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The Strange Case of the Codex Herald Advocate

In today’s College of Arms of the Society for Creative Anachronism, the title of Codex Herald is given to the member of Laurel’s staff responsible for maintaining the College’s web site.

But it turns out that there was an earlier office, the “Codex Herald Advocate,” which existed for a couple of years in the late nineteen-seventies, and I found the story of its creation and abolition peculiar enough to share.

The office was created in 1977.

I take great pleasure in announcing the appointment of Lord MacCailavaghn of Macrae to the office of Codex Herald Advocate. He is in mundane life Mr. Donald Calavan, Albany Squire of Arms of the Lyon Court, that is, assistant to Albany Herald. He is at present on detached duty and living in the Barony of Golden Rivers.

His duties for the College of Arms include checking applications against arms recorded in the United Kingdom and against U.S. copyrighted designs as registered by the Bureau of Patents and Copyrights of the U.S. Department of Commerce. This will help us toward the eventual possibility of formal recognition of SCA heraldry by the mundane heraldic community.

The word codex means “a manuscript volume, a code of laws, a bound book (as opposed to a scroll).” The title refers to his work with reference books and the laws of heraldry.

The acceptances in this letter (with one exception) have been passed by Lord Codex as well as by Lord Harold Breakstone, Clarion King of Arms, and myself. The exception is the provisional acceptance for Nige of the Cleftlands, and it will be checked by Lord Codex in the usual way.

[Karina of the Far West, Postscript, August 1977 LoAR]

Over the next two years, Codex was active in commentary and the decision process, cited numerous times in Laurel letters as guiding heraldic practice and calling conflict with registered English armory.

Two years later, following a change of Laurel Sovereigns, a surprising discovery was made:

I tried to visit the Lyon Office in Edinburgh, but wasn’t able to. I did phone them, however, and I discovered that they had never heard of Donald Calavan, Ormond Pursuivant. There was an Ormond Pursuivant, but he lives in Edinburdh. I am afraid Lord Codex has conned us. I hereby remove MacCallavaghn of MacRae from the office of Codex Herald Advocate and abolish the office.

[Wilhelm von Schlussel, Cover Letter, Oct 1979 LoAR]

A couple of years later, Donald Calavan (sometimes written Calavan-MacRae) co-founded the Saint Andrew’s Society of Sacramento; he passed away in 2013.

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