How to be a Consort
Prepared for the Barony of Twin Moons Collegium - July 10, 1999
By Duchess Katerina O’Callaghan, Pel
What is a Consort?
In my time in the SCA, I have seen as many definitions of the word “consort” as there are fighters. To some individuals, it is the most important relationship they have in the SCA, and to others it is a role they play to make the game more fun and romantic. So what exactly is a “consort”?
If you look at the governing documents of the SCA, they explain the duties for a fighter and consort who compete in or win a Crown or Coronet Tournament. But they do not provide a formal definition of what makes someone a “consort”. Strictly speaking, the meaning can be stated as:
Consort: A term used to refer to either a fighter or a person of the opposite gender when they have established a relationship for the purpose of participating in Chivalrous and Honorable Combat.
Beyond that, the meaning of the term becomes very personal. We can say the following:
Except when participating in a Crown or Coronet Tournament, there are no official SCA duties for a consort. Duties and responsibilities are defined by each couple.
The length of the relationship varies, ranging anywhere from a one day, one event relationship to an open-ended commitment. This is something the couple decides.
A “favor” is exchanged between the two individuals to formalize the relationship. The favor should be carried whenever the fighter participates in combat for the consort, as it represents their joint Honor and Chivalry on the Field of Combat. (A favor can be any item that has meaning for the giver and receiver, including a piece of jewelry, lace, or remembrance.)
What should be discussed when deciding whether to become someone’s Consort?
This is one of the questions I am asked most frequently by people who are new in the Society. And it is an important question, because a misunderstanding between consorts can damage both a friendship and the consort and fighter’s ability to have fun in the SCA.
Because the meaning of the “consort” relationship changes for each couple, they should be sure to discuss and understand the other person’s expectations before agreeing to the relationship. This should include asking the following questions:
How long do you plan to be consorts? For one tournament? For one War? Forever?
If either of you is involved with (or married to) someone else, has that person been consulted?
If you are not involved with each other, are you planning to be consorts only until one of you becomes involved with someone else?
What do each of you expect the other to do? Will you camp together? Feast together? Travel together to events? What is expected during wars? During tournaments? Will you expect the other person to make food, costumes or other items?
How many events will each of you be expected to attend? What if one of you cannot attend an event?
If you are to be a consort for someone fighting in a Crown or Coronet Tournament, are you prepared to serve if you win? Is it something you want to do? Are both of you comfortable with the time commitment? Can you both afford it (costumes, travel, gifts)? Have both of you read the governing documents and laws that explain the duties?
Once you have an understanding of these questions, you can make an informed decision about whether you wish to become consorts.
Responsibilities at Tournaments:
Tournament fighting is a unique form of combat in the SCA, requiring different concentration and stamina than war and melee combat. As a fighter gains experience in tourneys, they also learn what makes them relax and focused. A consort can often help a fighter stay engaged and ready for combat. This requires communication between the fighter and consort, and preparation before the event.
Depending on the couple, a consort’s duties at tournaments can include:
Being present for all of the fighter’s combats.
Acknowledging the salute the fighter makes to the consort at the start of combat.
Standing at the edge of the eric at the start of combat so the consort can be seen by the fighter.
Providing the fighter with water, food, access to shade and a place to sit before and after combat.
Understanding the rules of the tournament (is it double elimination, single elimination, etc.).
Crown and Coronet Tournaments are special events in the SCA, and have special requirements that fighters and consorts:
Be members on the day of the tournament.
Understand and meet the Kingdom Law and Corpora requirements for participating in the tourney.
Be willing to take on the responsibilities (travel, money and time) if they win.
No fighter or consort should enter a Crown of Coronet Tournament without understanding these requirements.
Responsibilities at War:
Depending on the consorts, duties at war can include:
Setup of an encampment and kitchen facilities.
Assisting the fighter in getting armored.
Providing water, food, access to shade and a place to sit before, during and/or after combat scenarios.
Waterbearing during battles.
Caring for the fighter if he is injured.
Responsibilities during Court:
A consort’s responsibilities during court are generally limited to serving as an escort when called into court to participate in a ceremony, present a gift, or make an announcement.
What should a consort avoid doing?
Remember that what you do off the fighting field and around the eric also reflects on your consort. As long as you wear the favor, you are representing your joint Honor.
While un-chivalrous, impolite and inappropriate behavior can be very clear for fighters on the fighting field, the negative impact of actions may not be so clear when they occur off the fighting field, or when they are the actions of a fighter’s consort. At all costs, a fighter’s consort should avoid:
Commenting on the blows acknowledged by their own fighter or their fighter’s opponent during tournament combat. Remember that video cameras and people around the eric catch many comments people think are softly spoken.
Overt cheerleading for their fighter during a tournament (cheering, clapping, hooting).
Injecting their participation into fighter related ceremonies, especially when they are completed in Court. Consorts should remember there are ample opportunities in the SCA for the consort to be the center of attention. But it is unfortunate when a fighter’s consort diverts attention to themselves during a moment designed to honor the fighter.
For example, a ceremony investing a man-at-arms or squire is an important event in any fighter’s SCA life. While including a consort in these ceremonies can be moving and important, a consort who makes an emotional speech longer than the knight, squire or man-at-arms can overshadow the point of the ceremony.
The most important things to remember:
Everything you do in the SCA should enrich your life. Being a consort can be one of the things that adds enormously to your enjoyment of the Dream. This is true whether you are the person being fought for, or the person who is fighting for your joint Honor.
The key to being happy as a consort is to communicate what each of you expects from the relationship, and remember to make it fun!