Life of a Knight
Be magnificent, be pompous, be lavish
Don't hold back - the brighter the colors, the bigger the banners, the more visible the heraldic artwork, the better. You want to show your colors and arms, not let people 'discover' them!
But beware - too many details might clutter your appearance. Stay simple and strive for easily recognizable designs. Don't get lost in too many details, a heraldic display is not meant to be a purely decorative thing, but should serve as a means of recognition in the first place.
Use only your own heraldic items
Before you spend time, money and effort in designing, painting, sowing and embroidering better make sure that you use only those heraldic devices you are entitled to. Registering your device and badges is the best way to make sure that you are not infringing on someone else's heraldic items. And nothing is more embarrassing than being approached by a herald for carrying a device, badge or symbol you are not supposed to use.
Don't mind the Heraldic rules
As long as it is visible, looks good and you like it - just do it! Metal on metal, blue on red, yellow on gold - everything is possible (although I wouldn't necessarily recommend putting a dark blue badge on a black background ...). Because only your device and your badge(s) are administered by the SCA and thus have to adhere to the heraldic laws, but not how you eventually use those heraldic items, do whatever you like. There is no 'heraldry police', only maybe other people with a different taste than yours. But please stay inbounds of the borders set by medieval examples and don't use symbols you are not entitled to.
Consult your local Herald
If you are not sure how to design a certain piece of your heraldic display, be it a Banner, an Heraldic Cloak or what elements to use, what elements to avoid, what restricted charges there are and so on, talk to your local Herald. You don't have to (in fact, you cannot) register any piece of your heraldic display with the College of Arms, but before you make mistakes because you don't know better, ask the people who do and let them help you.
The Kingdom of Meridies has something, which no other Kingdom in the SCA has - specific rules for the design, use and definition of Banners, Standards, Flags etc.
But fortunately it seems, that due to a suggestion by Master Cathal and some input by myself, these very stringent regulations about 'who can have what type of flag in what size with what on it' soon will be a thing of the past.
Our most beloved Queen Broinnfhionn has already indicated, that she as well is not very fond of those regulations and that she feels too, that this is holding the Kingdom of Meridies back compared to all the other Kingdoms, which don't impose such limitations onto their populace. Her Majesty plans to change the law shortly, so I did not incorporate those obsolete laws into this class. You are entitled to Heraldic Display of any kind with your own registered heraldic items. The emphasis here lies on 'registered', but generally it is acceptable if you start using them after they have passed the Kingdom level (normally that occurs about two months after you submitted them) - the final registration by Laurel can take up to eight months and nobody can be forced to wait that long
- Household Badge
- Kingdom Badge
First of all, there is your Device, of course. Let's assume, it looks like this :
Let's assume further, that you also already have an Award of Arms, which entitles you to augment your Device with a Crest (in this case a red Griffin's Head), a Mantle and a Wreath, which transforms it into your 'Arms'. Just to make it more interesting, let's say you also got a Grant of Arms, which gives you the right to incorporate a single supporter in your Arms (in this case a golden Leopard), which now become an 'Achievement'. An Achievement is not complete without a Motto, so you pick one (in this case, just for demonstration purposes, I chose the famous quote from Gaius Julius Cesar 'Veni Vidi Vici').
Furthermore, you decide that you also need a personal Badge - the red Lion who holds a blue Fleur-de-lys in it's paws. You can have more than one Badge, but for this purpose one will do fine.
And because it is so popular in the SCA, let's say that you also belong to a Household, which has the Rooster on a red Pillow as a Badge. Of course, you better ask the permission of the Household's Head before you use the Badge in your Heraldic Display.
But that's not all - depending on your Kingdom's Laws, you might be also entitled to use the Badge(s) of that Kingdom. Meridies allows the populace to use the two Kingdom Badges in their Heraldic Display:
A word about whether to use the Device or the Badge :
As a general guideline, the Device says 'This is me', whereas the Badge says 'I belong to ...'. So, if you want to show your allegiance with your Kingdom or Household, or a certain person (your significant other?!), put their Badges on your clothes, flags and banners. If you want to mark your property, use your personal Badge. For all representative occasions, use your Device, especially on your clothes. But no rule without exception and as I said before, there is no 'heraldic police' around and very little rules to follow anyway - just guidelines, so essentially you are free to do whatever you like.
