Know Your Place At Court
(36 Akroeg 412, Crossing, Zoluren)
by Dreamheart Delaevan-Forestwolf
Court Bard to Prince Vorclaf Sorvendig of Zoluren
So, you’ve been invited to become a member of the Court. I know you must be so excited, full of ideas, and nervous. This collection of tips should not be considered complete and all-encompassing, but it is a good, rounded start for you. It is general enough to help you be a success in most Provincial Courts.
This is a valuable reference to anyone in the Realms who may need to know how to interact with a Noble or Court member, not just for those who have assignments.
Know the difference between a Royal, a Noble, a staff member, and a courtier.
- Royal: The direct members of the ruling family (at the moment). Not their Uncles, Cousins, or in-laws. Learn every name and how to pronounce it correctly. If they have a nick-name, learn that, too. Only use their name or nick-name if you are given leave.
- Noble: The larger number of people from the recognized Families and Houses of the Lords of the Province and others who may hold title without being part of the ruling Houses. The ruling Council and/or Ruler has the authority to create new Nobles, or revoke their titles. Most of them have large parcels of land within the borders of the Province. Learn their names, and the names of all their relatives. Become familiar with their place in history. Nobility can be granted as an honor to people outside of the Houses. The terms of this Nobility may or may not be hereditary, and will be determined in the fine print of the honor when it is bestowed. Only use their name or nick-name if you are given leave to do so.
- Staff: There are a number of people required to make sure the Court, the royal residences, the government institutions, and the Province runs smoothly. They may not be present during formal audiences, but they are every bit as much a part of the Court’s daily existence as the ones you see in the receiving lines. Address them as any other Nobility.
- Courtier: For the purpose of this discussion, a Courtier is someone who is appointed to a position at Court or for the Province who is not necessarily of noble birth. (Courtiers can certainly also be Nobles.) If they are not part of the Nobility, address them as Nobility or by their title. It is the safest route, until they let you know what they would prefer from you. If they are part of the Nobility, well, then use their name or nick-name only if you are given leave to do so. (And for goodness sake, never confuse ‘courtier’ with ‘courtesan’. That could cost you your life, or worse.)
- Regional Authorities: Some of the positions of the local authorities are appointed, some are hereditary, they should all be treated as you would treat a Noble by virtue of their position. In almost all cases, even ??unfriendly?? ones, these authorities are recognized by the Provincial government and your Monarch. They should be treated as you treat any of the Nobles.
Remember that you serve the Province (the People and the Court) at the pleasure of the Court.
- If you are looking for your 15 roisaen of fame, this is probably not where you belong. Your income and training will be interrupted, and there will be times when your duty is a grave imposition on your free and family time. You can be unappointed easily and quickly for one misjudgment, one indiscretion, or one misplaced word.
- This is not like the end-prize of a quest or a grand promotion. Things do not end with this appointment, the hard work is just beginning.
Just because you have a shiny new title, you are not an equal to the Royals or Nobles.
- Frankly, you probably are not an equal to the staff, either. No Court on the face of Elanthia runs smoothly if the Cook has taken offense. Trust me on this.
- Never touch a Royal or a Noble unless you have been given leave to.
- Treat them all with the utmost respect. Wait for permission to speak. Do not presume you can whisper to a Royal or Noble without them whispering to you first. Do not presume that because they have whispered to you on one occasion, you have free reign to whisper to them later. Wait until such familiarity is granted to you.
- Just because they whisper back to you when you have taken such liberties only means that their manners are better than yours.
Protocol is very important at Court.
- One of your first meetings should be with the Protocol Officer to understand how things work, and how (and where) you are expected to fit in. Use this opportunity to ask many questions. This person can also be an excellent resource for future questions so that you do not embarrass yourself or your Monarch in any official, social, or public setting.
- Always stand in the presence of your betters. Do not sit until they do, or give you leave to. Rise to your feet if someone important comes in.
- Don’t offer food or drink to Royals and Nobles unless you are asked to get it for them. Allow the hired staff to serve it from known sources. You will save your Royals and Nobles from an embarrassing situation when they need to refuse it.
General Conduct at Court, or around the Royal Family, Nobles, or visiting dignitaries should follow the general practices of good decorum and Court manners.
- Curtsy or bow to a Royal or Noble. It is up to you whether or not to do so towards a Courtier, but realize that the better part of wisdom is in the details. Everything you do is being watched by someone. When there are several Nobles or Royals in the area, you do not have to curtsey or bow to every one of them, only the ranking one. But if someone enters who outranks that person, then this traditional mark of deference and respect should be shown to the new addition to the area.
- Court is a busy place, as are events which the Court members may attend. Keep all noisiness to a minimum by not using cycling magic that can be visible, removing distracting items that move around or are randomly catching people’s eyes, and keeping your comments relevant when given the opportunity to speak. In other words, train, sparkle, advertise, converse, and joke somewhere else. Keep all your own motions to a minimum. Stand there respectfully. Do not take away from the proceedings. Speak only when spoken to, or given direction to speak.
- When you are attending an audience, meeting, or even a performance, be courteous to both your fellow watchers and the speaker or performer by not carrying on conversations during the event, except in whispers to the person(s) next to you. Exiting or entering once the curtain has gone up, so to speak, should be done between numbers, between acts, or between speakers. Even if it is an awful performance, wait for an appropriate time.
