We all know it when someone is called before their Crown, and is handed a scroll (usually, we hope) and has a medallion placed around their necks. These are causes for celebration, of course. But what about all of those other badges that the SCA has registered? What’s the difference between these? Who gets to wear these?
Regalia, in the most traditional sense, consists of the emblems carried by a crown or a coronet, especially at a coronation. These items are things like the crown (coronet), robes, scepter, orb, swords, maces, etc. In a much less rigid sense, regalia can also mean things in the way that the Society uses them, such as the white belt, chain, spurs, and cloak of a Knight; the stole, wreath, medallion, and cloak of a Laurel; the cap of maintenance, medallion, and cloak of a Pelican; or the collar of the Masters of Defence. It is also, by this logic, the medallions that are also given for GoA and AoA awards and orders also considered regalia. (It’s more technically insignia, but for this article, I’ll use the term regalia.)
That said, the Society also registers badges for people to use for those people who occupy a job, such as herald, social media minister, seneschal, or marshal (also, there are a bunch more jobs, but I’d rather not make this look like one of those ’80s commercials for correspondence courses). These, though, are just badges that are representational of the job or a symbol for people to clue into. For example, the Society registered (Fieldless) A cap of Mercury argent winged azure, and designated it for use for officers doing social media work. Does this mean that we expect all members of the various social media teams to look like the Flash? Of course not (though, I’m not stopping you if you do want to wear one). What one can do, instead of wearing the actual item portrayed on their badge, is to wear a medallion, use trim, or wear a baldric with the badge of the order on it – you don’t have to wear or carry the item shown on the badge.
Badges like these, and like award badges are not meant to be props in the sense of regalia. Sure, there might be regalia handed out as a part of the award that people are granted, but that’s not the same thing a thing people wear or carry. I might be a herald, but I don’t have the space to carry two crossed straight trumpets wherever I go (though, I suppose vuvuzelas work in a pinch, but I really prefer my herald’s baton). The point is, badges of the order or of the position held are merely representations. And like badges where we use a symbol to mark our stuff (your arms are you, your badge marks your stuff), this can basically be anything that isn’t already registered or protected.
What is registered heraldically may not actually count as regalia, either! Another example – traditionally, squires wear red belts, proteges wear yellow belts, and apprentices wear green belts, but as this isn’t protected regalia. They are, however, a couple are protected badges in that someone has registered a badge. (Ponte Alto has <Fieldless> A garter buckled in annulo Or registered, meaning that if you’re wearing a gold belt shirt, you look like you may be a member of an order you may not belong to [belts and garters conflict], or if you’re wearing a red belt shirt, you might look like furniture belonging to Herveus d’Ormonde, who has <Fieldless> A belt in annulo gules registered.) So, just because you wear a piece of regalia that has meaning to you, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t also have meaning to someone else.
Regalia, in the actual items that we use in the SCA, has meaning because we give it meaning and belief. One of the literal crowns of the Knowne World has, engraved inside the coronet, “you rule because they believe.” To borrow that phrase for these purposes, your medallion exists because you believe in the magic of the SCA. What I mean by this is that while awards like the Torse or Maunche or Burning Trumpet could possibly exist and be worn by members to represent their standing in an order of precedence, it’s much easier to wear a medallion – but it doesn’t change the standing in the order of precedence. (also, going to interject here and also say that your OP standing also means nothing outside of the SCA and doesn’t preclude you from not attempting to be kind. Your shiny baubles and $5 might buy you a coffee at your local fancy coffee place.)
So, to sum up: regalia is the outward sign of where you are – and they’re kind of glorified props that have meaning because we’ve given it meaning. Award and office badges are better off as symbolic badges instead of physical representations or regalia. And lastly, just because you want to wear a badge that looks like your regalia or status doesn’t mean that it will match up to what you think it means. (But also, be kind at the end of the day!)