On Escorting Ladies Into Court
By Dunstana Talana the Violet. Reposted posthumoustly, with the consent of her Heirs and Estate.
An Ansteorran woman here, with some thoughts about this escorting ladies into court topic. It used to be that, though generally a man would offer, it was up to the lady as to whether she wished to come into court on a gentleman's arm. Some did, but I think most preferred to walk alone.
Starting about three years ago in Northern Ansteorra (I don't know about the rest of the kingdom), the young men started vying for the honor of escorting a lady into court. As with many things, it started being carried to extremes. About two years ago I saw a lady called up. By the time she managed to move into the aisle, she was being rushed by no less than four eager tackles, er, I mean young gentlemen. She cringed, anticipating impact. Had they not had good reflexes, they would have taken her out like a sacked quarterback. I was appalled. There was no gentility, no style, no panache - in the immortal words of Captain Hook, "Bad form!" I felt sorry for the poor lady.
Ladies have wound up with men taking hold of each arm simultaneously - not offering their own to her, but grabbing her hands as if she were a wishbone.
And of course, some of the ladies responded in kind, rushing to escort the menfolk, often with good humor, but sometimes looking like the hopefuls on Sadie Hawkins day rather than ladies in a royal court.
Of course I must qualify these accounts a bit: some of these situations were intended to be humorous, and every lady I have seen has accepted the man's, or men's arm(s) with grace, or rather, as much grace as can be had when you're being grabbed at like the prize pig at the county fair. But it was obvious, from their faces, that some of the ladies did not like this.
The crux of the matter is this: if the lady wants to be escorted, fine. If she is willing to play up a little schtick of being "fought over", go for it. But if she does not want to be escorted, she should be able to walk up alone. If she does not want her approach to the throne of her sovereigns to be marked by buffoonery, she should not have to endure it.
I've been in the SCA for fifteen years now, called into court a fair number of times, but never did I go in on the arm of a man. The only time any man ever escorted me into the presence of the Crown was the heavily armed honor guard of six liveried fighters (in my livery, that is) who were part of my entourage when I was elevated to the Laurel. And that, I may say, was a special occasion.
I remember hearing that one of our recent crowns made the declaration that all ladies must come escorted into court. Did the Crown of Ansteorra fear its women so much that they needed the protection of a guard, as if it were a prisoner transfer? Or did the Crown think us so insignifcant that we had no existence, no presence, no worth, save as an ornament worn by a man? Arrgh, I still get twisted over that one.
There are times and situations in which I would find it correct, in my persona, or for the sake of physical limitations, to have the assistance of another person. But as my husband Diarmait and I joke, I outrank him, so it would be ludicrous for him to appear to be "presenting" me to the court. The other way around, perhaps. If I required the assistance in rising from my knees, OK. But why could it not be a woman to help me? Noble ladies have ladies-in-waiting. I'm not a noble, but I do have an apprentice - could she not serve me just as well?
I had not heard the story, given here, of one lady who was sent out of the court until she had an escort. Jesus and all His saints, what an insult! For myself, I would have grabbed up my car keys and just kept on going.
Should I be called up and some man offer to escort me, I will kindly refuse him. If he presses, I will be firm. If my sovereigns will not accept my presence without an aggregate of XY chromosomes holding my hand, then I think I'll come down with a migraine and withdraw to my estates for the rest of the reign.
Yours in service,
Dunstana Talana the Violet, OL