This is a quick, down and dirty explanation of what the Outlands College of Heralds is and what it does. In many ways, heralds are the backbone of what we do in the SCA. Crowns and Coronets give awards - but it is the heralds who keep track of them and it is the scribes (a kind of subset of the heralds) who provide the scrolls. Marshals organize tournaments - but it is the heralds who let the audience know what has happened and who is fighting. People want to find an appropriate name - and it is heralds who are sought out for help. People want to register arms - again, that is the job of the heralds.
That said, there is still a great deal of mystery, fear, and loathing surrounding the College of Heralds. The populace looks upon heralds as mysterious, with seemingly arcane rules for everything, all apparently designed to frustrate the desires of anyone who ever wanted to register anything. Field and court heralds are seen as no better - they butcher names and many feel that they don't really care if they get it right, even when this could be the most important award or fight that the person has ever had.
These perceptions of the populace are what we, as heralds, have to fight all the time. This document exists as a way to heighten the stature, both real and perceived, of the Outlands College of Heralds, both inside and outside the College. It provides a short introduction to the organization of the College and an outline of the responsibilities for the different types of heralds.
The Outlands College of Heralds is organized into essentially three different groups (not including the scribes). The first group is the senior staff of the College of Heralds, which consists of White Stag and her deputies. The deputies are appointed by White Stag, and serve at her pleasure. The second group is made up of the local heralds - those that hold the office of herald for their barony, shire, canton, or college. These local heralds are appointed within the local group, but must be approved by White Stag. The third group contains the "at- large" heralds. These are people who are not currently holding a heraldic office, but have demonstrated an interest in heraldry and wish to be included as part of the Outlands College of Heralds.
The senior staff of the Outlands College of Heralds is:
White Stag Principal Herald is the chief administrative officer of the Outlands College of Heralds and the voice of the King. Depending on the Crown and White Stag, she often serves as chief court herald.
Blue Iris Herald is the Queen's herald. Blue Iris is chosen by each Crown, and primarily serves in a court herald position, though the Crown can assign further duties.
Gimlet Herald is in charge of the Book of Ceremonies. Gimlet ensures that important ceremonies (e.g., coronations, investitures, and peerage ceremonies) are appropriate and fashioned in accordance with custom.
Palmer Herald is the "drop-dead" deputy to White Stag. Her duties are as assigned by White Stag.
Plover Herald is responsible for promoting and organizing field heraldry within the kingdom.
Rampart Herald is the submissions herald and his primary duty is the timely processing of name and device submissions to and from the Society College of Arms.
Weel Herald is responsible for educating those interested in heraldry. He produces the Herald's Handbook and any other kingdom heraldic publications.
Wimble Herald maintains the Order of Precedence and keeps track of awards for each individual person within the kingdom.
Wharrow Herald is responsible for creating and maintaining the Outlands Roll of Arms.
Web Minister creates and maintains the Outlands College of Heralds website.
Scribe is the chief scribal officer. Technically, she is a kingdom officer but is often treated as a deputy to White Stag. She is responsible for assuring that scroll assignments are made in a timely manner, that back scrolls are completed, and various other scribal duties as necessary.
Fretty and Trefoil Heralds are assigned to make comments on submissions from inside and outside the kingdom.
Local officers are referred to as "Pursuivant Extraordinary of the Shire/Province/College of _____." The exception to this rule is the herald for a barony. Baronial heralds are styled as specific Pursuivants - Aspen Pursuivant (Caerthe), Scorpion Pursuivant (al-Barran), Scalene Pursuivant (Dragonsspine), Rook Pursuivant (Citadel), Barbican Pursuivant (Unser Hafen), Ray du Soleil Pursuivant (Caer Galen), and Black Fountain Pursuivant (Fontaine Dans Sable).
