Wednesday, 9 October 2013

On the Importance of Heraldry

Some days, it can seem as though heraldry is almost everywhere in the Society, between the various forms of book and voice heraldry. But why, exactly, should it be so ubiquitous? I believe (as may be deduced from most of the other posts here) that heraldry is important, though the reasons vary between the various forms of heraldry.

Let us begin with the obvious, that of arms as seen in the banners, pennons, standards, and other flags which are flown at events, and the shields and tabards of fighters and heralds, and painted on any number of diverse items. This side of heraldry is important to the Society partially because it was so important in period. A great many tourney scenes and feasting halls may be seen hung with a great many banners, and the inclusion of such things can quickly add a good period feel to an otherwise dull (or even unattractively modern) venue. Arms also still fulfill their original purpose, of identifying the bearer (either individually, or their affiliations in the case of group arms). And thirdly, the decorating of various objects with coat-armour is a relatively easy (or potentially greatly complex) way to make an object unique to the individual, and also make it uniquely theirs.

Continuing with the other side of book heraldry, being the creation of period-accurate (or at least period-plausible) names, I feel the importance here is again largely in changing the feel of our society, including by encouraging people to explore other cultures than the medieval equivalent of their native culture, and by encouraging the development of a separate persona that may be used as an escape from the modern world. While not everyone will go further into persona development than selecting a name, most will complete at least this basic step.

As for voice heraldry, the most commonly visible role is that of the field or tourney herald. Their value lies largely in adding flair and pageantry, and in communicating to both the participants and the audience what is actually happening, and what is about to happen. By calling the names of the fighters, and leading the salutes, the audience is more able to be involved in what can be, for those not actually involved or specifically following a fighter, a rather repetitive if noisy event. Also, by making sure that the participants know who's fighting who, and in what order, without having to come and directly check with the list keeper, the tourney is made to flow more smoothly.

The next form of voice heraldry is court heraldry, which is valuable in that it allows the ruling nobles, be they Baron and Baroness or King and Queen, to take the centre of attention without straining their voice, thanks to the court herald taking the role of loudpseaker system, or having to be constantly fiddling with or hiding behind paper, thanks to the court herald having the full schedule and guiding the court through it, and having the text of the various ceremonies easily to hand.

Finally, there is duty heraldry, making the announcements at an event. The value here is simply as a mobile public address system, making sure that the announcements are made and heard, whenever needed. This is perhaps the least exciting form, and is usually best kept the least fanciful, but it is a necessary task for the smooth running of the other excitements.

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