Peers are those gentles who are either "retired" royalty or members of one of the four Great Orders of the Society.
Royal Peers are those who hold the rank of Viscount/ess, Count/ess or Duke/Duchess, indicating they have served as royalty and ruled either as Prince or Princess of a Principality or King/Queen of a kingdom.
Peers of the Society
Peers of the Society are the members of the Order of Chivalry, the Order of the Laurel, the Order of the Pelican and/or the Order of Defense. With the exception of Knights (part of the Order of Chivalry), who are addressed as "Sir", members of these orders are addressed as "Master" or "Mistress."
Peerages bestow a Patent of Arms and titles.
Views of Peers
(A "keeper" posting from the Steps, Feb 2006.)
Peers. The Orders of peerage are in a truly difficult position in regards to the vast majority of the populace. Everywhere you look, there's somebody wearing a white belt Knights in the Order of Chivalry, a Pelican or a Laurel medallion.
Let's take this from the perspective of a brand new participant in our game. What do the Peers do?
The King and Queen get to give awards. They also get to deal with the politics of the organization. They get to be in charge for six months though so that's pretty cool.
Former Kings and Queens get a title and get to advise the current King and Queen. Cool deal for them because it's got to be a royal pain to be King and Queen; a title doesn't really pay back for all of the 3 a.m. phone calls but nothing can. Getting to advise the Crown as part of the Noble Estate is pretty cool and pretty important.
The Pelicans make things work so the other stuff can happen. Not sure if it's cool but it's necessary and making sure the necessary stuff happens is important, even better when it happens in a way that nobody can actually see. Having the operational side of the game take place transparently enough that people can just show up and enjoy is pretty cool.
The Laurels make things. Okay... So if they're really good at making really good things, they get to become a Laurel. If they're really good at something I have no understanding of and even less interest in, I'll just take it on faith that the other Laurels as well as the Crown are wise enough to come up with a way to compare 9th century Russ metal work with 17th century English paper making. Still, if you know that much about stuff, you get recognized for it and that's pretty cool. The Kingdom gets nifty stuff.
The Chivalry fight. Most of the time they're the only ones who get to become King or Queen in their own right. (In An Tir anyway, other kingdoms are fussy about this particular topic) So they fight. They practice fighting. If you're interested in watching fighting, you get to watch them fight. If you're not interested in watching fighting, they're not terribly important except for the few of them that wind up being King or Queen.
They're all supposed to be examples of courtesy, chivalry and endeavor. They're supposed to be the benchmark from which everyone else is measured.
(A "keeper" posting from the Steps, Feb 2006.)
As a non-peer old-old-timer, then: peers are recognized as such by the Crown because each of them is in some way contributing notably to the function of the kingdom and the SCA in the medievaloid game we play. Some of them are contributing by their excellence in fighting skills. Some of them are contributing by their research and re-creation. Some of them are contributing by their service. All of them are *supposed* to be contributing by setting a good example of courtesy and chivalry and honor and by teaching whatever it is they do. And this is all *at the time they are recognized*.
It's *supposed to be* an ongoing job - in fact a peer promises to keep on doing what got him/her the recognition in the first place - but there's not much done to remove titles of lapsed or inactive peers. I suspect that this is in part because a peerage is, despite the contrary assertions of most peers, an honor, not just a job. One does not strip earned honors from the honoree for lack of further contributions to the common good.
In the old days, peerages were the ultimate in SCA awards - so I was told, then, by peers. Claiming that it was "recognition" came later, as did discussions of Peer-Like Qualities that are supposedly, nowadays, a sine-qua-non for being recognized as a peer. In the old days, one could be decidedly a rough diamond in some respects and still one's service would command the respect of a peerage. I even remember the first time I noticed that it was changing: a lady whose accumulated service had reached the levels where a Pel should have been imminent, but the then Crown refused to do it, since she was lacking in PLQs - specifically IIRC she had aggravated them somehow, as her personality was rather abrasive, but the reason that was given was phrased as ideals to be reached for, not personal pique. That was in AS XVII. No, I wasn't at the council. But I heard about it from someone who was, and was annoyed with the Crown because, abrasive or not, she'd been working her heart out in service to the SCA for a long, long time.
