Frequently Asked Questions
Circlets & Coronets
By Cat Ellen (THL Eilidh Swann)
My sincerest thanks to Baron Bruce Draconarius, Duchess Ceinwen, and Mistress Huette for their input and suggestions regarding this article. Some of the text is quoted from them, however all errors are my own. Please feel free to send comments about this page to firstname.lastname@example.org for any corrections or updates.
— Sincerely, Eilidh Swann
Circlets & Coronets FAQ Index
(society-reserved for Count/ess)
Embattled Wavy *
(society-reserved for Count/ess)
(some kingdoms reserve)
12 Raised Pearls **
(some kingdoms reserve 12 for Viscount/ess, 6 for Baron/ess)
A circlet is a circle, usually made of metal, worn on the head. It is the generic term — all coronets are circlets, but not all circlets are coronets.
A fillet is a plain circlet, thin and unadorned. It is more like a wire than a band of metal. It has no points and no jewels.
A coronet is usually acknowledged to be a metal circlet with at least one raised point. It is frequently jeweled as well. However, no definition is perfect. A coronet is one of those things that you know one when you see one. A good rule of thumb is, “If you wear it on your head, and people bow to it as they pass you, it’s a coronet.”
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The Actual Laws
Individual kingdoms can have their own sumptuary laws, which can add to (but not override) the SCA-wide laws. Caid has no sumptuary laws. We do have some pretty strong sumptuary traditions, though, and if you ignore them you should know how this could affect you.
There are only two sumptuary laws in the SCA that refer to coronets:
(1) Coronets with strawberry leaves are reserved to dukes and duchesses.(2) Coronets with embattled rims are reserved to counts (earls) and countesses.
That’s it. There’re no defined baronial or viscomital coronets, at least on the SCA-wide level.
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- All normal-sized fillets without points or extensive jewels are okay for anyone to wear, in Caid.
- All coronets are reserved for Dukes, Duchesses, Counts, Countesses, Viscounts, Viscountesses, Barons, and Baronesses.
- In Caid, a single point is traditionally found on the Baronial coronets.
Found on the Ansteorran website, “Pointy Hats” defined:
- “There are two subgroups which make up the Peerage: the Royal Peers and the Orders conferring a Patent of Arms. Royal Peers are Dukes and Duchesses, Counts and Countesses, and Viscounts and Viscountesses. These, together with Barons and Baronesses, are referred to as the Nobility.”
- Thus, “pointy hats” are “the Nobility.”
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How To Understand The Laws and Traditions
Okay. So you’re brand new and you really like a circlet that you found at the local merchant booth. Should you buy it? What if someone already bought one for you as a present — can you wear it? A Good Rule of Thumb: If you see a part of the circlet that goes up to a point or raises up at all from the headband section, the slang for that is a “pointy hat” and these are restricted either by law or tradition to persons who have been awarded a rank or station appropriate to that coronet. Typically, if you see someone with a coronet on their head, it is polite to nod and/or curtsey/bow to them. Certainly, treating them politely and with respect is a good idea. If you find yourself walking along and people are bowing or curtseying in front of you, perhaps your circlet is being interpreted as a coronet.
In some Kingdoms, wearing a circlet made of metal (a fillet) is limited to those who have been awarded at least the first level of rank within the Society: an Award of Arms, or the title “Lord” or “Lady” (with a capital “L”). This is not the case in the Kingdom of Caid, where the Shire of Darach is located. Anyone can use a fillet to hold on a veil or keep their hair out of their eyes.
You may think this sounds confusing. Here are some graphics to help you out a little bit. Although the drawings show a woman’s veil, these drawings are equally applicable to men’s fashions.
Let’s say you’re planning to wear a veil on your head.
A small fillet would be a great first choice. In some kingdoms, not Caid, the metal circlet is reserved for Award of Arms level awards (the title Lord or Lady with a Capital “L”).
In theory, a broad band circlet may also be chosen. It could be made of almost any material: metal, fabric, leather, etc. But if you use too broad a band, it can be confused with a coronet, despite the lack of raised points. Remember, if people treat it as a coronet (e.g. bow to it), it’s a coronet. In some kingdoms, not Caid, specific broad widths are reserved for certain levels of awards.
