With the proliferation of various colors of chain by members of the Order of Chivalry, including black chains for those who support the Black Lives Matter movement and rainbow-colored chains for those who support LGBTQIA+ rights, this is a good time to remind people about which tinctures and materials of chains are protected by the Society for Creative Anachronism.
The correct answer is this: All unadorned chains are protected regalia for members of the Order of Knighthood throughout the SCA, regardless of color or material.
Where does it say that?
“That’s a tradition, not law.” “My kingdom does it differently.” “That’s not in Corpora.”
Corpora doesn’t mention chains for the same reason Corpora doesn’t mention the necessity of wearing helms in armored combat; it’s a policy, not a bylaw.
Corpora VI.C contains the charter for Laurel Sovereign of Arms and the College of Arms, and delegates authority on names, armory, etc. Further mentions in Corpora (specifically in section VIII) designate Laurel’s authority over award names and insignia. Finally, Section I.A.3 of Corpora shows the precedence of law, placing “Society Officers’ Rulings Approved By the Board” above kingdom law.
The College of Arms’ Administrative Handbook is the main policy document for heralds, along with the Standards for Evaluation of Names and Armory (SENA), both of which are reviewed and approved by the Board of Directors. Section II.G of the Administrative Handbook reads:
G. Regalia – The Society reserves to itself the right to designate items as regalia, items which are reserved for the use of individuals with certain rank or position. Only items designated as regalia by the Laurel office are reserved as regalia. A list of registered regalia can be found in the Glossary of Terms as well as the Ordinary and Armorial.
The Glossary of Terms includes a table listing the reserved regalia of the Society. The table appears in its entirety below:
Where color is not specified, all colors and metals are reserved.
|A cap of maintenance gules trimmed ermine||Members of the Order of the Pelican|
|A cap of maintenance gules trimmed argent goutty de sang||Members of the Order of the Pelican|
|A coronet embattled||Royal peers holding a County|
|A coronet with strawberry leaves||Royal peers holding a Duchy|
|A circular chain||Knights|
|A crown or coronet||Royalty, Royal Peers, and the Court and Landed Baronage|
|A laurel wreath||Members of the Order of the Laurel|
|A pelican in its piety||Members of the Order of the Pelican|
|A pelican vulning itself||Members of the Order of the Pelican|
|A white baldric||Masters of Arms|
|A white belt||Knights|
|A white livery collar||Members of the Order of Defense|
|A wreath of roses||Members of the Order of the Rose|
Note the citation at the top of the table: “Where color is not specified, all colors and metals are reserved.” This applies to the description of the regalia, “A circular chain.”
How long has that policy been in place?
The chain was first registered in June 1982, when Wilhelm von Schlussel, Laurel King of Arms, was codifying things that had previously been taken for granted. It was coded in the database as a badge, along with the rest of the regalia, but was intended to be regali, (as is made evident in the July 1982 LoAR Cover Letter where he states:
All of the tokens listed for the SCA-wide orders and titles are also badges and will remain in the Armorial, except for the knight’s chain. A chain is a standard charge in heraldry and is not intrinsically restricted in devices, only in physical use as a chain around the neck. The others (white belt, white baldric, laurel wreath, pelican in its piety, crown, rose wreath, etc.) are restricted charges, as they are heraldic badges.
The latter portion of the policy about the chain not being restricted as a heraldic charge was quickly clarified (cf. the return of the device of Jane the Peasant, July 1983 LoAR), but the rest of the ruling remains in place.
Due to continued questions about whether the physical items themselves were protected, the category “regalia” was created in the Ordinary and Armorial in November 1998, and all of the existing regalia was placed there.
The policy has been upheld several times, notably in the August 2006 LoAR Cover Letter which states:
Regalia for the Order of Knighthood includes (Tinctureless) A circular chain. This means a circular chain of any tincture, not just gold. It was so designated by Laurel in 1998, so there is nothing new here. Wreath tells me that some have interpreted this to mean that any necklace, whether or not it is unadorned, should be restricted. That is not the case. A necklace with a pendant is not the same as a knight’s chain.
If a person wishes to wear a chain but is not a Knight of the Society for Creative Anachronism, the easiest solution to bring the chain into compliance is to hang a medallion, pendant, or other adornment from it.
Well, my kingdom’s sumptuary law and traditions…
..are superseded by Society officer ruling from June 1982 per Corpora I.A.3, as mentioned above.
So, to reiterate:
Unadorned chains are protected regalia for members of the Order of Knighthood throughout the SCA, regardless of color or material.