Precedence marches are part of the medieval pomp and pageantry that we celebrate in the Society. For the monarchs who sit in review of them, it must be a truly inspiring sight to see the ranks of the kingdom process into the hall. For everyone else, however, they are a bloody pain in the nether regions.
It would seem a simple matter to organize such a march, but it is not. One of the reasons for this is that not everyone marches in according to their highest rank. For instance, a seneschal who has an AoA may opt to march in with the general population of his group, or a peer may wish to process with her spouse who is of low rank. Add to this the stragglers who show up after the march is initially organized, recent elevations, and gentles of rank who have moved in from other kingdoms, and it takes the better part of an hour to organize the march. During this time the heralds grow increasingly frustrated and the populace increasingly bored.
As you may have gathered by now, I don’t much care for precedence marches. When I was a non-armiger my usual tactic was to lay low until after the march was over then sneak into court. Now that I am a person of some middling rank I feel that I can not avoid such a march of one is called for.
There was one particular precedence march during the time I was non-armigerous that I do remember quite vividly. It was the march at the coronation referred to in the previous Vintage Tale: Arms Fever. This particular set of monarchs was very taken with the idea of heraldic display and pageantry, and wished to start their first court with a precedence march.
Setting up the march was the usual organizational chaos for several reasons. One of the problems was that they kept trying to put Honorable Lady Isolde in with the Laurels. A herald would try to lead her back to the peers, (this march was organized from lowest to highest), while Isolde would patiently explain that she was not a Laurel. The herald would consult his or her order of precedence, decide that Isolde was right, then lead her back to where she had been with the grants of arms. Five minutes later another herald would begin the process all over again.
While I was watching all this going on, I noticed that Lady Tanya Areina from Axemoor was standing by herself among the armigers. Areina was recently divorced and had no one to escort her into the hall. I decided that a beautiful lady should not have to go unescorted into the hall, so I broke my usual rule of avoiding precedence marches and offered to escort her.
We were standing there pleasantly chatting when the heralds announced that Their Majesties wished the population to pavane into their presence. “Fine,” I thought, “I know how to pavane, it was the first dance I learned in the Society.”
For those who did not know the dance, the heralds then proceeded to instruct the populace on how to pavane. “Starting on the right foot…” the herald began.
At this point the instructing heralds must have seen me wince because he hastily added, “Now, those of you who know this dance know that it is supposed to start on the left foot, but we are going to start of the right foot to make it easier for those who don’t know it.”
“If you don’t know the dance it doesn’t matter which foot you start on,” I thought, “and for those of us who do know it, it will be confusing to start on the right foot.”
After the heralds were satisfied that everyone could do this curiously inverted pavane, the march started. Areina and I started out in a position some distance from the entrance to the hall so it was a while before it was our turn to process in. When we got to the entrance we got a surprise. Instead of a stately pavane the musicians-in-a-box were playing a gavotte!
The tape that was being used for the march was evidently a dance tape. The first people who processed into the hall did so to a pavane but after that time was over the music moved on to the next dance. By the time we got there a gavotte was playing.
A gavotte is moderately paced while a pavane is slow and stately, consequently there is no way you can pavane to a gavotte. Areina and I looked at each other, and then at the couple who had been immediately in front of us, who were valiantly trying to pavane down the aisle. “Let’s just walk,” I said, and so we did.
At the beginning of the court the new monarchs announced that there would be a precedence march at the Meridies Arts and Sciences Faire held during their reign. In order to encourage those armigers who, through indifference or laziness, had not submitted a device to the heralds, no armiger would be permitted to participate in the march who by that time did not have a device at least submitted.
While I do not know this for a fact, I would be willing to wager a large sum that their reign sets a record for the lowest number of device submissions.