But to continue:
Since before I started playing in the Current Middle Ages, it's been considered bad form for peers to keep playing but stop contributing their efforts and examples. But as we work on the honor system (more or less), we depend on self-policing rather than trying to enforce it.
And one does not remove a Pelican from the Order because she has disappeared. She may come back some day. One does not remove a Knight or a Laurel from the Order because he died; that wreath is an honor, even when the recipient is forever beyond being able to keep up with the attached expectations of example and service.
Most of the time it does work for us. There are exceptions, but they are not all that common.
Just my personal experienced observations and opinions!
Sister Guineth, playing this sometimes silly game since AS XIII.
(A "keeper" posting from the Steps, Feb 2006.)
Okey dokey. This is NOT the word from on high, the official word from the BOD/Corpora/By-Laws or anything else. It's the word from Cairbre.
Peers are Thrifty, Healthy... oops
Peers do not Lie, Cheat or Steal and they don't tolerate... oops again
Peers are the catalysts that move the SCA into the future. They are the people that know how to get an event done from start to finish. They know how to make not only the next great King but they make it possible for that infant in their mother's arms to be a great King someday. Peers create the artisan who leaves everyone standing in awe and amazement and more importantly, they make that same artisan into someone who themself will stand in awe at a work of skill and effort.
Peers make sure others can learn. If you're a peer and you're not either teaching or making sure people can be taught, please resign your Peerage, you're a fraud.
I'm not saying you have to teach the classes yourself. I'm saying you have to be able to make sure someone, somewhere is teaching the classes. You may only be able to tell someone, "I'm not sure how to do that, call Lord Wosname, he's really good at it and maybe he can teach you or at least put you in touch with someone who can."
Peers play fair. They make sure their triple-peer buddy pays the same fee to get into an event that everyone else does. They make sure others know that it's okay to tell Duke Dis-en-dat that he's a Duke and that's really cool but the site fee is still $15.00(US). They also know that Real-Life(tm) happens and they've got enough experience and wisdom to know that it can be okay to let someone work off their fees by sitting the gate. But they apply the standards fairly.
Peers don't hurt the game for others for personal reasons. Peers don't refuse to teach one person because they don't like them yet agree to teach another because they're friends. If you can't handle the idea of someone you dislike learning from you, you're not a Peer, you're just another hypocrite with a title. I'm not saying Peers take people they dislike into personal relationships such as Squires or Apprentices, that's a personal agreement between two people, it's not a part of the Society as a whole.
Peers remember that Apprentices, Squires, Proteges and whatever else aren't part of the Society on that basis, they're personal retainers, students and what have you. Peers also remember that how those personal retainers interact with the Society at large is a part of the society. Much like an arm or a leg. Nobody really cares what a Peer's leg is doing in private but when that leg sticks out and trips old people, it's a problem. If your squire trips old people, it's a problem. Peers also remember that those people do create part of the game for others. Those retainers carry banners into court and carry knowledge to others. They help keep the peace and help send up the cries of joy when something wonderful happens. In that sense, they are part of the Society.
Peers are blobs of grease and well worn bearings. They're what lets the society operate. They're examples of what the game should be, not necessarily what it is. They're the canvas on which the rest of us paint the image of what the middle ages should have been.
It seems that I spend an awful lot of time harping on teaching and educating. I do. When everything else is filtered out, that is the basis of what a Peer is. They make sure others can learn how to make our game fun. They don't have to do it all on their own but they do have to know how to get it done.
Peers know the answer to the newbie's question and if they don't, they know who can find the answer. Peers create resources so people can learn everything from the perfect rising-snap to what forms you need to set up merchants booths in a public park in Pierce County, Washington.
Here's where I get to the absolutes. Those things etched in stone and as fundamental as the basic forces in modern physics.
A Peer nurtures and guides the Society into its next generation. They do it to the best of their ability for as long as they claim membership in one of the Peerages. Nobody made someone become a Peer, but when someone took the oath to enter that Order, they made a solemn promise to keep on doing what they've been doing. A Peer nurtures and guides the Society to the best of their ability. It's a 24/7/365 responsibility. If you can't accept that responsibility, you're not a Peer no matter what title you've got.