ursula: (bear)
I promised to teach a class on medieval names from Africa at Pennsic, so I've been reading up on extant inscriptions. I have a book checked out of the library called Inscriptions Rupestres Libyco-Berbères, which transcribes and translates Berber names recorded in the Tifinagh script, and includes a complete name index. There's only one problem: there are absolutely no dates.

Dating the Tifinagh inscriptions is, of course, extremely hard. We're talking about graffiti scratched into rocks in the Sahara, with messages that say things like "He loves Dali," or at least probably say things like that once you guess all the vowels. But the real problem for me is a classic case of different priorities. Archaeology centered on Roman North Africa, or even better pre-Roman Carthaginian Africa, is a serious industry. It's easy to find articles on classical inscriptions, and it's at least possible to locate articles on classical inscriptions written in Tifinagh. But medieval North African archaeology is a niche interest (even setting aside the problems inherent in referring to "medieval Africa" at all), and nobody has bothered to date later inscriptions more precisely than "These must be post-Islamic conquest because they're using Muslim names."

Or, rather, there is exactly one person who has tried. He hasn't published his transcriptions, just a table of inscription locations that mentions some are "Islamic era" and others are "modern". He did very kindly answer my email and point me at his article on classical inscriptions. That tells me that the word for "son" used to record Roman African names is the same as the one used in Inscriptions Rupestres Libyco-Berbères (up to an unwritten vowel, at least). So it might just barely be possible to construct a Berber name for SCA use now, as long as you choose one that's both in Inscriptions Rupestres Libyco-Berbères and in medieval documents written in Arabic.
ursula: (bear)
I'm skimming through The Secret History of the Mongols for an SCA project. This is a thirteenth-century chronicle; I'm using Igor de Rachewiltz's translation, which has excellent and copious footnotes.

I was struck by the segment where Činggis Qa'an's mother is kidnapped (by Činggis Qa'an's father):

history is tragic )

In the footnotes, de Rachewiltz comments that "Never forget to breathe my scent!" is literally "Go smelling my smell," with a form of the verb "to go" that suggests continuous activity. I think "Go on smelling my smell" is more evocative than his prettier translation.

This passage is simultaneously tragically romantic and pragmatic in a way that I'm not used to seeing in Western literature: I'd expect either Čiledü or Hö'elün to die here, in older stories, or one of them to kill Yisügei later, in newer ones. (Instead Hö'elün and Yisügei have five children, and then Yisügei is poisoned by some Tatars.)
ursula: (bear)
My translation of the portion of the statutes of the sixteenth-century French Ordre du Saint-Esprit concerning the initiation of a new member. In comparison to fifteenth-century ceremonies, this shows a much greater emphasis on the power of the Sovereign. As one might expect from a kingdom embroiled in religious wars, there is also a far greater emphasis on the role of the Church.

Those who will have been received to enter into said Order . . . )


Jan. 15th, 2015 09:42 pm
ursula: (bear)
I bought early period shoes at An Tir Twelfth Night. I try for sixth century when I'm doing early period stuff, which is a hard time period to buy shoes for: due to market forces, people sell Roman-era shoes and Viking-era shoes, but not much in between. Thus, when I saw comparatively inexpensive, plausibly at least fifth-century shoes, I jumped at the chance.

Of course, afterward I discovered that since I had last checked, there had been a new reconstruction of the sixth-century Queen Arnegunde's shoes, which suggests I really should be looking for something more slipper-like. It's still a better silhouette than my fancy leather Birkenstocks, though!
ursula: (bear)
2013-04-28 21.43.01

On Saturday, [personal profile] glasseye and I went to Bardic Madness, a Northshield event which features a series of themed challenges.

One of the challenges asked entrants to memorialize another entry in the style of a sixteenth century broadsheet. I decided that this sounded fun, and went poking through English broadsheets at Early English Books Online (I have access through my university library). I found this fanciful "Callophisus" tourney challenge by Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel. Conveniently, another Bardic Madness challenge asked entrants to create a boast for a fighter.

