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The Fine Art of Ladyship

Diana Listmaker

From: Tournaments Illuminated, Volume 1, Issue 10 (Spring, 1969 (A.S. III)), "Illuminatrix Scribet" article

Positions in the Society tend to evolve, and usually exist for some time before they are officially recognized and titled. For example, it has recently dawned on me that I am de factor Ladie's Editor, therefore I have decided to address myself to the problem of the position of the Lady (and incidentally of any non-fighter) at Tournaments and in the Society in general. The existence of this problem was brought to my attention when my lady-in-waiting, the demoiselle Joanne, came to me at one of the parties which make up what has come to be known as the 14th century cocktail circuit asking just what a lady-in-waiting is supposed to do. This is a question I have not noticed many of the squires asking; the contemporary application of the medieval relationship -- to serve his knight and be trained by him-- is quite apparent. A knight got that way by being a fighting man, and that is what he teaches his squire to do; he also teaches him the care and construction of armour and weapons, and how to act with chivalry upon the field.

However, in teaching her lady-in-waiting, the noblewoman has two tasks: the first is to teach her all those skills which creat the total environment of current medievalism, and the second is to teach her not only what a Lady does but what a Lady is.

There are three areas in which the non-fighter can function, in which, in fact someone must function for the Tournament to be a success. These are Preparation, Administration, and Entertainment. Preparation includes everything that has to be done before one arrives at the Tourney field-- creating clothes, weapons and armour, building pavilions, cooking and brewing and lunch-packing, and the organization of all these supplies. It is in the areas of sewing and cooking in particular that outstanding artistry can be displayed by the lady. The tournament serves as her showcase, at which her masterpieces can be tasted, tested, and admired. The ladies of the Kingdom of the West have recently discovered embroidery, which provides them with some handiwork to do at the tournament itself, in addition to being worn and displayed in the Royal pavilion. An artisan's Guild, such as has also been developed in the West, serves as a means of exchanging information and instruction in various skills.

With the exception of those tasks having to do with the fighting itself (and even here there are exceptions, such as and the Lady Herald Pursuivant in the Kingdom of the West), a lady can do almost any job the administration of the Society requires. The numbers and types of positions available will depend of course on the size and complexity of the kingdom in question. The King's personal officers will probably be male, but on the other hand the Queen will have her court of ladies, and both should be liberally supplied with pages of either sex. The Queen in the West has a permanent lady seneschale of her own as well as her Demoiselle d'honneur, who acts as her social secretary, her pages, and a Council composed of all the noblewomen of teh kingdom and their ladies-in-waiting, who accompany her on her Royal Progresses around the field. The Queen's Progress is an institution stemming from the principle that the men should be left free of other cares so that they can devote their attention to the really important things in life, such as fighting. Therefore the Queen and her ladies have taken it upon themselves to make a tour of the field at each tournament, greeting newcomers and introducing them to older members of the Society, and admiring whatever handiwork may be in progress. The Queen is also less bound by the formal rules of the Society, and can give tokens of honor and appreciation to whomever she may please.

One of the things for which she is likely to express such approval is entertainment, and this is the third area in which a non-fighter can be effective. The tournament itself is of course no tthe place for a full-scale presentation, since there are neither the acoustics or the time for such. However a piper to lead the processional is a grand thing, and either King or Queen will often call a musician to perform for their ear alone. Where entertainment comes into its own is the Revels, where singing, dancing, dramatics, etc. prevail.

The above ought to pretty well cover what a lady does; there remains the other aspect of Joanne's question-- what a lady is...... First, a lady is the reason a tournament is different from a bashing session. When there are no ladies concerned, men avery content to kill each other without ceremony! As a result of winning a tournament the warrior becomes King, but the event himself he is fighting for the privilege of placing the wreath of roses upon the head of his chosen lady. However athletic a girl may be in private life, at a tournament no lady would think of letting on that she knows (except in theory) which end of a sword is which. Women have other weapons.

The Lady's is the hand which has created the knight's splendor; the Lady's presence changes the lists from a battlefield to a field of honor; the Lady's hand soothes the bruises her warrior may have received in fighting for her name; and the Lady gives the kiss which rewards him whether he win or lose.

Diana Listmaker of Rivendell,
Lady Seneschale to the Queen of the West

[Editor Note: This article is fascinating in retrospect, because of course over the years there have been female sovereigns-by-right-of-arms both in the West and other Kingdoms ... and attitudes about women have changed a bit (most brought about by women themselves).]

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