Who's Who in the SCA
Much like pre-17th-century Europe, the kingdoms have a similar system of hierarchy and rank: kings, queens, dukes, duchesses, barons, baronesses, lords and ladies. Everyone is presumed to be minor nobility to start, but any noble titles or honors used in the SCA must be earned by knowledge, skill, and deed. It is often difficult for a newcomer to tell if the person with whom he is conversing is someone of rank. If you are in doubt, be courteous and polite, and address the person as "my lord" or "my lady."
These terms are widely used and acceptable to persons of all ranks. People who wear crowns or coronets have high rank in the SCA. In many cases they are, or were, royalty. They won the right to wear a fancy circlet on their heads. It can be difficult to tell someone's rank, since a person of a lesser rank might choose to wear a fancier circlet than someone of higher rank; it depends on their personal style. If you're ever unsure how to address someone, just ask them.
The Hierarchy within the SCA
King and Queen: Chosen by tournament combat every 4-6 months. These are the rulers of your entire Kingdom. They are addressed as "Your Majesty." People customarily bow or curtsy each time they walk past the King or Queen, or when the King or Queen walks past them.
Prince and Princess: A Crown Prince and Princess are heirs to the kingdom, chosen by combat in the Crown Tourney. They hold these titles until their coronation as King and Queen. They are addressed as "Your Royal Highness."
Royal Peers: Those who have ruled a Kingdom. Those who have been King or Queen once are Counts and Countesses and are addressed as "Your Excellency".
Those who have been King or Queen more than once are Dukes and Duchesses and are addressed as "Your Grace".
Peers of the Realm: The rank of Peer comes with elevation to one of the three Society Peerage Orders-Chivalry, Laurel, or Pelican. The Order of Chivalry of the SCA consists of two equal sub-divisions, Knighthood and Mastery of Arms.
Members of the Chivalry are outstanding fighters who have received recognition for their fighting skills, together with their non-martial abilities and courtliness. They strive to be the very models of courtesy and chivalry. Only a Knight is permitted to wear a solid white belt, unadorned gold chain, and spurs. Knights are required to swear fealty to the Crown at the time they are admitted to the Order. They are addressed as "Sir" or "Dame". Members of this Order who choose not to swear fealty to the Crown are known as Masters at Arms and wear a white baldric. They are addressed as "Master" or "Mistress."
Members of the Order of the Laurel are recognized for great skill in the Arts or Sciences, as well as for sharing their skills for the betterment of the Society. They wear laurel wreath medallions and are usually addressed as "Master" or "Mistress."
Members of the Order of the Pelican are renowned for their selfless and long-standing service to the Society and to the Kingdom. They are usually addressed as "Master" or "Mistress" and their insignia is a medallion of a "pelican in her piety," a pelican piercing her breast to feed her young with her own blood.
Baron and Baroness: There are two types of Barons and Baronesses-Territorial and Court. A Territorial Baron and Baroness rule a barony and are appointed to office. A Baron or Baroness of the Court is simply granted that rank by the Crown and does not rule any territory. Both types of are addressed as "Your Excellency."
There are a number of different awards recognizing different levels of skill in the arts or sciences, fighting, hard work on the behalf of the kingdom or a local group, or other skills. To learn more about your kingdom's awards, contact your local herald or other officer.
The term "my lord" or "my lady" may refer to anyone in the Society if you do not know their rank, but the title "Lord" or "Lady" is reserved for those who have received an Award of Arms (AoA) from the crown. This is often the first award granted to a person. It recognizes achievement in the kingdom or a local group and entitles the person to have the title "Lord" or "Lady" placed before their name.