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In Memoriam

Duchess Carol of Bellatrix, OP

Per bend argent and vert,
six octofoils in bend three
and three counterchanged,
all pierced Or.

There are many other photos recently added to this website at: Carol of Bellatrix Photos ...

Posted January 24, 2010:

My heart is broken with the passing of my mother, Duchess Carol of Bellatrix. At approximately 6:30 AM Central Time, on Sunday January 24th, 2010, in Somerset Texas, she drew her last breath surrounded by her immediate family. Carol had made the choice to live out the rest of her time on this earth in the comfort of her own home. In doing so many of her loved ones, family and friends alike, were afforded the opportunity to say their last goodbyes. Know that the pains of her ailments are now behind her, and she now rests in peace. I only wish that more of you who read these words, and had such a desire, were able to see her one last time.

My mother's passing leaves the hall far too quiet. In a time measured longer than my own life, Carol has created a legacy like no other, both in and out of the SCA. As queen and a duchess, she truly exemplified grace, honor, generosity, and beauty. As a Pelican she served multiple kingdoms with her undying dedication to the continued growth of the SCA and the ideals upon which it was founded. Among her accomplishments were the creation of the Queen Carol's Guide (New Comer's Guide), assisting in the founding of the College of Ithra in AnTir, and setting the tone for many of the traditions we have come to expect from a queen of the West and the Known World around.

I fear my words do not do her justice. As such, I encourage all who knew her to speak of their experiences with her, either in public or in private. She will truly live on in the hearts of many.

Memorial services will be held in Texas, in the vicinity of San Antonio this coming weekend. Additionally, I will be holding both a mundane celebration of her life in Northern California later in the year. This will be followed by a day in which my brother (Duke Stephan) and I will take the field to fight in her honor against all contestants. Details of both these events will be forthcoming.

With a heavy heart,

Ritter Brion, second son of Bellatrix

Carol of Bellatrix was Queen of the West 6 times with then husband Paul of Bellatrix. She was a member of the Order of the Pelican, the Order of the Leaf of Merit, and was named a member of the Queen's Order of Grace twice. She is the mother of both Stephan of Bellatrix and Brion of Bellatrix. She is well-known across the SCA for the publication for many years of "Queen Carol's Guide", a newcomer's manual to the SCA. She was considered by many to be a model of what a Queen of the West should be for her kindliness and her generosity, as well as her always being open to newcomers.

Reminisces / Comments:

"My heart is pierced. We have lost the ideal that so many of us looked to to guide us through our own SCA lives and journeys." -- Patrice di Coeur Fidel

"One of our statues has fallen." -- Kevin Perigrynne

"My family and I are deeply saddened by this news. Please extend our love to Her Grace and all of Her family from Linda-Muirreal, Lynx, and Caradwen of Lynxcairne, along with our wishes for a gentle passing for a very sweet lady. I last saw her Grace some several years ago and was pleased that she remembered me even then though I had not been active for quite sometime."

"Duchess Carol was our family's "second" Queen (Duchess Verena was our "first") when we first joined the SCA - lo these many years ago - and between them they exemplified for our family the graciousness which is implied in the term "Queen" during this formative time - the first two years of our SCA experience - as these two royal families succeeded each other alternately on the Thrones of the West during those two years. In particular, Duchess Carol was an exemplar of a "mothering" queen - always warm, always "unruffled" (at least "in public") - even with two energetic sons dashing about the royal pavilion, the Eric, etc. These qualities were also quite evident in "non-SCA" contexts (I recall in particular a few of the "Sunday night suppers" at the Green's house in Rockridge at the end of Northern Ren Faire weekends)." -- Linda-Muirreal von Katzenbrasse

"Duchess Carol was the most gracious Queen who ever reigned over this Kingdom. Her kindness touched everyone who knew her. Queen Carols Guide gave guidance to untold numbers of new people. My heart goes out to her family." -- Duchess Letitia de Scotia

"Carol was, to me, always the epitome of a Queen when on the throne, and a delightful lady with a wonderful sense of humor when more casually encountered. Even as a starstruck young man of 22 when I met her in 1976, she was nothing but encouraging, gracious and giving, always letting me feel as though I had a special connection with her. I recall one Ithra session where I attended a class she was giving on courtly manners at table, and she asked me to demonstrate the proper way to carve a gobbet off a roast for my table partner, only to be taken somewhat aback when I pulled out my 14-inch dirk. She said "M'lord Jared, don't you think that's a bit excessive?" I responded, "It's the only sharp knife I have on me!" . . . and she offered me one of her own.

