Bright Ideas and True Confessions: How and What to Do and Why

Being an Officer

Warrants and Rosters

Officers are officially appointed to office by a warrant, a paper signed by the king, queen and appropriate kingdom officer. If you don't have a paper like that you aren't really an officer of the Society. Try to get a warrant. Some warrants are one page with no one's name but yours, your address, phone number, and the starting and ending dates of your appointment. The blank form for this is in Corpora, which is available from the Corporate Office.

Some warrants are a list (roster) of all the other officers in the kingdom as well, but the page with your name on it should have the signatures of your superior officer, the king and queen. (If you're in a principality, the signatures may be principality-level people. That's between your kingdom and the corporation.)

What if an officer doesn't know how to get a warrant? Each new officer should write and introduce himself to his superior officer. Asking what they want before warranting you is a good idea. If no warrant is forthcoming, seneschals can assist in getting other officers warranted by writing to their superiors and pointing out who has been recommended / nominated / accepted by the group, and requesting that they be warranted if all is in order. This means the seneschal shouldn't say "George is our marshal and you have to warrant him." George isn't the officer unless he's warranted. The most the seneschal should say is "George is serving as our marshal" or "We'd like to have George warranted as our marshal." In the case of a barony, evidence the the baron and/or baroness agree to the appointment would help. Include all the information required on the form: full legal name, address, phone number with area code, and SCA name [1]. Additionally, list the person's particular qualifications, strengths, "service record," etc., so the people who are to sign have a better idea who it is they're signing off on.

What are considerations in signing a warrant? If you're in the position to sign a warrant, remember that the group should have official SCA status and the the officer must be a member of the SCA. You can buy a membership list of everyone in your kingdom, [2] and kingdom-level officers should probably get one once a year or more just to verify that all the people they've warranted are still eligible to serve. In addition, seneschals must be the age of majority in the state in which they live. (This doesn't apply to other offices, as they're neither required nor authorized to sign contracts for the Society.) I wouldn't sign a warrant for someone I'd never heard from directly. In most cases, I'd want two people's word that the person was good or acceptable to the group. In the case of a new shire, the officers' names usually come with all the beginning paperwork, but in an established group, I'd get verification if someone I didn't know personally just wrote and said "I'm the new seneschal - warrant me." If you don't trust a person or think he's a nut case (extreme example, but it happens), stall off and check around to see if there's a tactful way to maneuver someone else in there. When you sign the warrant you're vouching for the person to some extent, and you also make the person an official officer of the SCA, Inc. Be a little careful.

Kings and queens will usually just take the officers' word for appointments to local offices, and sign what's brought to them. This makes it even more important that the officer know who he's warranting. If the king and queen have any reservations about any locals (because of reports they've received or personal knowledge) they do not have to sign on that person. Anyone who's putting a signature down needs to be able to defend and back up what he's signed on. This can mess up a good roster, so don't try to get someone warranted you know is not acceptable.

Why do warrants have an ending date? Since warrants have an end date, we can warrant officers for a short trial period. Rather than having an "acting seneschal" for months and months, it's better to warrant the person for three months or so with the possibility of renewal on his part and the option on the group's part to try another person if it doesn't work out. The reason end dates were added to warrants is this: the first edition of Corpora had warrants of appointment and warrants of removal. If a person was never removed, he still held a warrant for that office. When Mistress Bevin Fraser of Stirling was steward, she asked all kingdoms to begin issuing warrants of removal for every officer who quit or was replaced, so that there was no stigma in receiving a warrant of removal. That was an enormous amount of paperwork - signing, copying, filing and mailing - and I wrote to her (as seneschal of one of the seven kingdoms at the time) and suggested that warrants of appointment just have an end date instead. There was no such thing at that time as a roster.

What information do rosters need to have? If rosters are to be used they must have all the information for each officer listed as appears on the warrant form in Corpora. In addition to all the legal name/phone number stuff, each term must have an ending date. If your kingdom has a policy of all warrants being two years long (or other set time), this defeats the purpose of being able to warrant a person for a trial period. If rosters are being prepared with the same ending date for everyone, it defeats warrants as a guarantee of stability and continuity. Think about it.

