Medieval heralds served as envoys, granted devices (variously called arms, coats of arms, and devices), oversaw the provision of heraldic trappings for funerals, and provided support at tournaments. SCA heralds provide support at tournaments by announcing the names of the combatants, serve as the voice of the Crown during courts and as otherwise needed, make announcements at events, provide information to resolve questions of precedence and protocol, and help others to find appropriate names and armory for their chosen culture and time period.
The first level of SCA heraldic organization is the kingdom level; each kingdom has a College of Heralds. Many SCA groups have a designated heraldic officer. In baronies, principalities, and kingdoms, this officer is usually the designated voice of the ruling nobility. In principalities and kingdoms, the officer is called the Principal Herald, and usually has some administrative responsibilities, including the appointment of deputies to oversee the processing of name and device submissions and maintenance of the order of precedence. (These functions are not always separate from those of the kingdom in principalities.) In baronies and smaller groups, the heraldic officer is usually the default person to make announcements and to assist group members who wish to submit names and devices. However, any herald can assist with these tasks.
The process of providing heraldic credentials varies from kingdom to kingdom. Some kingdoms have a system of training and testing heralds for advancement or to issue warrants; others simply issue warrants to persons who provide proof of membership and demonstrate an interest in heraldry.
The second level of SCA heraldic organization is the Society level. The SCA College of Arms administers heraldry throughout the SCA. Its head is the Laurel Sovereign of Arms; the Laurel Queen of Arms is currently Countess Elisabeth de Rossignol. Warranted heralds are usually automatically members of their kingdom's College of Heralds; however, membership in the College of Arms is limited to the Laurel Sovereign of Arms, their designated deputies and staff, and those who provide commentary on name and device submissions. Some kingdoms designate a specific herald to provide commentary on submissions.
Presently, there is a deputy for name registration (Pelican Queen of Arms Margaret Makafee) and armorial registration (Wreath Queen of Arms Jeanne Marie Lacroix). The Morsulus Herald maintains the Society Ordinary and Armorial, a record of all names and devices registered in the Society.
Heraldic Titles and Ranks
There are a number of heraldic ranks and titles, both at the kingdom and Society levels. In some kingdoms, a trainee herald is called a Cornet; once the Cornet has passed a basic test and has gained experience in the various fields of heraldry they are accorded the rank of Pursuivant, while senior heralds are referred to as "Herald." In other kingdoms, these titles are based solely on the heraldic office an individual holds. For example, a kingdom may choose to style all deputies to the principal herald as "herald," and all local heraldic officers as "pursuivant." Heralds who hold no particular office are frequently referred to as pursuivants-at-large. Finally, the Laurel Sovereign of Arms may choose to name heralds who have provided long and dedicated service to the College of Arms "Herald Extraordinary." A listing of these individuals may be found here.
Historically, heraldic titles could come from place names (Richmond Herald), surnames (Chandos Herald), charges (Rouge Dragon Pursuivant), and order names (Garter King of Arms). (These heraldic titles are all English.) Heraldic titles in the SCA are frequently taken from the name of a charge on a group's arms (e.g., Triskele Herald of Trimaris), from documented or conjectural heraldic charges, sometimes from the name of an order (e.g., Pelican Sovereign of Arms), occasionally from place names (Midlands Herald of the Middle), and hypothetically from surnames.
Historically, English heralds could use their heraldic titles as surnames; for example, in a 1541 lay subsidy of London, two heralds are listed as "Master Richemond Harrord" and "Mr York Harrord"; in The True Use of Armorie (1592), the narrator refers to "a Herauld ... surnamed Faulcon" (perhaps corresponding to Falcon King of Arms). Anthony Wagner asserts this right for members of the English College of Arms in the 20th century; many SCA heralds with titles will frequently sign heraldic correspondence with their title (e.g. "Margaret Pelican"), or refer to colleagues this way.
Who is a Herald?
In the SCA, anyone can practice heraldry as an activity. Generally, you do not need a special office or title to help others choose names and research devices, herald a tournament, or make announcements at an event. The only activities limited to persons of a particular rank involve actually accepting and processing submission forms. This is because this duty involves working with money. Who may do this varies from Kingdom to Kingdom. Officially licensed Kingdom heralds are said to have a warrant.
Also, royalty, nobility, households, or any individual may retain someone as their personal herald for court, as a messenger, and other heraldic duties. Who this person is and what their duties are is strictly the prerogative of the "employer."
Heralds can frequently be identified because they wear tabards: garments which depict the arms of the person who employs them on the front, back, and sleeves. Only heralds should wear tabards; however, it is authentic for others to wear heraldic surcoats or gowns, depending on the time period and culture they seek to recreate. Tabards with baronial or kingdom arms may be part of the group's regalia; heralds who do not hold a specific office sometimes wear medallions, favors, or tabards with the SCA College of Arms logo shown above.
- Æthelmearc College of Heralds
- Ansteorra College of Heralds
- An Tir College of Heralds
- Artemisian College of Heralds
- Atenveldt Heraldry
- Atlantia College of Heralds
- Caid College of Heralds
- Calontir College of Heralds
- Drachenwald College of Heralds
- Ealdormere College of Heralds
- East Kingdom College of Heralds
- Gleann Abhann College of Heralds
- Lochac College of Heralds
- Meridies College of Heralds
- Middle Kingdom: Office of the Dragon Herald
- Northshield: Polaris Herald
- Outlands College of Heralds
- Trimaris: Triskele Principal Herald
- West Kingdom College of Heralds