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

Being an Officer

Regulatory vs. Service Offices
All Offices Are Not Created Equal

Over the years there have been kingdom law changes, royal proclamations, and unhappy moments between officers, all about what is or isn't a "real" office, and about the powers and rights of officers (especially at kingdom level). I've always seen it as a philosophical problem, and a problem of definitions.

"Office" has to do with performing a duty, with having a responsibility. If you're interested in words and their histories, you might read about "office" in the OED, American Heritage, or another dictionary with good etymologies. There are many duties and responsibilities related to the running of the Society, and they vary greatly in time required and in how vital they are to the maintenance of day-to-day SCA life.

If a kingdom has seven "great officers" (I know some have more, some may have less), they may be equal in their rights to attend an officer's meeting, but past that there's no reason they should force being equal in stipends, paperwork, attention from the Crown, column-space in the newsletter, etc. One set of duties / "office" will be more central to life in the kingdom than another, and it's not a slight on the particular holder of the second office.

Here is a concept to help decide how to view your position as an officer. Some are regulatory offices (marshal being the finest example) and some are service offices (arts, sciences, hospitaller). Others fall somewhere between, with some regulatory duties, and some elements which are entirely concerned with services to the membership. Heralds are a good example of officers who deal with enforcing regulations and also offer different types of services. Lists officers are in that category as well.

If you decide your office is primarily a service position, then you don't need as tight a set of ties to local groups, superiors and fellow officers as you would if you were in a regulatory position. You're helping people do what they want to do, not telling them what they can and can't do and trying to make sure it sticks.

If your office is a regulatory office, you must be mindful that your responsibility is greater than that of some other officers, and you have to maintain close, open communications with those above and below you in the hierarchy, and also with fellow officers. You don't have the right to slouch back and say "I'm doing as much as most of the other officers are doing." You probably need to be doing more than the other officers are doing just to be doing your share. The danger of considering all offices to be equal, then, is the averaging out of expectations, making the holders of less consuming jobs feel slighted, and tempting more crucial officers to slack off to match the average.

One democratic "solution" to the officer equality issue is to list offices in the newsletter alphabetically. This is like listing the president down in the "P"s, and aides first, under "A," to make them more equal. I wholeheartedly dislike such listings. It's hard for newcomers to learn the hierarchy. As the offices correspond to corporate offices, they should be listed in the same order the corporate officers are listed in Corpora. Any great offices the kingdom adds can be inserted at the end of that list, or following the office from which they've sprung. In the latter case I believe they should be shown as lesser offices, or deputies, so that the third herald in charge of training field assistants isn't listed ahead of the Earl Marshal.

The order of precedence of officers is this:

  1. Seneschal
  2. Herald
  3. Marshal
  4. Arts / Sciences
  5. Chronicler
  6. Treasurer
  7. Chirurgeon

If your kingdom has established the Lists office as a great office, it should go after those above. If it's a sub-office of the marshal or the heralds, it should go under that as a deputy. If your hospitaller or gold key is a great office, it shouldn't be listed ahead of those above. Small groups may only have three officers (which will be seneschal, herald, marshal or, if there are no fighters, seneschal, herald, arts), but there is still a traditional pattern to follow.

If this seems petty to you, you might consider it either an educational device or a matter of protocol. We are, after all, a group greatly concerned with social structures, our own and others'. I still prefer to see the kingdoms listed in the order in which they were founded, rather than alphabetically. There's no sense of order and no education in a list which has Trimaris and the West together at the bottom. (See the section on Protocol in the Heraldry chapter for a list of kingdoms by precedence. Try to list them yourself first, and see how you do.)

Other Officers

The following offices are optional at any level; some groups have them and some don't. Other offices might be created by king or princes, and shires and baronies have been known to create specialized offices under one of their other local offices (which amounts to giving deputy officers a special task and a job-title to go with it.)

Minister of the Lists / Lists Officer - At tournaments it is usually the Master or Mistress of the Lists who sees that the paperwork is done - waiver, challenge cards, setting down the order of the fights, making sure the heralds have the correct information so that the fights can be announced and later writing up the tourney report. The ruling noble or autocrat probably dictates the type of lists and sees to the random drawing or arrangement of the combatants, but it is usually the Minister of the Lists who engineers the order of the matches, structure of the rounds, etc. In some groups this office may be under the marshal, but in others it is independent.

Sheriff or Constable - The primary function of the sheriff is to help with security matters at events. They've also sometimes been given the task of collecting small fines for violation of the prohibition against the display of mundane items. (If this is done it needs to be in a friendly way - as a reminder and a request for a donation, not as a proven crime and fine.)

Hospitaller or Gold Key - This office takes responsibility for welcoming and encouraging newcomers, seeing that they have costumes and "medievalish" dishes to use. The hospitaller is sometimes an office under the seneschal. When there is no such office, other officers usually share the duties, or the autocrat of an event might appoint someone for the day.

Quartermaster - A person in charge of keeping the physical properties of a group (thrones, extra armor, banners, pavilions, whatever the barony or shire might own). This task is sometimes assigned to the Sheriff.

Chancellor - This is an optional kingdom-level officer who serves as an advisor to the Crown and the kingdom officers on points of law, both Society and mundane.



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