Next, I needed a fighter. I talked to my friend Anpliça, and learned that Theodweard l'Archier planned to fight for her in Fall Crown; they gave me permission to boast extravagantly on their behalf. Theodweard's heraldry has an oak tree as the main charge. Elizabethan tournaments took themes from Greco-Roman mythology, as well as chivalric romance. I decided to reference the Oracle at Dodona, which was known for its rustling oaks.

With Dodona in mind, I wrote my text, and ordered some fake oak leaves from a milliner on Etsy to make a wreath. I don't own much in the way of sixteenth-century garb, but I remembered the pink dress that [livejournal.com profile] pandorasbox had given me.

I typeset my text the cheater way, in Word. I used the JSL Ancient and Blackletter fonts. This is a sixteenth-century style font which includes special characters such as the long 's' and a blackletter 'r' without the upright stroke. I tweaked some of my spellings to sixteenth-century spellings, using the "Callophisus" text and the Oxford English Dictionary. I didn't do a full OED check on my text, but I did change 'citizenry' to 'citizens' after learning the former word is out of period. My text as it looked before printing is here.

For the initial letter 'W', I made a two-inch by two-inch linoleum block print. I found some initial 'W's in the EEBO broadsheet collection for models; it turns out that "Whereas" is a common first word, so there were plenty to choose from. I tried to make the floral decoration look a little bit like the flower in Anpliça's arms. Unfortunately, when it came time to print my block print, I discovered that I'd discarded the thinner I had for oil-based ink in one of my recent moves. I had to use water-based ink instead, which is serviceable but doesn't print as cleanly.
ursula: (bear)
Comments to the SCA's Board of Directors on the Same-Gender Consort Proposal for changes in Corpora are due Dec. 1.

Here's my letter.


Dear Board Members,

I write to comment on the proposed Corpora language,

"Each competitor in a Royal List must be fighting for a prospective consort of the opposite sex unless the Crown has elected to permit a competitor to fight for a prospective consort of the same sex."

My comments are long, so I have divided them into the following sections:

* My background
* Wording of the Corpora proposal
* Co-rulership as succession strategy
* Shared rule in Europe
* Co-rulership vs. gay marriage
* Bottom line


I am a citizen of Northshield; I have also lived in Caid and An Tir, and I have strong ties to the Midrealm, because my husband lived there for several years. I am a member of the Order of the Laurel. I received that honor for research in languages and heraldry. As a herald, I have conducted extensive research into medieval titles and ceremony. Most of this letter concerns my research into the medieval precedents for two kings simultaneously ruling a kingdom. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you are curious about the historical examples I refer to, or would like to discuss the evidence in more detail.


I support the proposal for changing Corpora. As I discuss below, I believe that allowing for the possibility of same-sex co-rulers will increase the authenticity of our recreations. I also believe that, in service to the ideals of chivalry and nobility, contestants in Crown Tourneys should fight for the person they believe will make the best King or Queen, not the person they find most attractive or the first person of the opposite sex who agrees to serve as consort.

I believe that this specific proposal for changing Corpora is badly worded, because it forces every single Crown to decide whether or not to discriminate against same-sex fighter/consort pairs. If the Board wishes to allow the Crown the option of excluding same-sex fighter/consort pairs in keeping with current tradition, it should add language to Corpora that explicitly permits kingdoms or Crowns to create additional qualifications for participation in Crown Tourneys. After all, kingdoms and individual Crowns already have some leeway to set requirements for Crown Tourney entrance that differ from the minimum Society requirements; for example, some kingdoms require that entrants in Crown Tourney have submitted names and devices for heraldic registration, while others do not. However, I would prefer a badly worded change in Corpora which permits same-sex Crowns to no change at all.


I specifically want to address the argument that the historical examples of same-sex co-rulers are scattered and contingent. I believe that this characterization distorts the historical record.

Many of us assume that primogeniture, where the oldest son inherits his father's lands and position, is the normal mode of kingly succession. Primogeniture did become more common over the course of the Middle Ages, and became an entrenched mode of royal succession in western Europe after the SCA's period. But primogeniture was never universal, and it is by no means a natural or self-evident principle. A ruler might wish all of his children to inherit both property and power. The inhabitants of a realm might wish to be ruled by the most capable or qualified candidate, rather than the eldest child of a previous ruler.

