Coronation, A Personal View, January 2002

Post date: Jan 20, 2009 11:16:5 AM

by Mary Frost

The Saturday of coronation 2002 dawned, and we were greeted by the sight of Caerphilly Castle looking broodingly atmospheric surrounded by traces of mist under a dark and cloudy sky. The castle itself is right in the town centre, surrounded by water and largely intact. From the Tourist Information Centre it dominates the skyline and looks extremely impressive.

By 10am, many people, all in costume, were busy hurrying through the entranceway and up through the outer parts of the castle to the Great Hall, not at all deterred by the drizzly rain and the sight of the ducks standing on sheet ice in the moat!

The Great hall itself was an ideal setting for Coronation - stone walls, immensely high ceiling, large windows with handy alcoves for sitting and storing stuff, and most importantly of all, in January, an efficient heating system!

After several attempts to erect a pavilion over the throne area, this was abandoned in favour of just sitting the thrones at the end of the hall, draped in red cloth. Benches were set up for the masses, with chairs behind, filling the bulk of the main hall.

The Stepping Down court commenced slightly later than scheduled. Queen Signy was dressed in a beautiful red and grey "slash and puff" style gown. Initial presentations of gifts for the outgoing King and Queen were made by several groups, including the hosting incipient shire of Mynydd Gwyn. The popular gift appeared to be cushions! The King and Queen were very gracious in receiving these gifts.

Robert of Canturbury made a presentation regarding his mission to the electors of the Holy Roman Emperor. He indicated that they would not consider someone already holding office (i.e. a current king) for that position, but should Elffin no longer be king... Elffin's possible favourable position in this regard was again raised in the stepping up court.

The Harplestane Herald presented the poem to Queen Signy which he was tasked with writing at the Samhain feast, in both French and English. This was followed by a poem praising the Kingdom of Drachenwald, again in both French and English.

Several people were presented with an Award of Arms (Angus McFionn and Robert of Canterbury) during the court. Also Umberto and Rhieinwen of the shire of Mynydd Gwyn were given a court barony, much to their amazement. They both seemed quite overcome and most surprised. This made a happy end to their stay in the UK, since they returned to the USA the following week.

The court ended with the crowning of the new King and Queen, Gerhardt and Aurelia, who made their appearance dressed magnificently in matching cream and gold outfits.

The Stepping Down court was interesting, since this is the first time I have attended any large SCA events, but did suffer from the lack of public speaking experience of the participants - it was impossible to hear most of the presentations and speeches unless you were seated in the front 4 rows, which, I would imagine, made it very boring for the majority of the audience.

Following the court, lunch of onion soup, bread, cheese and bacon savoury and welsh cheeses was served. This was excellent and just the way to fortify everyone for the afternoon tourney!

The weather, which had worsened to a downpour during the course of the morning, brightened a little after lunch, and most people ventured outside the hall to either watch the fighting or to participate. The very wet grass underfoot made the fighting somewhat difficult, and more than one fighter managed to slip on the treacherous footing. I only watched the fighting very briefly - just the fencing match in which Antonio fought, so perhaps someone else can fill in the details here.

Whilst the fighting was going on outside, a few merchants had set up stalls inside selling mainly braids, fabrics and jewellery. These seemed quite popular, and certainly persuaded myself and Kevin to part with our hard-earned cash! The main floor area of the hall was also used for dance practice, ready for the dancing later in the evening.

The stepping up court started after the tourney, with various presentations and awards. Antonio was made Queen's champion, in the main due to his chivalrous gesture of presenting his lady with a red rose at the start of the tourney - a gesture which impressed Queen Aurelia.

Following the stepping up court, the hall was re-set for the feast in the evening. In order to fit in the 80 participants, two long tables and many round tables were set up, each with a pine twig centrepiece. With all the tables set, and candles lit, the hall looked fantastic, although, unfortunately, the table candles did not illuminate such a large area well enough for the servers to see, so the electric lights had to remain on.

The feast was very impressive, with 3 removes, and subtleties presented at the start of each remove. The subtleties included an apple pie in the shape of a scroll, a boars head and a castle. The castle caused quite a stir, as it came complete with burning ammunition to fire from miniature trebuchets. Their majesties took great delight in attempting to shoot these pellets into the castle and ignite the alcohol which had been poured in. Despite a slight accident where the King managed to burn his hand everyone enjoyed this subtlety and it caused great hilarity! I can't remember all of the food (something to do with the wine and port and mead...) but the things I do remember were:

During the feast, their majesties held court, to receive those wishing to swear fealty or speak to their majesties, but had not been able to do so during the court. There was also an excellent and highly amusing one-man play presented, giving the history of the death of Elffin the First.

Following the feast, the dancing commenced - a good way the wear off some of the calories! The dancing finished just before midnight, and everyone gradually dispersed into the night, leaving the clean-up volunteers to set the hall back to its normal state.

All in all it was a good event and everyone was very friendly. My lasting impressions are of all the various costumes, and by halfway through I was itching to get home and start work on something new ready for the next event. I also found the depth of peoples knowledge about historical matters interesting - although I really don't know how people manage to find the time to do the research!