A common topic of conversation among newbies and on the SCA-Garb list
is that of sumptuary laws. In period, particularly later in period, some
cities and countries had laws enacted restricting what clothing, fabric,
furs, lengths of trains, jewelry, etc, could be worn by different classes
of people. There is an excellent article on sumptuary laws on Drea Leed's
Costuming Page, titled Sumptuary
Laws in Tudor England: Is Your Garb Legal? This should give you an
approximate idea of what we are talking about when we discuss sumptuary
The purpose of this article, however, is to present sumptuary laws as they
exist, or don't, in the SCA. Many newcomers to the Society, having been to
a Renaissance Faire or half-remembering something about ancient Roman restrictions
on the wearing of purple, often assume that there are such restrictions in
the SCA. Usually, there are not, but there are misconceptions that seem to
get propagated as quickly as they can be invented. Also, Law varies from Kingdom
to Kingdom; a sumptuary law in one area may be nothing more than custom somewhere
else, and unheard of in still a third place.
Some of the deepest-held beliefs about sumptuary laws in the SCA revolve
around belts, specifically the white belt of a Knight. Many people believe
that the white belt is reserved for a Knight by Corpora.
This is untrue. Go ahead, look; we'll wait. :-) White belts and other
regalia for Peerage orders is indeed reserved, but it does not appear in Corpora
-- it's in the Ordinary, which is a listing of all regalia, names and devices
registered by the College of Arms. This registering of the regalia for the
Peerages is listed in the Cover
Letter to the Letter of Returns and Acceptances, from Laurel Queen at
Arms to the College of Arms, dated October 22, 1998:
Is it Regalia, is it a Badge?
There appears to be some confusion both in and out of the College as to
what is registered as regalia. We are therefore directing Morselus to note
in the A&O those pieces of regalia as badge/regalia to make it clearer.
We are listing below the Society orders which were registered as regalia;
we believe that some kingdom badges were also registered that way in the
early 80's and will be investigating it. If so, they will be so designated
in a cover letter as well. If any kingdom herald believes that his kingdom
badge(s) may fall into this category, please contact us immediately with
any available supporting evidence.
Note: these were all registered by Master Wilhelm, then Laurel, in June
These were registered as Society Orders and are protected throughout the
(Fieldless) A chapeau. (For the Order of the Pelican)
(Fieldless) A circular chain. (For the Order of Knighthood)
(Fieldless) A coronet embattled. (For Counts, Earls and Countesses)
(Fieldless) A coronet with strawberry leaves. (For Dukes and Duchesses)
(Fieldless) A crown. (Fieldless) A pelican in its piety. (For the Order
of the Pelican)
(Fieldless) A pelican vulning itself. (For the Order of the Pelican)
(Fieldless) A white baldric. (For the Order of Mastery of Arms)
(Fieldless) A white belt. (For the Order of Knighthood)
(Fieldless) A wreath of roses. (For the Order of the Rose)
We also want to reiterate something a number of our predecessors said.
Anyone in the SCA, of whatever rank or status, may wear a thin metal band
such as the type that is used to hold hair in its place or to hold a veil
in its place.
What Laurel neglected to mention, is that the statement directly above
is subject to Kingdom Law, since such regulation does appear in the laws
of some kingdoms. It is not, however, regulated at Society level.
It is also useful to know that regalia granted in one kingdom may be
worn without fear of repurcussion in other kingdoms, regardless of that
kingdom's sumptuary laws. A practical example from Baron Tibor of Rock
Valley, of the Kingdom of the East: "...my Baronial Coronet is golden:
this would not be permitted in the Midrealm, where territorial barons
wear gold, and landless [barons] wear silver. If I were to move to the
Midrealm... Laurel ruled I could continue to wear the old coronet, not
have to get a new
one. But if I got a new one, it would have to be silver."
A Kingdom-by-Kingdom Look at Sumptuary Laws
Each kingdom appears in the order in which it was created.
The Kingdom of the West
The Kingdom of the West has no sumptuary
The Kingdom of the East
The Kingdom of the East has no sumptuary
The Kingdom of the Middle
The Kingdom of the Middle has sumptuary laws, found in Kingdom
Law (MS Word format; HTML format temporarily unavailable); however, they
are limited to headgear and badges of office and orders. These laws may be
found in ARTICLE IX - Orders, Precedence, and Symbols of Rank.
The Kingdom of Atenveldt
The Kingdom of Atenveldt has Sumptuary Traditions, codified in Kingdom
Acrobat Reader is required to view this document.) Atenveldt does reserve
red belts to Squires, green belts to Apprentices, and yellow belts to Proteges.
This Kingdom also seems to restrict the wearing of circlets among the general
populace to non-metal circlets.
The Kingdom of Meridies
The Kingdom of Meridies has extensive sumptuary laws, found in Kingdom
Law. These laws restrict the wearing of unornamented metal circlets to
members with Grants of Arms (1/2 inch maximum width) and Awards of Arms (1/4
inch maximum width). Meridies also restricts the use of different types of
heraldic banners and flags; check Kingdom Law before building your banner!
The Kingdom of Caid
The Kingdom of Caid has no sumptuary laws. Caidan Kingdom Law may be found
The Kingdom of Ansteorra
The Kingdom of Ansteorra has Coronet Sumptuary Laws, located in Article X
The Kingdom of Atlantia
The Kingdom of Atlantia actually has a law on their books stating that there
are no sumptuary laws or restrictions in Atlantia.
The Kingdom of An Tir
The Kingdom of An Tir has no sumptuary laws, according to the webbed version
of Kingdom Law.
The Kingdom of Calontir
The Kingdom of Calontir has sumptuary laws, found in Kingdom
Law in Section II-300. These laws cover crowns and coronets, circlets,
cloaks, collars of estate, badges of orders, and unadorned chains and
The Kingdom of Trimaris
The Kingdom of Trimaris has sumptuary
laws. These laws regulate the crowns, coronets, and circlets, regalia
of the Peerages, and belts of red, yellow, and green, among a few other things.
Kingdom of The Outlands
The Kingdom of The Outlands has no sumptuary
The Kingdom of Drachenwald
The Kingdom of Drachenwald has no sumptuary
The Kingdom of Artemisia
The Kingdom of Artemisia has Sumptuary Customs and Traditions published
in Kingdom Law. These
customs restrict the wearing of a metal circlet to Royal Peers and the
Baronage. Collars of estate, mantles and capelets (including the numbers
of rows of ermines!), spurs, swords, belts, baldrics, and scarves are
also codified here.
The Kingdom of Aethelmearc
The Kingdom of Aethelmearc has no sumptuary
The Kingdom of Ealdormere
The Kingdom of Ealdormere has no sumptuary laws per se, but does regulate
symbols of rank, as set forth in the Ordinary. These regulations may be found
in Kingdom Law,
in Section XII-200.
I did not check laws of the various Principalities of the Knowne World, as
I believe Principalities are subject to the Laws of their sponsoring Kingdom.
I find it interesting that there are actually very very few Kingdoms with
sumptuary laws that go beyond codifying the reserved regalia as set forth
in the Ordinary. I also noted that Kingdoms that descended from the East (my
home Kingdom) did not have any sumptuary laws -- following in the parent's
footsteps, so to speak?
Please feel free to contact
me with any questions, corrections or comments you may have. --Tasha