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


Crown Tournament and Carrying Favors

Here are some answers to some actual questions going around al-Barran in February A.S. XXV. We were about to host the first crown tournament our barony had hosted in nearly four years. Most of this was originally an article for the baronial newsletter (The Baronial Shaft, al-Barran), and although a few of the items may be particularly Outlandish, many are generally useful. If your kingdom law doesn't allow a person to be championed by more than one entrant, then you might read that section as a curiosity about a foreign land. If your kingdom doesn't require a letter of intent to enter, disregard all that.

What's the deal about favors, and crown tournaments, and letters of intent? When you decide to enter Crown tournament you ask a lady (or lord, if you are a lady) to allow you to fight in her honor, to rule by your side if you were to win. If she says no, don't feel awful. There are lots of good reasons for not jumping into Crown Tournaments. If you can't think of a single one, ask around among former royalty. If she says yes, she needs to find or make something which you can wear into the tournament as a token of her favor (approval/support). [1]

Does the favor have to have the lady's device or arms on it? No, it can be anything. According to mentions in accounts of tournaments (and in some fine Victorian novels), ladies might give a scarf or glove or sleeve (when they had detachable sleeves in the Renaissance). In the Society it's common for a lady to do a piece of embroidery designed to be worn on a belt. The favor doesn't have to be fancy. It can be a piece of trim matching a costume, or a special cord or a pouch. The favor still belongs to the lady who gave it, and so it should be offered back after the tournament. If she really wants you to keep it forever as a souvenir or an ongoing token of friendship or love, she'll let you know. Ladies - don't be insulted if a gentleman offers the favor back. It's more polite to offer it back than to keep it without permission.

Should a lady ask a gentleman to carry her favor? It's kind of like the question, in the past, of whether a girl should ask a boy out on a date. For generations the answer was "NO, not under any circumstances." Nowadays that rule has loosened up a bit, but we're re-creating a time way before this, and that complicates the considerations. There are some tournaments (like the favor tourney) where it's expected that ladies will be eager to have their favors carried. Crown Tournament is different in a couple of ways. It's a formal situation. The winner of the tournament becomes the sovereign, and the consort is still the consort. It's a great honor to be queen consort, but it's not a thing the victor gives you and goes away (like a May Queen title, or Queen of Love and Beauty, or the prize of a favor tournament). The entrant stands to become The King, and will outrank the queen. he should have the opportunity, and it is his duty, to think carefully and choose a person he could work with toward the good of the kingdom. (See other sections below.) I recommend not asking.

But I really want to be queen and maybe no one will ask me. It's not polite to "really want to be queen." If you feel that way, please keep it to yourself. Wishing and quietly aspiring are fine, but plotting and scheming (or hiring a champion) are not quite honorable. Just be an active, hardworking, gracious and courteous member of the Society, and good things will keep coming to you. (If, at the end, you were never queen, it will be more attractive if you also never made it blatantly obvious that that's what you always wanted.) [2]

If I want to ask a lady to let me fight for her in Crown, what kind of lady would be best? Someone who qualifies (membership, etc.), someone who would be helpful to you in all the things kings and queens need to do together, someone with enough knowledge of the Society to be able to function in all kinds of fast and crowded situations, who's discreet (won't tell peers' circle secrets, or blab about who's going to get awards), somone who won't embarrass the kingdom at inter-kingdom events (someone with reasonable manners and nice costumes) ...

Well yeah, someone smart and nice, but should it be my girlfriend or someone I choose because I think she might make a good queen? First choice in most cases is your girlfriend or wife. Don't bypass someone you really do care for and could touchingly and romantically make queen just to engineer a political merger with an experienced individual. Go for romance and the true inspiration of love and beauty and all of that. Here are some arguments for only serving with someone you know well and respect and/or love:

  • If you're fighting for a lady's honor, it's best and easiest if it's someone you actually do feel an affection or personal respect for.
  • If you win you will need to work closely with this person for hours, and weeks, and months, and under tense and nervewracking conditions, and in situations that you'll both find irritating, but that you can't just blow off. It might as well be the person you were going to spend all that time with anyway.
  • If you lose, wouldn't you rather have a person you care about say "I still like you just as much even though you lost, you wonderful thing," rather than some near-stranger saying something less friendly.
  • If you win you need to know the other person well enough that subtle clues and signals can pass between you, or else you'll have to keep saying "just a minute, we'll be right back" and leaving the room together every time someone asks an important question.
  • If you win you need to know the person well enough that a small disagreement won't turn into a bigger disagreement, and possibly into a paranoid, hurting, big incident. It's happened with fly-by-night "couples."
  • You need to know each other and respect one another enough that people can't play you against one another, getting one to agree to something they know the other doesn't like.
  • Last but not least, it needs to be someone you could ride in a car with for ten hours or more, and then get back in with to ride home.

If you don't have a person to fight for in Crown who can work well with you on a really bad day, someone you trust, respect and really like, maybe this isn't the time to enter.

I really want to enter, though. You have no lady to make queen and you want to enter? Ideally, one doesn't enter Crown to become king; he enters to bring honor to his lady. Either she basks in the glow of praise of your chivalry and prowess, and mourns your noble death, or you bypass the noble death and lay at her feet the prize of the day - the coronet of the Crown Princess (which you could not have earned had it not been for her goodness and purity, or some other mushy sentiment). Let's not even consider the thought that anyone would be so base to be hot to be king for his own glory, and just need some bimbo to help him qualify to enter. All such craven knaves should be sent away in shame before the glorious tournament begins (and their little bimbos, too).

What should be in a letter of intent? Requirements for letters of intent vary, and sometimes a king and queen may specify something they want in them. If they don't specify, the letter can be as simple as your name and your prospective consort's name, and a statement that you wish to enter the crown tournament, or as elaborate as a long fancy letter telling everything either of you ever did in the Society, and praising the king and queen for deeds and virtues real and imagined. Aim for the compromise. You might tell a little about yourself, how long you've been in the Society, what you've done, what makes you qualified (give a little detail on where you live, the expiration of your membership, the status of your device, your ability and availability to travel to events in the kingdom, and anything that might seem interesting or pertinent), etc. The letter can be just from the entrant, but needs to name the person who's being championed. Put mundane names in there somewhere (maybe on a separate page, if you're carefully staying in personna) so your membership can be checked if necessary. You might send a copy of a mailing label or membership card. (This isn't required everywhere.)

How binding is a letter of intent? The part about whose favor you'll carry is very binding and non-transferable (unless you were to go to the Crown and explain the details, which had better be good). It's only a statement of desire to enter, not a solemn oath to enter no matter what happens between then and the first round. (That's the sword oath.) If you change your mind for any reason between being accepted and the time the tournament starts, you can honorably ask to be taken off the list. It's much better to say you'd rather not enter after all than it is to go on in and throw the fight. If you enter and you aren't really willing to be king, that's a violation of the oath.

What if the lady decides against it after the letter of intent is in? This kind of depends on the royalty and the lady's reasons. If the reasons have to do with her not trusting the entrant to be a decent king, or her feelings that he has somehow been dishonorable already before the tournament has even started, he has pretty much lost the first round (getting a lady's favor to carry), and should take it as a killing blow. If the Crown feels that way too, he shouldn't press it. If, on the other hand, she has just had a personal emergency or change in "life schedule" (Saudi Arabia, pregnancy with triplets, death in the family, etc.) the fighter could discuss with the Crown the possibility of carrying another lady's favor instead. This is wholly a case-by-case situation, and honor should always be the prime consideration.

What about more than one person carrying the favor of the same lady? It depends. The answer to this question has changed somewhat over the years, and may yet change again, and it might differ depending who you ask and when. There is no law against it, but no guarantee that it will be allowed. If the king and queen who are to run the tournament think "multiple favors" (the informal, traditional, and sometimes derogatory term) are fine, then it is a fine practice for that tournament. If a king and queen who have any personal objections are on the throne, it would be best not to do it, even if they grudgingly agree. Here are some situations in which it would probably be looked upon tolerantly or favorably by the Crown and populace, and some less acceptable.