Co-rulership, where two (or more) people hold a title such as 'king', 'duke', or 'emperor', was a useful strategy for resolving competing claims for political power. The strategy was used both to effect compromise between rivals, and to ensure the succession of a favored heir. Thus, co-rulership was an alternative to primogeniture in some times and places, and a means of guaranteeing primogeniture in others. Co-rulership was the norm in many prominent medieval cultures, including Capetian France and the Byzantine empire, and appears occasionally in others throughout SCA period. Let me give a brief history of shared rule in Europe prior to 1600.


Under the Roman Republic, shared executive power was the law of the land: the heads of government were two consuls, elected for simultaneous one-year terms and with the power to veto each others' actions. The first Romans to share imperial power were Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, adopted sons of Emperor Pius Antoninus. They were both granted the titles of Imperator and Caesar by the Roman senate in 161 AD, in accordance with the succession plans laid out by Antoninus' predecessor Hadrian. Lucius Verus died in 169; Marcus Aurelius' son Marcus Aurelius Commodus became the next co-emperor in 177. After Marcus Aurelius, shared imperial Roman rule was common. One notable example is the third-century rule of the soldiers Diocletian and Maximian, who designated Galerius and Constantius as junior co-rulers, using the title of Caesar.

The tradition of co-rulership continued under the Byzantines. The Byzantines used the co-emperor status as a means of dividing power among several legal heirs, as when Constantine I attempted to leave the empire to his three sons, Constantinus, Constantius, and Constans, as a means of recognizing a particular heir while the senior emperor still lived, and as a means of grasping power. Perhaps the most famous example of shared rule among the Byzantines is the case of Justin and Justinian; Justinian helped his uncle Justin gain power, was formally named co-emperor shortly before Justin's death, and duly succeeded him. As an example of the role co-emperorship could play in a power grab, I note the tenth-century Byzantine emperor Romanos Lekapenos. Romanos was an Armenian peasant's son who rose to prominence in the military, became the emperor Constantine VII's father-in-law, crowned himself co-emperor, and then proclaimed his own sons junior co-emperors. The Byzantines also provide an example of two women sharing rulership: in the eleventh century, the two sisters Zoe and Theodora ruled briefly as co-empresses. They both used the title of autokrator or emperor, and were featured together on coinage.

Co-rulership was common in early medieval Western Europe. In the Pictish king-lists, for example, there are several instances of pairs of kings described as "ruling together"; our data about the medieval Picts is scanty, but the king-lists tell us that these co-kings had different fathers. The most famous early medieval co-ruler may be Charlemagne, who ruled as co-king with his brother Carloman until Carloman's death in 771, and crowned two sons as co-rulers and heirs, first Charles the Younger, and then (after Charles' death) his second son Louis. There were also co-kings in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and Visigothic Spain, co-princes in Italy, and co-ruling brothers in the Welsh kingdoms of Gwynedd and Deheubarth. Sometimes co-rulers shared power amicably. Others chose to divide the kingship under duress, as when the eleventh-century King Magnus the Good of Norway and Denmark agreed to accept his uncle Harald Hardrada as co-king of Norway, in order to end Harald's raids on the Danish coast.

Between the tenth and twelfth centuries, the Capetian kings of France routinely crowned a son as co-king and heir, in an effort to control the succession. The ceremony was important in part because primogeniture was not automatic: for example, Constance of Arles, the wife of the eleventh-century ruler Robert the Pious, tried to persuade Robert the Pious to crown their son Robert as designated heir, rather than his older brother Henry.