Because heralds apparently aren't satisfied enough with the amount of structure imposed on the College, each person in the College is also assigned a heraldic rank. These ranks are granted at the discretion of White Stag. White Stags have differed as to how they would assign these ranks to people in the College of Heralds. However, the differences only arise in the promotion of people to ranks; once promoted, no demotions occur.
This is the preliminary heraldic rank given to newcomers to heraldry.
This rank is granted after having demonstrated a continuing commitment to the College of Heralds and having developed an understanding of the three types of heraldry (Court, Field, and Book - for more information, see below).
The rank of Pursuivant is generally given after the herald has developed a firm understanding of all three types of heraldry and a degree of excellence in regards to at least one type. A continued commitment to the College and excellence in one type of heraldry can compensate for lack in the other types of heraldry.
To reach the rank of Herald, an individual must have a degree of excellence in at least two of the three types of heraldry and have demonstrated a strong commitment to the College. This rank requires a great deal of effort to achieve.
Herald Extraordinary ("HE")
To achieve this title, a herald must have gone far above and beyond anything that could possibly be expected of him, and have made a lasting impact on the College as a whole. These people are and should be the foundation of the College and are rewarded for their work and achievements by being granted a heraldic title for their exclusive use in the Society. For instance, Pendar the Bard is Musimon HE, Kathryn of Iveragh is Ardent HE, etc.
Work of heralds is primarily divided into four different groups. Administrative work is generally that of the College senior staff, as addressed above. The other three groups are what most heralds do, and what are most often seen by the populace: book heraldry, field heraldry, and court heraldry.
This is perhaps the most frustrating part of the SCA for many people because of the struggles that they have to register a name and device with the SCA College of Arms for their sole and unique use. Ultimately, the book herald's job is to make the client as happy as possible - to try to give them what they want. On the other hand, a good book herald will also steer a client into wanting something as period as possible - after all, doing things in a period manner is and should be the goal.
Being a book herald is all about service. Often, it is just a matter of being a resource - allowing a person to look at books of names or heraldic pictures. Sometimes, it is a matter of being a font of information - telling a client where to go to find information, be it in a book or another person's mind. Book heralds will often take on projects in which they are particularly interested, or will become an expert in a particular part of book heraldry. In the end, their knowledge is a means of providing a satisfying experience for the client.
This is where many people break into heraldry. Field heraldry can be the easiest form of heraldry, but can also be the most fraught with danger, for the field herald must tackle the challenge of pronouncing names on a field of battle!
The field herald is responsible for announcing the names of entrants in tournaments, orders of combat, and winners of matches. The problems, of course, come when heralds have to say names with which they are not familiar. The key is to always be polite, and if you don't know a name, just ask how to pronounce it. Fighters would nearly always appreciate being asked how to pronounce their name - even multiple times - rather than hear it continually butchered.
An often-overlooked part of being a good field herald is knowing the Order of Precedence. In a combat, the higher-ranking person should (usually) be announced first. Sometimes, that is easy to know - other times, it's hard. Duke Hitshard outranks Lord Fighterguy - that's not difficult. But what if Lord Fighterguy is fighting Lady Wrapshot? The best way to know who outranks whom is to keep up as best you can with who has what awards. You can't know everything, but you can try, which is all that anyone can ask. The best field heralds review the online Order of Precedence regularly, just to make sure they keep up with new awards. Of course, knowing when to break the rules of who gets announced first comes with experience.
Court heralds are perhaps the "showiest" heralds. The Court herald's job is, quite simply, to make the Crown/Coronet look good. The court herald is essentially the emcee of court - he helps plan the order of business, keeps things moving, explains what's happening to the crowd, etc. Court shouldn't be about the herald, but about the Crown/Coronet.
Perhaps the biggest burden placed on the court herald is that of confidentiality. (This goes for the scribes as well, and is perhaps one reason that they often get lumped in with the heralds.) We might be playing make- believe, but real feelings are at issue here. Especially in situations where people are getting awards, surprise is a goal everyone would like to achieve.
Being a herald, I feel compelled to get some final words in...