I hadn't seen her in several years when, in 2000, she came to the wake at my home for Catriona nicChlurain, and it was like no time had passed -- she still made me feel like her special friend.

A great light has gone out. We can but raise ours a little higher in hopes of making some attempt at following in her footsteps.

With tears in my eyes,"

Jared Blaydeaux

"Carol was an icon of graciousness.  She was gentle and good to all, and helped the West to become what it is.  A light has gone out of our world.  In all of my memories of her, she is smiling.  Peace unto all of her house and family.  She was a treasure." -- James Greyhelm

"Duchess Carol was a great lady of the old school. We are all poorer for her passing.  It was a blessing that William and I had the chance to see her at Brion’s elevation to the Pelican.  She was already feeble, but we both will always see her as the smiling golden queen, ever young, ever beautiful." Maythen Gervaise (of Elfhaven) and William of Hoghton

"I met Duchess Carol shortly after joining the SCA. She did so much for so many of us. Duchess Carol showed us all how to live life graciously with great dignity. My heart goes out to her husband, Michael, and to her sons, Stephan and Brion, and the rest of her family. I weep with you and feel a great loss of my Sister of the Rose.


Observing and knowing Duchess Carol assisted me to be Queen in a way which had great meaning. So many times before making decisions, I thought, 'What would Queen Carol have done in this instance?' And, my answers were always there – thanks to the graciousness and friendship I had with Carol.

She showed us all such grace with style and class, beauty and honor and with a smile – always! She was a ray of Sunshine with the calm of a placid, glistening lake with a lovely twinkle in her eyes when she smiled. And, we all know that a smile from her was as though you had been hugged!  

Carol and I shared many memories of times past these last several years. We shared stories about our sons when they were ‘smalls’ and who are close in age and who all knew each other as young lads. Our phone chats and e-mail letters were always wonderful.

She loved to chat for a long time. We often talked about our sons' successfulness and shared motherly pride in how well our four sons have turned out as grown men! I cherish those chats as much as the many times spent in Carol's presence – both within the SCA and outside of it (including Sci-Fi events) for many years.  

Duchess Carol assisted so many people to know the ways of a gentle and polite society with her awesome newcomer's guide. I still have my original Queen Carol's Guide with gratitude to Earl Kevin and Countess Patrice for it and I cherish it messages for what it did for me when I first joined the SCA so long ago.  

Alas, my sister is now in The Ethers. I will miss my sister, Duchess Carol – A Royal Rose – who taught the rest of we Ladies of the Rose how to be a Queen when it was our time. May God's graces always bless our Sister of The Rose, Duchess Carol of Bellatrix. I will always remember her kindness to me and my life was blessed and enriched for having been her sister, friend and confidant.  

As Always with Rose Petals falling with my tears,"
~Countess Dierdriana of the Misty Isles

"Everyone in the SCA has a Queen who is special to them; Carol has been and will always be that Queen to me.  I am deeply saddened by her passing, but will always remember her as the epitome of honor and grace." -- Christopher of Hoghton

"Carol wasn't my first Queen, but to me, she was always The Queen. As a young girl, growing up around a dazzling pantheon of now-legendary SCA kings, queens, dukes and duchesses, I always tried to model myself on her - especially her always-gracious behavior, her warmth, thoughtfulness and humor. The combination of ethereal beauty and genuine humanity in that one woman still strikes me as extraordinary. I am grateful that I got to see her again in more recent days and to tell her how much she meant to me. Her memory will always be with us here in the West, reminding us to be a little kinder, a little more welcoming, a little gentler, as a tribute to its greatest Lady." -- Allison de Saint-Loup

"I am so sorry to hear of this light going from our world. Carol was always so charming and kind, and fun to be with. A great and gracious lady, an inspiration to me." -- Astrid of Hawk Ridge

"Carol was a great lady, gentle, wonderful and always attentive.  Though she wore the crown many times, she was always kind to the gaggle of children that would play at events.  I had the great honor to sing before her once, and she took the time, despite ill health, to compliment me on my performance, then to ask me to send her regards to my mother, though they had not been in contact for many years.  Resquiat in Pacem, Godmother." -- Margrethe Astrid Ravn

"Imagine having just joined the SCA and the first queen you meet is Carol of Bellatrix. With all due respect to my fellow Ladies of the Rose, she was and will always be the gold standard to which our Order is held, as well it should be. I have so many memories: serving as her Lady-in-Waiting, standing at the stove cooking dinner with her after we had all been out "preparing" a large pasture for the next day's Coronation, the times when she dispelled drama and despair with wise words and a gentle smile, and the incredible modesty (and surprise) she always displayed when told what an inspiration she was for us. Truth be told, I never lost the feeling of awe I had when I was in her presence. She was one of the very special people in the world and I like to think that she will continue to watch over us and hold us in her love." -- Duchess Natalya de Foix

"I remember Carol with such fondness from the days when she and Paul helped Rieslingshire get started. She took us all under her wing and was guide, mentor, and friend. We will miss her dreadfully." -- Amanda of Cawdor

Caid has a "wiki" that includes this entry on Carol:
(Thanks to Duchess Natalya for pointing it out ...)

