Nothing is so simple…

16 Aug 2018 by gebhard, No Comments »

Recently social media sites have been filling up with memes, rumors, outrage and popcorn worthy levels of about some King doing this or that, what Peer said a thing they shouldn’t (or should have), and who is outraged by it all.

Each time something like this happens, many people claim it is the end of the SCA as we know it. I, for one, would like to take a step back.  For a group that studies history, we sometimes don’t allow it to give us the perspective that maybe it should.

When you take the long view on history, the black/white dogma of the day fades away, and what is left is sometimes vastly more complex, and yet more simple. When you get right down to it, very few people in our society do a thing out of malice.  Most are just people trying to get by any way they can, figuring things out with the cards as best as they are able.

To give an example of this, I would like to tell you a tale of SCA history long past, far before my time in the Society. It’s a tale some have heard around the campfire, although it might sound just a like a meme for some post you saw today.

There once was a brash young fighter.  He had been fighting for bit more than a year when he entered Crown, and won. Some claim that he won by cheating, some by un-natural skill, but whatever pacts had been made, he won.

He was arrogant, pig-headed, and cruel. Through his poor self conduct, he alienated himself from his Princess who abdicated shortly into their reign. He was condescending with the Peers. They stood up to his tyranny. In a fit of anger, he abdicated his throne, walking out in the middle of an event, leaving the thrones empty.

When asked to return the kingdom regalia, he defaced them and smashed them to bits.


To this day, the King’s Crown in the Middle Kingdom is missing a gem in remembrance of this man, so that all new Kings may learn and never repeat the past.

Around the campfire or on social media, this often where this story will end. Yet, there is certainly more to it.

Let’s take a little deeper looking to the reign of one of the most infamous King’s Michael of BoarsHaven.

Before we get started, I have a few things to confess. The events of this story pre-date the internet. Very little is written about them, and most of what I know has come from asking people over the years. Many accounts contradict each other. There are very few first hand witnesses left in the Society. I’m sure there are some inaccuracies in what I’m going to say. I will try my best to present the story as objectively as I can, though my bias does creep in. I will try to point it out as it does.

This story starts in the Spring of 1974. Watergate was at its height, “Seasons In The Sun” was a top 40 smash, and bell bottoms just couldn’t be groovier. Somewhere in this time, a young Michael of BoarsHaven joined the SCA in eastern illinois which at that time was the middle of the Kingdom.

In those days, squires weren’t really a thing yet. At least, they didn’t wear red belts or chains yet. There were only two peerages (Knights and Laurels).  The Middle Kingdom was truly huge, and women were not permitted to fight.

Michael was a full time student, and worked as a security guard at night. To further try to make ends meet, he would fill in as a bar bouncer. This meant Michael infrequently left eastern Illinois and wasn’t very well known throughout the massive Middle Kingdom.

In those days, there wasn’t an event every weekend like we enjoy today.  There might have been one event a month. Also, fighting in Crown was a pretty common thing to do, as it was one of the few events there was to attend.

Michael, I’m sure wanting to be knighted, listened to advice that he was lacking in the softer skills.  He asked Zarina to allow him to fight on her behalf, as she was a Master of the Arts.

Michael fought in two Crown Tournaments before winning his third to become the first unbelted King of the Middle Kingdom. While tales of cheating spang up after his reign, tales from the day seem to suggest he rightfully won.  He became Prince to King Rolac.

Troubles between Michael and Rolac had begun even before Michael had won Crown. Michael had previously been dating a young lady in Wurmwald who, shortly after their break-up, started dating the current King’s (Rolac) squire.

This exacerbated the unkind behavior between them. King Rolac would take opportunities to make life difficult on Michael, like asking him to leave the battlefield in the middle of a melee at Pennsic 4. As best I can tell, Michael did follow the orders he was given by the King. I imagine a lot of resentment on Michael’s part, and likely nearly constant squabbling between them. Although this last bit, is purely conjecture on my part.

