Heralds of the middle ages were the multipurpose communication, messaging and record-keeping ‘systems’ of choice for the nobility.
The earliest heralds may have been minstrels: literate travellers, accustomed to learning and remembering stories and lineages, ideal for carrying messages and passing on news. Other heralds may have served in fighting forces for their local knight or baron: someone who recorded names, numbers of combatants, and their respective coats of arms in a roll of arms, who could advise their commander of who was on the muster.
In the late middle ages, heralds took on new roles for advising the crown, acting as ambassadors, allowed diplomatic immunity to allow them to convey messages to allies and enemies.
In the Current Middle Ages heralds continue to support the populace and our royals by announcing news, recording and registering names and arms, and keeping records.
Happily, we now share that work with computers and the internet: it’s no longer an exclusive preserve of a handful of noblemen, but available to everyone. You too can release your inner herald! In our courts, our royals - princes and princesses in Insulae Draconis, kings and queens for Drachenwald - give out awards, to thank its volunteers for their good work, and to recognise individuals' learning, improvement and excellence in the arts of war and of peace. Broadly modelled on medieval orders and honours, some awards are described in the Society’s laws, but each kingdom also develops its own honours, with names and badges that mean something special to the people who live there.
This Insulae Draconis website includes a list of the awards that our prince and princess can give out The Drachenwald site similarly lists those given by the king and queen
After someone receives an award in court, it’s the heralds’ job to record the name of the recipient and the award details.
This information goes into the Order of Precedence (OP, or ‘oh-pee’). Each kingdom keeps its own records, and ours is kept in a searchable online database Using the OP, you can look up:
- all the awards a person has received, using their Society name or their legal name
- all the people who have ever received a particular award
- the awards given by a particular king and queen, or prince and princess
- the ‘order of march’, which is the way you’d queue everyone in Drachenwald up from the newest arrival to the highest ranking Crusty Old Peer ™
The OP forms part of our kingdom and principality history; you can see what happened at court at a given event, and track the official recognitions given to the populace. Because many people have passed through our kingdom, it also holds records of many other kingdoms’ awards, so you can see where people have served and played outside Drachenwald.
The most frequent use of the order of precedence database is to check who has what. Before you write a recommendation to their Highnesses or to their Majesties, start by checking the OP, to see if the person you’re recommending already has the award. If it’s not listed, then you can start your message to the coronet or crown. Of course, like medieval heralds, heralds and their records aren’t perfect. Sometimes the court herald doesn’t turn in the report right away; sometimes a planned award is delayed, or the recipient doesn’t attend the event as expected. If you find any mistakes (for instance, you saw an award given in court, but you can’t find the record of it within a couple of weeks) you can contact the Posthorn herald - the deputy in charge of the OP - to ask about it. There’s also a form on the Drachenwald website
If record-keeping, researching names and painting armory, learning to blazon or organising court appeal to you, you too could have an inner herald waiting for their chance to shine. You just need to get in touch to find out how to take part. I’m happy to chat about heraldry any time.
Reference: Dennys, R. The heraldic imagination. Clarkson N. Potter, Inc, 1975.