Revisiting Royal Power and Rank

A proposal to address the high stakes of Crown Tournament

Contents:

  1. Summary of Proposal
  2. Background
  3. Prior Actions
  4. Current Policy
  5. Proposal

Summary:

To address the ongoing issues of mismatched calibration and perceptions of dishonorable conduct during Crown and Coronet Tournaments, this proposal seeks to remove the unnecessarily high stakes of the tournament by a) limiting the powers of the Crown to in-game only, removing their unilateral control over kingdom law and issuing sanctions, and b) reordering the Order of Precedence to treat all peerages, bestowed and royal, equally.

Background:

Caid’s September 2022 Crown Finals featured several attacks that were perceived by those outside of the armor to be valid killing blows that went unacknowledged by the fighters. In between the final blow being delivered and the winner declared, there was a visibly tense 2-minute conversation between the fighters, the marshals, and the Crown. Since then, there’s been a lot of productive discussion about the importance of having clean Crown finals to preserve the populace’s faith in the honor and integrity of the winner.

Dirty Crown finals (real or perceived) and a lack of confidence in the result are not issues unique to this particular pairing of fighters; the last three Crown Tournaments in Caid had combatants appearing to shrug off blows. Nor is this an issue unique to Caid – one of the worst examples came in the Eastern Crown Tournament of November 2014, with a final round that ended in one fighter forfeiting the field midway through the fight.

Prior Actions:

Many solutions have been posed to fix the issue with dirty Crown Tournament fights, most of which have been dismissed outright by fighters. The most common proposed solution is to lower the calibration of blows thrown and received. Heavier calibration leads not only to perceived valid shots being dismissed as “light,” but also severe injuries. However, this proposal is dismissed by fighters who are used to higher calibration, who dismiss it as turning combat into a game of “rattan tag.”

Another proposed solution is to remove armored combat from its privileged spot as the only key to the throne. A&S tournaments, point systems, and even elections have been brought up as alternative formats to Crown Tournament, only to be dismissed by (almost exclusively) fighters who feel that the unique tradition of rulership by combat is what makes the SCA so special.

Yet another solution recently proposed on the Caid Facebook page by Viscount Brocc of Alderden is active marshaling and instant consequences for perceived cheating directly from the Crown, exercising Their right to judge the fitness of any fighter in any tournament. “The Royalty can say They want honorable combat, but They do not mete out any consequence for individuals who choose to shirk blows. If a couple sets of Crowns in a row pulled people from Their tournaments in the middle of the tournament because the person shirked blows, I am guessing people will start caring.” And while his long and excellent letter is getting a lot of positive feedback currently, the armored combat community has already begun to take exception to others trying to insert their feelings into a dialogue of honor between the fighters on the field.

All of the solutions above have merit. And while some are more radical than others, they all reflect a desire to solve the problem at hand. But it’s clear that efforts to reform Crown Tournament through changes to the structure of the tournament or revisitation of the sport of armored combat are, at the present, doomed to failure due to resistance by heavies fighters. If a solution is to have any chance of success, it must:

  • Maintain the exclusivity of armored combat as the sole path to the throne
  • Allow all combatants to judge whether the blows they receive are valid without interference from an active marshalate or Royal intervention, and
  • Have no effect on rattan-based armored combat as a sport

One proposal that meets these requirements is to alleviate the pressure that makes Crown Tournament unique by reducing the consequences of the result of the tournament itself. The prize for winning Crown Tournament, to rule for six months and attain the highest permanent ranks in our Society, is worth more to these fighters than their own reputation or the honor of their consorts, so we must modify or remove some powers and privileges of rulership.

Current Policy:

Powers of the Crown

Corpora assigns several powers and privileges to the Crown, including:

  1. To create honors and accolades (VIII.B.2,4) and bestow them upon the populace (VII.B.5, IV.C.4, IV.G.1-2)
  2. To oversee all combat upon the field of honor, (IV.C.8), to review and approve all combatants (IX.B.3) and their weaponry (IX.B.5)
  3. To appoint, remove, suspend, or replace all kingdom and officers and their deputies (IV.G.4-5,7) and Baronage (IV.G.6)
  4. To create and amend Kingdom Law (IV.F.1)
  5. To convene courts of chivalry to judge the guilt or innocence of their subjects (IV.G.9)
  6. To sentence violators of the law to sanctions up to and including banishment from the SCA (IV.G.11, X.A).

Point 1 above is the primary in-game role of the Crown, and Point 2 is an ancient responsibility that ties back to the earliest tournaments, before the creation of kingdoms and the formal structure of the SCA began.

However, the other responsibilities extend beyond in-game functionality and have long-lasting effects upon the business of the organization and the quality of life of the participants.

Most notably, the unitary authority of the Crown to author and amend laws against the advice of the Kingdom Seneschal, and of their ability to issue Banishment from the Royal Presence with the stated refusal by the SCA Inc. to entertain appeals (Sanctions Procedures and Policies Manual, Section 4.A.3) make the powers of the Crown notably vulnerable to abuse by bad actors.

On this first matter, Corpora requires that changes to Kingdom Law must be in compliance with existing Kingdom Law and that any law which contravenes a proposed law must be repealed (IV.F.3). Further, the Kingdom Seneschal is entrusted with the responsibility to ensure that changes to the law are in compliance with Society law (VII.B.2, based on the hierarchy of law, I.A).