Shortly After Pennsic 4, the warehouse Michael worked at was broken into, and he was beaten to within an inch of his life. He went into a coma for six days, and he had no memory of the attack nor the week before it. Many believe he sustained brain damage, as multiple accounts have claimed he was never really same afterwards and acted much differently.

In October of 1975, at Michael’s Coronation, before turning over the Crown, Rolac knighted his squire, without telling Michael in advance.  Then, he walked out of court singing “Parcel of Rogues in a Nation”, a song which calls the King of Scotland a coward for selling out to England.

Afterward, Sir Rolac refused to swear fealty to King Michael. King Michael retaliated by decreeing that Rolac could not fight at any Midrealm event until he swore fealty. Michael was King at this time, and all fighters fight at the pleasure of the King.  He was within his rights to make this decree.

Also, Sir Rolac was very much against women fighting. King Michael, on the other hand, supported female fighters, and made sure it would be a thing. He was Lady Fern’s authorization partner when she became the first female fighter in the Midrealm (and later the first female knight of the Middle Kingdom).

King Michael also supported and experimented with combat archery and siege engines, and was the first King to include them (although after his reign, they disappeared for a number of years).

For whatever good King Michael did for the acceptance of female fighters, he was still difficult to deal with.  At the Festival of Maidens in WurmWald, on January 31, 1976, at the end of court, Queen Zarina abdicated her throne rather than having to deal with Michael’s continuous poor behavior.  

I can’t imagine the backlash that must have come from this. I’m pretty sure this is why he remains a villain to this day.

The proof of this played out at a Valentine’s Day event in Three Hills. Sir Rolac, who had otherwise stayed away from events during Michael’s reign, decided to spend the day fighting, in direct violation of SCA law. The King has the right to ban anyone from events.

When Sir Polidore attempted to uphold the King’s right, acting as the King’s regent for the day’s court, the Chivalry on site turned against Polidare and by proxy Micheal, and allowed Sir Rolac to fight.

When the news got back to Michael, I’m sure he felt betrayed on every level. He followed Rolac’s unreasonable demands while he was King, then, not only did Rolac refuse to play by the rules, the Chivalry backed the usurper. Michael became disenchanted with the SCA over what can be considered an act of treason and abdicated his throne a few weeks later. Making him the first and only King (at the time of this writing) to do so.

What about the Kingdom Regalia?

The stories about this are pretty wild. They range from him breaking things in a fit of rage to him trying to pry the gems out of the Crown to sell them for cash, to the goofy tale that he was playing football with the Crown with his roommate.

In truth, I don’t know how they got damaged, but it seems like the most likely story is the simplest one:  He kept the Regalia in the trunk of his car, and the week after he abdicated, someone rear-ended his car.  It seems outside of the list, little could go right for Michael.  

Michael had a lot of issues: from the physical trauma of his attack, to being socially awkward and lacking in political savviness.  He was in over his head. He clearly had few friends, and didn’t seem to know to keep nor make them.

Whatever negative things he did, he also forever changed the fighting culture of the Midrealm by allowing female fighters on the list.

Before you get overly invested in the drama of whatever, I hope you consider this tale.

No one is all bad, nor all good. In the end, Michael was just a guy, trying to do what he thought was right. He tried to get through the day, doing the best he could with the cards he had. This doesn’t make his behavior acceptable, but it does make him human.

If we treat each other with mutual understanding rather than with disenfranchisement, we can be a positive force for good. It’s not necessary to agree with someone to treat them with respect. Maybe if a few more would have been willing to do so with Michael, his story could have been very different.

 

 

 

 

If you know more about these events, please contact me privately as I would hear your accounts.


 

For other accounts please review:

The Histories and Chronicles of the Middle Kingdom of the SCA by Duke Laurelen Darksbane
Tales of the Midlands Kings
True History of Wurm Wald
Brief History of the Middle Kingdom
A short history of Michael of Boarshaven By Brusten de Bearsul
On the Origins of Squires Belts                 By Brusten de Bearstul

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