Display on Clothes (Men)
There are numerous variations how to turn your clothes into a part of your Heraldic Display. Your Device can be applied as a single piece to a part of the clothes, or strewn over a piece of your garb like in the middle figure. The left figure also wears a tunic in 'his colors', red and blue (the two main colors of the device).
The classic Heraldic Display is of course the tunic of a fighter. The middle figurine displays the elements of the device at the front part of the tunic. There are also 'shoulder flaps' with the device on it, which is a very typical characteristic until the mid 14th century. He is holding a banner with the Badge on it.
The two other figures each have the Household Badge on their clothes, the figure at the left the device, too. Late period personas should avoid the display of their devices on the clothes, and use Badges instead. With the decline of Knighthood, the older forms of Heraldic Display, like wearing one's device on the clothes, came out of fashion. It all shifted more to banners and flags, which superseded the older forms eventually.
Without a doubt, through their high visibility and their artistic design, Flags and Banners are the single most important items in any Heraldic Display.
There are at least five distinctive forms of Flags you can use for your Heraldic Display : Banner, Pennon, Pinsil, Gonfalon, Standard.
In medieval times, depending on the country and also on the century you lived in, certain forms of flags could have been reserved for a certain group of people. Naturally, the King had the right to use every shape, form, and size he wanted, but the simple Knight may have been restricted to use only one or two specific shapes in a certain size.
No such limitations exist in the SCA, and even the least distinguished persona can have the most gigantic flag.
Don't even think about negative repercussions if you don't even have an Award of Arms and showed up with a 30 feet long flag at the next event - there are none! The worst thing that can happen is that at the event after that, there will be some even bigger flags - and that is exactly, how it is supposed to be. If we manage to spur a little friendly competition, than we might indeed reach that coveted goal of having 'a blaze of heraldic display'. And by the way, that is exactly what happened so often in period, when Knights would not accept it to be outshined by other Knights and constantly tried to top one another.
In period, Banners were most frequently used by Kings, Dukes, Counts and similar overlords.
What is on it : Your heraldic device or arms (if it is approved by the College of Arms!)
Default Shape : square or perpendicularly rectangular
Variations : with tongues or a tail at the fly
The Banner should show your heraldic arms, regardless of whether the wind is blowing or not, so you have to make sure that it is supported by either an inner rigid foundation (cardboard, wood) or by additional staffs at the top and maybe also the bottom end of the flag.
The Pennon was used by the simple Knight. It was attached to the front end of the lance, and therefore the heraldic element on it is shown 'upright' when the lance is held at charge.
What is on it : Your Badge
Default Shape : triangular (single pointed)
Variations : swallow-tail, scalene triangle
You could see the Pennon as kind of a medieval bumper sticker - you know, like on some cars : 'If you can read this, you are too close to my car'. Because there are no rules for Heraldic Display in the SCA, only some Guidelines, common sense and good taste (hopefully), you could very well make yourself something like this :
This is the Scottish form of the pennon, with the exception that the heraldic elements are in the upright position when the flagpole is held upright, too. It was granted to peers and feudal barons.
What is on it : Your crest, surrounded by a belt inscribed with the motto; sometimes additional badges and mottoes you have
Default Shape : triangular with fringes on all sides except the hoist
Variations : none
Although of Scottish origin, the Pinsil can also be used by non-Scottish personas in the SCA. The belt can be exchanged with a circle then.
The Gonfalon, or Gonfannon, is displayed on a traverse bar slung from a pole or spear or even attached to a wall. The heraldic items are orientated accordingly, like on the Pennon.
What is on it : Anything - your arms, your complete achievement, ornamental decorations, badges, whatever tickles your fancy and does not conflict with other, registered pieces of heraldry
Default Shape : square or rectangular
Variations : with tongues or tails
The Standard has been in use for centuries well into our modern days. The size of a standard could be anything from 6 feet to 30 feet. It was and still is customary, to incorporate a national design of some sort into the design. In Meridies, this would be either of the two Kingdom Badges.
What is on it (either all together or just certain parts in any combination) : your Kingdom Badge or Device, your personal Badge, your Household Badge, your Motto, other Mottoes, your supporter, your crest; but not your heraldic device or arms as a whole!
Default Shape : length exceeds the width
Variations : triangular, swallow tailed, round-ended
More often than not, the main field is divided into the two principal colors of the device. Also, fringes are often incorporated.