Guest Fest, al-Barran
Meet People and Learn Things

Master Aldred Colson, Field Heraldry

Aldred's notes and intro:

Hello. I'm Aldred Colson. Before I start holding forth, I should tell you a little about me. I joined the SCA at a "Love Revel" on the feast of St. Valentine in A.S. XI. A little over a year later, I was awarded Arms at Grand Outlandish V, A.S. XIII. About that time I became a Cornet, assisting al-Barran's herald, the "Fretty Pursuivant." I was awarded a Scorpion of al-Barran at Midwinter A.S. XIV.

Over the next few years the College made me a Pursuivant-At-Large in Atenveldt. I traveled all around the then-Principality of the Outlands, assisting at tournaments and at court. Her Majesty Lyn awarded me with the Order of the Queen's Grace at Outlandish Ten, A.S. XVIII. She also named me her personal herald. During this time I continued to assist a succession of Fretty Pursuivants, including Mistress Elinor of Rosewood, who is here tonight. I also participated in the arms submission process at the barony, principality, kingdom, and Laurel level—assisting Master Baldwin of Erebor and his sister, Mistress Keridwen of Montrose as they occupied these offices. I was also fortunate to receive tutelage from Master Mark Lasie of Westminster during this time.

When His Grace Koris became Baron of our barony in June A.S. XVIII, I became Fretty Pursuivant. Sadly, pressures of college (UNM, not the College of Heralds) prevented me from holding the office in an official capacity more than just a few months.

I continued to travel in support of the College of Heralds, and occasionally was named personal herald by certain Queens and Princesses of Atenveldt and the Outlands, including Her Royal Highness Briony of Atenveldt in A.S. XVIII.

Just when I thought I was drifting away from the SCA, Their Royal Majesties Trelon and Trude made me a Pelican at Outlandish XI, A.S. XIX. I was also named Trefoil Pursuivant that year, but for the life of me I can't remember what the duties of Trefoil Pursuivant are!

Master Aldred Colson spoke to a group of thirteen and one happy baby (Timothy's Emily) about his recommendations on field heraldry.

To start with, he discussed heralds being inviolate, and the voice of the Crown. Because of heralds' positions in parley, they were not to be challenged [in travels or actions]. As the voice of the Crown, they should be mindful not to use a tone that didn't reflect the Crown's attitude.

On a practical note, gatorade and ice were recommended as better than tea or lemonade to make one's voice last longer.

Aldred recommends getting to an event, look to see who's herald in charge and volunteer to help. Have your tabard/cloak/baldric, notepaper, pencil and order of precedence (that latter isn't as easy to do on paper as it once was, but no matter...). Find out where the lists table is and who's the list mistress, and be nice to her. Give her drinks; offer help; be cooperative. Find a spot near there, or an assistant to run cards and messages back and forth.

Some things have changed since Aldred was active, but many things have not. He started off referencing "cornets" (new heralds in training) and it was noted that now they call them messengers of arms. Fretty, once the baronial herald, is now a kingdom-level commenting position, and al-Barran's herald is Scorpion.

Aldred talked about the advantages of tourney boards with little shields and that a good way to get some would be to have a prize tournament for rattan or something fighters need, and say the only entry fee was to have one's arms in submission. At the tournament, people could be painting shields of the submitted (or passed) arms.

To recruit more heralds, do a good job, be admirable in your duties and make it look fun.

Asked for three uses of a herald's staff and his answers were

  • recognition/identification
  • indicator/pointer
  • protection (keep the staff between you and fighting when on or near the field)
Marie's "to lean on" and AElflaed's "to bang on the floor to make noise" were rejected for field heraldry purposes. Not the top three.

click any small photo for larger images

Use an "authoritative bass" or low voice. It's less strain and more... authoritative.

In the feast hall, leave space between words. Make them very stacatto, not drawn out. But don't rush between words. Long tones waste your voice, and short ones allow the reverb to die down so words can be identified. Don't lose the last word. Anticipate your last word and give the final syllable a little punch; often people trail off or drop their voice at the end.

When announcing a tournament, you're addressing the Crown, populace and entrants. Angle yourself toward where the entrants are when you can. They need to know the order of rounds and hear the calls to the field.

Instead of saying "in the first combat for the blah blah... [Lord X and Sir Y]" say their names clearly, and then say "first combat." Then name the next two, and say "second combat," and so forth. People hear it better if the names are first.

Start the announcement as soon as the entrants come onto the field, to keep the tournament moving along. After the announcements, "on your honor and at the marshal's command, you may begin" closes the herald's speech, and he should back away while the marshal's make sure the combattants are prepared. Heralds have no authority to say "lay on," so be careful how that's worded.

It can be easy to editorialize, and difficult to make the presentation interesting, but remember the voice of the Crown aspect. Instead of "Salute ye each your worthy opponent," when a herald (maybe Aldred) said once, "Salute ye each your most worthy opponent," Stefan joked that his most worthy opponent was Gunwaldt, over there (not on the field).

So the value judgment of "most worthy" isn't appropriate. Neither is "an act of chivalry," though you might say "Duke Paul has voluntarily given up the use of his shield" so it's clear to the spectators.

Aldred brought a staff to show some uses, and said if you're going to maneuver your staff in any artsy way, practice at home and in private, and practice in garb so you don't flip your cloak over your head when you try it in public. Practice the moves both one-handed and two-handed, because sometimes you might have cards in your hand.

On the field, stand in place with dignity and height/posture. Consider the popinjay, the principle charge of the College of Heralds of England.

When you write a report, list all the heralds who served in whatever capacities at the event, and document anything of heraldic import. [Aldred brought and read a herald's report he had made years ago, and I hope to have a copy to include here when he gets a chance to send one. It was dot matrix on greenbar, and very old. Not typewriter-old, but still...]

At the end of the evening, Master Aldred gave Lord Æthelwulf his herald's staff.

Those present: Timothy, AEthelwulf, Marie, Will Heron, Viviana, Jayne, AElflaed, Godfrey, Bevin, Kendrick, Bardolf, Beatrice, and Mistress Elinor Aurora of Rosewood (a Laurel, and Aldred's lady wife).

Most photographs are by Beatrice.

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