"I've known Duchess Carol for most of the years she served The West and the Society as a whole. I also had the good fortune to serve on the SCA's Board of Directors with Carol Porter. In both SCA and Mundane contexts, Carol was the model of courtesy and gentility, Lady and Mother, and in my mind the living example of the ideal Period Lady. One whom any aspiring hero could serve, be it as Knight, Squire, Page or servant, without any reservation at all. I had the great fortune to live within her Kingdom and so see her at most Kingdom or local events we both attended. Being a peer was unimportant, since she was accessible to all who wished to be known to Carol, and there were very many who were her friends, of all stations in the SCA.

I feel inadequate to sing Carol's praises, but know she deserves any and all that are sung by all her friends and family. I can't put into words the great impact Carol has had on my own life, but I feel as though she was part of my personal family and feel her loss deeply, as do so many others, as well. Carol was my own "yard stick" as I evaluated other Ladies of comparable gentility, beauty and stature, over the years. I can count on one hand those whom I've found, that approach, but never quite equal, Carol's beautiful qualities.

I'm very fortunate to have lived during her time, and will miss Carol deeply. My heart goes out to all who Carol loved and who loved her as well.

God bless you Carol! God Bless, Mike, Christine, Stephen, Brion, Niobe, the Grandchildren, her brother and the rest of Carol's family and grieving friends!"

Henrik of Havn

"As my mother's best friend for 37 years, I have known Dutchess Carol of Bellatrix since I was 2 years old when she was pregnant with Brion. She was my Godmother, family, friend and mentor. It has been an honor and blessing to have had her in my life and I will miss her dearly.

My love and thoughts go to those she leaves behind: her husband Michael, her sons Brion and Stephan (& his wife Cym), her grandchildren, her sister, brother, nephew and all the many others whose lives she has touched. She was a beautiful lady through and through, whose presence made this world a better place.

My deepest gratitude to Brion, Stephan and Cym, and Michael for allowing me to come visit Carol to express my love for her just before she left this world. It meant more to me than I can say to have had that opportunity. My heart is heavy with sadness for her loss, but also overflowing with love for her family. She left more than a legacy with the SCA; she lives on through her beautiful family, and in the hearts of those who knew and loved her."

Jenny Baker, second daughter of Duke Douglas Longshanks and Dutchess Lorna of Leeds

"The picture at the top of this memorial page is one of my favorites and really says it all about Carol. For myself and others so fortunate to have known her, Carol of Bellatrix was always bright, smiling, beautiful, full of grace, and a true friend. I will keep all of those images and memories of Carol in my heart and mind for as long as I live. No finer and caring a person have I ever known or ever will know. Carol, you truly are the Queen of Love and Beauty, now and always." -- Richard Mantegani of House HAVN

"Reading the passages that others have written about Carol truly echo my own feeling upon learning of her passing.  She was the first queen that I can clearly remember and she will always symbolize grace and elegance.  She defined regal.  I have often reflected on conversations that she and I had when I was an awkward and self-conscious little girl.  Never once did she make me feel like just another SCA “small” and I cherished the Queens Order of Grace she bestowed upon me.  I would still have it, but in the early years they were made of plaster and the years took its toll on it until all I had left was the ribbon it came on.

I am forever grateful for her genuine nurturing, her guidance, her warmth and especially her gentility."

Dove of Hoghton / Dvina Serpenstheart

"We are all born to die, so this is no surprise, or it shouldn’t be. But now the day is here like a meteor strike, like a star fallen to earth.

James Martel wisely said that the little dash between a birth and death can hold a lot, it can encompass empires and horizons. Let us add: and a lot you can never know. Carol’s dash was more densely packed than most. Within the magic-lantern world of the SCA and out of it, Carol did too much, touched on far too many other lives, spun too wide a web of connections to tell here. This is only the thread that touched mine.

