Kingdom Arms by Robin of Thornwood Calligraphy by Robin of Thornwood Populous Badge by Robin of Thornwood

BRIEF AND INFORMAL HISTORY OF THE ORDER OF THE PELICAN
Compiled by Hilary of Serendip
1989

This is a summary of the Steward's correspondence file on the Order of the Pelican. Please note that "Imperial" is no longer proper for the corporate level of the SCA; the word appears here only because it was current at the time under discussion. It was theoretically abandoned early in 1974, but stayed in constant use in official documents for another year or two, and lingers in common speech even to this day - where it should be vigorously discouraged whenever it appears. The discontinuance of both the corporate-level peerage and the "I" word stem from the same developing sense that the corporation needs to stay separate from the internal workings of the Current Middle Ages.

3-72 - The Board proposes to create an "Imperial" order of the Pelican to honor service to the central organization of the SCA. Varying ideas, including one version which had several degrees, with non-armigerous Companions and armigerous Esquires besides the peerage level. The possibility of a kingdom version of the award appears in the very earliest proposal.

10-72 - The Board grants the first order of the Pelican unto Boncueur, Registrar of the Society.

12-72 - Boncueur raises all sorts of interesting questions that might well have been considered before opening the order. Not much gets done.

9-73 - Discussion as to what to call somebody with the award still continues. Boncueur adamant against Master; proposes Baron or Chevalier. (Internal analysis of the letter shows that Douglas Brownbeard holds an Imperial Pelican at the time, and that there is one other, Robert of Westmarch.)

10-73 - Letter from Boncueur to Brownbeard and Robert of Westmarch, addressing them as companions in the order. Includes reference to the existence of kingdom Pelicans for Thorwald the Grim and John of Isleway, possibly awarded without reference to the Board.

1-74 - Westmarch's response points out that Corpora II (1972) gave kings the right to give the Pelican and didn't tell them they had to touch base with anybody. He argues against the Board giving peerages and patents, since they said they were going to stay out of the conduct of the medieval side of the SCA.

1-74 - Letter from Clerk of Board to Jon de Cles - mentions that Board Minutes don't include the discussion he remembers, which covered thought that kingdom Pelicans should agree to new members of their order, and that the first one should have consent of members of Imperial order and have special privileges including direct communication with Board.

3-74 - Letter from Boncueur to the Crowns and Seneschals conveys moratorium on all new Pelicans until statute issued for order.

7-74 - Statute passed; printed in that year's volume of Corpora (#4). Includes both Board and Kingdom awards. The Kingdom orders are supposed to poll only in-kingdom after there are at least 5 domestic Pelicans, but must go to Boncueur until then; Board order polls those with Imperial awards only.

7-74 - Polling letters in file recommend Lady Linda-Muireall von Katzenbrasse to receive Imperial Pelican, and a group of six to become the first West kingdom members of the order: Sir Steffan de Lorraine (to be principal), Sir Robert of Dunharrow, Mistress Geraldine of Toad Hall, Mistress Karina of the Far West, Lady Bevin Fraser of Sterling, and Lord Hal von Ravn.

8-74 - Pelican added to the By-Laws.

7-75 - Polling letter in file recommends Imperial Pelican for Robin Devilmark, Clerk of the Chancery.

9-75 - Letter from Boncueur to Alfgar the Sententious; says Douglas and Robert date from 10-73, and he believes two more given that month, bringing total to 5. This presumably means Linda-Muireall (the cited letter is mis-dated) and Robin, but it's impossible to be sure. He says that the kingdom Pelicans given before the statute was issued are being recognized, but it's supposed to be followed on new ones. He adds that he knows of John of Isleway and El of the Two Knives in the East, but does not know if there are any in the Middle or Atenveldt. The letter includes much discussion of how to deal with an inactive Principal, John of Isleway having departed this (Known) world before the duties were assigned.

10-75 - Letter from Brownbeard to Boncueur - Board hasn't yet given the 4th and 5th Imperial Pelicans cited above; they're trying to work out something with the Crown of the West, to avoid the sense of unreality that one feels as a holder of the Board-granted award.

10-75 - Letter from Boncueur to Alfgar the Sententious - recommends kingdoms ignore the rule of 5 and go on making their own Pelicans, on the grounds of political reality. He appears to be advising the East to go ahead and create Balin the Fairhaired (Baron Beyond the Mountain) a member of the order, as Alfgar had requested, even though there wouldn't be time to do all the polling involved and get responses to the Crown by the planned event. (The style of the letter is convoluted and obscure, so it's impossible to be sure that's what was meant. However, it seems to be what happened.)