In Anglo-Norman England, the twelfth-century king Stephen tried to have his son Eustace crowned as co-king and heir. However, the Archbishop of Canterbury supported Stephen's rival the Empress Matilda, and refused to perform the ceremony. Eventually, the Empress Matilda's son succeeded Stephen to the throne of England, and was crowned as Henry II. In turn, Henry arranged the coronation of his own son, also named Henry. (Henry the Young King died of dysentery, and never ruled alone.) The Anglo-Norman coronations of heirs may have been inspired by the Capetian example. In Ireland, the thirteenth-century king of Connacht, Cathal, crowned his oldest son Aodh as co-ruler in imitation of the Anglo-Norman tradition. Cathal favored the strategy of co-rulership because it gave him greater control over the succession process: ordinarily, other important nobles would expect a voice in the selection of the king's heir.

In the thirteenth century, the Count of Foix and the Bishop of Urgell resolved a dispute over the territory of Andorra by agreeing to share sovereignty as Princes of Andorra. The arrangement survives to this day: the modern heads of state of Andorra are the Bishop of Urgell and the President of France. Frederick the Fair and his cousin Louis the Bavarian made a less successful attempt to resolve a territorial dispute by co-rulership in the fourteenth century: although they agreed to rule the Holy Roman Empire jointly, the electors did not ratify their agreement. Instead, under the terms of the Treaty of Ulm Frederick became King of Germany, while Louis was crowned as Holy Roman Emperor.

We continue to see co-rulers in both Western and Eastern Europe through the end of the sixteenth century. The brothers Wilhelm and Ludwig ruled the Duchy of Bavaria jointly, for example. In sixteenth-century Russia, Ivan III ruled with his father Vasily the Blind. In late 1529 or early 1530, Sigismund I of Poland persuaded a group of noble senators to elect his son Sigismund II as co-king and successor; however, the Polish legislature responded to this royal attempt to override the nobility's prerogatives by banning future elections during the reigning monarch's lifetime. One of the best-known examples of sixteenth-century co-rulership involves rulers of opposite sexes: Charles I of Spain (also known as Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire) was a co-monarch of Spain, together with his mother Joanna.


Arguments for and against co-rulers in the SCA often parallel the arguments for and against gay marriage. The examples of historical same-sex co-rulers don't fit neatly into this rhetorical framework: some co-kings were rivals, some were friends or allies, and some were close relatives, but none of the same-sex co-rulers were married to each other.

There actually were some ancient and medieval ceremonies for the union of two men which may have been viewed as akin to marriage, and at least one medieval ruler, the Byzantine emperor Basil I, may have participated in such a ceremony. (Basil's political and romantic careers were, dare I say it, Byzantine: born a Macedonian peasant, Basil persuaded the emperor Michael III to crown him as a co-emperor, then arranged for Michael's murder.) John Boswell's book Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe describes the case for viewing these ceremonies as similar to marriage; it also offers an excellent synopsis of the ways in which ancient and medieval assumptions about the nature of marriage differed from modern assumptions. Along the way, Boswell demonstrates that late antique and early medieval husbands and wives often referred to each other as "sister" and "brother": the terms conveyed affection and equality rather than suggesting incest, just as today one can use "baby" as a term of endearment for a significant other without suggesting statutory rape. One might speculate that "adopted brother" in a late antique context had the same connotations that "partner" does today!

Although research into medieval views of marriage and sexuality is fascinating, I believe that in the context of choosing SCA kings and queens, the topic is a bit of a red herring. After all, we don't require candidates for king and queen to be married, or pretend to be married. We don't even assume that they are romantically involved. Let me give an example from my kingdom's recent history: when I attended Northshield Coronation this fall, the newly crowned king and queen gave awards to the significant others of the former king and queen as one of their first actions, and the populace approved vociferously.

Moreover, it would be naive to assume that medieval kings and queens were ordinarily in love with each other: some were rivals, some were friends and allies, and some were relatives ruling together. I note that the situations where queens shared legal sovereignty with kings, rather than simply using the title of queen as a courtesy, are at least as varied as the situations where two kings shared sovereignty.


If our goal is to re-create the Middle Ages, we should allow for the possibility of two kings, or (in rare cases) two queens. If our goal is to encourage ideals of chivalry and nobility, we should ask contestants in Crown Tournaments to choose someone to fight for based on whom they will believe will be an excellent king or queen, not based on who is a member of the opposite sex or who is romantically available.