Carol had one long tenure in Golden Rivers (Sacramento). Around then she befriended me, likely taking me on as a project of sorts. It was a dark phase of my life, clouded with a kind of miasma of self-loathing, confusion and blood-iced depression. With patience and infinite grace, and probably a lot of eye-rolling, Carol repeatedly coaxed me through the angst. She remembered things, small and big. She was creatively effervescent. She put problems in perspective, unraveled enigmas, deconstructed my false perceptions. And by bits she nudged me on a path to being a truer person.

It had to be a lot of work. I was a mess, as some may remember.

Eventually Carol moved to southern California and then to Texas (using mundane terms here because she mostly had graduated from the SCA by then), finding new adventures and new projects, and undoubtedly new lives to enhance. During her peregrinations she kindly kept a connection with phone calls and emails, cards and occasional surprise visits. Her body decayed but her spirit remained, cheerful, and bright and clear as morning. When she fell gravely ill, I hoped for some final words. Then came Brion’s note begging friends not to call. Perhaps an email might be OK, I thought, someone could read it to her. But such words do not come easily; you type them, click-click, OK, then re-read it, and they seem pretentious and trite, barely skimming the meaning locked in your head (rather like this, come to think of it). A day later came the final news. So even for that, it was too late.

I’ll say now, as I said to a mutual friend: Carol helped changed me as she changed many others, and she did it as naturally and gracefully as a butterfly might flap its wings, and make rainstorms in China. For the best of course; "storms" may be a poor metaphor. Let it stand anyway. And she probably cannot hear this, but still: Thank you, your Grace.

Do you remember her hair? The sun shone."

Edward of South-Haven

Duchess Carol of Bellatrix will be remembered for writing and publication of Queen Carol's Guide, a seminal influence in early SCA days, with its information on how to act, whom to salute, and what to wear. This valuable little handbook has been reprinted several times and will continue to be good reading for many more years.

However, Carol was an important part of another valuable and lasting contribution to the Society for Creative Anachronism. She was responsible for the founding and development of the University of Ithra in the Kingdom of the West, and also in assisting me to start the University of Ithra at Caid, later known as Collegium Caidis. And therein lies a story of vision and persistence in which I am proud to have had a part.

Back in the mists of SCA time, there were no cohesive colleges as we know them today. The University of Carolingia was a theatrical show-piece with medieval and renaissance lectures inside, while outside there were scribes helping students write home for more money, wenches selling oranges, and Crusade veterans garnering coins by telling their stories. After all these years, I cannot recall the name of the inventive gentleman who came up with this idea.

Carol lived in the Kingdom of the West, while I lived in the West’s Principality of Caid. In those days, many Caidans traveled to Western events, often staying in the Bellatrix home, so Carol and I could discuss this concept whenever we met. We felt that people would be more interested in useful classes than ancient lectures, because we both spent time at events telling how to make garb, or finding someone who knew how to make a certain item.

Carol and I put classes together for different occasions, but we wanted more. We just didn’t know where to start. Then Master Michael the Black set up the University of Madrone in An Tir. Michael was a forceful character who saw what was needed and got it done. Carol and I watched with great interest to see if Madrone was a workable concept. As time went on, we could see that it was going to work.

At this time, Carol and I had families that demanded a great deal of our time. However, I was fortunate in having a husband who could see this idea, so we arranged for me to visit Michael in Seattle to find out how he had set up his University. Michael invited me to stay with his family, so I took a train up the coast of California through Oregon to Washington (there is another story, but I digress).

Several days with Michael proved to be hospitable, informative to a point and very frustrating. He would answer most university questions if I knew exactly what to ask, but had no interest in spreading the idea any farther than his own area. So he would often go off on a tangent about plans for building a Great Hall or An Tir politics.

Once we could talk together after my trip, Carol and I agreed that while many questions had been answered, as many more had been left unanswered. We needed far more information to make the concept work well in our respective areas. Neither of us wanted this concept to be a one-off due to bad planning.

When the West Coast Science-Fantasy Conference (Westercon) was held the next year in Vancouver, Canada, many SCA folk made plans to attend. Carol and I saw this as a good chance to go to An Tir early and talk to Michael again. I figured that a nice as well as attractive person like Carol could sweet-talk Michael out of any information we needed. That was her particular forte, a talent I do not possess.

We made arrangements to get together with Michael a day or so before Westercon began. As I thought, Michael was much more open to a wistful blonde with a sunny smile than to me. I took stacks of notes while Carol beguiled answers from Michael, and we soon had enough information to feel confident about starting our universities.