1-76 - Letter from Brownbeard to Boncueur - says he announced at 12th Night that the Board had awarded Pelicans to Linda-Muireall and Robin in accord with decision made previous September, but it was moot because the former had received kingdom Pelican in October, and the latter at 12th Night before he made the announcement. He also forwards recommendation for William of the Shire for Imperial Pelican.

9-76 - Letter from Steffan de Lorraine - mentions there were then 23 Pelicans in the West, including Brownbeard and Boncueur as Imperial (Linda-Muireall and Robin are on the list as Western) and Luise of Woodsholme from Atenveldt.

12-76 - Letter from Karina to Brownbeard recommending Alfgar for Board Pelican.

Somewhere in the next year, the Board abandoned the intent to bestow Pelicans - when, exactly, the correspondence file is silent. I found the date elsewhere while researching the chronology for the Known World Handbook, but the reference is lost again now and there's no time to hunt it up. In any case, there is no indication that the Board ever gave more than the original three (or five, depending on how you count the two duplicate) awards. Trusting this information will be useful or entertaining, I remain ever yours in service,

                                                                Mistress Hilary of Serendip
                                                                Steward of the Society [c. 1989]


Commentary:

"It [Boncueur's Pelican] (and 2 or 3 more) were given by the Board when Diana invented the Pelican for service to have an award separate from the Laurel for achievement in period arts & sciences. The Board Pelicans were all given, I believe, before the Pelican was released to the Kingdoms. Before the creation of the Pelican, the Laurel (created at 12th Night AS II, along with the Order of Chivalry & the rank of Duke) was given for some sort of combination of achievement & service without a clear distinction between the two. After the Board gave Boncueur the first Pelican, the kingdoms felt a desire to reward the endless hard work he had done for the whole SCA,  so the Kings & Queens of all 4 kingdoms jointly gave him a Laurel, which Henrik (as his own King) presented to him. The Pelican did not receive the regard accorded to the Laurel by the populace until after the kingdoms were allowed to grant them. In August AS IX, King William (of Hoghton) created the West Kingdom Order of the Pelican, first making Stefan de Lorraine principal of the order, then giving 4 more (my then wife Geraldine among them), and then allowing me to convert the Laurel that Andrew gave me at 12th Night VIII to a Pelican. (I had petitioned the Board & the Crown to do this, since I felt it had been almost entirely for service as Chancellor of the Exchequer, a task I carried out by modern, not period, methods.  Andy [Andrew of Riga] still disagrees.  That is why I hold the senior non-Board Pelican in the SCA, dated to Jan. AS VIII, as agreed by the Board & Crown.  I had wanted to help make the Pelican be regarded as the equal in respect to the Laurel, which came about naturally in a fairly short time. Well, to my surprise, I was awarded a Laurel - for dance - in May AS XXII, and I certainly hold all 3 of my peerages, including knighthood, in the same high regard.) I only go into this lengthy diversion about myself to clarify why I would remember all of these details." -- Robert of Dunharrow


"Just a note.  When William of Hoghton gave out the first western Pelican, there were no official tokens, so he gave a plain ring about 2” in diameter.  I guess since knight’s chains were swag lamp chains, a curtain ring was the obvious choice for the new award.  Of course, being a complete circle must have opened the door to a lot of philosophical interpretations.  I think we still have one in a box of mementos." -- Maythen Gervaise

"I do remember that an original suggestion for the sign of the order was a simple red crystal dewdrop pendant, to symbolize the drop of blood on the Pelican's chest.

Subtlety lost." -- Stefan de Lorraine

"When I was elevated to the Order of the Pelican (in '76), there were still no pendants or tokens given to new birds.  I was told that since were people who got things done, we could come up with one on our own.

A couple of months later (ten) Princess Bevin gave me the one she'd made up for herself.  It was a green roundel, with a Pelican in her Piety, but lacked legs, chicks or a nest." -- John apGriffin

"I was one of those first Pelicans, and it seems to me I used a horse-brass that had the appropriate design.

I did make my own Laurel -- etched by the scratched-wax method on a copper blank, then silver-plated." -- Karina of the Far West


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