Award Recommendations: what are they, and why are they important?

One of the things that the SCA does is grant awards to our participants, much like any other group.  In a sense, each SCA event is like the OSCARs, BAFTAs or the Tonys – we recognize in court as a Society excellence (in a few tiers, that is) in four main groups: martial skill (in both armoured and rapier/cut and thrust), arts and sciences, and service.  Unlike modern awards (which usually go through a jury process), SCA awards are granted by royal whim.

Side note: I have overheard some people congratulate others on “earning” an award.  If (and it’s a big if) this were Scouting or something of its ilk (which uses an awards system with set rubrics indicating if an award guideline has been met), I would be inclined to agree.  The SCA, though, uses a different system – awards are granted by the Crown/Coronets/Baronial Coronets, so even if an Order doesn’t agree (and yes, that does come with ramifications – so bear this in mind, those who aspire to wear the crowns of their kingdom or coronets of their principality or barony), a Crown can grant the award to whoever They wish.  So, yes, whim is part of the reason an award is granted (and yes, it does put a burden on those in the Big Chairs to see that Their populace is thus recognized).  Depending on kingdom, Orders may be polling or consulting orders, which is another difference, so please check with your local kingdom.  The core of a polling/consulting order does involve discussion about a candidate, but again, those who wear the Crowns/Coronets make the ultimate decision.  (In short, this is really me arguing about semantics.)

Tackling the why question first: awards can help in the sense of belonging to a group within the SCA.  They show that a gentle has a certain skill or promise of a skill.  Awards, though, because they are granted at the whim of the Crown/Coronet, may not match up to when you think a person should be granted an award.  (Also, another side note: do things in the SCA because you think they’re fun and not to rack up the awards – you will set yourself up for burnout very quickly.  It can be hard to fight the jealousy monster, but remember that awards are also not a pie – there will always be more awards granted, and someone else receiving an award does not diminish the value of yours.)  On a note of psychology, yes, it absolutely feels great to have one’s work validated by the folks in the Big Chairs, and it helps create theatre for those who are assisting in presenting courts at events.  It allows scribes to create beautiful works of art and wordsmiths to stretch their poetic muscles.  It adds to the events of the day.  In a volunteer management sense, awards help to reward commitment to the SCA as a construct.  (That being said, do not rely on the Crown/Coronets to thank someone for a job well done.  Please express your appreciation often to thank people for what they bring to our world.  I cannot emphasize this enough.)

Onto the how-tos.  Every kingdom/principality/barony handles award recommendations a bit differently, though most (if not all) kingdoms have a way to recommend someone for an award on their website.  Again, please check with your local kingdom/principality/barony to see how award recommendations are handled.

When it comes to writing an award recommendation, your first stop should be the kingdom’s Order of Precedence.  The Order of Precedence (or OP, as it gets truncated to) is a sequential hierarchy of nominal ranking of persons within the SCA.  It comes in handy when making toasts at feasts, but it also comes in handy when making sure that the person you’re writing an award recommendation for doesn’t already have the award that you’re writing them in for.  If you need assistance in looking up a person in your group’s OP, reach out to a herald!

A few things to be aware of when you’re recommending an award:

  • Anyone can recommend anybody for anything. You do not need to be a member of an order to recommend someone.  Additionally, you can also recommend people for awards even if you don’t have any.  Some kingdoms require membership in the SCA to suggest awards, so, again, please check your local kingdom
  • Be clear but succinct.  Tell the Crown what good works you’ve seen a gentle do, but don’t go on for pages and pages.  The Crown is busy – please respect their time!
  • Be specific and give details, e.g. skill levels, positions held, events attended, classes taught, articles published, presentation, personal qualities.  Are they really great at the underwater basketweaving of Upper Flibonia?  Do they teach it?  Are they kind?  Indicate this to the Crown!
  • Keep a record of who you’ve suggested.  Depending on how you recommend (and the system that the kingdom/principality/barony has), you may have an option to get the award recommendation you’ve written copied to your email.
  • Be respectful.  I feel this should go without saying, however, I can understand how frustrating it can be.
  • Be honest.  Exaggerating can be easy to do, but state just the facts.  Explain why you think that someone should receive a specific award.
  • If the Crown hasn’t acted on an award recommendation, wait until the next reign, and write a new one.  Sometimes things happen behind the scenes.  Still, don’t stop writing award recommendations.

So, let’s put all of this together and write a sample letter.  I have a tendency to not go with terribly flowery language (see directly below), with a noted exception of if I am writing to out of kingdom royals.  Names and important details have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

Truly Gentlesdottir makes a crapton of lucet. And I mean a crapton. She teaches people (including me!) how to manipulate string, and she does an amazing job with it. I tangle string, and even with that, she managed to teach me. It is for these reasons that I commend her for inclusion into the Leather Mallet.