Then we both attended Westercon at a college in Vancouver, which had a large SCA presence, including fighting on the lawn. A side note, Paul of Bellatrix got his SCA armor and swords through customs by declaring them “sports equipment.” Carol and I were so excited about our university concept that we talked about it every chance we had. Others may have been bored silly, but we knew we had something worthwhile to offer the SCA.

Once home, Carol set to work on the University of Ithra in the West, while I set up the Caidan branch of Ithra (later Collegium Caidis when Caid achieved kingdom status). Our first sessions were a resounding success, with teachers coming from everywhere to teach classes. We were delighted, and Carol was especially happy that so many people came forward to support her. I never knew the back-story of why she was so tentative about this, but her fears proved to be groundless so far as Ithra was concerned.

She was not alone in worrying about the university concept. Some people just cannot stand change. But when the nay-sayers got too loud and I faltered in my faith, she was always at hand to offer encouraging words and support. She seemed to know when I needed bolstering and would call to ask what was bothering me. This was well before the Internet, which would have made communication so much easier, so we used up a lot of phone time to talk about our universities.

There were a couple of combined Ithra-Caid sessions, fondly remembered by those who participated. It was like herding cats to get everyone to agree to work together and travel distances for classes, but the events were major successes. We tried to add An Tir to this combination, but by that time Michael had stepped away from the University of Madrone and there was not much interest. In those days it was also more difficult to get from Seattle to even Northern California. Today it might work.

Carol and I were very proud that our university concept lasted all these years and in so many permutations. We wrote simple instructions on how to start your own university (no idea where that paperwork is now) and sent it to everyone who requested a copy. We were delighted at the results. Other kingdoms began their own universities. The Kingdom of Caid hosted a Collegium at both the 20th and the 25th Year Celebrations of the Society. Many SCA wars now hold collegiums in conjunction with other war activities. This could not have happened without Carol.

I am very proud to have partnered with this vital and determined lady to create something that benefits the entire Society, and will continue to do so for as long as there are people with information to share. As Master Alewaulfe the Red says, it is a tribute to Duchess Carol of Bellatrix and her dream of a viable and growing Society for Creative Anachronism.

-- Flavia Beatrice Carmigniani, OL, OP, Baroness of the Angels

"Carol was lovely, gracious full of light. She talked with us teenagers as adults, encouraging our dreams. She will be missed." -- Lady Celeste daughter of Edgar the Unready and Dorthea the Unsure

"It has been many, many years, more than I care to count since I last saw Carol, yet just seeing the picture at the top of this page brings her back to me so vividly ... She was, without a doubt, among the most gracious and beautiful people I ever had the honor to call friend." -- Stephen Black Eagle

Add an entry to the Memoriam page ...

People (Maihe MacFergy's page)
People (Paul of Bellatrix's page)
Beltane Coronation Festival (May 6-7, 1972, AS VII)
Spring Crown (March 24, 1973, AS VII)
Beltane Coronation (May 5-6, 1973, AS VIII)
Beltane Coronation (May 5-6, 1973, AS VIII)
Midsummer Crown Tourney (June 23, 1973, AS VIII)
Midsummer Crown Tourney (June 23, 1973, AS VIII)
Purgatorio Coronation (July 28-29, 1973, AS VIII)
Purgatorio Coronation (July 28-29, 1973, AS VIII)
Purgatorio Coronation (July 28-29, 1973, AS VIII)
Purgatorio Coronation (July 28-29, 1973, AS VIII)
Purgatorio Coronation (July 28-29, 1973, AS VIII)
Purgatorio Coronation (July 28-29, 1973, AS VIII)
Purgatorio Coronation (July 28-29, 1973, AS VIII)
Spring Tourney -- Rieslingshire (April 27, 1974, AS VIII)
Twelfth Night Coronation (January 4, 1975, AS IX)
Twelfth Night Coronation (January 4, 1975, AS IX)
Spring Tournament -- Rieslingshire (April 19-20, 1975, AS IX)
Beltane Coronation Festival (May 1-2, 1976, AS XI)
Beltane Coronation Festival (May 1-2, 1976, AS XI)
Purgatorio Coronation (July 31-August 1, 1976, AS XI)
Valentine's Day Revel - Province of the Mists (February 11, 1978, AS XII)
Beltane Coronation (April 29-30, 1978, AS XII)
Purgatorio Coronation (August 19-20, 1978, AS XIII)
West/Caid War (April 13-14, 1991, AS XXV)
Mists Investiture (November 11, 2006, AS XLI)

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The West Kingdom History Website was created by and is maintained by Hirsch von Henford (mka Ken Mayer).