What if a person wants to stay in longer, though? Although warrants expire, they can be renewed. They don't bind the officer for the entire time, either. If you're warranted for a year and are ready to quit after six months, you're free to do so. You can't be removed without good cause, though. At the end of the stated term another warrant can be negotiated.

I'd like to be an officer but I don't want to commit to a two-year term. You should never have to. The length of term line on the warrant in Corpora is blank on purpose. I'm opposed to kingdom policies that require two-year terms only. It's an arbitrary rule which conveniences no one, and makes it awkward for good officers who would like to stay in longer, or for those who would like to get out at a time when there's an awkward three or four months left, and they feel obliged to stick it out until Twelfth Night, or whenever. It's an unnatural restriction. We're not electing Congress here; each officer is working solo and their ease and comfort should come before the kingdom's schedule.

Is there anything different about getting officers of a new shire warranted? When a new group forms, the officers generally choose themselves and are ratified by group consensus. After a few months there might begin to be some trading off of offices, or you might have a couple of people who just can't get it together to report. They'll probably resign. Your biggest problem at this point might be filling all the offices (or at least the three or four required), so in a way the seneschal appoints officers by choosing which person to get to take the empty office, or which volunteers to encourage. In this pre-official stage, if you can't just convince people to resign offices when they don't function, try having the group discuss it and come to a consensus. The seneschal shouldn't be a dictator, though. When the officers are all settled and the shire is becoming official, a single letter listing all your group's officers (with full particulars) should be sent to all the appropriate officers and to the Crown with a request that they all be warranted. Each should be in contact with his superior separately, too. It could be a great part of the official recognition of that group if each person got a warrant when the group was declared official.

If Warrants of Removal no longer exist, how are people removed? Another person is warranted, which voids the first warrant. Grounds for removal might be

  • disrespect for the Crown
  • failure to report regularly
  • not working for the good of the group
  • negligence of office
  • being a dictator
  • disseminating bad information

Usually a person who's in danger of being removed will quit, if the removal is justified.

Time Out!

Having just gone through that yucky list, let me make another one. Here are some indications for recognition or advancement. (Please recommend such officers for awards, or give them gifts, or scrolls of appreciation:)

  • dependability
  • self-confidence
  • humility
  • SCA activity outside the local group
  • reporting regularly and on time
  • earning the respect of fellow officers

What if the Crown tries to remove me just to put someone in who'll do what they say? It's a rare thought, but legitimate, especially in the case of upper-level seneschals. Have a warranted deputy at all times - a warranted deputy. If the Crown wants to suspend you, your deputy will take over during the suspension. If you have no warranted deputy, they can put in anyone they want. You can appeal an attempted removal from office only if your own warrant has time left on it. If you're at the end of your warrant, no reason is needed not to renew it.

Do warrants have to be given in court at an official event? Local officers can be warranted anytime, through the mail (although it is nicer sometimes to recognize changes of offices in court). Kingdom and principality officers are supposed to be appointed at official, advertised events. The officer doesn't really have to be there, but the warrant should be announced in court. (Principality deputies can be warranted during the week, same as locals.) This is explained in Corpora under official events, and not under the section on warrants and officers, in case you want to look it up.

I've tried to give normal, typical situations as examples. Often there will be special circumstances. Use your judgement. Ask people you respect and trust for advice if you need it. They'll be flattered.



[1] Warrants are not to be toyed with. If a disaster befalls so great that there could be a lawsuit, each person involved needs to be able to prove he was duly appointed to be marshal, seneschal, or whatever, so that the liability falls on the Society, and not on him as an individual.

[2] Membership lists are available to officers at any level in the Society, for $2 each. They come in three listings: alphabetical by SCA name, alphabetical by mundane last name, and by zip code. Zip code is the one you need if you're trying to do a group count. Anytime you're using an SCA name list you need to know that if a person didn't give an SCA name (and even some oldtimers don't), they'll be listed at the beginning, alphabetically by mundane name. Make the $2 out to Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc., and send it to the Stock Clerk, P.O. Box 360743, Milpitas CA 95035-0743. If it's much past 1991, call or write and check on the price.

Copyright © by Sandra Dodd, 1991
Site design by
Ninth Circle