On Friday I toured a historical site, where a magical sword was thown into water, and a Norse jarl stepped off a longship to claim the crown of a kingdom, where a Queen to rule with him was manifested out of thin air by a powerful wizard. Yes, this really happened, but only 24 years ago.
There are no historical markers at Rockwood Conservation Area to alert visitors to the significance of the site, but all of us who were there at the Coronation of Thorbjorn Osis and Caitlin have those events forever marked in our memories. Remembering the beauty of the area, my husband and I decided to visit the park on a pre-long weekend vacation day, and once we had walked down the hill where the mill ruins are situated by the side of the Eramosa River, the images came flooding back. There were cars parked in the lot where Edmund and Kateryn had held their final court, where the wizard Pankratz had appeared at the end, taken the Sword of State, and tossed it into the nearby river. (It was later revealed that it was a copy of the actual sword, and it was eventually fished out). But let my words written more proximate to that day speak instead…
The Coronation of Osis and Caitlin was an effort by four groups–Vest Yorvik, Skeldergate, Ardchreag, and Monadh. Astoundingly, the event was put together in only three months’ time, through much hard work on the part of all the cantons involved. James Douglas, as had become customary, would work the bar. Baroness Ursula would arrange the feast. Cassandra would take care of merchants, and Nicolaa would act as Royalty liaison. Almost every other member of the canton was involved in something.
Their Majesties Edmund and Kateryn held their last court beside the ruins. When the time came for the heirs to claim the throne, Pankratz Pugge appeared and said that although he was not worthy to claim the throne, he had some skill at finding heirs. He then led the King and Queen and the assembled crowed to the side of the lake, and bade the King to give him Oathbinder, the sword of the Middle Kingdom. This the King did, after some hesitation. Pankratz then flung the sword into the lake, causing a number of gasps of horror. (It was later revealed that this was in fact not the actual Sword of State, but a close double). At the moment that the sword hit the water, a horn was heard in the distance, and from around the bend a longship hove into view. As it drew nearer, leaving a trail on the water from the dripping oars, the crowd could see that it contained Jarl Thorbjorn Osis, Oathbinder held high. The boat drew nigh, and was brought ashore by Osis’ squires, waiting with songs to greet him. He disembarked and announced his intention of claiming the throne. All followed him into the ruins, where he mounted the dais, took the crown of the Middle from the hands of Duchess Lisa, and put it upon his head. He was King.
But he still needed a queen. One by one, six ladies came forth, carrying roses. They paralleled the six men who had come forth at Osis’ first coronation. Each of the women – Dame Elizabeth Cadfan, Kingdom Arts and Sciences Minister Melisande, Countess Elaina of Oaklawn, Viscountess Moria the Black, Mistress Therica and Dame Madinia – had reasons why they could not be Osis’ Queen. The King was thus left with six white roses–and no Queen. Pankratz then stepped forward, to many giggles, and said that he might be able to produce one if Osis would give him the six roses. Pankratz tossed the roses into the air. There was a flash of light, and then Caitlin Stepped forward, crowned in a wreath of roses. Osis stuck Oathbinder into the dais, took the crown from Duchess Lisa, removed Caitlin’s wreath to place it on the hilt of the sword, and then placed the crown on Caitlin’s head. She was Queen.
The new King and Queen then accepted fealty from Princess Elizabeth and Prince Menken of Ealdormere, followed by the Territorial Barons, Knights, Laurels and Pelicans of the Kingdom. They were all bidden to stay to the side of the dais after they swore, and then Osis, as he had in his last Coronation, presented them to the people. After they had retired, those members of the populace who wished to swear were called forward as well. During this whole time, a steady stream of white roses had been piling at Caitlin’s feet.
The ceremony over, the court retired. The Queen’s Champion tourney took place within the walls of the ruins. Archery and children’s classes also occurred, and about twenty merchants were on site to sell their wares.