Written in the Shire of Shattered Oak in the Kingdom of Northshield in the year of grace two thousand and twelve.

Ursula Georges.
Companion of the Laurel, Lady of the Cygnus, Lady of the Jambe de Lion, and Companion of the Tsveti Madrone.
ursula: (bear)
Last weekend, [personal profile] glasseye and I went to Black Oak Lodge in Caid. (Hurray, spring break!) I wanted to wear my fifteenth-century outfit, but I didn't have enough space in my checked luggage for a hat, so I had to improvise with items that pack down small. I brought my red silk netted hair net, and a ruffled veil. I plaited my hair into two braids, and coiled them into two buns on the top of my head. My hair is waist-length and curly, but not super-thick, so the buns weren't huge. When I put the silk net over them, the buns didn't form obvious horns, but I did attain a flat profile for the top of my head, which shows up in a lot of fifteenth-century art. I pinned the veil at the center, and then pinned it back behind the buns to accentuate them. I liked the effect; I ended up with a heart-shaped frame to my face, and it showed off the net, which was a lot of work to make.

Has anyone else experimented with low-tech horned hairstyles of this sort? What's your favorite image of a fifteenth-century woman with a veil that looks flat on top, or small horns?
ursula: (sheep)
I made stockings with clocks for [personal profile] holyschist:

Stockings with clocks

I used a naturally dyed Malabrigo sock yarn. The dye was a little bit uneven, so the stockings have some natural striping. My needles were size 2 bamboo needles. I usually prefer metal needles for work this fine, and indeed I broke one needle while trying on the sock. However, this was travel knitting-- I started the stockings at a conference in Kentucky, made significant progress at a conference in Toronto, finished them in Providence and Seattle, and sewed in the ends in Minneapolis-- so I wanted to avoid pointy metal in my luggage. My gauge was about 19 stitches to 2 inches, and about 14 rows to the inch.

The stockings are designed to come just under the knee, and to be worn with garters. They're meant to fit a short woman. For general proportions and shaping, I followed the 1655 stocking pattern in Natura Exenterata, which is quoted in the appendix of Richard Rutt's History of Hand Knitting. My pattern wasn't an exact copy of the Natura Exenterata pattern, in part because I was making a stocking to fit a woman my size and using a different gauge, and in part because the directions in Natura Exenterata are genuinely obscure. I know [livejournal.com profile] xrian is working on a closer interpretation of the pattern; I'm curious to hear how her interpretation differs from mine!

knitting notes )
ursula: (bear)
Recently, the caid-scribes mailing list had a conversation about the kingdom's use of charters, that is, pre-printed award certificates that can be painted and personalized for individual award recipients. (Technically, Caid doesn't call these things "charters", but the scribes themselves seem confused about what word they DO use.) Somebody mentioned lack of experienced calligraphers as a reason that the kingdom can't handle more original scrolls. To me, this seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy: if one of your main ways of creating scribes is encouraging people to paint charters that have pre-printed text, you will inevitably end up with more experienced painters than experienced calligraphers.

I wonder if there's a way to make charters for calligraphers? I know that as a calligrapher, one of my main psychological barriers to taking on a new project is the tedium involved in ruling lines. If someone picked a standard calligraphic hand, pen size, and award text, kingdoms could mass-produce charters with blank lines. This could be done directly on the paper if folks were willing to trade pre-ruled lines for individual calligraphy, or budding calligraphers could use a translucent paper and place the pre-ruled lines underneath as a guide.
ursula: (bear)
A while ago, I did some research on multiple rulers in medieval Western Europe:


One of the responses I got was, "This would make a great Compleat Anachronist!" My first response was, "That's not fifty pages!" But I'd like to share the historical data more widely, and it occurs to me that I don't actually have to do this all by myself. So, want to help?