However, according to Corpora and the Seneschal’s handbook, the powers of the Seneschal to ensure compliance with these provisions are only to advise the Crown and Greater Officers of any perceived conflicts in writing, and to notify the Society Seneschal and Ombudsman of opinions of conflicts once the law has been put into place. Further, the Society Seneschal’s Handbook is explicit that the Kingdom Seneschal cannot tell the Crown that it can’t enact laws which contravene existing kingdom law, Corpora, or modern law.

I am reliably informed that in current practice, the Kingdom Seneschal and Society Seneschal work in concert to take care of any potential conflicts between proposed law changes and existing laws and policies, and that problems are dealt with prior to the Crown moving forward with a law change. If this is a true and accurate representation of a successful practice, the Board of Directors would do well to codify it into Corpora and the Seneschal’s handbook so that it becomes official policy. However, the practice still relies on the Kingdom Seneschal speaking as a representative of the Society Seneschal, and not in the capacity of their own office. And as written, there is nothing stopping the Crown from forcing a law change into the court record and kingdom newsletter against the objections of the Kingdom Seneschal.

Some kingdoms have advisory councils, procedures, and traditions outlined to keep the Crown from making poor decisions, such as Caid’s Law Council, Northshield’s Stellari Council, Calontir’s Witan, Ealdormere’s Privy Council, or the East Kingdom’s Curia Regis. However, the hierarchy of law gives the Crown the right to repeal every restriction put into place. Advisory councils, social pressure, and ancient custom aren’t enough to keep some fighters in Crown Tournament from public misbehavior, and they aren’t enough to prevent the Crown from enacting unjust laws or push through decrees which explicitly violate kingdom law. See example in Appendix 1.

On the second matter, the lesser sanction of Banishment from the Royal Presence can and has been used to effectively duplicate the greater sanction Exile from the Realm, without the Board oversight required of an Exile. While the January 2020 Board meeting made it clear that it should not be used as such, it continues to be abused in this manner to the present day.

As with the first matter, I am reliably informed that current practice is for the Kingdom and Society Seneschals to communicate openly about a proposed Banishment from the Royal Presence prior to it being issued, and that banishments are regularly appealed if there is an issue. If this is true, then the practice needs to be codified into policy and made explicit. As it stands, my own experience with the banishment policy and discussions with the Society Seneschal do not match the practice as described. See example in Appendix 2.

Precedence of Royal Peers

Beyond the immense political power gained by winning the Crown, several fighters and their consorts seek the prestige and privileged treatment that comes from attaining Royal Peerage. In most kingdoms, if not all, those who have sat a kingdom or principality throne and attained the status of Royal Peer as outlined in Corpora IV.A.G.3 and VIII.A.4.e. rank higher in precedence than all other peers as outlined in VIII.A.4.

The placement in precedence order carries with it not only substantial cultural cache, but also privileged treatment within the Lists. Most kingdoms line up combatants by precedence order for ceremonial purposes, and seed lists based on that same order. Many kingdoms have some form of “ducal prerogative” in either law, policy, or tradition, which grants Dukes special rights to enter or exit Crown Lists with greater leeway than the other fighters. For example, in Ansteorra, a Duke may decide midway through a tournament that the remaining competitors are agreeable to him and remove himself from the lists without harm to reputation.

This preferential treatment, along with attaining the highest possible permanent rank in most kingdoms, is another attractive benefit which may cause some fighters to forget their honor in Crown lists.

Proposal:

  1. Amend Corpora IV.F to include a new section which requires every kingdom law to have procedures established for a council or committee to review and ratify changes to kingdom law. Said council may be made up of such members as is appropriate to the culture and temperament of the kingdom, but must at the very least include the Kingdom Seneschal, who has authority in their own right to refuse law changes if they contravene existing kingdom law or other laws and regulations higher on the hierarchy of law as described in Corpora I.A. A potential structure for a council might include representation from the greater officers of the kingdom, the bestowed peerage orders, royal peerage, and baronage. Importantly, changes to kingdom law must be approved by this council before they may be implemented by the Crown.

    Amend other portions of Corpora and Society officers’ policies as appropriate.

  2. Amend the SCA Sanctions Procedures and Policies Manual Section 4.A.3 to remove “While any Sanction may be appealed, the Crown has broad rights to impose a Banishment from the Royal Presence. Therefore, appeals of this sanction will not generally be considered” and replace it with “Appeals of this sanction may be made by the sanctioned party to the Society Seneschal, who may determine whether the stated cause of the banishment is just and reasonable, or whether implementation of this banishment is effectively Exile from the Realm as covered by Section B of this policy.”

    Amend other portions of Corpora and Society officers’ policies as appropriate.

  3. Amend Corpora Section VIII.A.2, “Order of Precedence within the Peerage,” to include either:
    1. However, the Chivalry, the Laurel, the Pelican, and Defense, the Rose, and Royal Peerage are of equal precedence and must be considered as one group.

      or

    2. However, the Chivalry, the Laurel, the Pelican and Defense are of equal precedence and must be considered as one group, above Ducal, County, and Viscounty ranks.

    Add a section to Corpora IX.B, “Rules of the Lists,” to state that “The rules for any given list shall be applied equally to all combatants regardless of rank or station.”

    Amend other portions of Corpora and Society officers’ policies as appropriate.


Appendix 1: [redacted for public view]

Appendix 2: [redacted for public view]