When visiting a Court in another Province, or an event at which there are Court members in another Province, all these guidelines go double, maybe triple.
- You are essentially a guest in their home. Your behavior in other Provinces WILL be evaluated, talked about, and opinions will be formed about your Province based on the way you act. I know it isn’t fair, but it is the way it is. If you are very lucky, your name will never come up in the contents of a diplomatic pouch that arrives for your Monarch from a neighboring Province.
- Before your visit, take time to learn the Royals, Nobles, and the Courtiers in the foreign province. Learn their protocol.
Mind your tongue everywhere you go.
- Never speak of what has happened at Court if it is not a public meeting. If the Royals and/or Nobles trust you with a secret, take it to your grave. If in doubt about whether information should be shared, and with whom, ask. Never gossip about someone. Never speak ill of anyone who is not an Enemy of the State. Never joke about someone in a disparaging way. This includes joking with members of your own family in private.
- If you gossip, the first thing someone will wonder is what you say about them when they are absent. The second thing they will wonder is how the Provincial authorities could support anyone involved in such misleading and destructive behavior. It goes downhill from there, and it all ends badly. You end up undermining your own reputation at least, and risk doing harm to the security and reputation of the Province at worst.
- Do not name drop. Know the difference between a relevant remark about what someone in authority said and just dropping their name into a conversation to make yourself more important. Because the people already know the difference and you will gain no respect in their eyes for having done this. If they begin to resent you, they will also begin to resent the authority of the Province that appointed you, and you become unable to accomplish what the Crown asks of you without the respect of the people.
- People look to you as a role-model and will take their cues about how to treat other people from how you treat people. The Court and its members set the tone for the entire Province.
You no longer get to have personal opinions in public which are in opposition to the stated positions and policies of your Monarch, the Court, and Province.
- It’s brutal, and you may not like it, but it’s the truth. Everything you say and do from this moment on is a reflection of your Monarch and the government. You undermine authority and help to erode stability when you disagree with positions or policies of your Province in public.
- If you don’t like it, resign and then join or start an Order where you can have or make your own policies.
All your actions in public should be both legal and within the moral compass of your ruler and the Province. Whether you agree or not (See the point just before this one.)
- Do not associate with Enemies of The State and those who are at odds with your Province – perhaps even including those at odds with other provinces. If you think you need to, for any reason whatever (including to benefit the Court you serve in) do it only with permission of the Crown.
If the appropriate Courtier is not present to do so, make sure that all visiting dignitaries and Nobles are introduced to one another.
- Introductions are an art form that Protocol dictates. If you need to quietly make inquiries to arrange an introduction, do so to insure that all the Royals and Nobles know any visiting dignitaries. Never introduce yourself. It is an embarrassment to everyone involved.
Know the proper greetings and titles of the Rulers, Nobles, and Courtiers of your Province
- …and every other Province. Remember to use their preferred greetings, titles, and affectations, and learn to recognize Noble family members even when you have yet to meet them.
- When you include their title as a reply to them, do it at the end of your communication with them: “Yes, the weather is uncommonly pleasant this year, Your Majesty.”
Nobles have a much wider acceptable range of actions than you will ever enjoy, especially in their presence.
- Just accept it. They are born to it. But they have been taught the consequences of their actions, as well. Do not take your cues from the few Noble family members who exhibit eccentric or fringe behavior, and never use it as a justification for your actions.
When you are attending a meeting that another person is running, follow the same rules of order that normally apply to any meeting.
- Stop your cycling magic. Stifle your movements, and especially any items you have that … move on their own. Do not speak without being called upon. If you wish to say something, raise your hand or do whatever the person running the meeting has indicated you should do.
- It is very important that you not usurp or steal, or appear to, the authority of or attention from both your betters and the people who are actually in charge of the meeting. It’s their meeting. Your title or position relevant to theirs is meaningless. You are the very voice and representative of the government in this situation, and you should act with quiet deference, decorum, and perfect deportment, whether or not the government assigned you to go to the meeting.
Take the initiative and work on something that enhances and defines your position, not something that enlarges it.
- Leave the kingdom-building to the Province. It will win you no friends in the Court or in the public.
If you are a merchant, a craftsman of some sort, an artist, or just make your living buying and selling things, be very careful not to use your position or your appearance at any function as a platform to hawk your wares.
- Even if you are not embarrassed about it, it makes everyone else extremely uncomfortable and does not lift up or enhance you, or your Province. Many times it will hurt both your reputation and that of your province when you stoop to such crass commercialism.
- The time to do business is on your own time.
If you still hold a position with one of the Orders, or belong to one …
- Remember not to use official meetings or events for the Province, or for another Order, to advertise or promote your Order’s upcoming _____ (fill in the blank).
All of these pointers apply both when you are present at Court (as in the official “Holding Court” definition) or not.
- Wherever Royalty and Nobles go, you are held to these same standards. Some Court functions will have an even higher level of formality. Please follow the guide and directions of your Protocol Officer for such occasions.
And, finally, it cannot be said enough times; wherever it is that you go, you always represent the Province. There’s no “off duty” hat that is going to let you do or say stupid, offensive, illegal, forbidden, rude, or treasonous things.