Monday, November 4, 2013

Rapier Peerage Thoughts

Share it Please
This post concerns the proposal to create a peerage for rapier in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).  The proposal is found here:

The Board of Directors of the SCA is soliciting commentary from the membership on this proposal, and this post is my current draft of my thoughts on the rapier peerage (I may revise it slightly if others convince me to change aspects of it). Comments on the proposal are due by December 1, 2013.  I implore all people to send in their comments, please.  If you agree with anything I say here [or if you don't], PLEASE send your comment (you are free to copy and paste from my post if you want!) - the more people supporting the peerage and, I think, my thoughts on them, the better.  :)

To send comments:  Please use the title "Additional Peerage Proposal" in the Subject line.  Email comments to or mail them to SCA Inc., Box 360789, Milpitas, CA 95036.  Again, they are due by December 1st, so the end of this month!!

Rapier Peerage Thoughts
Birke die Jägerin
Midrealm Rapier Fighter, Pentamere Regional Rapier XO

First: I fully support having rapier fighters become peers.  It takes a lot of skill and prowess to be a top-notch fencer, and they deserve recognition.  So I think a peerage of some sort for rapier fighters should definitely occur.

Second: There is the issue of whether a fourth peerage for rapier should be created, or whether rapier fighters should be allowed to join the Order of the Chivalry/Master at Arms.  I can see the arguments either way.

Arguments in favor of joining the Chivalry/Master at Arms:
  • All of the martial arts could be together, similar to how all the service arts are under the Pelican and all of A&S are under the Laurel.
  • It recognizes that rapier and heavy are both accomplished methods of fighting for different time periods and scenarios, but both requiring similar levels of skill, leadership, dedication, and service.
  • A slightly varied proposal to clear up confusion of “what’s your white belt in?” and have us be slightly separate: Have rapier fighters join the Order of the Chivalry/Master at Arms, but with different livery.  Same title, same order, but a different livery depending on how you got the peerage (see my section on regalia later). 

Arguments in favor of creating a fourth peerage just for rapier:
  • Heavy fighting and rapier fighting, while both requiring great skill and martial prowess, have quite different cultures, in ways that A&S and service don’t have separate and distinct cultures as a whole, so it makes some amount of sense to have separate peerages.
  • You wouldn’t have to ask “what’s your white belt in?”  (Though if rapier and heavy are merged in the Chivalry with different regalia, this wouldn’t be a problem.)
  • We could have different regalia that is more fitting to the rapier community (see my section on regalia later). 

This still leaves out the question on where to put archers, equestrians, etc, if we decide to let them into the peerage in the future.  I am strongly against any plan to put rapier, archery, equestrian, etc, all in a fourth peerage separate from the Chivalry.  This smacks of “separate but equal” treatment, in which all other martial activities are considered secondary to heavy fighting, so they can all have a peerage together but heavy fighting gets its own peerage all to itself because it’s “better.”  Heavy fighting and rapier are more similar to each other than rapier is to the other martial activities, since they are the two arts that are direct combat against opponents.  This is a separate issue than the one being currently discussed, but I think it is important to consider, as I can see archery gaining enough popularity to become peerage level in the future (the others are questionable due to level of activity).  I just want to make it clear that if we do make a fourth peerage for rapier instead of allowing fencers to be knighted, that I feel it needs to be a peerage only for rapier, and not the peerage for “rapier and later maybe other martial activities.”

Third, I will address the specific points put forth for the creation of a fourth, separate, peerage for rapier.

Name and Title

Proposed: Name: Order of the Masters of Defense. This name is patterned after the London Masters of Defense, a royally charted guild of teachers of fencing in England. The name is compatible with period naming practices for secular orders and is free of conflict with currently registered items in the SCA Ordinary and Armorial as of June 2013. The title for a member of the new Order would be Master or Mistress of Defense.

My thoughts:  I love the name of the Order – Order of the Masters of Defense is pretty great.  But I really hate the idea of the title of Master or Mistress of Defense.  I understand that in the period Masters of Defense guild that Master was the highest title, but I don’t like how it smacks of “separate but equal” again.  It feels like the Chivalry gets its own title, and everything else gets to be Master/Mistress.  Plus, I really wouldn’t want to be a “Mistress of Defense” someday if I got to peerage level in rapier – frankly, it sounds too much like a dominatrix to my modern ears.  The rapier peerage is a martial peerage, and it should be given a title that is martial, similarly to the Order of the Chivalry having the martial title of Sir/Dame.

My changes:  Make the title either Provost (for both genders) or Sir/Dame, because these are more known to be martial titles.  I know there are lesser positions currently using the title Provost, but they are below Peerage and not Society-wide, and therefore can be changed by the individual Kingdoms who use them.  Sir/Dame is reserved entirely for martial arts, specifically heavy fighting, and would note rapier fighters as martial artists also (edit: this would be a great compromise between those who want one martial peerage and those who want different peerages: have the rapier peerage be separate, but all martial peerages have the same title of Sir/Dame).  The livery and order name can note us as different from heavy fighter Knights.  Or change the title to another martial title, say Knight in other languages such as Ritter.  But I really like either Provost or Sir/Dame.