A more flowery one could be written as such (it’s an out of kingdom one, so mind the IKA, too!):

I write to you today of Pelagia McAwesome and the works of her hand that she has continued to excel in through three different kingdoms – Flibonia, Lacava, and now Scipio Fortress. When I met Pelagia some 20 years ago, she was with her glass, finishing up some works and then teaching others how to play with enamels. I learned from her own hand almost a full decade ago how better to blend colours with brushes that didn’t quite behave (no easy task)! If you were one of the lucky ones in Lacava, you received a scroll made by Pelagia – though, lucky for us, she made many, many, many beautiful pieces that now live across the land.

Her current work is with creating her tools and other items and then creating incredible, beautiful works for some lucky person to display in their home. She has also done some incredible stained glass, and best off, she will willingly teach, even while balancing being a mom.

I do only hope that this out-of-kingdom’s visitor’s voice only shows to see the impact of Your subject Pelagia, and that You see it fit to add her to your garden of Flowers.  I feel so very strongly that she is so very, very, very overdue.

In service to the Society,

Baroness Konstantia Kaloethina

As you can see, there’s a couple ways to do it, but it’s something that needs to be done.  I make it a habit to write a few award recommendations a week when possible.

So, there you have it – you should be able to look at writing award recommendations.  I challenge you to think of who you think should be recognized and write those recommendations.  The Crown appreciates it – I promise!

9 thoughts on “Award Recommendations: what are they, and why are they important?

  1. Good points. I think another thing that adds to the “whimsical” nature of awards is that it is truly, physically impossible for any Crown to award every “deserving” person during their reign. They can’t be everywhere at once, so it is impossible for them to know the worth of every person without the aide of award recs and, even then, there are instances where Orders must be consulted and scrolls must be made and signed. It’s impossible. I always say that for every person getting an award, there are possibly five other people sitting in court equally deserving. Their desert does not diminish that of the person being awarded, nor does the fact that they are not being awarded diminish their worth in any way. It’s a little arbitrary, but it’s not intentionally exclusive and the awards are wonderful, but pretend: we’re all still a society of equals. At the end of the day, we all pay the same membership dues and site fees and we’re all needed to make the SCA great.

    And you also make another great point: people act like awards are Jehovah’s Witness’ heaven. It’s like there’s the subconscious terror that once a certain number is reached, they’ll either stop giving out the award (the fear of the person aspiring to the award) or that they’ll start taking awards away (the fear of the person who has the award). In reality, it’s like Catholic heaven: you have to work your rear off, but ultimately there’s room for everyone.

    It’s also important to keep writing award recommendations to each Crown because, from a clerical standpoint, the most efficient thing for an incoming King and Queen to do is throw out the old award recs and start clean with their own system. They only have six months or so to work, they can’t waste time making sense of someone else’s system.


      • I write one to every Crown until the person gets in mind gets it. It’s a good way to prevent the “fallen through the cracks” phenomenon that sometimes occurs.

        In my younger days, I heard a lot of “If I become Crown, I’ll award that person…” Why wait for a hypothetical? Yes, awards are at the discretion of the Crown, but one still has a responsibility to write them an award rec and talk them up to other people so they write award recs as well. I’ve seen people I wrote award recs for become GoAs and even peers. Now when someone is ready for a peerage, it’s likely many people are recommending them, but each recommendation the Crown receives on that person’s behalf can help them in their decision which, as their subject, I believe is part of my duty.

        Another thing I think people should ask themselves on a “do unto others” basis is, “How would I feel if my friends saw that I was doing something well but didn’t bother to write an award rec for me?” And sometimes your friends aren’t “there” yet and you know that, but when they are, I think their is a personal, non-SCA, fundamental responsibility to point out what they’re doing.

        Also, if a reason for reticence for some in submitting award recs is shyness, I can truthfully say that I’ve never had a Crown contact me after an award rec, nor have I ever been reprimanded or censored for my award recommendations and when I had only been in the SCA a year, I wrote a couple chivalry recommendations. (Both eventually became knights, so clearly I was merely as astute to what was going on as the next person.) No one is going to judge your boldness and your recommendation, at least in Calontir, will stay confidential.


      • I should specify, I write one award rec to everyone Crown until the person gets it unless something comes up to make me rethink my assessment. I don’t write to the same Crown about the same person more than once.

        Also, I heard something about the award recs log having been lost a couple years ago, but I rarely work as a scribe and certainly have never been involved with a reign.


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  4. I always tell people to include impact statements. It’s good to say that someone has been the exchequer for 8 years… but what did they do with the office? Anyone can sit in a position and do nothing. Did they clean up a previous mess? Did they develop a way to streamline event receipt record keeping? Tell the royalty that they teach at least one class at every University event… but include the impact. How many people regularly attend? Does the class result in more folks going forth and doing the thing? Are the class notes clear enough that a novice can follow them?

    State the action or activity. State the level of activity. State why the action or activity positively impacted the local group, kingdom, or society as a whole. Be brief, but be specific. Also, do not go on about what a “wonderful person” they are. Vague superlatives are essentially worthless.


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