Here's my plan. I'd like to put together a CA called something like King and Queen, King and King: Shared Rule in Medieval Europe. The pamphlet will start with an introduction that talks about the reasons that shared rulership arose (the Roman co-emperor tradition, alternatives to primogeniture, marriage, power grabs, etc.) Then there will be a series of profiles of particular co-rulers. I definitely want to include Henry II of England and his son Henry the Young King, Justin and Justinian, Zoe, Theodora, and Constantine IX, Harold Hardrada and Magnus the Good, Ferdinand and Isabella, and the principality of Andorra.

If you want to help, you should choose a pair of co-rulers, and write a profile of them that answers the following questions:

  • How did these people come to share rule? Was this a traditional strategy, or an innovation?
  • How did the shared rule develop or end?
  • What do we know about the ceremony involved? How were the co-rulers addressed? How were they depicted in art, or referenced in documents?

If you think you'd be interested but don't yet have a favorite pair of co-rulers, that's OK too: we can hunt together! I'd love to have lots of people with different personas involved.
ursula: (bear)
This is a Latin scroll text, with translation, for Aldgytha of Ashwood's Pelican scroll. It's several kinds of anachronism, since it mixes formulas from Anglo-Saxon charters with heraldic language of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century vintage.

Those things which are soundly defined . . . )
ursula: (bear)
I'm making a stack of lightweight linen undertunics for Pennsic, courtesy of the Elizabethan Smock Generator. The smock generator suggests that you use a facing for the neck hole, but I have a vague sense that this isn't a very medieval solution, due to the waste of fabric; I'm tempted to substitute a strip of linen. Will this be more trouble than it's worth? How do you deal with neck holes?
ursula: (bear)
I made feta pies today, based on a recipe from Ibn Razîn's thirteenth-century Andalusian recipe collection, in Lilia Zaouali, trans. M.B. DeBevoise, Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World. The overall effect is of crackers with a very sophisticated cheese dip.


Another Mujabbana

Crumble the cheese as finely as you can and mix it with eggs, then with mint water and coriander [cilantro] water, and finally with whatever common spices are at hand. Spread [the mixture] over a thin layer of dough and cover with another layer. Cook in the oven. Learn to do this, in accordance with the will of God!


I used the dough recipe for Lebanese Spinach Triangles in Anissa Helou's book Savory Baking from the Mediterranean, because one of the other Mujabbana recipes mentions a dough of flour, water, oil, and salt, like this dough. You can find Helou's recipe in metric units here; in American units, it's 2 cups flour, 1 tsp. salt, 1/4 cup olive oil, and 1/2 cup warm water. The dough is soft and easy to work with.


8 oz. feta
1 egg
2-3 tbsp. mint and/or cilantro water (I soaked a handful of finely chopped mint in warm water)
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
ground pepper


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Divide the dough into eight balls (for larger pies) or sixteen balls (for individual pies). Roll out a ball into a translucent disk; place it on a baking sheet. (I buttered my baking sheets lightly, but I'm not sure I needed to.) Spread 1-2 heaping tablespoons of filling across the disk of dough, leaving half an inch or so of plain dough at the edge. Roll out another ball and lay it on top. Crimp the edges together. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Bake until puffed and golden brown (about twenty minutes?)
ursula: (Default)
I'm going to Estrella! For a weekend. (Now that we live in California, that's not a completely insane proposition.)

That weekend happens to be my birthday. Therefore, I should make (vote for one in comments):

  1. Chocolate cupcakes. Birthdays mean chocolate, cupcakes mean sharing.
  2. Excellent small cakes. It's not an SCA event without currant shortbread.
  3. A more elaborate medieval dessert: maybe lots of ginger wafers, fool, a late-period cookie I haven't played with before, a fancy dried-fruit tart . . .
  4. Lime bars. I have fifty limes on the dining-room table; I shouldn't be allowed to cook with other fruit.
  5. You will demonstrate a medieval dessert that uses vast quantities of citrus.
ursula: (bear)
In the Society for Creative Anachronism, one can register medieval names and heraldic devices with the College of Heralds. Here's what the Governing Documents of the Society say about the rules the registration process should follow:

Standards of difference and other rules: Laurel shall define standards suitable to the
type of item to be registered, and apply them uniformly to all such submissions. These standards shall be
designed to support the historical re-creations of the Society and to provide sufficient difference from names
and armory registered within the Society to avoid undue confusion, to avoid the appearance of unearned
honors or false claims, and to provide sufficient difference from historical or fictional personages to prevent
offense due to obvious usurpation of identity or armory. Members are encouraged to develop unique,
historically valid names and armory.