Proposal: Badge: Three rapiers interlaced in pall inverted proper. This badge is intended to be representative of the various aspects of weaponry included in the new peerage.

My thoughts:  None.  This is fine.


Proposal: Regalia: White or silver livery collar with badge of the Order depended from it. This form of regalia was in fashion throughout the later part of period, roughly contemporaneous with the appearance of swords identifiable as “rapiers.” It is gender-neutral, and is intended to be easily visible on the field of combat, much like the regalia of Knights and Masters at Arms. Note that white or silver livery collars without the peerage badge pendant would not be in conflict.

My thoughts:  I have several different thoughts on this.

About the white/silver livery collar itself:  I like the idea of the livery collar.  I don’t like that we have to also have the peerage badge on it, and that a plain white or silver livery collar could mean something else.  Knights don’t need to have anything on their white belt in order for them to be seen as Knights, or Pelican proteges anything on their yellow belt.  We should give the same consideration to the rapier fighters (again with the “separate but equal” icky treatment).  If anyone is currently using a white or silver plain livery collar, that’s their individual issue to sort out, just as anyone who wants to wear a white or yellow belt but isn’t a part of those Peerages can’t.

The Purple Scarf Regalia:  Other peerages have several items of livery each:  knights have spurs, white belts, gold chains, and a sword; laurels have the laurel wreaths, medallions, and cloaks; pelicans have cloaks and medallions/symbol of pelicans.  I think the rapier community should have several different items of livery, too.  In this manner, I strongly, strongly argue that a rapier peerage needs to have a scarf, too.  A colored cord or scarf tied to the upper left arm is synonymous with rapier fighter and has long history in the rapier community (red for cadets, white for White Scarves, bronze for Bronze Rings, various other groups having their own colored scarves).  To have a rapier peerage without a scarf seems highly disrespectful to our history as a community.  To my knowledge, purple isn’t a color used widely for scarves in the rapier community, and it is a color that was associated with high nobility in period, making it perfect for a peerage award.  So I put forth that, in addition to a white/silver livery collar (with or without the badge, I say), a purple scarf on the left upper arm also be made part of the official regalia of the rapier peerage.

And that’s what I have so far.  Any thoughts?

Thanks for reading. 

~Birke die Jägerin, Midrealm Rapier Fighter and Pentamere Regional Rapier XO


  1. A comment: Dame is also an accepted alternative title for Mistress in the Middle Kingdom :-)

  2. I am sorry But I will not stand behind this unless it includes Archers and Equestrian as those both also require great skill and knowledge. as well as both being fighting arts. If you wish to add a 4th peerage group , in my opinion, it MUST include all 3 of the non-heavy, fighting arts.

    1. I support including the other martial arts - I believe I mentioned that - but I don't agree with having two martial peerages, one for heavy fighting and one for everything else.

      As for the point that you will not currently stand behind this without archery and equestrian being added now, while I understand where you are coming from, I don't think it actually helps create the archery and equestrian peers. Just as in the quest for marriage equality, we have to often fight for civil unions to get people comfortable with the idea before pushing it the final step to full marriage equality (see what happened in Washington state), I see the same thing happening here. There is currently enough support for a rapier peerage of some kind. I believe we need to go forward with a rapier peerage, so that those out there who think it will break the society will see that it won't (like when women heavy fighters were knighted, and same sex consorts were added, etc). Then, once the rapier peers have been around for a bit and people see that it's a good thing, we continue to push for the other martial arts to have a peerage of some sort. I think supporting a rapier peerage now is a much faster way of getting other martial skills to be added to the peerage, then waiting until there somehow is enough support to do all at once, even if that is ideologically more palatable.

      I thank you for your thoughts, and I urge you to let the Board know what you're thinking. I think they need to take into consideration further martial peerages in the future in how they create this peerage now, and you should urge them to consider that also.

    2. Archery and thrown weapons should be included as sciences not as their own peerage because it is mastering one weapon and historically no single archer would be Knighted unless he was the leader of many archers and had master other weapons of war. As for Equestrian its limited in as it is not an SCA wide activity to create a Scadian wide peerage for something that only a few with the monetary means to perform and master is not in the spirit of a group that tries to be inclusive of all in other martial activities. In Ealdomere there might be one maybe 2 people in the whole kingdom that preform the activity of jousting and equestrian arts.

    3. Is this proposal perfect? No. Myself, I'm in favour of having all the combat peerages as different streams of the Chivalry (they already have the precedent of having 2 streams already, so it's only a minor wording change, even!), but that's not acceptable to the Order of the Chivalry.

      Should we have 5 different combat orders (Rattan, Steel, Archery, Equestrian, Siege- or perhaps more, if you split the thrown from the archery, and combat and target archery from each other)? I believe not. I think to have:
      "The Order of the Pelican is the Order of Service"
      "The Order of the Laurel is the Order of the Arts and Sciences"
      "The Order of the Chivalry is the ORder of Combat
      And so is the Order of the Masters of Defence
      And so is the order of the Foresters of Sherwood (or whatever)
      And so is the Order of the Trebuchet launched dayspoilers
      And so is the Order of the Clippity Clop*

      implies that the Arts and Sciences and Service are in some way less worthwhile than combat. The ideal would be '1 peerage for those who fight', but as that's not possible, the least bad is '2 peerages for those who fight'.

