Pelican Elevation Ceremony based on English and Flemish Guilds and Orders

This is a ceremony which I wrote for Crispin Fletcher upon his elevation into the Order of the Pelican. My goal was to create an SCA-compatible Peerage ceremony which incorporated elements of monarchical Orders, trade guilds, and shooting guilds, with the majority of it sourced within a 200 year timeframe - 1300-1500. I entered this piece in the 2022 Kingdom Arts & Sciences Competition and won third place in the Open Division. Notably, I also broke the performance art rubric.

Written in May 2022

Crispin’s role in the society is itself an anachronism: there were heavy financial penalties associated with bowyers who fletched and archers who used a crossbow, and vice versa. Crispin does all four. Further, The Order of the Pelican was based upon European monarchical Orders, but Crispin’s service was more aligned with the activities of both trade guilds and shooting guilds in England and Flanders. In order to adequately outline his responsibilities and duties as a Pelican, it was necessary to draw from each order and guild. Fortunately, the monarchical Orders and trade/shooting guilds had substantial temporal overlap as well as similar moral ideals.

Monarchical Orders, also known as chivalric Orders, were established by a sovereign and membership was generally drawn from the aristocracy. The members of the trade guilds in England were generally considered lower class individuals, though some social stratification was in play - the guilds had an order of precedence, and members within the guild could be of lower or higher rank. It is notable, then, that membership in the shooting guilds in Flanders was not restricted to one or the other. In fact, surviving membership rolls support that the guild members were “representative of their towns politically, economically, and professionally” (Crombie, 2016).

I relied heavily on the work of Laura Crombie, both in her book Archery and Crossbow Guilds of Medieval Flanders, and her thesis, From War to Peace; Archery and Crossbow Guilds in Flanders. The book was lent to me in the early stages of my research and it was influential on the creation of the ceremony. The book examines the relationship between the archery and crossbow shooting guilds in Flanders and the municipalities which housed them. Crombie discusses the social and civic impacts of these guilds. The majority of her sources are manuscripts which are undigitized, not translated into English, or are otherwise inaccessible to me. I reached out to the Archives Municipales de Douai, one of her frequently-cited sources, to attempt to get access to one of the manuscripts in hopes of identifying some additional elements which could be utilized for this ceremony. This contact attempt was unsuccessful.

I also utilized the transcription of the Liber Albus, a work compiled from the archives of the City of London. This collection of city records included numerous ordinances and articles of trade guilds in London from 1275-1419. Notably, it had the Articles of the Bowyers and the Fletchers (1371) and the Ordinance of the Fletchers (1403). The Bowyers and Fletchers were considered to be lesser guilds of lower prestige than, for example, the Mercers, Fishmongers, or Drapers. Therefore, there was less documentary support than there is for other guilds, such as the Merchant Taylor’s Guild. I used the articles and ordinances of these other guilds to guide my interpretations when documentary support was thin.

The Liber Albus also included references to civil cases and the associated punishments and impacts. For example, a person who was convicted of selling bad wine was forced to drink said wine. There were also examples of guild members who failed to fulfill their responsibilities and it described the punishments; by reading about the crimes and convictions, I was able to infer the principles and morals of the guilds to further inform my choices when writing the ceremony.

The basic structure of the Peerage ceremony as written in the Boke of Ceremony of Northshield was used as a starting point. While based on European monarchical Orders, this format is fairly basic: attestations, admonitions, oath, regalia. Elements of this generic format are documentable to multiple time periods and places, including Anglo-Saxon England in the 800’s, continental Europe in the medieval and early renaissance timeframes, and even 7th century Tang dynasty China. The elements are also similar to those referenced in trade and shooting guilds, and for good reason: the rise in popularity of trade and shooting guilds was concurrent with that of the monarchical Orders, though the monarchical Orders were established earlier.

This ceremony would likely have been performed in a guild hall or in a church, depending on the time period and context. It is unlikely that a herald would have been involved in the guild induction ceremonies. A senior guild member or alderman would have handled the induction, and lesser guild members kept track of fees. I was unable to find any surviving guild induction ceremonies, likely in part because they were secret. In contrast, most monarchical Orders had a herald. Initially, their role was primarily administrative - keeping track of fees, regalia, and membership rolls. As the centuries progressed, the heralds effectively became “priests in the secular religion of chivalry, and presided at almost all of its rituals” (Boulton, 1987). As the structure of the ceremony in the Boke is based on a monarchical Order, I chose to include the involvement of a herald.

Finding a balance between all the disparate elements was challenging. I believe that Peerage ceremonies should be accessible to the populace who is witnessing them, and most of the populace is used to the so-called standard ceremony in the Boke. Getting too far off the beaten track can be confusing and causes the populace to lose focus. As previously mentioned, there is historical support for the general format of the ceremony as written. The difficult part was identifying which elements could be altered to create this amalgamation of four different ceremonies while still remaining faithful to the intent and feel of the standard ceremony.

Overall, I feel like I achieved my goal of creating this ceremony. A person like Crispin would not have existed within the frameworks of the guilds and Orders. If such a person did exist, I would think that the ceremony I wrote would be appropriate for them.

This is the script-style version of the document. The citations are at the end. This is the best format if you want to use the ceremony script as written.


Please see Works Cited on the Archery-Flavored Elevation link above for a complete list of references.

Significant credit owed to Laura Crombie: From War to Peace: Archery and Crossbow Guilds in Flanders C.1300-1500. 2010. University of Glasgow,