More acceptable scenarios:

  • a man carries his lady's favor and her son does, too
  • two sons carry the mother's favor
  • a squire with no lady carries his knight's lady's favor (maybe the most attractive of the scenarios)
  • an unattached gentleman carries the favor of his best female friend, even though her lord is carrying it too
  • two friends carry the favor of an unattached but capable and talented third friend with whom neither is romantically involved

Less acceptable scenarios:

  • a gentleman wants to enter the tournament so much he can taste it, but no one will let him carry her favor except a lady who wants to be queen so much she can taste it, and is giving her favor to anyone who'll take it
  • a gentleman really hasn't given the matter much thought, and there's only one woman he knows who's a member, so he figures she'll have to do

Are there any real differences between Crown Tournaments and other tournaments? The fighting at crown tournaments is often more formal and more focused than other events. Fighters who usually will laugh and joke with you may be in no mood to do so. The atmosphere is charged with the seriousness of the matter, and it's not a good time to be funny on the field, and between rounds the fighters are paying more attention than usual to the fights they're not in. There there are some special considerations in these tournaments, and the concentration of the entrants may surprise newer members. Everyone who's watching a crown tournament is being more critical than usual of chivalry on the field, because they want a king they can respect. Consider this: even letting an opponent have an easy win can be considered unchivalrous at a crown tournament, because no one wants to be a king about whom others will say, "Yeah, but you just walked through that tournament." The more fair and perfect each fight is, the more accepted the outcome, and the more legitimacy is given to the reign of the winner. The concept of "good" tournaments and "bad" tournaments comes to the fore in crown tournies.

Is there anything special that people being championed in Crown Tournaments need to do that day? There might be a procession of the entrants, and if you have a banner or something else with your device on it (a carved chest, a chair or cushion - whatever it might be) you might want to display it where you've chosen to sit to watch the tournament. Be available to acknowledge the salute of the entrant in each round if possible. Be supportive of your champion, but in a dignified way.

  • He might want to be left alone to concentrate.
  • Have something to drink available.
  • Compliment him on control and chivalry; honor is more important that winning.
  • If people are crowding around him too much and you know he'd rather be alone, tactfully draw them away to talk to you or to do something else.
  • When he wins a fight, try to show pride but not ecstacy; it's not a high school basketball game.
  • When he loses a fight, tell him you're proud that he carried your favor, that he did you honor, that it's better to have lost honorably than to win in an ugly way, or something nice. If you're really disappointed save it for after all the adrenaline is gone and there aren't a hundred people watching your face.

What if he gets to the last round? The personal advice of someone whose husband has made it to the last round a half dozen times is to be as calm and controlled as you can be. If he loses, you don't have that big stomach-dropping stress let-down. If he wins, you have time to get excited then. Prepare yourself emotionally for the other guy to win, and you won't have to be disappointed.

Where should I be and how should I act? In some places it's a custom for the ladies of the last two combatants to stand with the queen during the last round. There are some benefits to this, and some disadvantages. If it's such a permanent custom in your kingdom that to fail to do it once would be scandalous, then you just must do it. In a kingdom where it's occasionally done, the queen might state her preference before the tournament starts, when she meets with those who are being championed. If the queen has stated that she wants it done and your champion is in the final round, you should go and stand there. If the queen didn't specify and the other final-round candidate is standing with the queen, it would be best if you did too, so that people don't wonder why you didn't. There is an advantage to the queen in knowing firsthand the reactions of the ladies involved. A bad attitude will show, and it's certainly the right of the Crown to know if there's a bad attitude in their successors or near-successors. When the round is over and the crown-princess-to-be is known, the queen can be the first to congratulate her, rather than having to get in line after friends of friends. The queen can escort the lady to her victorious lord. This looks better than people wandering onto the field from all directions. It may hurt the feelings of a best friend that you leave her and go to the queen, but within the game it makes much more sense. This is no time to display disrespect for the crown, and your friends will like you later either way. Be as gracious as possible, to your friends, the lady of the opponent, and to the queen. At this point in the tournament there are nearly as many people keeping an eye on you as on the fighters.

What if the queen doesn't say anything and I'm too nervous to move? You might ask an experienced friend to go and ask the queen if she minds if you stay where you are. It may be a queen who didn't like it done to her, and will be sympathetic. In such a case the queen should also notify the other lady that she may stay with her friends if she's comfortable there. (If you're queen, don't make it sound as though you don't want the ladies to stand with you.)

