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The An Tir Handbook, 3rd Edition, May XXXIII/1998

Customs, Etiquette, and Playing the Game

Apprentices and Men-at-Arms


The Concept of the Man-at-Arms in An Tir

By The Honourable Vladimir Aleksandr Andreivich
Squire to Sir Geoffrey de Rennes, Protégé to Mistress Elizabeth Braidwood

In recent years there has been a marked growth in the Kingdom of what are called men-at-arms. So what the heck are they, anyway? Why have them, and what role do they serve? Since I have a couple of them myself, I thought Iíd share my thoughts on them.

The most basic concept is that a man-at-arms is someone who accepts instruction in the fighting arts in return for some sort of service. I personally see it as much more than that. Our Kingdom has grown very rapidly in the last few years. This has resulted in a large body of new people who arenít getting the education and training in the ways of the Society that they need. In past days this training came from the Peers. However, our population has outgrown our Peers. There isnít enough "Peer Attention" to go around. On the other hand, there are a number of middle-ranked people who have knowledge, skills and experience to share with others. QED, right?

I look at a man-at-arms as much more than a fighting student. My job as I see it, is to teach my men-at-arms all aspects of the Society that I am familiar with. Certainly this is centered around fighting, but it extends much further. I have a variety of interests, in the areas of service, various arts and sciences, heraldry, archery, etc. I try to pass these interests and what ability I have in them to my men-at-arms. In addition, and this may be my most important role in this relationship, I try to instill in them the ideals, beliefs, and values that keep the Dream alive. In short, my ultimate goal is to produce good citizens of the S.C.A.

What do I get in return? A sword to guard my back in battle, just as I do for my Knight. Help when I need it, with my armour or my encampment or whatever. Someone to tell me when Iím making a mistake. Someone who notices when I havenít been eating all day. A good friend. All the same things that I would do for my Knight or Pelican.

What I feel is the most important aspect of this relationship is that it is a continuation of the chain of fealty. My men-at-arms swear an oath of fealty to me, as I do to my Knight and my Pelican, as they do to the Crown. In this way everyone has a place in the feudal order. I strongly feel that everyone should be responsible to someone. There arenít enough Peers for everybody to be squires or apprentices or protégées, and not everyone is necessarily ready for that role yet. This is an intermediary step. Likewise, it is my opinion that you should only take on a man-at-arms if you are yourself somewhere in the chain of fealty. Someone should not be responsible to you if you are not yourself responsible to someone. In taking on a man-at-arms, you are not just getting a fighting buddy. This is a relationship that is just as important, and just as binding as the bond between a knight and a squire. So think carefully before taking on such a responsibility. While you are directly, perhaps, preparing them to become a squire/apprentice/protégé, in the long run you re training the Peers of the future.

Additional notes on men-at-arms and students

For the areas of service and arts & sciences, the term Ďstudentí is generally considered equivalent to Ďman-at-armsí.

Each relationship is different and depends exclusively on the desires and needs of the student and the teacher. The relationship is, however, generally considered to be less intensive, personal, and extensive than that of squire, apprentice, or protégé. Some Peers take men-at-arms and students as well as squires, apprentices or protégés; sometimes using it as a trial relationship before upgrading it to a full squire/apprentice/protégé relationship, sometimes (by mutual consent) it goes no further.

It is considered somewhat presumptuous to make a big show (e.g. doing it in court) of taking a student or man-at-arms, however private ceremonies in the presence of household and friends is highly appropriate.

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