Evening court was held before feast, again in the ruins. Osis was heralded in as “Fabio of the Fjords” by Brand, who then tried to distract him by offering beer. Ambassadors from Atlantia and Calontir presented gifts, and Caitlin expressed her joy particularly that Calontir, which she had helped make a Principality in her last reign, had grown into a Kingdom, and that she was greatly honoured by her small part in this. The winner of the Champion’s Tourney, Jarl Thorbrand from Atlantia, was called forward. Since he was unable to serve as Champion himself, he was presented with the wreath of roses to crown his lady, Countess Eorunn, Queen of Love and Beauty for the day. Three other gentles were also called forward and thanked: Etienne au Naval, Jerek van der Vliet and Arslan of Northshield. Each of these, for various reasons, had been asked whether they might stand as Champion and had to refuse. Finally, Lord Raedmund d’Arden, newly minted member of the Red Company by the hand of King Edmund that morning, was called forward and asked whether he would accept the honour. He did, was presented with the tabard, and took his place behind the Queen.
A few awards were then presented–amongst others, a Purple Fret for James Douglass, an Award of the Order of Paws to Dizzy Berusdottir, who snapped up doggy treats from the mouth of the Queen herself, an induction into the Greenwood Company for Odd Grimsson, and a Dragon’s Heart for Countess Elaina, who has served four kingdoms, including the Middle, in her years in the Society. Edmund and Kateryn were recognized as Earl and Countess, and Edmund was given the honour of taking up his own coronet, as he had granted Osis the honour of crowning himself King. He then put the coronet on Kateryn’s brow, after which she was honoured as a Lady of the Rose.
Here also did Marian of Heatherdale discourse on the legends of King Arthur, and was thus admitted to the schola of Mistress Nicolaa as a bachelor and her first apprentice.
The feast, cooked by Baroness Ursula and staff, was very tasty, although many of the feasters were chilled to the bone by the dip in temperature. Here Eoforwic presented a gift to the Crown, this time specifically to Caitlin–10 goblets, and one for herself, to distribute those who did pleasing things in her sight. Caitlin distributed most of them to bards who sang for her during her reign. They also offered the recently refurbished Murphy the Sheep back to the safekeeping of Caitlin, his original Mom. Caitlin gave him back to Eoforwic for care. John of Slaughterfield had come to the Coronation after many years of absence. Since he had once served as a Royal champion, was inducted into the Order of the Royal Vanguard. The new King and Queen also granted to Ealdormere the right to give Awards of Arms without consulting the Kingdom—a recognition of the growing maturity of the Principality.
The words above were written just a year or two after the event, but now they ring of true history. Thorbjorn Osis is now just a legend to so many; his next reign alongside Queen Caitlin would be too brief, and she would be left to carry on alone. Countess Elaina, too, is lost to us in this world. Others have attained great fame—Marian would become Mistress Marian: Brand would become Master (twice over) Brand. Others still have drifted away from the hobby we shared. though I remain in touch with many. Some have simply disappeared into the mists of time, however. Reading this account, I find myself remembering an old hurt, still in the future on that October day, but not far off, which would change the way I understood and played in my hobby forever. I remember politics–who didn’t like who, household dynamics, and the long-forgotten rivalries of SCA local groups. I was not yet 30 years old yet. I was still three years away from finishing my PhD., still believing in academia, in a future life of teaching and research.
But even if I had changed, the conservation area hadn’t. I could still picture the longship on the lake, being rowed by Osis’ squires as he stood in the prow, sword in hand, and I could still recall that first court within the mill ruins. Campers were set up where once the merchants had their booths, and where I had taken Marian as my apprentice. I could also remember later events–called Queen’s Picnics–that took place for a couple of years at the same site. But I had never taken the opportunity then to explore the park–I hadn’t even seen the famous “potholes” I mention in my account.
This time, that was the whole point of the trip–to trek under the cool shade and breathe in the cedar-scented air, to look upon the river, to marvel at the limestone cliffs, and, yes, to see the potholes–to discover the history of this place outside of my own remembered history. And it will now be forever marked as a place rediscovered in the strangeness of 2020