What's the etiquette if my champion wins? Don't be cocky. Don't forget you have an audience. Be nice to the lady whose champion came in second. Thank anyone who helped you or your lord that day. When people offer to help you during your reign, say something very polite and non-committal, because you'll be in no state to be making deals and promises. ("Thank you for the offer. We might take you up on it," is true and nice.) Be as gracious as you have it in your fiber to be; all eyes will be on you for the next seven to eleven months (depending what kingdom you're in).

That's it until the coronation, right? Oh no, no, no! This is the point in the program where you get back together with your champion, and this applies to both of you. There is at least a court and possibly a feast between the end of the tournament and your going home. Now it's time to learn to cooperate with autocrats and heralds and seneschals and chroniclers, most or all of whom need something from you in the next several hours or days. If you do your part in getting things to go smoothly and efficiently, you can count on these other people's help in the future, and the populace will be looking forward to your coronation. If you're uncooperative and troublesome the rest of the day, if you make court late, flub your lines, say you'll do something and don't, your whole reign is off to a bad start before it's even started, with no one to blame but yourself.

What are some mistakes which can be made in the first few days and weeks after winning a tournament? There is one major mistake I've seen over and over, and that is disregarding the king and queen. When the crown prince and princess start to set things in motion for their reign in such a way that the feelings and plans of the current royalty are not even taken into account, it appears as though they have no respect for the crown and that they can't wait to dump their predecessors. The result is a lowering of respect for the crown among people who observe it, and guess who's about to wear the crown? If you demonstrate that a king and queen can be ignored, you won't be able to complain if anyone ignores what you want or say - especially if you're ignored by your successors. It's not a good ball to have rolling. The best thing you can do for your reign and the kingdom is to show the utmost deference to the king and queen for the rest of their reign. If you bow the lowest and jump the fastest, you'll be setting an example for others to follow, and it will benefit your own reign directly. Other mistakes include making any promises whatsoever. Don't. You don't really know what's going on yet, and you don't want to give other people any material with which to undermine your projects or plans. Practice humility and you'll learn more. If you act like you know it all, people might assume you do, and they won't tell you what they know. Remember you're not king and queen yet - it's the best opportunity you'll have for a long time to get people's views and ideas.

If you've read this far, you'll probably be interested in what's in the section on royalty.



[1] A note to those ladies who are entering Crown: I have a couple of reasons for not filling the article with "he or she" and "lord or lady." First it's awkward and makes it hard to read. Second, some of the concepts don't really transfer straight across. The "fighting for your lord's honor" (especially if he's a fighter too) just doesn't flow as smoothly. It is not meant to indicate any disapproval or discouragement of ladies fighting in Crown Tournaments, and if anyone uses the article to belittle any women who are entering, please let me know.

[2] A friend of mine who is a duchess read this and said she disagreed with me that it was impolite to want to be queen. We discussed and agreed that it's all in the degree of desire and the manifestation. I'll concede that there is a level which doesn't offend me. Calmly admitting that it's an intriguing thought and that you'd be willing to work hard at being queen and you have some good ideas is a far cry from badmouthing all the other candidates and breaking into tears when your champion loses his fight, and I can't think of a fine, respectable scenario in which a lady is going up to one fighter after another and asking him if he's entering and would he carry her favor. [A kind proofreader of the preliminary edition wrote "Has this really happened? It seems overdramatic." I read it twice and wondered whether to take it out. Instead I will rephrase it, toning the exaggeration to what I actually have seen myself or know to have happened.: ". . .is a far cry from badmouthing other candidates, visibly fighting back tears when your champion loses his fight, and. . .going up to several fighters and asking. . ." Actually I have seen people cry when their champions lost, but worse that that I've seen fighters themselves cry. I think I've been to about 25 crown tournaments at this writing, and maybe 15 coronet tournaments. It's a big sample. I'm not suggesting these things happen yearly. I've been to many tournaments where people behaved admirably. I would never bet money on the good behavior of a large crowd under pressure, though.

Copyright © by Sandra Dodd, 1991
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