Being recognized with a Peerage is a major event in someone's SCA life. Therefore, there should be an appropriate level of ceremony to celebrate this accomplishment. Many Kingdoms or Orders have standard ceremonies or important features of a ceremony that are common, but variations are fine as long as the candidate and the Crown agree in advance.
This article tries to lay out some of the common features of most Peerage ceremonies for consideration. If a candidate has already been recognized with another peerage then their second or higher ceremony will frequently be less elaborate.
For insight into what goes on to select candidates see the article on polling orders.
Notifying the Candidate
One of the joys of Royalty is surprising deserving people with awards. It is their right and duty to be the people who inform a peer-to-be that they will be recognized with a Peerage. Other people will typically know in advance including the candidate's mentor, spouse/significant other, and other members of the Order being offered.
Generally, Their Majesties inform the candidate in one of three ways:
- On the spot - The elevation happens immediately.
- Vigil now, Elevation later - The candidate is escorted to their vigil immediately and offered elevation at some later time, most often court that same evening.
- Writs - The candidate is informed of Their Majesties' decision to recognize them with a peerage with the vigil and elevation to be held at some mutually agreed future event, perhaps months later. The candidate is still surprised, but then can help decide the details of their vigil and elevation ceremonies.
A vigil is a quiet time for the candidate to contemplate their upcoming elevation. The candidate is offered congratulations and advice on their new role. They are typically separated from the rest of the event in a private room or tent that is decorated with their heraldry or other meaningful items where visitors can join them for brief discussions. Hospitality (food and drink) is frequently provided for those visiting the candidate.
- Cleansing - A ritual cleansing is a common feature of most SCA vigils. This can be a hand washing, a bath, a dunk in a lake, or a dowsing with ice water. The candidate is told that they are washing away all of their old cares and concerns and they are beginning again.
- Vigil Tunic - A new white linen tunic or shirt is common for the vigilant to wear during their vigil to represent this clean, pure state.
Elevations take place in a formal Royal court. The court can be a scheduled general purpose court or can be a special purpose court for this single elevation. Knights and Masters of Defense can be recognized on the field of battle. Laurels and Pelicans can sometimes be recognized during a competition or at a place where they are serving the Society.
- Praising the Candidate - Some form of public praise for the candidate is a common feature of most Peerage ceremonies. This can take the form of the Five Worthies Ceremony (below) or a themed presentation like the Seven Virtues or Seven Deadly Sins, etc.
- Presentation of Regalia - Each Peerage order has corresponding regalia which are presented to the candidate
- Oath of Fealty (semi-optional) - Knights are expected to swear fealty to the Crown as part of their ceremony. Other new peers may choose to do so.
The Atlantian Five Worthies Ceremony
By far the most common Peerage ceremony in Atlantia is the "Five Worthies" Ceremony. It has this name because a representative from each bestowed Peerage (four people) plus a Lady of the Rose (the fifth worthy) are invited, in turn, to briefly speak about the candidate and how their Order agrees that the candidate is appropriate for this new role. Typically, the worthies can speak in any order with the worthy for the candidate's new Order going last. Occasionally, a non-Peer member of the populous who is meaningful to the candidate will be asked to speak as well.
In Case of Peerage, Break Glass
It can be very helpful to create a list of the things that you would like to happen at your hypothetical future Peerage ceremony. This could include if you'd prefer a writ, what family and friends you'd like to have invited, what Peers you'd like to speak about you, etc. Give that list to your Peer, mentor, spouse, significant other, or logical person that the Crowns or Order will contact when it really is time to plan your recognition. Many Peers will ask for this sort of list from their students.