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On Courtesy

Leanne of Maywood

From: Tournaments Illuminated, Volume 1, Issue 8 (Late Summer/Early Fall, 1968 (A.S. III)), this article is dated July 17, 1968, a couple of months before Leanne's second reign as Queen

Since I am to be queen, willy-nilly and by the grace of my lord Henrik, I had thought to say certain things to all gentle folk; some words merry, and some words grave.

Among the merry words, I would thank all those who made the last tournament a pleasure. I thank the Lady Queen for her gracious and courtly behavior, the Lady Wendryn for her aid and assistance, so freely and joyously given on all occasions, the Lady Janet for her skilled and competent handling of the challenges, the House of Foss for signs, assistance and cheerful presence, Loud Randall for his volume, the Ladies Karen and Felice for offers of food, the Lord Mediocrates for quart cake (a fabulous Eastern delicacy), and finally the young squire Earl, for his succor and aid in my time of need.

Among the grave words: many things I have seen at tournaments to grieve me. I wish them never to happen again, and this is within our power to bring about. There is no excuse for cruelty, gentlefolk, especially among ourselves, yet every festival ends with more grievances, especially amongst our ladies. It is an honor to be queen and certainly to be sought after, but if your Lord is not fated on any one day to gain the crown, then surely 'tis a reproach unfair to him and a shade upon the happiness of others to show your loss. What sort of person has the right to make others fear to be happy in his presence? If one feels her loss acutely, a good remedy is a short cry or cuss with a very good, very circumspect friend. Please then, return to us with a happy face and kind words, that we may all make merry. There will be many more tournaments, if we do not split ourselves assunder with childish actions.

Further, my ladies, are we who are well-blessed with loving lords and other reasons for happiness thereby granted the right to snipe and snap at others? Is there so strong a feeling of 'in' and 'out' that we are permitted to mistreat all that which is 'out'? I refer specifically to the young ladies who come to our festivals with high hopes and starlit eyes, and who often leave in tears. I came to my first tournament as a happy guest of lord Henrik; and was lectured for 'appropriating' one of the available knights from ladies having more seniority in the Society, insulted as to my choice of costume, and cooly ignored. Had it not been for the kindness of Lord Medicrates and the hospitality of the Ladies Luise and Janet, I would have gotten a very dismal impression indeed.

My friend, the Demoiselle de Rana, has been in my presence (for she is not the sort to complain) insulted about her costumes and had her friendly greetings ignored; yet here is a gentle person with much to offer our organization. There are many others, friends, aquaintances, and strangers to me, who have been catted and left out; but I will mention only these two, gentle readers, and one more example so astounding as to boggle the mind. -- My lord has been told it was rude of him to win the various tournies he has won! As if he could do less well than he can in order that another might be king!! And this to a knight who has sat out the crown fights as often nearly has he has fought. But my pride in my lord shows here, and this is not what I have come to say. His tale makes another song, and better only for private singing.

My ladies, to say, with a smile, "That is a lovely dress!" is many words shorter than to say, "Your dress is out of period, sloppily made, and a strange color". It is also kinder and saves who knows what pain for sensitive hearts. Strangers have feelings that are for more easily hurt than those of safe members of a group, and we have no right to repay their friendly curiosity with unearned insults.

To a maid come on the arm of a stalwart but hitherto unattached knight, a friendly, "I see you have met our knight, Sir so-and-so!" is more courtly than a snarled "So you've got him! Well! We were hoping Esmeralda would!" Verily, the first sentence reaffirms the place of our fighter in our ranks, whilst the second can only make him feel that he must choose between us and his maid. You may think I exagerate or jest, but I do not! All of these ugly things and more have happened in just this manner.

My ladies,... be kinder, please!

There is another thing I would speak of --more to our knights than to ladies. I would speak of honor. We have all been taught in school to be 'good sports', yet how often the good sport hides a vengeful mind waiting to complain and fuss behind a thin and tacky veneer of courtliness. This is perhaps because the idea of good sportsmanship is but a corruption of the original concept, that of honor. The definition Mr. Webster gives is not adequate for our use and purpose, for honor in its true form can be almost theology. A single sentence could never suffice.

I feel, may be, that by saying some of what honor is not and some of what it is, I can somehow explain what it should be. Honor is not placing oneself in an obnoxious position and then challenging the right of all who politely ask you to move. That is pride. Honor is not the use of power as a threat or an excuse to be bad-tempered. That is arrogance. Honor is not complaining at a hard blow, that is foolishness --do you not don your armour to fight? Honor is not loudly proclaiming that your honor has been besmirched each time a king or official catches you losing your temper or thrusting. Verily, until you holler, only an instantly-forgotten error has been made. After you yelp, Honor herself is offended, and it is evident to all that you have none! Honor is not arguing that a tournament is ill-run; where Honor is most certainly not leaving the work to good-old-whoever.

Honor is politeness; to all, not only ladies. Honor is shaking hands, even though Caradoc has knocked you cuckoo just when you thought you were going to get him. Honor is Stephan de Lorraine leaving the field with a smile after twice losing the Kingship by a single combat --and roaring the loudest hurrahs for the new-won king.

Honor is a knight I know who saw to it that half-a dozen pages whom he did not even know and who had no food were fed from his own provisions. In short, honor is quiet strength, oft not obvious to those who watch, that is neither easily offended nor self-centered. May we all try to apply it to at least our tournament selves!

I have finished, but one final plea. Good folk, if any of you are offended by what I have said here, regard it as a chance to practice honor. Be kinder, and forgive me.

My gratitude,
Lady Leanne of Maywood

[Editor's note -- as I was putting the photocopy of this issue of Tournaments Illuminated into page protectors so they could be stored in a binder, among the articles on costuming and armor making was this missive. I read this nearly fifty years after it was written, and am astounded by the words. They could be spoken to a "modern" SCA crowd and have the same meaning, similar examples of both the good and bad sides of Honor, and so on. I felt this should be preserved in more than just the binder I am placing it into, and wanted it out there for all to see ... Hirsch von Henford, West Kingdom Historian, November 3, 2014 (A.S. XLIX -- year 49 of the SCA)]


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