I felt that the following Advisory Opinion was required in view of the potential for confusion brought to my attention by one or more Kingdom Seneschals; however, in view of continued questions, I would like to amplify the bandwidth as I want everyone to have access to this Advisory Opinion of the rules of the SCA; this advisory opinion is based upon my independent reading of Corpora as presently constituted, a 1999 policy interpretation (by a prior Society Seneschal) and the affirmance of that position by the Board of Directors in 1999. As such, I am presenting the following Advisory Opinion for maximum distribution in view of continued questions. Please be advised that this is not an invitation to further debate; rather, it is a rather simple statement of the state of the Governing Documents of the SCA, i.e. Corpora. While the final authority regarding Corpora rests with the Board of Directors, the Board is devoted to transparency and in all cases, any change in Corpora must first be put out for comment to the membership prior to any Board action.
Vice President of Operations, SCA, Inc.
Advisory Opinion Regarding the possible inclusion of non-rattan fighters into the Order of the Chivalry
Greetings unto Kingdom Seneschals,
After January 17, 2015, I have received inquiries regarding whether a Crown may grant admission to the Order of Chivalry to a rapier or cut-and-thrust fighter. The following opinion is being disseminated to all Kingdom Seneschals to assist Their Crowns in view of the recent amendment of Corpora by the Board of Directors.
Despite the recent change in the language of the governing documents of the SCA, Inc. thereby removing the “ancillary activity” language from Corpora by the Board of Directors on January 17, 2015, an individual combatant should not be admitted to the Order of Chivalry based upon the combatant’s prowess in the areas of rapier or cut-and-thrust combat; my position is in conformity with the previous policy interpretation of the 1999 policy interpretation by the then Society Seneschal, affirmed by the Board of Directors in 1999, which clearly indicates that only rattan combatants (heavy or armored combatants) are eligible for recognition in the Order of Chivalry. I have determined that the key controlling factor in answering this question rests in the language of corpora dealing with “tournament combat”, namely:
Article IV. ROYALTY
1. Royal Lists must be conducted at a tournament announced in the kingdom newsletter as being for that purpose. Crowns or Coronets who wish to conduct a royal list in a manner other than individual combat must obtain the prior approval of the Board of Directors.
—as well as–
Article VIII. PERSONAL AWARDS AND TITLES
A. Patents of Arms
4. Patent Orders
The following institutions are established for all kingdoms in the Society. A Patent of Arms may be conferred only upon a person being admitted into one of these orders. Each candidate for a patent order must satisfy the general requirements listed above in A.1., as well as the specific requirements listed here.
a. The Chivalry: (i) The Chivalry consists of two equal parts: Knighthood and Mastery of Arms. No one may belong to both parts of the order at one time. When a member is admitted to the Chivalry by the Sovereign, the choice of which part of the order to join is made by the new member. The candidate must be considered the equal of his or her prospective peers with the basic weapons of tournament combat. To become a Knight, the candidate must swear fealty to the Crown of his or her kingdom during the knighting ceremony. Masters of Arms may choose to swear fealty, but are not required to do so.
It is clear that “tournament” combat in the SCA pertains exclusively to Crown Tournaments and Coronet Tournaments prior to January 15, 2015 and tournament combat is exclusively rattan, heavy, armored combat. The January 17, 2015 amendment to the governing documents, made by the Board of Directors, is in conformity with this position, namely, the only martial combat that may decide Crown and Coronet Tournaments is rattan combat and this amendment to Corpora is consistent with all of the governing documents of the SCA.
When the Order of Chivalry was created, it was conceived as the peerage whereby the best tournament fighters (both Crown and Coronet Tournaments), i.e. rattan, heavy, armored combat, would be honored with the title of Knight or Master at Arms. Such has been the case for almost fifty years. I must conclude that removing the “rapier as an ancillary activity” language or any other additions made by the Board of Directors has no definitive impact on the clear intent of the governing documents.
In 1999 the Society Seneschal (Lee Forgue), was asked by the Crown of the Midrealm for a Corpora interpretation as to whether or not a Crown could Knight a rapier fighter; Lee Forgue as Society Seneschal (circa 1999) responded with an official policy interpretation that was affirmed by the Board of Directors in 1999. Ms. Forgue’s affirmed interpretation of what was previously Article VII (which is now Article VIII) is noted below in pertinent part:
“My interpretation is that, when Corpora VII.A.4.a.(1).(a) speaks of tournament combat as the prerequisite for admission to the Order of Chivalry, the form of fighting referred to is that variously referred to as armored, heavy, chivalric, or rattan combat or, in the Rules of the Lists (Corpora Appendix B), traditional Society combat, i.e., the form of fighting done wearing substantial armor and using rattan weapons that was totally developed in and for the SCA.”
In view of my own research as well as the prior policy interpretation made by Lee Forgue in 1999 (which was affirmed by the Board of Directors in 1999), I cannot hold otherwise in this opinion even in view of the removal of the “rapier as an ancillary activity” language as there is no evidence that this “ancillary activity” impacts either the 1999 holdings of the Society Seneschal and the Board of Directors, the traditions of the SCA or the other pertinent portions of Corpora including but not limited to Articles IV and VIII.
In the face of nearly 50 years of tradition, the totality of Corpora (i.e. the governing documents of the SCA), the 1999 policy ruling of the Society Seneschal which was affirmed by the Board of Directors in 1999 and my own independent interpretation of Corpora, there is no question that, absent a change in Corpora, a Crown may not grant a rapier fighter into the Order of Chivalry as a Knight or Master at Arms.
Please pass this official advisory opinion on to your respective Crowns. I know that there has been a lot of confusion recently and I also know that there has been a lot of angry and frustrated feelings in terms of the possibility of an additional peerage; however, nothing truly precious or dear is ever achieved easily. I have complete confidence in the men and women of the Board who are trying to best serve the individual members of the SCA as well as the future of the SCA. They are individuals like you and me, who volunteer their time and try to be good stewards of this game that has become such an important aspect of our lives.
When I think about the SCA and how it has affected my life, I know full well that I am a better man because of it and I also know that each of us serves this dream with our hearts, minds and bodies… and the members who volunteer and serve as Board Members are no different than any of us… they want to do what is best for the women and men of the SCA… and they want to give us their very best… and at times, as you know, it is a thankless job.
If either you or Your Crown have any questions, please feel free to contact me by telephone after 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time at (916) 600-2716.
Very truly yours,
A.J. Pongratz, Esq.
Society Seneschal/V.P. of Operations, SCA, Inc.
(Barone Antonio Giordano da Sicilia, O.P.)
Cc: The Board of Directors
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