Whose stall is this, anyway?

With the exception of the degradation performance piece and the topic paper, all of my submissions will feature elements of heraldic display, which in Pentathlon have traditionally been SCA armory. As I want to make sure that these pieces are legitimately used, I intend to keep with this tradition as I create the armorial display and various elements for a stall.

But whose stall? I’m admittedly a bit selfish, so I wanted at least some of the elements to bear my own arms. Normally this would be easy: banner, helm/crest/mantling, misericord, and stall plate in my arms. Oh, but the stall plate…

See, the SCA has few examples of seats that are vacated and filled, like the stalls of a knightly order like the Garter. The most obvious ones are Royal and Baronial thrones, but for my purposes they either pass too quickly (in Caid we’re on our 78th set of Royals) or too slowly. In any case, I’ve not sat in either type of throne, so for my purposes this option was clearly out.

For a peer or associate with a substantial lineage, of which there are a fair number in our game, such a stall would be not only a fun project, but also an awesome heirloom. Imagine “the seat of Sir X, which was passed on to his squire Sir X, who in turn presented it to his squire Sir X, who bestowed it to me, his squire Sir X. And now, at your vigil, I present it to you, my own squire, to sit in contemplation of your impending elevation.” Alas, I was not any peer’s associate prior to my elevation, which would make my stall rather bare, boring, and self-serving.

It first occurred to me when I was still Crescent Principal Herald that Caid’s Greater Officers act similarly to the Order of the Garter; there are a limited number of us, only one person holds any particular position at a given point, and we meet regularly at chapters (Privy Council aka the kingdom business meeting, held twice a year the day after Crown Tournament). I was the fourteenth Crescent Principal Herald, and most of my predecessors are my friends (and so is my successor). 15 plates is a bit daunting, but only three of them would be entered into Pentathlon for judging, with the rest being used purely for display purposes on Sunday, to be given out as gifts later.

So it was decided: this stall would be the stall of Crescent Principal Herald. Plates would be made for the 14 previous holders, a misericord would be made for the herald who “commissioned” the stall, and a full set of heraldic display, including banner, crest and mantling, and stall plate, would be made for the current Crescent Principal Herald.

And this would have been great, had I acted on the plan and completed the project for 2017. However, my successor, Paul fitz Denis, plans to step down in 2018 after a successful three-year tenure, leaving me with the question: who will replace him? Fortunately for me, all but two of these projects can be worked through to (near) completion, and the rest can at least be researched prior to the new Crescent being named.

In the meantime, it was announced that I will be stepping up in June as Wreath King of Arms. In looking at the history of the position, I noticed that two previous Wreaths were also previous Crescents (namely Zenobia Naphthali and Jeanne Marie Lacroix). So this project might morph a bit before the end, and I might have pinpointed which three stall plates I plan to enter for competition…

Degradation from the Order – Script and Stage Directions

The following ceremony is a reconstruction of the degradation of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, from the Order of the Garter in 1521, during the reign of Henry VIII. The text is taken directly from the actual Instrument of Degradation from the Order used against the Duke of Buckingham, as it appears in Elias Ashmole’s The Institution, Laws and Ceremonies of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Appendix 184. Stage directions are derived from the same source, Chapter 24.


Setting: St. George’s Chapel. Garter King of Arms stands in the quire, vested in Tudor fashion, over which he wears a tabard in the arms of King Henry VIII. A pursuivant on a ladder waits at the Duke of Buckingham’s stall.

Be it known unto all men, That whereas Edward, late Duke of Buckingham, Knight, and Companion of the Noble Order of Saint George, named the Garter, hath lately done and committed High Treason against the King, Soveraign of the said Order of the Garter, in compassing and imagining the destruction of the most Noble person of our said Soveraign Lord the King, contrary to his Oath, Duty, and Allegiance; for which High Treason, the said Edward hath been indicted, arraigned, convicted, and attainted, and for the which detestable Offence and High Treason, the said Edward hath deserved to be disgraded of the said Noble Order, and expelled out of the said Company, and not worthy that his Arms, Ensigns, and Atchievements should remain amongst other Noble Ensigns and Atchievements, of other noble, vertuous, and approved Knights of the said Noble Order, nor to have the benefits of the said Noble Order. Where∣fore our Soveraign Lord the King, Soveraign of the said Noble Order of St. George, named the Garter, by the advice of other Knights of the said Noble Order, for his said Offences, and committing of the said High Treason, willeth and commandeth, that the said Edward, late Duke of Buckingham, be disgraded of the said Noble Order, and his Arms, and Ensigns, and Atchievements clearly expelled, and put out from amongst the Arms, Ensigns, and Atchievements of the other Noble Knights of the said Order to the intent that all other Noble men, thereby may take Example, hereafter not to commit any such hainous and detestable Treason and Offence as God forbid they should.

God save the King.

Upon the words “put out” the pursuivant should throw the crest, mantling, banner and sword down into the quire. When Garter finishes reading, the heralds kick the achievements out of the quire, through the Chapel, out of the door, across the Lower Ward, and into the Castle ditch. The stall plate is likewise removed.


The script and directions being set, the next step in this project is to decide upon the pronunciation. I’ve been looking into Original Pronunciation (OP) of Elizabethan England, but it appears that the speech patterns had substantially changed in the latter half of the 16th century that I will need to reverse-engineer a pronunciation guide to properly recreate the voice of Sir Thomas Wriothesly, Garter King of Arms at the time of the Duke of Buckingham’s degradation.