Under the current rules and policies, anyone who wishes to participate in the registration process must submit a unique name. (Some historically invalid names are still registrable, but "insufficiently unique" names are not.) The name is required even if one only wishes to register a heraldic device. Registering a name costs about $10 (the exact amount varies from kingdom to kingdom) and takes about nine months. Registering a device is another $10 or so.

One of the reasons that the SCA is attached to the unique name system is that the current registration system depends on paper files organized by this unique registered name. (There are other reasons, of course; a discussion of some of them can be found at the Campaign to End Name Uniqueness, and a more complete view may be obtained by joining the SCAHRLDS mailing list and browsing the archives.) This post proposes a partially computerized filing system. I want to describe why such a system is technically feasible and would allow for greater flexibility, including re-evaluating the "registered SCA name" and "unique SCA name" requirements, if we wish to do so.

gory details )
ursula: (bear)
In the Society for Creative Anachronism, rulers of a kingdom are chosen by tournament. Each entrant in the tournament must designate a person as "inspiration", who will serve as consort if that entrant wins the tourney; fighter and inspiration must be of opposite sex. Sovereign principalities must have one prince and one princess. Baronies may have one baron, one baroness, or a baron and a baroness, but may not have two ruling nobles of the same sex.

Debate about this policy within the Society generally follows the lines of the gay marriage debate. Supporters of the status quo often add that there's no historical basis for two men or two women in a romantic relationship serving as rulers of a medieval kingdom; opponents of the status quo concede this point, but argue that the policy should be changed anyway, for reasons of basic fairness.

I believe that the gay marriage analogy is flawed, for a simple reason: there is no requirement in the SCA, tacit or explicit, that ruling nobles have any sort of romantic or sexual relationship. If Duke Hypothetical, having divorced Countess Mundania, chose to fight for his grown daughter Lady Hypothetica, the populace's response would be, "Why, isn't that sweet!" not "Incest is disgusting! I can't subject my children to this filth!" I've heard young men advised to choose a long-time SCA member, someone old enough to be their mother, as inspiration (to provide grounding experience to a reign). And I've known multiple pairs of ruling nobles and fighters/inspirations who were not involved romantically and not ever planning to start.

Thus, the appropriate historical question is not "Did two men or two women in a romantic relationship serve as rulers of a medieval kingdom?" The appropriate question is, "Did two men or two women ever share ceremonial rulership of a medieval kingdom?" (I specify ceremonial rulership since, in the Middle Ages as in the Society, the precise balance of real power varied based on time, place, and circumstance.)

Did two men or two women ever share ceremonial rulership? Absolutely! Those of us raised on English fairy tales often assume that a king's oldest surviving son must inherit the kingdom; but in much of medieval Europe, succession by primogeniture was neither obvious nor inevitable. Kings, counts, dukes, princes, and emperors often chose to crown a successor while they were still alive to pick one. The chosen co-ruler was often a son, brother, or spouse of the first ruler, but not always: sometimes an ambitious person finagled a co-rulership, and sometimes co-rulership solved a territorial dispute.

A random selection of co-rulers in medieval Europe follows.

