Write them down phonetically so that you will be able to pronounce them later -- how they are really spelled doesn't matter.
  6. If an announcement is being made, ask if the person wants to come up and make the announcement themselves, or to have you make it for them. If the person wants to make the announcement themselves, remind them of the need to make themselves heard to the entire hall. If they don't have a strong voice, you may wish to encourage them to let you make the announcement.

8. Five minutes before you are through collecting court business from the populace, make another announcement that is a 'last call' for business. This won't stop people from running up to you with business later, but it's a start.

9. When you have collected all of the populace's court business, go back and find the royalty and ask to sit down with them and order the business for court. Some royalty will want to be very involved with this process, and others will ask you to do it yourself and then present it to them for their approval. In either case, these are some general guidelines for setting up the order of court:

  1. If the royalty wishes to address the populace, this should always be the first item of business, unless they have specified otherwise.
  2. After the 'words of the crown' (if any), the next item(s) should always be any envoys or ambassadors who have requested an audience.
  3. Once these two requirements have been met, in general, court should build from lesser matters at the beginning to greater matters toward the end. Thus, you should try and schedule lesser awards and simpler presentations toward the beginning of court and greater awards and more elaborate presentations towards the end (and any peerages should always come last, unless the crown specifically directs you otherwise).
  4. Court should have an interesting mixture of activities in order to keep people's interest. Don't put all the awards in one place and all the presentations in another -- mix them in together. Not only does this make the court more interesting, but it also makes the flow of people in and out of court easier.
  5. If there is more than one of an award being given out, find out if there is a particular order or grouping that the royalty wishes to use. While it is generally desirable to call only one person at a time up to receive an award, there are times when two or more people will be called up at once to receive the same award (such as a lord and lady who are a couple).
  6. The royalty will probably want to know something about what the items of business from the populace are. If a presentation is to be a surprise, you can describe it in general terms, such as: "The Barony of XYZ has a presentation." If they want to know more, you can say something like: "They wish it to be a surprise for Your Majesties, but I have checked it out and it is an appropriate presentation for court." (You did remember to do that, didn't you?). If they still insist on knowing what the presentation is, you must tell them, even if the surprise will be spoiled. Remember that these are guidelines only, and that ultimately the royalty has the final say. Here again, you can suggest, you can remind, but only they can insist!

10. Take care of any other last minute details with the royalty, which might include such things as:

  1. Find out if they will be processing in, or will begin court seated. Also, find out if they will be recessing out at the end of court.
  2. If there are any 'scripted' parts to court (e.g. an award ceremony), in which the royalty has a part, make sure that they know what their parts are and that they have a chance to review them.
  3. If you at all unsure of any name pronunciations, especially those of the monarchs themselves, or anything else about the monarchs' wishes for court, now is the time to ask.
  4. Find out how long you have until court (important!)

11. If you did not do so while arranging court with the royalty, write up the final agenda that you will use to conduct court. This may consist of rewriting the entire agenda, or merely writing numbers by the items in the order that they will be used. What method you use will depend on your personal preference and the size of the court. However, it is important that someone else be able to read and understand your agenda, in case they should have to assist you.

12. By now, someone will probably have come running up to you with some piece of business that they just have to get on the court agenda, and they didn't hear the announcement, and, and...

Evaluate the business that they have just like the ones you had before. If it really is something that needs to be done in court in spite of its late arrival (and how much it needs to be done may depend on how full your agenda already is!), then add it to the agenda in an appropriate place, making sure to tell the royalty about it before court. If there are any questions, have them talk directly to the royalty.

15 minutes before court:

13. If there is going to be another person helping you with court, such as a scribe or another herald to keep track of the award scrolls and hand them to you at the proper time, make sure that you get together with them and that they understand the agenda. Make sure that any award scrolls are in the order that they will be given out so that you can get to them easily when they are called for during court. Once again, make sure that you (and your assistant) can pronounce all of the names. Make sure that you have a cup of something (non-alcoholic) to drink situated behind the thrones where you will be able to get to it during court.

14. Go back to the royalty and let them know that you are ready for court to begin. If they did not arrange the order of court with you, have them look over the order that you have come up with and approve it. Make sure that if you have been given any new items of business since you showed them the agenda, that you inform the monarchs of them now.

Ask if they want an announcement made to assemble the populace for court, or how long it will be until court.