A very simple metal fillet could be made of chainmail. Some people find these very comfortable because they are not rigid.
A circlet of flowers is, of course, a wreath. Wreaths of roses are reserved to the Ladies of the Rose (women who have ruled as Queen at least once in the past). Other flowers are probably fine, at least in Caid. And of course, not many men wear wreaths of flowers to hold scarves or veils on their heads.
A circlet of laurels is reserved for the Laurels (the highest award for outstanding work in an Art or Science). A cap of maintenance is also reserved for Pelicans (the highest award for outstanding work in Service). [This side-view drawing of a cap of maintenance is somewhat limited, my apologies for the drawing.]
Please note: Laurels are not required to wear laurel wreaths, and laurel wreaths are not required to be only green and leafy. Certainly a Laurel could be wearing a subtle and cunning design in metal, fabric, embroidery — you name it! And certainly there are plenty of Laurels and Pelicans who are not wearing any specific head decorations (caps or circlets) that denote their rank and title. Just know that “laurels” are reserved for Laurels, and “caps of maintenance” are reserved for Pelicans. You probably won’t make mistakes when you’re designing your first garb — but you’ll recognize a laurel wreath or a cap of maintenance when you see one!
A coronet with a single point or a single decoration in the front is NOT formally reserved for just Barons or Baronesses. But because there is a raised point, it is unquestionably a coronet, and therefore should not be worn by just anyone.
It is our tradition in Caid that Barons and Baronesses wear these coronets, but there is nothing stopping a Countess or Count from wearing one as well. This coronet is best worn only after you have been awarded at least the rank of a Court Baron/ess.
These six examples are all similar. They are all coronets, and may be worn by anyone with the right to a coronet. When you see one, you could reasonably guess you have seen a Royal Peer (someone who has served as a King, Queen, Prince, or Princess in the past). But they’re not legally limited to Royal Peers. That means that there are Baronial coronets that look remarkably like these pictures.
* Refreshing your memory: one of the two Society-wide rules: (2) Coronets with embattled rims are reserved to counts (earls) and countesses. So both the Embattled and Embattled Wavy examples above ARE limited to specifically Counts/Countesses. You will not see a Baron/ess wearing an embattled coronet.
** In some kingdoms, coronets rimmed with pearls are reserved. “Pearls” in this case refers to spheres set atop the coronet’s rim. They need not be actual pearls, in fact they’re often silver. Those kingdoms generally reserve coronets with 12 pearls to Viscounts and Viscountesses (someone who has ruled as the Prince or Princess of a Principality at least once), and coronets with six pearls to Barons and Baronesses (court and landed). You should be aware that coronets of any kind are limited to those who’ve earned them. And though we have no laws regarding pearled coronets in Caid or the SCA, we know what they mean, and our traditions are strong in that regard. (And if you ever move to another kingdom, you could get in serious trouble.)
And finally, strawberry leaves on a coronet are reserved by law, to Ducal peers.
Note that the law does not limit the number of strawberry leaves on ducal coronets. The most common number is four: front & back, and on each side. Each strawberry leaf is a three-lobed leaf. But they can have as many leaves as they want, in bunches or spaced out; doesn’t matter. Strawberry leaves make it a ducal coronet, not the number of them.
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There is a wonderful site showing proper ways to wear a veil and proper ways to wear a circlet or coronet on a veil, based on period pictures, sculptures, and drawings. If you go to http://www.virtue.to/articles/veils.html you’ll find wonderful photos and drawings, great instructions for keeping a veil on, even without a circlet.
You can also find other SCA or SCA-related sites that show photos of coronets, both currently worn by members of the SCA (such as the examples found under http://www.antirheralds.org/display/hatguide/photos.html), some historical examples from heraldry (such as http://www.antirheralds.org/display/hatguide/historical.html), or samples from an artisan’s line of coronets (such as http://www.craftyfox.com). Of course this article does not endorse any specific artisan or merchant, so please take my example link as it is intended, just as a sample of the kinds of photos you can find on the internet for coronet examples.
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FAQs based on content that is © 2006 Shire of Darach, Cat Ellen (THL Eilidh Swann), and others as stated in the FAQsMany of the graphics on these pages were generated by Ursula Messerschmitt and are used with permission.