      * I suspect my proposed order names may not pass the Heralds ;)

    4. I agree, I would prefer that all of the martial activities could be part of the Order of the Chivalry. Heck, we could all be members of the Chivalry with slightly different titles and different regalia (in fact, I would prefer different regalia). This is a new movement within the SCA - why shouldn't we be able to "split" a single peerage?

      It does indeed seem odd to have five different combat peerages, and then the Pelican and Laurel.

    5. Well, the Chivalry already _is_ split. It comprises two parts, the Knights and the Masters at Arms. So you could make it 3 parts, for the Masters of Defence, and so on.

      But the existing chivalry doesn't want that. Any additional peerage is probably the least bad option, but I think it should try and set a better example, and be inclusive, and let other arts join in its reindeer games as and when they are deemed ready.

    6. "I'm in favor of having all the combat peerages as different streams of the Chivalry, but that's not acceptable to the Order of the Chivalry."

      The question no one's asking is: Why the hell not? The point that I've seen raised elsewhere is that a Laurel of Costuming is not diminished by the inclusion of Laurel of Pottery (or whichever). A Pelican of event stewarding is not diminished by the inclusion of a Pelican of always heralding court. But somehow a Knight would be diminished by a public declaration that a Fencer/Archer/etc. is of equal standing as he is?

      How can that opinion be justified? What can that be other than the Chivalry declaring that the other SCA martial arts aren't important enough or aren't good enough? Which doesn't seem to be a very chivalrous attitude, now does it?

  3. Equestrians do fight each other in mounted combat, jousting and crest combat. Just because you've never seen it doesn't mean it isn't done. In fact, mounted combat requires more skill than heavy combat ( I can't speak to raipier since I'm only a KSCA and a Viscount) since you have to apply all one's heavy combat skills and control a horse at the same time. So that negates your equivalency statement about rapier and heavy combat being the only martial arts in the SCA where combatants fight one another.

    1. You make a good point, and I was wondering a little about that when I wrote it.

  4. Having just authorized as a general rider in equestrian, and as ground crew, there are many more elements to being an equestrian including learning the proper care and handling of the horse and equipment as well as being able to control 1400+ pounds of horse. My authorization including proving familiarization with multiple pieces of equipment of various styles and my ability to safely handle them as well as my ability to safely handle multiple horses, none of whom were my own. One does not need to own a horse to participate in equestrian activities, there are many wonderful horse owners, who if you respect them and show proficiency are willing to share their animals so others may participate. There are several different forms/styles of combat to authorize in just as there are multiple weapons to authorize in for rattan fighting. One must proficiency in each on the field before being authorized in them. If you don't see equestrians in your area, perhaps you would be willing to start the conversations to get such activities started there. Remember there once was little to no rapier in the majority of the society. I think it is appropriate to be proactive in this matter and take into account how creating a new peerage will affect our approach to recognizing archery, thrown weapons, siege weapons and equestrians in the future rather than the reactive approach we are currently dealing with in recognizing the rapier community.

    1. I agree. At some point, I would love to look into equestrian activities, but I'm also never going to be able to own a horse myself. I also would like to consider the question of future martial activities being in the peerage as we (hopefully) make the rapier fighters part of the peerage.

      Please send your thoughts along to the Board of Directors. It's important that every voice is heard to drown out the voices of those who think only knights should be peers (yes, that's one comment I've gotten in the last day, believe it or not).

  5. Where do I cosign? All excellent, well-gathered notions (and I also support the inclusion of the other martial arts, but I'm not going to fuss if my rapier brethren get there first, you know?).

    1. Haha, awesome! You are more than welcome to copy this (if you want, you can say I wrote it and you're sending it along also because you agree) and send it to the Board of Directors following the instructions at the beginning of this post. I also wish to include the other martial arts. Please do send along your thoughts. The more people who send the info, the better! We need to drown out the voices of those who wish to oppose this.

  6. I'm starting to think the best scenario would be to have all combat skills be under the Order of the Chivalry, but make it a kind of split peerage, where you have different regalia and maybe even different titles depending on what combat skill brought you to the Chiv, but we're still all Chivalry. That way, we wouldn't end up having five combat peerages and then laurel and pelican in 20 years when we get around to recognizing the different skill sets.

  7. There is also a sort of elegance to, in some way, have a correspondence between three hypothetical peerages and the Three Estates of the Middle Ages.

    Instead of having Those Who Fight, Those Who Pray and Those Who Work, we might have Those Who Fight, Those Who Serve and Those Who Create. Just a thought.

    1. Interesting thought! Please send it along to the Board of the SCA as I noted at the beginning of this post. The more people we have telling them that the fighting peerages should all be one, the better chance we have of drowning out the voices saying otherwise.



Follow The Author