When court is ready to begin:

15. If the royalty are processing in, wait until they signal that they are ready, and then instruct the populace to rise. As the royalty starts down the aisle, announce them to the populace. If there are others who are processing (other dignitaries, not the royalty's attendants), wait until the royalty have arrived at the thrones and are standing facing the populace, and then announce the next dignitaries. Repeat until all who are processing have been announced and come into court. Be careful not to announce the next processor(s) if the monarchs are still greeting the last ones. When all who are processing have done so, the royalty will take their seats.

-- or --

If the monarchs are beginning court already seated, instruct the populace to rise.

16. Open court with an announcement such as: "Now pay heed to this, the court of _________ and _________, King and Queen of Drachenwald", or "Here begins the court of __________ and __________, Baron and Baroness of __________", or something similar.

17. If they have not given their permission before now, ask (quietly) if the populace has the monarchs' leave to be seated, and when they give permission, announce it to the populace.


18. Conduct the court according to the agenda that you have prepared. Remember though, that if the royalty decides to insert some new item, or delete an item, or reorder things entirely, they have the right to do so, and it is up to you to cope with it as best you can. This is why having a well organized agenda is essential in order to adapt to such changes.

19. Announce each person (or group) that is being called into court loudly and clearly. Be looking up at the populace, not down at your notes when you do so. Not only does this help you to project better, but it keeps you from yelling in the monarchs' ear! As you scan the populace, if you do not see any activity that would indicate that the person was on their way, announce the name again. If there is still no response, and the person is being called up for an award, ask the monarchs if they wish a representative called forward; if so, ask for a representative, if not, go on to the next item. If the called person shows up later, let the royalty know and then call them forward at the next available opportunity.

20. For presentations: After the presentation has been made, announce to the populace what has been presented (however, be careful not to step on the conversation between the royalty and the presenter(s)). You may wish to use a little poetic license in your description of the presentation, for example: "A gift of fruit of the vine" sounds better than "They gave them a bottle of wine" (just don't get carried away and get 'cutesy').

21. For awards: No matter how many awards are being given, each one is very important to the person who is receiving it -- treat each one accordingly. Read an Award of Arms scroll with the same reverence that you would read a peerage scroll. Remember that for many people, an Award of Arms is the only award that they will ever receive, so you should never spoil their moment by treating it as 'just another Award of Arms'.

22. Award Scrolls: As each award is approaching on the agenda, let the person who is handling the scrolls know who's scroll you are about to need, so that they will have it ready (or if you are handling them yourself, get it ready). There will usually be an opportunity to do this sometime during the preceding item of business.

23. Cheers: For each person who receives an award, you lead the populace in cheers. Remember not to do this until the award has actually been conferred, and until the monarchs are through speaking.

For things other than awards, you may need to check with the royalty to see if they want cheers done; especially for presentations -- some monarchs want cheers for every presentation, some for only certain ones, and some not at all. If you are not sure, ask.

24. When each item of business has been completed, and the person(s) involved are withdrawing, you should go ahead and announce the next item. This help keep court from dragging on unnecessarily. Make sure that you do not make an announcement that no one will be able to hear because the hall is still buzzing loudly from the last thing that happened. Wait until you will be able to be heard, then go on with court.

25. Pay attention to the royalty. Especially, watch and listen for them to say something to you; they may not turn their heads toward you before they do. Most often this will be to ask you what is coming up next, or how much of court is left.

When you are through with court business:

26. When all of the items of business on the agenda are complete, inform the royalty, and ask them if they have any further business, even if they had told you previously that they would have none. This gives them the chance to say any last minute things to the populace that they may have thought of. It also saves you from the potential embarrassment of announcing that there is no further business, only to have the royalty interrupt you to say that there is.
27. When the monarchs are finished, announce that there is no further business before the court and instruct the populace to rise. If the royalty is processing out, wait while they do so. Finally, announce to the populace that they "have Their Majesties' (or Excellencies') leave to depart and go about their business", or something similar.


28. Check back with the royalty to make sure that there were no problems with the way that you handled court, so that you will know better next time (don't be upset by any criticism -- learn from it!). This is especially true if it is the first time you have heralded for these monarchs.

29. Make sure that someone has kept track of the awards that were given, so that a list can be sent to the Acorn (or the baronial newsletter). Sometimes the royalty themselves will do this, sometimes they will have someone else doing it. If not, it becomes your job!

As I said before, these are merely guidelines for what you need to do and think about in heralding a court -- there is no one true way to do it. Each court, and each set of royalty will have different requirements, but this checklist should give you a good idea of what the basic elements and procedures are for heralding court at either the kingdom or baronial level.