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On-Favors-art - 5/7/99


"On Favors" by Donal Mac Ruiseart.


NOTE: See also the files: favors-msg, p-favors-art, courtesy-msg, SCA-courtesy-art, Chivalry-art, courtly-love-bib.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I  have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given by the individual authors.


Please  respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The  copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear at this time. If  information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



[Submitted by: rmhowe <magnusm at ncsu.edu>]

Subject: On Favors

Date: Wed, 5 May 1999 08:58:54 -0400

From: Raitt Jeb <Raitt_Jeb at prc.com>

To: atlantia at atlantia.sca.org


This article is based on my own experience and understanding of the subject.

I publish it here in the hope of educating and informing, to further and

enhance the gallant and courteous practice of the various uses of favors.

If you like what you see here and wish to reprint it, you have my full

permission to do so.  I ask only that if you reprint it, you do so in its




On Favors

   - Donal Mac Ruiseart


"My Lords," intones the herald, "Salute the Crowns of Atlantia" The fighters

and the herald bow towards the thrones.


"My Lords, salute the one who inspires you this day!" The fighters turn.

One bows to his wife, standing on one side of the Lists, the other raises

his sword to a lady he met only an hour before, sitting on the opposite

side.  The wife blows a kiss; the other lady stands and nods her head.


"Salute your worthy opponent!" The fighters face each other and raise their

swords in salute.  The herald steps aside and the marshal delivers his

charges to the fighters.  At his call of "Lay on!" the Lists resound with

the impact of swords on shields.


As they fight, you see that both are wearing favors.  The one worn by the

fighter who saluted his wife is hung over his belt.  It is richly

embroidered with his initials and hers in a decorative border, a symbol of

their formal and ongoing devotion to each other.  The other wears a ribbon

tied around his arm, which the lady had pulled from her hair not long before

the Lists opened.  The favors differ as much as the connections between the

fighters and the ladies, and are examples of two of the many forms that both

can take.


The origin of the custom of favors or tokens is obscure, but there are many

references to them in the literature of the Middle Ages. A lady might give

a scarf, a sleeve (they were easily detached), a jewel, or some other such

personal item to a knight who was riding off to battle or to a tournament.

In some cases the battle or tournament was to be fought for the lady's own

sake, as in the case of a judicial duel.


In the Current Middle Ages, the custom has developed of making special

objects specifically called "favors" that are given to a fighter or fighters

for several reasons.  Though it is usually a lady who gives a favor to a

lord, it can be done the other way around, especially if a lady fighter has

a non-fighting lord.  But there are cases of a lord and a lady wearing each

other's favors in lists or battlefield.  For ease of expression, though, I

will use the case of the ladies being the ones giving the favors and the

lords being those who receive them.


Favors take many forms, not only in their physical construction but in their

significance.  The general classifications of significance can be explained

as follows.


"Romantic" favors are given by a lady to a fighter with whom she has an

ongoing relationship, that is, her husband or lover. These are often very



"Friendship" favors are given by a lady to one or more lords who are her

friends, often members of the same household.


"Loyalty" favors are given by a lady of rank, as a Baroness, Princess, or

Queen, to those fighters who enter the field of battle in the service of her

Barony, Principality, or Kingdom.  These tend to be simple, since they must

be made in large quantities.  Fighters can often be seen lining up to

receive such favors in the time before a battle.


The "Premiere Lady" of some households gives favors to all the fighters of

the household, being a custom somewhere between "Friendship" and "Loyalty"



Finally but not least is the most misunderstood of favors, which one might

call a "for the nonce" favor.  Such a favor is bestowed by a lady on a

fighter she may have met only that day, and which should be returned when

the tourney is over, or in any case by the end of the event.  In a way, this

can be the most romantic of favors, in the literary sort of sense, and is

the one whose etiquette I will discuss at some length later in this article.


What form do these favors take?  It is limited only by the imagination and

skill of the bestower, but most commonly a favor takes the form of a

rectangle of fabric with some decoration identifying the bestower, and

sometimes, especially in the case of "Romantic" favors, the one wearing it

as well.  Usually worn tucked into a belt or strap, they will often have a

loop at the top for extra security.  It is no fun to lose one.  I once

combed the field where a Pennsic battle was fought, thinking I had lost my

Lady's favor there.  It later turned up in camp, to my relief and the

amusement of many others - including my Lady!  Favors given by Queens on the

eve of battle are often no more than strips of ribbon printed with the

Queen's badge.  I have worn favors in the form of knots or braids of yarn or

cord, and one that was a small square of leather stamped with the cognizance

of a Crown Princess of the East.  Lacking a prepared favor, a lady might

improvise.  She might give the fighter a bit of ribbon from her hair or a

sleeve (not a whole sleeve, please, ladies, the chance of damage is too

great!), a scarf, or some other thing that would not itself be at risk or

place the wearer at risk.  For that reason, a piece of jewelry in not a good



As I noted earlier, the least understood of favors is the "for the nonce"