Degradation from the Order – Source Documentation

I first learned about the ceremony for degradation from the Order of the Garter by reading The Most Noble Order of the Garter – 650 Years by Hubert Chesshyre, Lisa Jefferson, and Peter J. Begent. Loaned to me by Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme, the book is a fantastic overview of the Order, and its description of the degradation ceremony is an absolute delight. However, The Most Noble Order of the Garter – 650 Years fails to specify the exact wording used, and is vague on when the practice as described was first institutionalized.

Fortunately, its bibliography revealed two fantastic resources. The first is The Statutes of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, written by Edward III and revised in 1522 by Henry VIII. This primary resource for the governance of the Order is useful on its own, and contains a number of surprisingly detailed descriptions of the achievements of the knights to be displayed within Saint George’s Chapel.

The second, The Institution, Laws and Ceremonies of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, written by Elias Ashmole, Windsor Herald, in 1672, was a study commissioned by Charles II as part of his effort to restore the respectability of the monarchy after the Cromwellian interregnum. This document goes beyond the statutes of the Order, and gets into their policies and procedures, traditions and precedents not otherwise written down in a single volume. He devotes an entire chapter to the procedure of degradation from the Order, including “stage directions” for where Garter should stand, and in what manner dressed (“in his Coat of Arms, (usually before Morning Prayer, if the Grand Feast, or Feast of Installation be then held) standing on the highest step ascending to the Brazen Desk, placed in the middle of the Choire in St. George‘s Chappel at Windesor, the Officers of Arms standing about him”), for how and when the pursuivants on ladders should remove the achievements of the degraded knight (“when Garter pronounceth the words, Expelled and put from among the Arms, &c. takes his Crest, and violently casts it down into the Choire, and after that his Banner and Sword,”) and to which locations the officers of arms should spurn said achievements (“out of the West-Door of the Chappel into the Castle Ditch.”)

Ashmole’s work is incredibly thorough, with an appendix of hundreds of extant documents from the Order’s archives reproduced. These include a warrant from Queen Elizabeth to Garter King of Arms, instructing him to remove the achievements of the Duke of Northumberland from Saint George’s Chapel, and the instrument of degradation for the Duke of Buckingham, issued in 1521, which would have been read by Garter in its entirety in the chapel.

With these in hand, I have a solid script for my performance.

Pentathlon 2019 – The Garter Stall Project

This is the first of several posts documenting my progress on my Pentathlon entries for 2019. My entries will all center around the stalls of Saint George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, also known as the chapel of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, and the heraldic displays featured thereon.

Each of the 26 Companions of the Garter has a stall in Saint George’s Chapel, where their achievement (banner, sword, helm, crest and mantling) are displayed. In addition, a stall plate depicting the knight’s heraldic achievement is affixed to the stall in perpetuity, as a memorial of those honorable knights who’d sat in the stall previously. The achievement is displayed above the stall until the death of the knight, at which point it is quietly retired in advance of the installation of the next Companion of the Garter. Alternatively, if the knight commits one of three heinous acts, namely treason, heresy, or cowardice upon the battlefield, they are degraded from the Order and their achievement is removed in a peculiar and visceral ceremony run by Garter King of Arms.

My entries for this Pentathlon will include examples of all means of heraldic display used in the Saint George’s Chapel stalls, including the banner, crest and mantling, stall plates, and misericord (a bench-like portrusion underneath the seat of the stall, upon which one can lean for comfort during long stretches of mass when attendees must stand and fold up their seats). In addition, I intend to submit a research paper analyzing the role of Garter King of Arms in his role as chief herald of the Order, especially as custodian of the regalia of the Order and the armorial displays of Saint George’s Chapel. I also intend to demonstrate the ceremony for the Degradation from the Order of the Garter as a performance piece. In this way, all of my entries rest upon my skills and expertise as a herald, while requiring me to push outside of my comfort zone into new and difficult art forms, such as woodcarving and painting, brass engraving, enameling, and historical linguistics.

As a final challenge to myself, I will intentionally avoid entering any of these items into Heraldic Display, where they would be judged primarily on their ability to render and display the arms depicted. I will instead place my entries into categories where they will be judged on their technical merit alone. While categories are known to shift, the current plan using the 2017 categories is as follows:

Item Category Subcategory Number
Crest and Mantling Armor & Weaponry Other 3.5.0
Stall Plate 1 Visual Arts Surface Decoration: Etching 1.9.2
Stall Plate 2 Visual Arts Surface Decoration: Engraving 1.9.3
Stall Plate 3 Visual Arts Glasswork: Other 1.4.4
Banner Fringe Fiber Arts Weaving: Other 4.4.7
Degradation Ceremony Performance Arts Dramatic Reading 6.2.0
Misericord Functional Arts Furniture 2.2.0
Research Paper –
Garter King of Arms
Composition Research Compositions: Topic Paper 7.6.2

Pentathlon spoilers abound – read at your own risk

This is Cormac Mór’s Pentathlon project blog, documenting entries for Caid’s Pentathlon Arts and Sciences Competition in 2019. If you are a potential judge for Pentathlon, or otherwise want to go into Pentathlon with a fresh eye, please avoid this blog.

For those who choose to stay, thank you for sharing this journey with me. I’ve been dreaming of this project list for a long time, and I’m looking forward to its execution.