  • In June 1170, Henry, the second (and then oldest surviving) son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, was crowned king by the Archbishop of York. He is generally known as Henry the Young King; since he died before his father, he never reigned alone.
  • French kings who ruled with their fathers include Hugh, son of Robert II (eleventh century), and Philip, son of Louis XI (twelfth century)
  • Several of the English kings of Kent ruled jointly with fathers, sons, brothers, or nephews.
  • Harold Hardrada forced his nephew Magnus the Good to share the kingdom of Norway with him.
  • In the Italian principality of Capua-Benvenuto, brothers as well as fathers and sons shared the title of prince (The New Cambridge Medieval History notes, "On one occasion, very briefly in 939-40, this meant that there were no less than four persons using the princely title: Landulf I, two of his sons and his younger brother, Atenulf II.")
  • The German region of Oels-Cossil had brothers ruling as co-princes in the fifteenth century.
  • A thirteenth-century treaty made Andorra a principality governed by two unrelated co-princes, the Count of Foix and the Bishop of Urgell.
  • In the tenth-century, the duchies of Naples and Amalfi had father and son co-dukes.
  • Father/son pairs served as co-counts of Flanders (twelfth century), Toulouse (tenth century), and Macon (tenth century).
  • Pairs of brothers shared countship in medieval Catalonia (see Ch. 8 in The Experience of Power in Medieval Europe)

I have listed western European examples above. In the Roman empire, and later in the Byzantine empire, multiple emperors were quite common: examples include Justin and Justinian, as well as the two empress plus emperor combination of the sisters Zoe and Theodora together with Zoe's husband Constantine IX. (See
Byzantine Empresses: Women and Power in Byzantium.)
ursula: (bear)
Since we've moved to a warmer clime, I have been wearing my red fifteenth-century dress without the black overgown more often. I have a hat to match the gown, but it isn't suitable for hot weather, so I have been looking at the veils worn by women of smaller means in France and Belgium in the fifteenth century.

The June image from Les Très Riches Heures shows two women, one wearing a rectangular-ish veil tied at the nape of the neck and hanging to her waist, with some hair hanging loose down her back. The other woman has a more rounded-looking veil. It looks like the woman on the right in this painting by Rogier van der Weyden has one cloth tied tightly around her head, and then another veil pinned to it. Another painting shows a woman who may have attached her frilled veil to her braids.

Does anyone have a favorite method for anchoring a fifteenth-century style veil, or a good source for veil pins? If you have made veils for this period, what size and shape were they?

sca trades

Apr. 5th, 2009 12:01 pm
ursula: (bear)
Baronial Banquet was last night. The food was tasty as always, and I am now the proud owner of two pewter spoons. (I'm kind of tempted to take up eating with knife, spoon, and my hands at events, though the sad truth is I'd be conspicuous.)

The beginning of event season makes me think about all the stuff I want. Here are some things I'd be interested in trading for:

  • A bit of tablet-weaving for a fillet
  • Lampworked beads
  • A simple late-period skirt
  • Ottoman pants

In return I can offer knitting (socks, stockings, bags, women's gloves or mittens, maybe a hat though I'm kind of bored of doing those), poetry, Latin translation, persona genealogies (hire a herald to prove your nobility!), or scribal stuff (if you're patient). (Oh, I can also offer portable medieval food, or fancy library tricks.)

Anyone interested?
ursula: (bear)
September Crown is next weekend, just east of Seattle. [livejournal.com profile] glasseye and I will be holding a party on Saturday night in celebration of our upcoming wedding. Please come! Our household (Hous of Graneshavene) is camping with Stallari; you can find us by [livejournal.com profile] aelfgyfu's chicken banner, [livejournal.com profile] glasseye's Moneyers' Guild Goat, or my own red-and-black bear pennon.

Also, apparently I'm teaching a class on Medieval Food for Vegetarians bright and early Saturday morning. Please take my class!
ursula: (bear)
I'm done substituting as a linear algebra instructor for the summer, and all I have left to worry about is the wedding & dissertation research and maybe the department's fall picnic, so of course I'm doing my level best to come up with unrelated projects.

I've been doing a little bit of research into c. 1320 clothing for [livejournal.com profile] glasseye. For some reason, the early fourteenth century is very unpopular in costuming circles. It looks to me as if the characteristic garment is a fairly baggy tunic, somewhere between knee-length and ankle-length (working men prefer the shorter version), with sleeves that are loose at the upper arm and become very tight toward the wrist.

The second Saint Eligius image clearly shows buttons from wrist to elbow. Anyone have suggestions for cutting a sleeve like this? I'm assuming it's more or less a rectangular construction trapezoid? What about places to buy buttons?

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