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Courts are a regular feature of SCA events and a unique feature of our society. The word "Court" can be used as an adjective in the SCA meaning formal or pertaining to a court, for example a Court herald or Court Garb (referring to one's very best dress).

A court is an official and formal gathering of the populace which is presided over by ceremonial heads (The Crown or Their representatives), such as a king and queen, prince and princess, baron and baroness or their designated Regent. Giving of Awards, changes in kingdom law and changes of ceremonial heads are not official unless accomplished in court. Court can happen at any time at an event as needed, though normally it is scheduled for a specific time and place so that people have time to gather. For a court to be official, three things are needed: The Crown (or Their representative), a warranted herald and a seneschal.

Usual activities include announcements or addresses by the ceremonial heads, the making of awards accompanied by illuminated scrolls, and by gifts or presentations made by persons who have coordinated with the herald beforehand.

See also Regency Court.

Another use of the word "Court" is to differentiate a Baron or Baroness who does not hold land, as in a Baron of the Court.

Features of a MidRealm Royal Court

Typically a royal court is announced ahead of time and scheduled for an event, but sometimes courts are held "at Their Majesty's pleasure", that is, only if they have business to conduct. If the king and/or queen are present at an event event, they typically hold court.

At the appointed time, a space will have been prepared by the group hosting the event and approved by Their Majesties and their staff. A stage or dais of some kind is preferred, as in an auditorium, but floor level is used when necessary. Sometimes court may be held on a gym floor with the audience seated on bleachers. At other times, especially in smaller sites, other activities must be cleared away so that court can be set up. At outdoor events a tent may serve as the Royal Presence.

Court can also be held in a more impromptu fashion. Their Majesties might choose to enter the lists of a tournament to bestow some award or conduct some business, or they might direct a herald to summon the populace to attend them as they sit Their thrones beside the lists. Such a court may be quite brief, and usually does not take the place of a more complete court later. If a warrented Herald or Seneschal is not available, court cannot be held, however an informal presentation may be done.

The size and importance of the event is likely to determine the elaboration of the court. At a major kingdom event, the king and queen likely enter the court accompanied by the crown prince and princess, other dignitaries, such as visiting royalty, and perhaps the local baron and baroness, all of whom are seated on suitable thrones. Several attendants are usually present, and at a large event, there may be dozens, including the seneschal, a number of heralds, guards, ladies-in-waiting, various champions and anyone other attendants who may be thought suitable. In a typical court, the thrones are set up with a small table between them for beverages and the like, and cushions are set before the thrones for subjects to kneel on when appropriate. Banners, with some version of the king's and queen's arms paramount, are hung or otherwise displayed behind the thrones whenever appropriate.

The audience is seated when possible, perhaps on folding chairs brought in and set up for the occasion, facing the thrones. During the set-up period, while the thrones are empty, it is Midrealm etiquette to bow to the thrones when coming near them. (See Presence) The audience is seated before court begins, while the royal party assembles nearby.

The actual order of events in a court will vary considerably according to the preferences of the king and queen. Often, however, it will look much like this:

1. A herald (and perhaps other attendants) will stand beside the thrones. At a pre-arranged time, he or she cries "Oyez, oyez!" to gain the attention and silence of the audience, who are invited to stand.

2. The royal party enters, usually from the back of the hall. There is considerable variation possible here, depending on the layout of the location for court. The king and queen, wearing crowns suitable to the occasion, are preceded by a herald who acts as crier, loudly proclaiming their titles, often with various boasts, and perhaps by guards or others. They are followed by the rest of their attendants.

3. Once the royalty are in place before their thrones, and their attendants have taken their places, the king (usually) invites the populace to be seated, often using the formulation "Seek what comfort you may." The king and queen either sit now or already have at this point, and the audience sits as well.

4. The order of business varies, but the usual features include an address by the king or queen, perhaps regarding a compliment they wish to make about the event, or remarks about topics they think important, such as an upcoming war; official business of the kingdom, such as welcomes to visiting royalty and exchange of gifts with them, and reading revisions of kingdom law, and recognizing ambassadors from other kingdoms; the presentation of gifts to Their Majesties or to the kingdom from admirers (this is all arranged with heralds ahead of time - it is not nice to actually surprise Their Majesties with anything other than what their attendants think suitable); and then the most elaborate, and usually longest, part of the court, the presentation of awards and orders to members of the populace.

5. When court is to conclude, the herald announces that since there is no further business, Their Majesties close the court. Then everything moves in reverse as the audience stands and the royal party leaves the hall.

(There is much elaboration for this article coming soon.)

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