favor.  The meaning of long-term favors is easily understood, as is the

meaning of "loyalty" favors.  However, if a fighter seeks to honor a lady by

asking to carry her favor in the Lists (though in fact it is she who honors

him), he must realize that what he is doing is paying her a formalized

compliment, and that by bestowing such a favor the lady is paying him a

similar and greater compliment, and nothing more. Bestowing a favor on a

fighter for the day's tourney or battle does not obligate the lady to

anything.  She need not sit with him at the feast, or accompany him to a

post-revel, or anything of the kind ... In fact, she is not even obligated

to allow him to wear the favor for the duration of the day, for if he

displeases her in some way during the day she has every right to demand its

return.  And a fighter who loses a favor that way ought indeed to be



Let us assume that there is a fighter at a tourney who has no lady, or

perhaps whose lady is not at the event.  (As I said earlier, this can work

either way.  My lords, keep in mind that a lady fighter may approach you in

this way someday!) Wishing to keep in the spirit of things, he looks about

him for a lady to compliment by asking her for a favor. He ought to look

for a lady who appears to have no lord there.  He goes to her and salutes



"Good day to you, m'lady," he might say, "I am Marco diGiardino."


"And a good day to you, m'lord," she may reply, "I am Anne De La Marche." If

she extends her hand, he ought to bow over it and kiss it (hand kissing is a

gentle thing.  He ought barely to brush her hand with his lips.).


At this point he ought to kneel.  "Lady Anne, it is my intent to fight in

this day's tourney, and I wonder if you would honor me by allowing me to

carry your favor in the Lists this day."


Now, she may decline to give a favor, and she may or may not tell him why.

It matters not, though.  If a lady declines to give you a favor, always

assume that it is because she has a lord, or that she just doesn't give "for

the nonce" favors, or she just doesn't understand, or maybe she doesn't like

to watch tourneys or has plans to do something else during the tourney.  Do

not haggle or cajole.  If you do, you've spoiled the gallantry of it!

Simply rise, bow, and say something to the effect of "As you wish, m'lady,"

then bow again and take your leave.  Even if your feelings are hurt, keep a

lid on it!


Her answer may be that she will be delighted to be so honored (Note that

each one maintains that the other is the one doing the honoring ... of such

is courtesy made), and if she has a favor prepared, she would hand it to

him.  If she is so inclined but has no prepared favor, she may improvise

with ribbon, yarn, or any other suitable item.  If you approach a lady in

this way and she is at a loss as to what to offer, my lords, be prepared to

suggest something.  If she does bestow the favor, he should take it and tuck

it with great care into his belt, or some other suitable place if he is

already in armor.  Then he should rise and say something to the effect that

he will make every effort to be worthy of the honor she has bestowed upon

him.  He might ask her where she is most likely to be during the tourney,

that he may know where to salute.  Then he should rise, bow, and take his

leave of her.


At the beginning of each match in which he fights, he should make an effort

to locate her so that when the call to "salute the one who inspires you this

day" is given, he will know which way to bow.  The lady should pay attention

and respond with a wave, a nod, some indication that she is interested

(whether she really is or not!).  After each match he should go to her and

say something to the effect that he hopes he has pleased her with his



Now, this does not hinge on whether he won or lost!  Did he conduct himself

with courtesy?  Did he carry himself with grace?  Did he look good out

there?  If he lost, did he take it in stride?  If so, then by all means she

ought to be pleased!  If on the other hand he acted like a churl, used foul

language, was disrespectful of the Crown or the marshal or his opponent or

suchlike, she should tell him of that.  If he is contrite and promises to

amend his ways, she might give him another chance. Everyone has lapses.  It

is a serious thing to demand that a favor be returned before the wearer is

done fighting.  She should do that only if he has done something really bad

or continues whatever displeases her after she has told him of it.


I hate to have to address this, but if a lady does demand the early return

of a favor and the fighter refuses, this is a very serious breach of

courtesy.  She should take her complaint to the Baroness, Princess, or

Queen; or if none of those are present, to the Marshal in charge of the

event.  In my opinion, such a one ought to be removed from the Lists, but it

is the option of the one in charge to act on it.


Assuming all goes well, when the fighting is over, he should return to the

lady, kneel, and offer to return the favor, again with the hope that he has

been worthy of it.  If it is an elimination tourney and the fighter is

eliminated, he ought to offer to return the favor at that point.  If there

is to be more fighting, and he wishes to continue to wear the favor, he

should ask her permission to do so.  He should kneel and hand the favor back

to her, repeating his hope that he has pleased her by wearing it.  Chances

are it might have been stained or damaged, but there is no dishonor in that!

If there is damage, the lady might say something to the effect that though

the fabric of the favor was damaged or stained, there was no stain to its



It ends there.  The fighter, having returned the favor at the end of the

day's fighting, has no more claim on the lady's time. This does not prevent

him from inviting her to sit with him at the feast, or continuing to flirt

with her, nor does it prevent her from inviting him to stay and chat with

her . . . but I repeat very strongly, that bestowing a favor for the nonce

does not obligate a lady to anything else!  I have heard of cases where a

fighter assumes that receiving a lady's favor implies that he will receive

her favors. That is not so!  One who is chivalrous never makes such



The giving and receiving of favors can add a wonderful aura of romance and

gallantry to the Current Middle Ages.  Many a lady has recounted how

wonderful it was to have a fighter kneel to her and ask for her favor.  And

it is very much in keeping with the admonition all who were at the

Coronation of Stephan and Niobe saw:


"Love ladies and maidens

And serve and honor them

In thought, word, and deed . . .

>From ladies comes prowess,

Honors and dignities . . ."

Edward III


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org